Friday, October 11, 2013

Silent Retreat: Part One -- Learning the Ropes and Getting Settled

Dear Friend,

I promised I would tell you all about my silent retreat! I have more pictures and thoughts than I can comfortably fit into one post, so I believe I'll made this a "Silent Retreat Series."

Lane to the Spiritual Center
Last Saturday I arrived at the Spiritual Center for breakfast. I was glad to meet up with a couple of my friends -- including my prayer partner, Beth, who had invited me to attend this event. We enjoyed an hour or so of "community time" during which our director, Linda, gave us some helpful tips on how to make the most of the silent hours we were preparing to enter.
"You are all busy people; you have a lot to do. There are ministry leaders here, some of you are missionaries, some are teachers, etc. You have a long list of things you'd like to accomplish today. But I want to encourage you to set your list aside. Allow yourself to become still and listen to God. Think of one thing you'd like to ask God for during this time of silent prayer."
Linda gave us a labyrinth handout. She explained how to use it as a prayer tool. This was new to me. I thought a labyrinth was an elaborate hedge maze in which a person could get hopelessly lost! But it turns out -- there is only one path in a prayer labyrinth; if you use it correctly, you will only get lost in God.

Then there were breathing exercises. Before our lesson, I thought of breathing exercises as a New Age/Eastern practice for attempting to reach a state of Nirvana! But I learned that Christians can (and should) breathe too. The difference is in the approach. 

Since I had just recently read Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas, I felt eager to try some of these methods for enriching my prayer life.Through this silent retreat at the Spiritual Center, I was able to experience at least seven of the nine pathways that Thomas defines:

Naturalist: Loving God out of Doors
Sensate: Loving God with the Senses
Traditionalist: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
Enthusiast: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Contemplative: Loving God through Adoration
Intellectual: Loving God with the Mind

The theme for our retreat,"Landscapes of Prayer", was inspired by the book by Margaret Silf. Inside the pavilion there were prayer stations based on this theme. For example, a person could gaze at a large photograph of a desert scene while running her fingers through a tray of sand. She could chose to "walk" with Jesus into the wilderness by reading Matt 4:1-11. She might also meditate on other passages which carry the "desert" theme such as Acts 13:17-18 and Isaiah 35:1-2. Many of the people who chose to remain inside the pavilion did so because of physical limitations. These stations provided calming landscape scenes, complete with sensory experiences for those who could not venture outside.

After a Scripture reading, a prayer, and a hymn, our time of silence began. I sensed a general eagerness as each pilgrim sought out her own quiet place. I carried a folding chair and a couple of light bags to a shady spot near the river. Since I had been one of the last to emerge from the pavilion, I was one of the last to find my place. I was surprised then to come upon an empty bench with an exquisite view of the river through a patch of trees. I once read that a view of water through trees is considered to be the most favored landscape of humankind. Either the women at the retreat did not share this opinion, or they were all too generous to take one of the best spots! I turned around to take in the full scene: I saw a couple women far in the distance, but no one was around and everyone appeared to be settled, so I began to unpack.

In my next post, I'll tell you about my first experience with the prayer labyrinth and about the thing I asked God to give me.

Hope you are well.
Until next time then. :-)

Peace & Joy,


  1. I am so happy you've gotten to go on retreat! I'm reliving the sweetness of solitude just reading your words.

    I can't wait to hear what you experienced in the labyrinth. :)

    1. Michelle, now that I've experienced it, I can't wait to attend the next one in the Spring! :-)

  2. I love the idea of the stations with the different sensory experiences. Looking forward to reading the next installment.

    1. It was fascinating, Jeannie. I brought home some of the ideas to use with my kids during our evening devotion time.

  3. This sounds like such a restorative thing to do. I've learned a lot about breathing in my healing process and have come to treasure it. My counselor told me that when we are stressed or traumatized, we forget to breathe deeply and only take the shallow breaths necessary to stay alive. Breathing deeply is healing and calming for body and spirit. I'm so glad you've found it a good thing for you too. :-) XO

    1. To the skeptic, it may seem like a waste of time to sit down and think about something so basic as breathing! But you're right: it IS healing and calming for body and spirit. ♥

  4. It's like God reserved that bench just for you, Adriana.


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