Retreat (part 2) Be with yourself.

How many of us make time to just BE? Not DO anything – just keep still, or walk, or stroll, dawdle, sit, lie down…? I think my favourite hobby is ‘lying down’! Seriously!  In the sunshine, in my hammock, on my bed, on the floor, on the grass – it’s what I love doing. Why? Because my body is so often tired and my mind frazzled, that when I am allowed to choose what I’d like to do for fun… it’s rest! Bathing in the sea or having a bath are also way up there – and I’m more than a little partial to aromatherapy massage! 😉

There is so much stress in the modern world and we try to cram more and more into our lives while simultaneously growing older, developing aches and pains and middle-aged spread (it is of course illegal to drive without a spare tyre) and discovering we just don’t have the energy of our younger days. Rather than cut back, say ‘no’, admit any weakness, the pattern is to collapse in front of a screen – often admitting more stimulus into our over-crowded brains – or open a bottle of wine. Probably at the same time. I am of course only talking about myself…

I love life and people and getting things done and looking after my eccentric Professor husband and following leads and connections, ‘making the most of every opportunity’, as someone said. BUT. Who else has had to stop reading the news lately because it is too frustrating and awful and there is nothing one can DO about it?! The global village and social media give us far more to cope with than we are intended to carry.  Hence the rising interest in mindfulness and meditation as a serious antidote to anxiety and stress: a taking back of control of one’s headspace.

Blah, blah, blah – enough ranting already.  Here is a picture of my own personal Hermitage at Launde for 4 nights in August.

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You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.                                                                                                                                              Franz Kafka
I knew the theory. If we don’t take time to simply ‘kick the leaves’ as Gerald Coates used to put it, we’ll never be quiet enough to listen to ourselves, let alone God. Of course it does require courage, to trust that when you are stripped back to basics you will findIMG_3611 something at the core – to actually believe what Kafka says, amazing as that sounds. Whether walking in nature or silent in a room, by taking time out we can begin to understand the difference between living life as a reaction to what is thrown at us from the outside and living out of a response to what rises on the inside, an expression of who we really are.  I love the idea of “giving the imagination room to play in the field of time”  which is from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, about releasing one’s inner creativity.  Artistic pursuits IMG_3591definitely have a part to play, helping release what is inside us. At the very least it can be as simple as what Spike Milligan said about the sure-fire cure for seasickness – perhaps we could substitute upset and turmoil of many kinds? “Sit under a tree”!

After meeting the other 7 people on the retreat and the director – a retired priest who would meet us individually for 30 minutes each day to give guidance – the silence began. No talking, and my time (apart from meals eaten with the others but in silence) was my own.  Where to begin? I made my base in the Hermitage and had a cup of tea… I took out my large notebook and started to write stuff I was thinking – always a great way to process if you’re not really a thinker (I’m a feeler) and possibly an extrovert with nobody actually listening to bounce things off. Thinkers and introverts undoubtedly do things differently! Soon it was dinner time and I understood why fasting is such a good idea when you want a prolonged period of focus. But this is why monks had community meals and activities even in the midst of silence: we were alone but part of something, on our journeys together –  and that was good too.

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Jesus among the elders when he was 12

Glen, our director, had asked us to consider the life of Jesus as a starting point: 4 aspects which we might find resonating with our own lives or experiences in some way: ie, his birth, when he was 12 years old, when he was 27 years old – approaching the time for his ministry, and the circumstances of his passion and death – with the promise of resurrection. What aspects of beginnings, endings, identity and calling were coming up in our own lives?

I personally love Biblical narratives, the things we can learn from the characters of Scripture and their journeys: I have often identified with Jacob wrestling with God, Elijah running away to the cave or Hannah giving up her son to Eli the priest. Jesus is a good starting point for a Christian retreat! But why did Glen say 12 and 27?! 12 and 27.  I was 12 years old when my mother died. My son was 27 years old when he died.

So I was in at the deep end.  I needed to make a start and have something to say to Glen when we met, so as is my habit I began looking back at my life’s journey, writing a review of the cycles of change and growth since I met Jesus when I was 12, the things I’d been called to and involved with over the years, and the ending that occurred when Sam was first diagnosed and then died. It helps to make sense of things when we can see the path and understand where it’s been leading. I’d blogged extensively on all these things for years and also specifically did this when I turned 60 so it wasn’t new to me, but this was the first time I realised that major changes had occurred every 10 years since I was 12 in 1969 and that the latest 10 years of caring for and grieving Sam will be ‘complete’ in 2019!

So I did feel feel hopeful as I went to share my overview with Glen at midday on Tuesday. But… I have once more written quite enough, so you’ll have to wait for what happened next: further on and further in. Sorry! 😉

2 thoughts on “Retreat (part 2) Be with yourself.

  1. Beautiful. And definitely more than enough action for me for one day XX
    For some reason I started to tear up when you said looking at Jesus’ life when he was 27 (even before I read on). There is something in that I need to ponder/journal about
    Thank you again for sharing, beautiful lady XX

    Liked by 1 person

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