Going on a retreat means taking time away from your ordinary life and situation. It is a special time to give yourself some peace. You might be stepping away from a hectic lifestyle, taking a break away from the responsibilities of children or caring for someone. You may be stepping away from a stressful emotional situation or you may just want some quiet and to be left alone for a day or two. You may be yearning for some tranquillity in which to consider where you are in life.
A retreat allows feelings to surface and gives us access to both the light and dark corners of our hearts. It can bring understanding of where we are in relationships too. All the great spiritual traditions are about discovering ourselves in ways that help us to grow in happiness and love. For many people a retreat will be an awakening to the presence of God in their lives.
Is going on a retreat a new idea?
Men and women have always needed at times to withdraw temporarily from daily living in order to nourish their inner life of the spirit. Moses retreated to Mount Sinai. Jesus went into the desert. Buddhists annually make a retreat. Moslems go for a day of prayer and fasting within the mosque. The Hindu withdraws to the temple or wanders alone across the land. Indigenous peoples spend time in the natural world to restore their spirits. In our ordinary lives, the kitchen, the garden or the shed may be where we go to retreat from the world.
What is an ‘inner journey’?
In opening up your interior self, you may find an empty inner space you never knew existed. Suddenly, there is no constant background of human activity. No gossip, no grumbling, no meetings, no decisions, no interference to prevent you from listening to your deepest self. You are faced with you alone. At long last! You begin then to slip into a slower physical, mental and emotional gear and start to think differently. Your body gears down. Your mind drifts from thought to thought. Slowly deep feelings arise. Some may be encouraging. Some may be unsettling. All of them are from within your interior world. All of them belong to you. What you do with them is up to you and a retreat is one of the best places to start to listen to and respond to your heart.
In such moments your retreat truly begins for this new consciousness marks the giving of undivided attention to your spirit. Some say that it is opening the door to God.
Is this spirituality just stuff inside my head ?
On one level a retreat is about refreshing yourself, relaxing, and taking a journey into the deeper self. Reassessment about your life and relationships and values can happen. And why not? What other time have you ever had to do it?
At another level, it is a time for deep listening. Unless you stop and let go of your ordinary concerns, you cannot hear your inner voice or be attentive to God’s action in your life. Developing your spiritual life enhances all of your life. You will feel happy, more fulfilled and more able to grow into the person you are meant to be.
When you share a retreat experience with others, you can become connected in a very precious way. We call this community. People speak from their heart and listen with openness to each other. They accept differences and encourage one another.
Is silence necessary on a retreat?
It is not true that you have to be silent all the time on a retreat. Many retreats have little or no silence and there are retreat houses which can seem busy when fully booked. If the combination of silence and stillness is too much on a retreat for you, you may find that a quiet physical activity such as walking, sewing, or painting is the best way to regain a sense of peace.
Who goes on retreats?
At a retreat you will meet people of all ages and from every kind of background –workers, unemployed, students, housewives, grandparents and business people. A retreat is open to all. A group retreat can be enjoyable and a time of making new friends.
Do you have to be religious or be a church-goer?
You certainly do not have to be religious to go on a retreat. Men and women of all faiths and those of none go on retreat. While you may not have to be religious, you must respect the faith of the people in the place you are visiting and the faith of your fellow retreat goers.
In general the retreats offered by Andrea are open to people of all faiths. Andrea’s background is in the Catholic tradition and she also offers retreats with a particular emphasis on Christian themes such, The Compassion of God, Walking the Christian Journey, or will with work with groups who wish to develop skills or understanding relevant to their needs or interests.
What kind of people will I meet on a retreat?
Almost everyone comes back from a retreat feeling good about the people they met there. But it is true to say that you may meet people you like at once, those you do not want to know better and those who may make a nuisance of themselves. You are there to listen to another voice – your inner self. For believers, their focus is on hearing the voice of God in their own hearts.