Last night, my husband and I finished watching the beautiful documentary, Into Great Silence, an illuminating look at the lives of Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. The monks live a simple, ascetic spiritual life, devoted to prayer and silence, Scheduled times are intentionally set aside for walks, conversation and, in one delightful scene, impromptu sliding down a snowy hill.
I’ve been wanting to attend a two or three day or weekend silent retreat for some time. There are opportunities for me to do so at Ignatius House and at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, both within an hour away. The movie got me to thinking about how I can build in “retreat” time at home. I regularly set aside time daily for self-healing work and Centering Prayer/meditation, but they are usually something I am fitting in with the midst of other activities or responsibilities.
I decided I want to try setting aside a scheduled block of time one day a week devoted to silent retreat. No speaking, no writing, no live-tweeting my silence. I may walk, pray, meditate, read spiritual commentary, or even garden in the context of being present and centering myself in stillness.
I’m a fairly anxious person, although many people do not get to see that side of me. Much of it is a result of feeling overwhelmed at all the “stuff” that needs to be dealt with in daily life. I used to be a very Type A kind of person who needed to get things done, plan ahead, make things perfect, be the fixer. That person is still there, but I’ve realized that being that way isn’t very healthy for me.
I’m increasingly concerned with the ways we distract ourselves from being present to the ground of Being. And how this distraction, especially via social media, breeds self-absorption and a sense of lack – a need to grasp at more, a need to project who we are, a need for validation. (I recognize this irony, even as I type this post.)
By intentionally withdrawing into a retreat state on a regular basis, I’m hoping to connect with something deeper and more real than my own thoughts, needs, desires and illusions. Even in the midst of all the social noise and activity, I often find life to be very lonely. Growing up, I spent a fair amount of time alone – drawing, writing, reading, listening to music or walking – and usually felt less estranged while engaged in activities that nourished my soul.
Trying to keep up with what everyone is doing, eating, buying, watching, thinking or kvetching about makes me wonder if I really do know anything about these people I supposedly know everything about on social media. Do I even really know who I am, apart from the things I post, update and tweet about to the world?
This morning during my Centering Prayer time, I got sleepy, my mind wandered and staying present was a challenge, And yet, I felt the presence of something else tugging on my heart. Something formless, yet endless. Elusive, yet eternal. Within me and everywhere.
“Come find me. I’m here.” I said to that presence. “I’m waiting.”