I am going on retreat next week; I will be staying in the Guest house at a Benedictine Monastery. Sunday through Thursday. I will be silent, alone, nothing to do but “be” and “listen for God.” I am very excited. I have not done this kind of thing … ever.
I have been on more than one retreat. Those have been group experiences (I have been part of a group on the retreat ); they were preached retreats ( there was a retreat master whose job was to preach in such a way that the group would be led to thinking, and sharing about the theme of the retreat ). Usually I was also part of a smaller group that went on the retreat together.
In this case there will be no group, large or small; there will be no retreat master; no preaching; no discussing; no sharing; not even a theme. I will be by myself, to do whatever I want to do.
I was inspired to want to do a retreat of this type by a series of YouTube videos. The videos form a 12 part/3 hour BBC documentary of a priest who immersed five ordinary people who expressed a desire for more silence in their lives in a 7-day completely silent, undirected, retreat. ( You can see this video, starting with Part I, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_zDtdYu3mA. ) Even though my retreat is shorter than the one in the video, I still claim inspiration from the video.
In addition to be being excited, though, I am also at least somewhat nervous. The video shows five people struggling mightily with the silence. They did not know what to do with themselves.
They had each other. I will be alone. Prior to their retreat, none of them practiced much silence. My wife and I have pretty much made silence a way of life and I have incorporated a period of quiet, personal prayer into my daily routine. It seems that I have a better background for this than they had. Nonetheless, as a good friend said to me about this, “Five days is a long time.”
I have prayed for the grace to make this a good retreat.
I read half of a book titled, “How the Light gets in; Writing as a Spiritual Practice,” by Pat Schneider, hoping that her experience(s) will help me in my writing while on retreat. It’s unlikely I’ll finish the book before the retreat starts, but I think I’ve gotten some good insights.
I will …
- join the monastic community in prayer ... that is, Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, morning, afternoon and evening.
- fast a little; the Guest House offers three square meals a day, but I will refrain from partaking of lunch.
(Perhaps I will skip eating entirely for one of the days; that remains to be seen. )
- eat in the small room, for those who wish to eat in silence, that is adjacent to the dining area
( That should make it easier to avoid the temptation of talking during meals. )
- take reading material, writing material ( pen, paper, journal ), and a technical gizmo with which I can also write
- read and write
- sit silently in my room
- walk the guest house and the grounds of the monastery