Thursday, February 03, 2011

Silent Retreat

I had a wonderful experience at the Jesuit Retreat Center on a 7 day silent retreat. For years I had wanted to participate in a silent retreat; it was as much a blessing as I hoped it would be. That said, I went into the retreat with low expectations. I was tired. I don't mean tired in the sense of needing a good night's rest. I mean my spirit was tired, and I didn't expect that a week could do enough for me.

I arrived on Tuesday evening. After dinner, we had worship and entered into silence. The first two days, I spent trying to recover from being physically tired. I slept, I read, I knitted, I got a massage and a pedicure (the least expensive I have ever found, sixty dollars for everything). But my spirit was still tired.

By Friday, I was ready to begin praying with Scripture. St. Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuit order; my spiritual director and the retreat center are in the Jesuit tradition. He is the saint who focused upon praying with Scripture by using all five senses to imagine entering the story. Over the rest of the week, I spent time doing yoga and spiritual direction and worship each morning, walking each afternoon, and praying with a story or two each day. I prayed with one story in the afternoon and one in the evening. I would imagine the story, and see where I felt led to imagine myself participating, and listen for what I was to hear from the story. Afterwards, I would journal my experiences.

I spent time with the story of the woman with the issuance of blood reaching out for Jesus' healing by touching the hem of his garment. At first, I wanted to imagine Jesus getting off the boat wearing Jeans, but then I didn't have a hem to reach out and touch. So I had to change my mental image to the more traditional flowing robe look. It was powerful to place myself in the role of the woman seeking healing and listen to Jesus say "daughter, your faith has made you well."

The story in John 5 where Jesus sees the man lying in the portico was also a great story for me. I was led to it because I had been hearing "do you want to be made well?" for weeks prior to the retreat. I was amused and chastened to find that the man's response was to complain. He complained that he couldn't get to the water because whenever it was stirred up, others stepped in front of him. What I heard being spoken to my heart was to let go of my complaints and to focus upon the healing waters of Grace. I confess I was not immediately able to let go of my complaints. I imagined floating in the pool after my conversation with Jesus (and tried not to think about what gets stirred up in the pool). I was reminded of one of my favorite images of grace. It is picturing grace like a flowing river and seeing whether I am running next to the river, or allowing God's grace to carry me as I float along in the river.

I prayed with stories including Ezekiel and the valley of dray bones, the Samaritan woman, and the images of heaven in Revelation 21-22. Each time, I followed my heart in deciding where to imagine myself in the story, and as I imagined the story unfolding, I listened for what was being spoken to me through the story. Sometimes, I would also follow the Ignatian practice of the 3 fold colloquy. I would imagine meeting with Mary, then Jesus, then the Father. It's amazing how many different ways I can feel led to envision these meetings and conversations, and how much I feel spoken to by God as I listen in this way.

On the last day of the retreat, my spiritual director suggested I spend time with "resolutions," writing down what I have learned, heard, and feel I need to hold onto going forward.

To have time to be silent before God, spend time communing with God in so many ways, was truly a blessing and gift.

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