Going on Retreat
It often seems as if we rush through life at such high speed while in our heart is the essential interior flame of being. Our rushing often brings it to the point of extinction. But when we sit down to meditate, in stillness and simplicity, the flame begins to burn brightly and steadily.John Main
That is a good way of thinking about the purpose of daily meditation, and also a good way of approaching a retreat. A retreat is indeed an opportunity to remove ourselves for a while from the distractions of our daily lives, but not just so that we can get a break from it all. I was once visiting Lincoln Cathedral, taking a break on the journey home from a work commitment. After a while I was enveloped in a miraculous sense of peace. I didn’t want to leave the Cathedral because I didn’t want to leave the peace behind. And then I realised: the whole point of the gift I had been given was that I should try and take some of it out with me. So when we make a retreat we let go of as much of the clutter of daily life as we can; we allow ourselves to become a little more aware of the depths of our own being, more receptive to the always-surprising work of the Spirit within us. When we return home something in us will have changed; we will have understood something, reconnected with something, seen something new, matured a little, been reminded of who we are and what we most long for.
A further purpose of a retreat is to deepen our commitment to spiritual practice, to meditation in particular, but sometimes also to other practices we realise we need, or realise we need to let go of. We need to ‘practise’ the presence of God daily if it is going to become the ground of our living and a retreat is an excellent time to develop our faithfulness. It is an ancient wisdom which advises us to root ourselves in a tradition and to travel in company with others. A retreat alongside other meditators will certainly reveal to us something more of the truth of that ancient wisdom in our own experience and encourage us as we walk on.
All of the community’s retreats will offer a blend of meditation practice and of spiritual teaching. Experience and understanding, word and silence, always dance together along the path of meditation. The balance of the two elements will differ from retreat to retreat, as will the duration of the retreat. It could be a retreat day, a weekend, a week or ten days. Some retreats will include a good deal of teaching and discussion whilst at the other end of the spectrum the ‘School Retreat’ for more experienced meditators is deliberately weighted towards meditation practice and undertaken in deep silence. Some retreats will include bodywork such as Yoga or Tai Chi to help provide a balanced programme for body, mind and spirit. Look for a retreat which seems right for you.
P.S. If this is the first time you have considered a retreat and you are nervous of the prospect, let me encourage to follow your heart and take the plunge. You won’t regret it!
The World Community for Christian Meditation in the UK offers a number of different types of retreat including introductory sessions, quiet days, teaching weekends and week long silent retreats. There is something available to meet the needs of meditators at all stages of the meditation journey.
For more information about WCCM Retreats available within the UK, please look at the What's On pages of this website