Welcome to the online retreat forum at Shalom Place.
- questions, comments and experiences may be posted as a reply to this message -
A retreat is a special time set aside to examine your life or some aspect of your life. In the life of Christian faith, a retreat may also be a time to focus more deeply on your relationship with God. That is the primary concern of this online retreat, although it is likely that you will come to some deeper insights into yourself and your relationships as well. But the ideal is that at the end of the retreat, you will have a deeper sense of how God is present and active in your life.
Generally, a retreat is also held at a special place--a retreat or spirituality center, a monastery, a camp in the mountains--where silence is emphasized and where the surroundings help to keep you focused on the purpose of your retreat. If one can afford the time away and the money, this is the ideal. For many, however, this is just not feasible for a variety of reasons. And so the next best thing--but a very good thing indeed!-- is to make a retreat at home.
But how would you do this?
The answer to this is by attempting to experience at home as many of the values you would experience if you were getting away from it all for a few days as possible. What follows is a brief reflection on some of these values.
A time set aside. We have set up this retreat for one to make in eight days, with suggestions for a longer retreat at the end. If one cannot make all eight days, however, doing as many as possible would be better than doing nothing.
Choose what days you want to designate as your retreat days. Ideally, they should be consecutive, and as free from disruption as possible, but that is not absolutely necessary; you can stagger the days if you prefer. It’s probably unavoidable that work or social duties be performed during retreat days, and that’s fine; just use the rest of your day for retreat time, and remember to keep a media fast as much as possible.
Silence. Generally, one makes a retreat at a place of quiet where external silence is emphasized. Although you probably can't have complete silence in your environment, you should strive to have as much as possible during your retreat days. Leave the tv and radio off, limit your time on the Internet, make no more phone calls than needed, and avoid unnecessary outings. Avoid reading the newspaper much, or novels and other books. If this sounds boring, then stay with the boredom and learn what you can from it. A lot of the noise we introduce into our lives is about running from our inner experience, or distracting ourselves from it. During a retreat, we courageously open ourselves to our inner life and avoid using tactics to escape from ourselves and God.
Environment. Do what you can to reinforce your retreat time in your external environment. Burn incense or candles. Bring out the sacred pictures or images and/or place them in a prominent place. Play soothing meditative music.
Prayer. It is recommended that you take at least two periods each day for formal prayer with Scripture, and that these be at least 30 minutes long. If you can take three or four prayer periods, that's even better, or if you want to substitute one or more prayer periods with a contemplative practice like Centering Prayer, that's fine. Three Scripture passages will be posted for each day of your retreat in case you decide to use three prayer periods to pray with Scripture. Careful consideration has been given in choosing these passages to provide a movement in the retreat process. If you'd like to pray with other passages, however, that's fine. The point is to pray.
If you'd like more guidance on how to pray with Scripture, or on other forms of prayer, click here. The section on praying with Scripture should be particularly helpful. For audio instruction (requires Real Player), click here. Choose the links on Lectio Divina and Contemplative Prayer (though you might enjoy listening to some of the other meditations as well).
Journaling. If you don't already have a journal, it is recommend that you get one for this retreat. Use your journal to jot down reflections or insights from your prayer times, or at other times during the day. Before going to bed at night, look back on your day and note the times when you felt close to God, and when you felt distant. Try to clarify for yourself what are your questions and issues at this time in life and bring these to God during the retreat.
Spiritual Reading: In the mention of taking a “media fast” in remarks above, it was suggested that you refrain from reading newspapers, magazines, and other material that might take your attention too far afield from what this retreat is about. An exception can certainly be made for spiritual reading -- books, magazines, web sites and other material about prayer, spiritual living, and even theology. Most likely you already have numerous resources in your possession. Taking time each day for spiritual reading is a good way to keep your focus and to stimulate growth.
Spiritual Direction. There are generally two ways to do a retreat at home or away: one is on your own (private retreat) and the other is with someone who processes your retreat with you (directed retreat). The retreat format provided here can work either way. If you would like to process your retreat with someone and you already have a spiritual director/companion, why not invite him or her to journey with you during this time? You might choose to visit by phone, or in person each day, or only several days.
If you would like this to be a directed retreat but don't have a spiritual director/companion, see http://shalomplace.com/direction and send in a request to Phil St. Romain, who will either meet with you or help you find someone else if you'd like.
Diet. Most retreat centers provide generous amounts of food at meal times and place no restrictions on diet. There are, however, clear correlations between diet and clarity of awareness. One suggestion is that you eat only one full meal a day and stay away from junk foods during this time. If you choose to fast one or more days, don't forget to drink plenty of liquids. Should hunger become a distraction, it would be best to eat moderately.
Exercise. Taking walks or bike rides can be a good way to be in the silence during your retreat time. If you have a regular exercise program, there is certainly no need to abandon it. Meditative stretching exercises before prayer times can even be a good way to help quiet the mind and prepare you for prayer.
Sleep. It often happens that when people slow down a little, they notice how tired and stressed they've been. If you discover this and are drawn to take a nap or to get some extra sleep, then by all means do so. On the other hand, if your retreat leaves you more energized and you awaken during the night and can't return to sleep, why not view it as a call to prayer and give this special time to the Lord.
Daily Living. Retreat time isn’t limited to prayer. We already considered the importance of environment, media, diet, exercise, and sleep during the retreat time. Through all our waking hours, we also strive to be present to what is going on within and around us, cultivating an attitude of willingness to love. Be here now in love is a good focusing statement here. Remind yourself of this throughout the day. This practice will help to deepen your prayer, which will, in turn, help you to be focused in love throughout the day.
Discussion Board. You have already found your way to this online forum, so that was the most difficult part of the technological aspect. No doubt you have already noticed the links to the different days of the retreat, and maybe even peeked in on them. Permissions on this forum are such that you cannot open a new topic, but can reply/comment on those already set up. Doing so is not a mandatory part of the retreat, however; there is no expectation that you share your retreat experience with others. If you would like to do so, that is fine; perhaps it would help another in some manner. If someone responds to your sharing, that’s fine, too. It is hoped that we can offer support for one another, even if only through our prayer for other retreatants. The “End of day” focus questions might work best for sharing, as they bring up issues we will all encounter.
Making a Plan. Now that you have gone over these orientation suggestions, it’s time for you to make a plan.
As this discussion topic is for orientation purposes, please do share questions and comments that could help provide more clarity and direction. Sharing your plan might also help to give others some ideas on how to go about doing an at-home retreat.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
I am adding another retreat resource: my Handbook for Spiritual Directees, which includes a variety of spiritual exercises you might wish to consider undertaking during your retreat. There are also chapters on prayer methods and information about spiritual direction.
This is a pdf book; the first page is blank. If you'd like the book in paperback, kindle or other formats, see http://shalomplace.com/view/handbook.htmlThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
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