Retreat in your isolation

So… you are stuck at home, many things are cancelled. Like many people, the usual routine and busyness has been disrupted, stopped to a halt – instead of scrolling through an endless amount of anxiety inducing news, rumours and announcements, or binge watch TV and Youtube, why not consider having a time of retreat?

Take this time to connect – to yourself, to God and to the world around you! This may be a gift from God in the form of a surprised halt in the daily normal. It may just be the very thing you need right now.

Personal retreat can help us to:

  • See our lives in a different, sometimes bigger perspective
  • Pay attention to where we are honestly
  • Listen God, and from God,
  • God gives us the strength for whatever we are facing

Spending some time with God doesn’t need to be fancy or intense, it just needs:

  • time and space (and this has just been given to you if you are in isolation);
  • an intention to spend time with God;
  • an openness to listen for whatever God brings at this time; and
  • a little planning and preparation on what you might enjoy doing with God

Set aside some time and space – you can set aside 1 hour, 2 hours or a whole day. Mix and match your time, but plan before hand before you start is best.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Unplug: Put your phone on silent, turn off the T.V. (or internet!) You might like some music playing some of the time. If you do, having music that has no words is better, or better still – plan on being in silence for some of the time. Take this opportunity to take a break from noise, inside and out.
  • You might want to let your loved ones know that you are having a retreat, so that they are not worried if you don’t reply to them immediately.
  • If you have not done a retreat before, you might find it helpful to have a spiritual director to journey with you.
  • You can consider schedule a skype or zoom spiritual direction session during your retreat.

Get ready

Get all the items ready before you start, so you are not flustered looking for things that you need:

  • crayons and art supplies if you like to use them;
  • Bible;
  • Big pieces of paper;
  • Journal or notebook – even if you don’t usually journal, use them during your retreat! Write down your questions, wanderings, what you want to say to God and the insights you gained or how God responds;
  • A camera or your phone (but put your phone on air plane mode)
  • Some big pieces of foil

Beginning

If you have one, you might like to light a candle to mark the start of your time.

Start with sitting quietly, breathing deeply. Try to quiet your mind.

Get in touch with yourself. Notice how are you feeling emotionally. How is your body feeling?

As distractions come, no need to feel bad, sometimes it’s helpful to write things you need to remember on a paper and then set it aside.

Settle.

What has surfaced as your intention for this time?
Write it down or talk to God about it. Be honest but also be open.
What is the strongest emotion you are carrying right now?

Try to name your expectations, and then try to let them go.
You might want to imagine holding a balloon and then letting it go up in the air.

Spend at least 30 minutes in preparation, try to be at a state of being yourself before moving to ‘do’ anything.

Fun time

After the initial preparation time, do one, few or many of the following activities depending on what seems inviting to you.
Make sure you have taken some time in between to be present to what has surfaced before you move on to the next, or simply take a break, no need to rush, you have all the time in the world!


Sit in silence (15-20 minutes) – set a timer for 10 minutes or more, still your heart and imagine God in front of you, looking at you with love.
You can have a word you have for God, come back to that word if you feel like your mind wandered off somewhere else.
You might like to do this at a quiet spot in your backyard.


Lectio Divina (30-40 minutes) – choose a scripture passage (If you are stuck, here’s some suggestions: Psalm 16, 23, 127, 131, Isaiah 55.1-5, Luke 6.20-26) that is 5 verses or less.
Read it slowly for 3 times or more, with pause in between.
Pay attention to any words or phrase that ‘jumps out’ at you. Write them down.
Sit, reflect and pray through the words with God, then end with a period of silence.


Use crayons to draw (40 minutes-1 hour) – don’t make it pretty, no need to share this, just PLAY. Take your time, pause often and dialogue with God as you draw:

  • Draw a landscape: what is it like for you at the moment? what elements are in your landscape, where are you in the picture, where is God?
  • Draw yourself: how are you relating to what you do, how you feel or your relationship with other people, with God?
  • Draw a journey: reflect on your year gone by and look toward the year ahead.
  • Draw yourself in a scene from the Bible: Maybe a parable or a real event with Jesus, where would you put yourself? Who else is there? What is happening?

Reflect on the following with your drawing:

What would you put as a title for this artwork?
What is the feeling in this artwork?
What are the relationships between everything on the page?
What would you say to the subject in the art, what would the subject  say back to you?
Where is God?


Take a reflective walk with God (45 minutes – 1 hour)– imagine God is walking with you. Take time to stop and really see anything that asks for your attention. Talk and listen to God as you walk.


Contemplative photography (45 minutes) – as you do the reflective walk, take a few photos of the things that ask for your attention.

Then reflect on these things in dialogue with God:

What is it that spoke to you,  touched you, or disturbed you?
What would you put as a title for this photo?
What would you say to the subject in the photo, what would it say back to you?
What does God say about the photo?


Create a mini poem in the form of Cinquain (30 minutes):

Pick a subject you would like to talk to God about, or let the subject be God Himself. Not to analyse or make it sound nice, words that come into your mind first is best. Write a simple poem based on the following structure:

  • Line 1: one word (noun) a title or name of the subject
  • Line 2: two words (adjectives) describing the title
  • Line 3: three action words (verbs) ending in -ing that describe line 1. What is it doing?
  • Line 4: a four word phrase or sentence that sums up or further describes line 1
  • Line 5: one word referring back to the title of the poem
  • When you are finished, read it out loud as if God is there listening. How does it feel and what would you want to dialogue with God about?

Make a changing sculpture (30 minutes): Take a piece of tin foil, scrunch it up and make an animal that symbolize your present situation.

Sit with it and reflect on your feelings about it.
Then undo it and make another animal that symbolizes your hope for the future. Pay attention to your feelings in the process.
Talk to God about both animals.


Finish

At the end of your time, come back to the intention you wrote down at the beginning. How do you feel about what you have written at the beginning?

You might find that you have different feelings now compared with when you started. You might have a different question. It might be that there are new things that arise which are good to pay attention to; or it might be that God did not respond to you in a way that you expected.

Have grace for yourself.

Breathe deeply and be with what is.

You might want to write down some of the insight you have had during your time with God along with anything you might put into practice from now on.

Finish with a short prayer to end this time. Put out the candle.


Need someone to unpack it with you?

If you need someone to unpack anything that arose in your time, talking with a spiritual director would be quite helpful at this time.

Or if you have tried some of the ideas for your own retreat, I would love to hear how it went for you!

Email me at: alicespiritualdirector@gmail.com

Allow us in this time of frantic noise
And eerie stillness to listen again to the wind
And the earth,
To the gentle whisper of you
Calling our name.
may we hear in your voice words of love and hope, the good news of your presence with us still.
-Corrymeela community

Here is a great article to for further reference:http://www.larissamarks.com/uploads/1/9/6/4/19647997/retreat_guide.pdf