Most of the time when I share with someone I’m going on a seven day silent retreat the reaction is always the same:
“You’re going to do what? For how long?”
Yes. For seven days, other than a daily half-hour spiritual direction appointment, silence reigns.
Even though I’ve been going on these retreats for years and know what to expect, initially I always feel trepidation. It’s not just you. I too say to myself, “Hmmm, seven days feels like a long time.”
Though I’ve come to understand how the silence will affect me, what happens in me is always on God’s terms that is always a surprise. Here’s what I can expect:
Day 1-2: Silence is always my best friend. I can’t wait to get into the peace, quiet and nothingness.
Day 3-4: Silence slowly becomes my enemy. At this point, the silence is deafening and I wonder if I can hang on.
Day 5-6: Silence is my home. God is present and closer to me than I am to myself. I want to bask in God’s Presence. His voiceless Voice says nothing and everything.
Day 7: Gratitude swells like an ocean and I am ready to walk back into my life with a renewed sense of I am not alone. All is well, and all will be well.
When I was packing, I started feeling trepidation. I thought, what in the world is that about?! Most times I’m so looking forward to the retreat I can’t wait. “How can this be?” I thought to myself. Rather than get caught up engaging that thought and feeling, I just proceeded to pack and move forward with my day. As the evening hour approached and I got in my car to drive to the retreat house, I noticed the trepidation and doubt had disintegrated, no longer weighing on me. It happens, when we are heading into something that is completely God lead, doubt and trepidation try to engage us.
The engagement is the issue, not the thought or even the feeling. I recognized it and kept moving in the direction of my intention, to go to this week long silent retreat. If I engaged the thoughts and turned them into a dialogue trouble would have ensued big time. That’s the power of doubt. Doubt cracks open the door, engaging it swings the door to fear wide open. So, what to do? It’s quite simple (I didn’t say easy), keep moving, one step in front of the other, doing the next right thing in the direction of your heart’s desire. The contemplative rules of engagement come down to this, pray, don’t engage and keep moving.
You don’t necessarily even have to go on a silent retreat away from daily life. Silence is seeking you, let yourself be found. Though it may feel scary to you, deep inside you long for the peace that only Silence can provide. Silence is anything but silent. Intentionally turning off the external sources of noise that are seductively clamoring for attention is imperative to your wholeness, to your health. Then the rich expression of God through the universe will clear the static on the brain. I don’t mean to never listen to music, tv, videos, etc. It’s just most people are consumed with being plugged in and need to turn off and tune out. Then re-enter the world of noise with discernment.
My suggestion is to simply keep background noise turned off for 7-10 days. That’s music, etc. while driving, working, cooking, reading, etc. Then hear the sounds around you and let them draw you into the present moment. The birds chirping, wind rustling through the trees, Notice how you can pay more attention to your intention of being present to whatever it is you’re doing, cooking, working, cleaning, reading, everything can help you awaken your senses to being present to the Presence of God, here and now.
Perhaps most importantly, ask God for the grace for whatever it is you need. Asking God for grace puts us in a place of receptivity rather than trying to make it happen on our own. Why is this such an important contemplative practice? Because most times we try too hard, too long, struggle too much before we finally become willing to receive. We try to work at our spiritual growth, at transforming our lives like we work at everything else. Then we cry out and complain to God “why aren’t you doing anything here?” All the while our ego has a white knuckle grip on our effort leaving no space for God.
Yes, intention and attention, awareness and openness is our part; however none of that matters if it’s all on us. If we put the responsibility for our growth, development and transformation squarely on our shoulders. The ego loves to handle the whole burden. This is about the Great Healer healing us. The Power of Healing that’s sustaining us this very moment. Our minds are thinking, hearts keep beating and lungs keep breathing without us doing a thing. We need most to be attentive to what we need and ask for the grace. God’s got this. You’re not in this alone. If you keep hitting the wall of “I can’t do this.” “I’ll never change.” “I’ll always feel___” “Other people can change, but not me.” “This is too hard, too scary, what’s the point.” You’re missing the point. So, right now, breathe and be gentle with yourself. What grace do you need from God for tomorrow? Grace, that flowing, loving, energy of Pure Presence. Remember as you are transformed you bring the True You into the world. God is healing the world and you’re one way He’s making it happen.
Who is Maria?
Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.
Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.
Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.