The first time I went on retreat I was beside myself with nerves. Eight days- eight days of silence, no phone, no internet, nothing. What would I do with myself for eight long days! I really didn’t know how to handle the idea having never been on a silent retreat before. As with most religious communities retreat is an important goal in our constitution so as a candidate I was required to go. As it turned out my fears were mostly unfounded. Since I had only experienced youth retreats which were full of activities, late nights, and junk food I was unsure of how to settle into the rhythm I noticed in my fellow retreatants. I especially struggled with the silent dinners; while others lingered and savored the experience I was over and done eating in ten minutes!
Over the years I grew to love retreat especially as I diversified my prayer style and deepened my yoga practice. Now, six years later, I crave retreat. I long for the time away from the world to be quiet and still, and just to listen to God.
The first few days of my latest retreat were spent simply in gratitude- grateful to have the time off from work, to be in a lovely place, and to be given the gift of slowing down. As my retreat progressed I realized the extent of the state of hurry I had been living in over the past year or two. Hurrying from one thing to the next, checking off tasks and listing accomplishments. Sometimes I even approached prayer that way, as if praying was like going to the gym and all I have to do is work at it.
I remember Teilhard’s famous quote:”And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.” Why should I always be in such a hurry, why not savor each little moment with God? There is a logic to this thought which flies in the face of our western culture. I gain more by slowing down than I could ever hope to gain by rushing ahead. Now I only hope I can remember that back in the fast pace of real life.