I just returned from the retreat I mentioned a few weeks ago. If you read that column, you know there was a “silent retreat” portion of the weekend that had me a little apprehensive. Not that I didn’t want to honor the silence, or didn’t think I could. I was just afraid I’d forget and start talking to someone – or myself – or that without realizing it, I’d start humming a song that popped into my head for some reason.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t talk, hum, sing, or do anything else to embarrass myself or disturb others. Not only was I able to keep quiet, but I actually enjoyed it.
The purpose of the silence was to block out distractions from external sources so we could be more attentive to, and focused on, the internal ones – our own thoughts, prayers, and conversations with God. It was a profound experience, and I remember thinking, “I could really get used to this.” In fact, I felt a bit of a letdown when we were able to start talking again – like I was giving up something powerful and special.
The silent portion of the retreat was only for one evening and part of the next morning, but we had been asked to not wear a watch during the entire weekend, and to leave our cell phones and all electronic devices at home. It’s really difficult, in a society that’s electronically connected 24/7, to take that down to zero all at once, even for a few days. But I decided I was all in, so after making sure emergency contacts were in place, I left my phone and all electronics at home. Other than a few pangs and twitches, I discovered a sense of freedom that lasted throughout the weekend. I really was able to concentrate more fully on what was going on around me and within me, and I decided that I could get used to this, too. On an occasional basis, anyway.
Going without a watch was actually more of a problem for me, since I always wear one and I glance at it regularly throughout the day. Part of this is just habit, I realize, but I also need to know the time so that I’m not late for meetings, appointments, or whatever else I’m doing.
None of this mattered on the retreat, however. We were told when it was time to eat, time for the next presentation, and time for Mass or for morning and evening meditations. Music and lights came up gently when it was time for us to get up, and lights went out when it was time for us to sleep. There was something very freeing about trusting others to take care of all this, and it, too, allowed me to immerse myself more fully in the retreat.
I formed new friendships over the weekend, ones that I know will grow stronger with time. I got to know myself a little better, and I deepened my relationship with God. I came home from the retreat feeling a greater sense of peace and power than I’ve ever experienced before.
And that’s something I could really get used to.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 30, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015
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