I spent the first day of silent retreat settling my brain and body. Unplugging from all electronic devices felt freeing. So many hours filled with contemplation and simpler activities were like water for my thirsty soul.
A workday’s worth of solitude and silence was like an oasis in the desert. I walked several miles, ate lunch in a meadow (a golden meadow because it’s been a hot and dry summer here in Central California). I was alone and it was sunny and quiet.
As I left my picnic spot and looked back at the oak tree whose shadow I’d sat underneath, I saw a tiny oak tree in its shadow. It was the perfect picture of how I felt that day, covered in God’s love and grace. When I got back to my room, I filled more pages in my journal with words and drawings.
I love to doodle. It’s stress relieving for me. The session called “Quilt Making” provided the familiar experience of having crayons, colored pencils, and markers in my hand. We were to draw something representing significant memories. The leader shared a reading that inspired us to remember the good things in life. When our drawings were complete, we hung them together, seamed like a lovely quilt of hand-drawn memories.
As you know, I love to read. While packing for the retreat I wrestled over which books to take with me. Ultimately, I decided not to take any, which felt really weird – I never leave home without a book.
However, I borrowed “Life of the Beloved” by Henri Nouwen from the lending library and read it in a day. In true Nouwen style, a contemplative read and suitable addition to my silent retreat experience.
Like a missionary returning to home after traveling abroad, it was overwhelming to turn my cellphone on and see the numbers in red bubbles indicating missed text messages, emails, and social media posts. I returned home just days before the 2016 Presidential election and all that noise, too. I realized that I could better control how invasive technology is in my life by creating time frames and boundaries. The first being little to no usage on Sundays and only during specific times during other days.
I know it’s challenging to find peace, solitude and silence in the day-to-day. At least once a year, if not more often, it’s good to unplug, move “off-the-grid,” and find some solace. The mind and body need that down time to function more efficiently.
Have you ever been on a silent retreat? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. I’m looking forward to The Springs silent retreat next year, you’re welcome to join me.