I’ve been pondering retreat time as Lent approaches and I prepare to lead another virtual retreat in this holy season. (If you’re interested, you can find details and registration for my upcoming retreat here.) As I prepare for this retreat, I’ve been pondering how retreats help bring rejuvenation and sustain us for the long haul.
Taking the long view is something I’ve pondered before on this blog. It’s important to understand that deep and broad changes, both personal and societal, will take time to unfold, take root, and make a difference in our lives. We must persist, even when we grow weary of the work, or wonder if the change will ever truly manifest. Such work takes discipline. It takes perseverance, and it takes courage.
It also takes periods of rest and rejuvenation. I’ve written before on this blog about the need for retreat. Of course, as a retreat leader, I need to practice what I preach. But I also have experienced the grace of setting aside time to slow down, let go, and listen for the voice of the Spirit. On different retreats over the years, I’ve heard the voice of God, experienced life-altering dreams (including the one that set me on course to leave my job and become a solopreneur nine years ago), and deepened my commitment to new facets of my calling. Retreats have been transformative for me.
Retreats can also bring us rest and rejuvenation that we desperately need. I can remember sleeping for hours after arriving at retreat centers. I have sat in silence and watched birds or fireflies, allowing stillness to seep deeper into my soul. I have dozed off when trying to read something I thought I “should” study while on retreat. This means I’ve also learned to let go of my agenda on retreats.
Sometimes that rest and rejuvenation has paradoxically involved long hikes or deep dives into new material or practices, or the rediscovery of an old practice that takes on new life for me. When we let go of what we expect or intend, we open ourselves to the Spirit’s guidance. We open the wells of our souls to being refilled. We prepare ourselves to return to the long haul. Oftentimes, we come out of retreat time more energized for the work we were doing because we have taken a break from it. (And if we come out of retreat more convinced of our exhaustion, perhaps we are called to making larger shifts in our lives.)
Last week, I pondered the fact that the US still has a lot of work to do in making meaningful change. Perhaps we can view the presidential inauguration as a type of societal retreat day. On that day (with the exception of many soldiers and secret service members), we were able to relax for a while and acknowledge how our nation has been able to withstand, and begin to move on from, recent chaos. We heard speeches, poems, and songs filled with inspiration. We laughed over dozens of funny Bernie Sanders memes. We expressed hope in the future. We charged our leaders with making the changes the majority of us want to see.
So, how are you called to rest and rejuvenation? What type of individual or societal retreat do you need to make in order to be prepared for the long haul ahead?