Seven sycamores grace the back- yard at The Sycamore’s Spirit Healing Retreat. One might presume the name of the retreat arrived after its owners found this two-acre site, tucked between tall pine trees and Little Pine Creek just off Route 287 in English Center, yet its owners say it was the other way around—the name arrived before the place. Here, Sheryl Henkin-Kealey and Dave Paxson have set to work creating their dream of a gathering space, healing community, and holistic haven.
Since opening in April, The Sycamore’s Spirit Healing Retreat has hosted a variety of events including organic recipe swaps, sound and energy healing sessions, drumming workshops, spiritual cinema screenings, intensive weekend seminars by Native American guides, and informational presentations on everything from thermography to angels. Prayers from the world’s major religions line the walls of the retreat’s reception area, showcasing the inclusive nature of the facility.
“The retreat is not based on religion, it’s based on spirituality,” says Sheryl. “Everybody’s way is right; we don’t need to prove each other wrong to make ourselves right. We believe we’re entering a new time and we’re headed in a new direction—one of acceptance. It’s about accepting each other’s paths. If you’re living a good life, that’s all that’s important.”
Staying true to that view, the couple balances Sheryl’s Native American spirituality and Dave’s Baptist background. Prior to settling into a Sunday routine at their new residence in English Center, Dave regularly performed bass guitar with the praise team at First Baptist Church in Wellsboro. It’s a creative and spiritual outlet he misses, but Sundays are now the one day he doesn’t need to drive to Wellsboro for work with his small contracting business, “Let Dave Do It.”
Dave’s carpentry skills have come in handy in the past two years since the couple acquired the English Center property. Formerly the English Center Bed and Breakfast and, prior to that, a restaurant, the site received a full year of refurbishing before opening to the public and is still a work in progress.
The April 7 open house, with around 100 visitors in attendance, was a highlight of the past year.
“It was like, oh boy, we did it. We’d set a date, six months prior, and we had to bring a lot of the house together in a short time,” Dave relates. “It got pretty nuts, but we finished it and, then, being able to finally take a breath was rewarding. It was encouraging thinking we did do something that may better someone’s life.”
For Sheryl, a standout memory from recent months was an intensive weekend retreat conducted by Lench Archuleta, a Yaqui Indian and traditional native healer from Arizona. Although attended by just eight participants, Sheryl says the intimacy of the gathering added to its power. She feels the small nature of the retreat enhances the one-on-one interactions between participants.
“Someone said to me, ‘You’re building a mini-Omega!’” Sheryl enthuses, referring to the popular Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in New York’s Catskills.
The Sycamore’s Spirit Healing Retreat offers lodging in three dormitory-style rooms featuring sturdy, new northern white cedar bunk beds adorned with colorful Indian blankets and three freshly decorated bathrooms. The rooms can accommodate sixteen guests, with optional lodging available in two apartments and a cabin. A large gathering space, enhanced by a cozy living room with a stone fireplace, includes dining tables seating at least twenty.
Weekend workshop pricing includes lodging and organic meals. Sheryl serves homemade food crafted from local, organic, and free trade sources. With twelve years of experience in the natural foods industry, a B.S.Ed. from Penn State, and a medicinal aromatherapy certification, her abilities are uniquely suited for her current role.
In addition to paid events and free gatherings, some of the activities offered at The Sycamore’s Spirit Healing Retreat are donation-based presentations. Sheryl and Dave also envision outside organizations renting the facilities for team-building workshops or getaways.
Sycamore’s large events for the year will conclude with the October 18-20 weekend imagery workshop, “A Deep Imagery Retreat: Developing and Nurturing Your Heart-Based Spirituality,” presented by Jenny Garrison. A registered nurse, yoga teacher, and author of Imagery in You: Mining for Treasure in Your Inner World, Garrison, of Wellsboro, will also present a one-day workshop on Saturday, November 2.
As winter nears, Sheryl plans to continue holding free Wednesday evening gatherings, centering on explorations in nutrition, energy healing, literature, and film. She will also begin coordinating next year’s event schedule, gathering input from others via the retreat’s monthly newsletter, Facebook page, and Web site, www.thesycamoresspirit.com.
“What would you like us to be? What would make them come here? We want to be a place people want to come to,” Sheryl says. With all offerings, she and Dave strive to “create community. What’s really important is helping other people. We’ve both been in situations where others have helped us and the biggest thing we want to do is give back. We all have wounds, we all get lost along the way, and we need to learn how to make sense of the journey we’re on.”