Thursday, February 12, 2009

Going on Retreat...

Tomorrow I leave Vancouver for a four day personal retreat and I can't wait to go. There's nothing better than taking time apart from the busyness of day-to-day life to rest, to reflect, to clarify, and to renew.

I've been answering an inner call to retreat since I was very young. Whenever life became too hectic at home I would take an apple and my book and wander into the woods where I could spend hours walking my favourite paths, sitting in my favourite tree and just be-ing in the quiet. Eventually, I would return to the world, centered and at peace once more. 

Retreats come in all shapes and sizes. An hour pulling weeds in my rose garden. A few moments in the quiet darkness of my front porch, staring up at the night sky. A few days apart from my normal environs, surrounded by the beauty of nature, either with a pack on my back or in the comfort of a comfortable retreat house. Years ago, my husband had a regular arrangement with an elderly friend to spend a morning, once a month, in her spare room, resting, thinking, meditating and writing. At noon, Doris would tap on the door to announce that she'd made him a bowl of soup and a sandwich. They would have a quiet lunch together and then my husband would leave, refreshed, to go on with his life.

There are many times in life when a retreat can be helpful. During times of transition or celebration when we want to fully experience the moment. At times when we yearn for space apart to refresh and renew. During times when we seem to have lost our true selves and need to reconnect. When we feel stuck in making a decision or finding the right path. When we are longing for room for creative expression and inspiration. When our God seems far away. When we need time to grieve and to heal.

Whatever our reason for wanting a retreat, the major obstacle to accomplishing our intention is often in our own minds. How many of us have known, deeply, that we needed some time apart only to follow that thought with one of the following:

- I can't afford it.

- It would be selfish or irresponsible to take time for myself right now.

- My friends would think I'm crazy.

- I don't have the time!

- I haven't been alone for so long that it feels a little scary.

- If I leave my husband (child, wife, parent), something terrible might happen.

My personal experience is that if I commit to taking time away -ie choosing dates- I am able to find my way through most barriers that may arise. There will always be the fears of the unknown, but in the all years that I feared leaving my husband to get the rest I needed, nothing catastrophic happened. And if it had, it wouldn't have been because I had gone on retreat, but because he had severe heart disease.

So, take some time today to examine your own life.  Do you need a rest, some quiet moments to think or a geographical change to gain some objectivity? If you do, consider the type of retreat you would be able to undertake, choose a date and then make a commitment to follow through.  You might find, as I did, that after the allotted days are over you are still wanting more.

Photo by Janet Ritchey    




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