The waves echo behind me. Patience~Faith Openness, is what the sea has to teach. Simplicity-Solitude-Intermittency…But there are other beaches to explore. There are more shells to find. This is only a beginning.Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Retreats are essential. You gotta take time out. And like anything, the more time you put in, the more you get out. It’s like stopping for gas. You can put $10 and it’ll get you by for a bit, $60 you’ll be good to go for much longer, but take no time to fill up and you are going to run out of steam. Occasionally pulling back from the day to day busy-ness of our worlds and minds is crucial.
I think of the war calls of a bygone era. “Retreat!” was a desperate measure, a judgment call made by a commander who identified danger was beginning to overwhelm, the troops needed to remove themselves from the line of fire, pull back, regroup.
That happened to me last year. Stress had been building, I was finding myself inundated with it. A friend kept suggesting I take some off, go on a retreat. “I couldn’t possibly, too much going on here, kids sports schedules, no way.”
I was already fried when a crisis call came in; it knocked me over with an anxiety attack I hadn’t felt in decades. I knew I needed to move, so I headed out for neglected exercise. On the way to the gym a call came in from an old teacher of mine saying she knew I had originally said it would be impossible; it was a long shot, but I was on her mind, and would I be interested in the one spot left on her retreat to Costa Rica. We’d leave in a week. As we talked, my “retreat-suggesting friend” pulled up to the intersection across from me. “I’ll come,” I told her. It’s amazing the opportunities that gets sent your way when you really need them, and are willing (or desperate enough) to reach out and grab hold of them.
That time away was a saving grace that carried me forward through rocky months ahead, and set me up with doors that continue to open. I can’t imagine what the next six months would’ve looked like had I not gone.
I’ve been fortunate to have gone on some incredible retreats, from India to Indiana, with women, other professionals, and one with my daughter. It’s easy to justify not going. God knows I was nervous for many of them. Modern society leans toward making us martrys, to our jobs, our families, our ability to “be productive.” Just one “must be nice,” from a co-worker, or another parent, is enough to stop you. It doesn’t have to be long or extravagant; mini retreats work too, but you’ve got to commit. The key is to carve the time out, trusting that there is something to the old “put your own oxygen mask on first” adage.
All the great sages, saints and spiritual leaders took time out to get quiet, away from their ruminations. When Desmond Tutu was asked how with with his busy schedule he found time to meditate several hours each morning he replied, “I am too busy not to.”
No time, or ability to get away? Only you can answer that question. Chances are if its a priority you could probably carve out some time, if not for a couple days or more then for a bit each day. A mini-retreat can suffice. Then find a way to bring that back into regular life. That takes practice. Ever heard a yoga teacher talk about taking that which you practice on the mat, practice off the mat? Same idea. Take a few hours away~ in nature, exercising, reading~to center yourself, and then carry those feelings back into your “life off the mat.” You, and those you left behind, will feel the effects.
Below find timeless wisdom found on retreat from Henry David Thoreau and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, aviator, writer, wife of Charles. And then think about your willingness and availability to retreat, and the opportunities to do so that come your way.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
— Henry David Thoreau (1854)
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For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political trials, charitable appeals and so on. My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us, we run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!
This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace, but destroys the soul. And this is not only true of my life, I am forced to conclude, it is the life of millions of women in America…The problem of multiplicity of life confronts not only the American woman, but also the American man….
When we start at the center of ourselves, we discover something worthwhile extending toward the periphery of the circle. We find again some of the joy in the now, some of the peace in the here, some of the love in me and thee which go to make up the kingdom of heaven on earth.
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1954)
Feel free to share your thoughts/ideas for retreat below!