Terri Sena is the new executive director of Spirit Mountain Retreat.       Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Terri Sena is the new executive director of Spirit Mountain Retreat. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

A long search for an executive director to replace Esther Kennedy has ended with Spirit Mountain Retreat landing in the good hands of Terri Sena. The path leading to her arrival seems spiritual itself to Sena. While she has been to Idyllwild many times to visit friends — Debbie and Bill Shepherd — in less than a year life has returned her here to guide the local retreat.

Licensed in spiritual counseling, she has an extensive background in marketing and sales. But even in college at the University of Missouri, she studied and pursued public service.

Eventually she wound her way to California, marriage and two daughters — 22 and 23 years old. “They’re my joy,” she said brimming with a smile. “They’ll call and ask if I’d like to do something. I’m thrilled they still want to be with me.”

And Sena is thrilled to be in Idyllwild at Spirit Mountain. “I like helping people. And I felt called by God to be here,” she explained. “There were so many synchronicities connecting me. I couldn’t ignore the spirit. It felt right.”

While visiting her friend Debbie last summer, Sena thought about taking a class or workshop at the retreat. When she visited the website, the first screen she saw was the job description and announcement of a vacancy.

“I wasn’t looking for a job, but in reading it I felt that’s almost as if I wrote a job description of my life,” Sena said, wide-eyed.

The next moment occurred in the fall. She was looking for an apartment when she got a call from Bill telling her the executive director’s job was being re-announced and she should apply soon.

Then, when she was talking with Kathy Halkin and Debbie about the retreat, she started crying. “I surprised myself. It felt like my soul was crying. I was finally where I was supposed to be,” Sena said.

Now that she is here, she wants to be sure the community is aware of Spirit Mountain’s presence and opportunity. “I have been coming up here for eight or nine years and didn’t know what was here,” she added.

Seminars and new programs will be gradually coming, she said, of the retreat across the road from the Idyllwild Area Historical Society off of North Circle Drive. “The space is underutilized, but I want to keep the charm and peaceful feeling that’s here,” she said. “But there is potential for growth and more interaction with the community.

“I want the community to know it’s available. People can come and sit and rest in the gardens,” she entreated. “They can meditate or read with nature. It’s here for a purpose. People need to get quiet and find their center. This is what it’s here for.”

Sena plans to conduct some workshops in the future. Their goal will be to help people find a balance in order to connect with their belief systems.

“Some beliefs limit us. So discussing them opens up possibilities for a better life,” she said with assurance.

Besides the opportunity for workshops or seminars, Sena pointed out that the retreat has several rooms available for individuals who want to come and spend more time. They mediate, study and try to connect their consciousness with the earth and planet.

For example, a recent visitor spent four days in total silence. This person wanted to quiet the many conversations and debates going through their head, Sena said.

Writers may use the solitude and setting to connect with their creative processes, Sena added.

The classes and learning, which helped her change her life over the years, were such a vital experience that she knew “it was possible to change and she wanted to help others change their lives. It’s very rewarding.”

As director of Spirit Mountain Retreat, Sena hopes to be the counselor that opens up opportunities for improvement and growth to both the community and retreat visitors.