As a part of my healing from breast cancer and its treatments, I’m taking a silent retreat this Monday through next Monday. It’s a centering prayer retreat, and about six days of it will be silent. I’ll be there with other centering prayer practitioners, and we will meditate together, eat meals together, stay in dorms together. But we won’t talk.
When I tell friends that I’m going on a silent retreat, they are usually interested – and puzzled. Why would I choose silence? No computer, no phone, no television, no music, no conversation. What will I do? The key word is “do.” I spend too much of my life doing and too little being. So for a week, I’ll “be.” I’ll be present to what is. I’ll be present to myself. I’ll be present to what I’m eating, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, avoiding, enjoying, fearing, loving, seeking. And as I get into the retreat and the silence, all will start to settle. Deepen. And I’ll get closer to letting go.
I’ve taken several centering prayer retreats over the years. I was at the retreat center at Sacred Heart in Cullman, AL twice, three and four years ago. I’m going back there because I like being in a setting where nuns have lived and prayed for about 100 years. I looked at several other centering prayer retreats this spring and summer, and this one felt right for me at this time.
I’ve learned not to have expectations for retreats. I’ll get what I need. Some retreats can be difficult because my fears and anxieties can bubble up. But even when they do, I’ve found that sitting with them helps to diminish them. Being with a group helps, too, even if we aren’t talking. Because everyone there has a daily centering prayer practice. Everyone is there to deepen her or his relationship with God. And that intention holds us all up, even when it’s hard. And when it’s blissful. And when it just is. Because it always just is.
So Monday I drive to Cullman for my retreat. I’ll sit by the lake in the early morning before our first centering prayer “sits” at 7. We’ll have three of these hour-long centering prayer meditative sessions each day with the whole group. We’ll also have individual time to walk the labyrinth, to sit by the lake, to walk the grounds, to do the Stations of the Cross, to nap, to write poetry, to draw, to journal, to be. We can choose to do all of these, some of these, none of these – except to be. The foundation of the retreat is being.
It really is a gift to have this retreat time. Everything is taken care of – accommodations, meals, schedules – everything. All I have to do is be present. I ask for your prayers and good thoughts just as I did when I was struggling through breast cancer treatments. I know that good energy sent my way always helps. Starting Monday, I’ll be offline until July 2nd. And then I’ll let you know how the retreat went. But for now, I go into next week without expectations – and with deep gratitude for the opportunity.