In this autoethnography I narrate the story of my retreat experiences and spiritual practices at the Well Retreat Center over a span of two decades. The Well is both a geographical place in the Isle of Wright County in Virginia, and a metaphor for a spiritual journey into the inner Well of our being. I chronicle an amalgam of 35 retreats in one 24-hour retreat, narrating stories about: leaving home and settling in, dreaming and awakening, sunrise and sunset, walking in nature and walking the narrow path, discovering life behind a cracked door, and uncovering the mystery that lies at the bottom of a Well. I punctuate each story with questions for the reader to contemplate, inviting them to go deeper into their own inner Well, to contact and connect with the life-giving waters that nourish our growth, sustain our hope, and orient our lives toward loving compassion. Finally, I address issues of validity, limitations, and future research.


Spiritual Practices, Retreats, Autoethnography

Author Bio(s)

E. James Baesler (PhD, 1990, University of Arizona, Tucson) is Full Professor of Communication in the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jbaesler@odu.edu.


This work is dedicated to retreatants that came to The Well in search of life-giving water, and to all the people that served at The Well, especially the first caretakers, Sister Nancy Healy and Diane Weymouth, and the last caretakers, Tom and Linda Ashe. A poster version of this paper was presented at the 15th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Urbana-Champaign, May 2019.

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