by Leslie H. (Munro 2005)
I look forward to retreats. Last year was my first time at Cedar Glen with my Renascent alumni. Even on the trip up, I could feel the worries of day-to-day life relaxing their grip. Like many of the retreat centres I’ve attended, the lodgings there are simple and humble, allowing us to focus on the natural beauty all round.
I look forward to seeing who the universe will pair as roommates. I have come to believe that, just as in daily life, those I meet and spend time with on retreat cross paths with me for a reason and a specific season.
And I purposely work to open my mind and my heart to the agenda, reminding myself and being grateful for the time and energy that are spent in developing, facilitating and making the retreat possible.
While I’ve yet to attend a fully silent retreat, I do enjoy and observe silence while there. I especially enjoy early morning walks and on retreat I usually try to be up and out to watch at least one sunrise … this I do from time to time at home. I’ve yet to forget that in my drinking and other-drugging days, I usually saw the sun-up at the end of my day instead of the beginning.
Retreats remind me to return to the simple things: remembering to offer a prayer before meals; slowing down to enjoy and savour the food that is lovingly prepared and served; being grateful for others who are doing the dishes and sweeping and cleaning.
Attending 12-Step retreats means I’m taking in spiritual food, also lovingly prepared and served. It allows me to be surrounded with a charged, positive energy created by all of us there to be renewed and recharged.
Retreats are times of gratitude for my many blessings, both physical and spiritual. They often offer a return to recovery habits that I’ve set aside or neglected in day-to-day life. Practices like writing a list of things I’m grateful for at the end of each day are rekindled and strengthened. These are times where I am immersed once again in a quiet, thoughtful visit inward with myself but at the same time knowing – seeing – that I do not do so alone.
And, too, there are the special rituals and observances that are part of many retreats. Last year on the first night, our retreat facilitators set the groundwork for the healing ceremony that we would have on Saturday evening.
Part of this included a guided meditation time, something that I find very beneficial. How many times do I say I’m going to meditate and then fly out the door with no more than a few minutes spent in this practice?
Retreats again tell me that recovery is a process, and provide a time and place for me to talk with others ahead of me on the path to see how I can bring what I’m learning home.
I have attended retreats with my sponsor. I have spent time with spiritual advisors and even done parts of a Fifth Step or continued work on a Fourth while on retreat. I have giggled beside a late-night fire like a girl at a slumber party, and I have wept with healing in the company of women in sorrow and joy.
Without exception, every time I return home from a 12-Step retreat, I arrive with my faith and recovery strengthened and my peace and serenity deepened.
In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go There You Are he writes a chapter called “Coming Out of Meditation.” Overall, he talks about the sense of how our spirituality – perhaps our very understanding of our Higher Power – comes from a place that is “closer than hands and feet.”
Kabat-Zinn, like many others, stresses that toward the end of formal practice (be it our daily meditation or at the end of a retreat weekend) we need to be mindful, just as we work to be mindful going in.
He says, “Whether you’ve been still for an hour or for three minutes, a powerful feeling all of a sudden may say, “This is enough.” In your … practice … see if you can detect the very first impulse to quit, and any others that may follow, growing in strength. As you recognize each impulse, breathe with it for a few moments, and ask yourself, “Who has had enough?”
I’ll let the DailyOM have the last word on retreats. I hope we may meet again or for the first time this June. Until then, Namaste from a fellow traveler!
“Without the pull of deadlines, relationships, the Internet, or other media, we give ourselves time to go deep into our own solitude where we can fully reflect on our joys, sorrows, and fears, owning and releasing them as needed. We may even come to know and understand our life path more deeply.
Hopefully, when we return home, we can take a little bit of this time alone back with us and create the space for deep reflection on a daily basis. We also may come back to our life renewed and ready to take on the world.
The beauty of going on retreat is that no matter where you go or how long you stay, you’ll always meet yourself when you get there.”