Sunday, July 17, 2011

Retreat Reflections

Definition of retreat:*
1 a
(1) : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable (2) : the process of receding from a position or state attained b (1) : the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy

Sad to say, my personal retreat did not go as planned. Or shall I say, did not go as it has in the past. I'm not sure I had much of a plan, which might be part of the problem. And the plan that I did have involved working on a quilt that from the beginning has made me want to shy away. But perhaps the biggest problem was the sense that I didn't have anything to retreat from this year. And I've decided that's a very positive development.

2: a place of privacy or safety

Since I live alone, not even a dog for company anymore, my home is almost always a place of privacy and safety. Sometimes too much so. Still, having it invaded by unpredictable interruptions of the phone and outsiders scheduling my time was part of the reason I started these personal retreats. There was a certain frantic nature to my personal life made more frantic by uncontrollable forces. Then I was advised that I could indeed control them for a bit, simply by turning off the phone and not allowing anything to be scheduled that would disrupt my privacy and the activities I felt I'd been distracted from. I've currently settled into a routine and surrounded myself with people that do not threaten my privacy nor feel a threat to my emotional stability, whose occasional "interruptions" I welcome rather than resent. My life is not necessarily what it used to be.

3: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director

But even with nothing difficult, dangerous or disagreeable to withdraw from, retreats can be a beneficial thing. As I deviated from my plan to focus solely on the big overdue quilt, I confused myself with twinges of guilt. I didn't turn the phones off and forgot I was supposed to be letting the answering machine screen calls. I texted a friend and finally called. I relaxed with books and magazines, reminding myself that retreats are also for taking a break and letting go of tension and routine, for staring off into space and meditating. I knit (just finished a second moebius scarf) and appliqued on a project different from my focus project, both rather meditative practices. I caught up on recorded tv shows, I hate to admit. I chaffed at staying home and spent parts of several days out and about. Yes, I did do some work on the big quilt, but in essence, it didn't feel I'd withdrawn from anything except my desire to be in contact with others, which I found I didn't want or need to retreat from..

This is indeed a change for me. One of my resolution words for this year is "engage" and how do you engage when you are in retreat? My yoga instructor has been emphasizing openness a lot recently and how do you remain open when in retreat? This idea of going off alone for renewal which I've needed in the past and which always worked well suddenly felt counter-intuitive to the way I've tried to approach life this year, and was greatly unsatisfying. I kept catching myself resisting, confused, wishing that if I were really on retreat, I could be sharing it with others.

Well, live and learn.



Connie Rose said...

Interesting post, Sheila. I hope you're not just being hard on yourself because things turned out differently than you imagined they would. I've often felt the same as you expressed, at times in the past when I've taken a "vacation" of sorts from my usual routine.

Reminds me of something I reposted on FB today ~ We must be willing to let go of the life we've planned so as to have the life that's waiting for us.

Your retreat was likely perfect, just what your soul needed exactly the way it happened.

Hugs to you.

The Idaho Beauty said...

No Connie, not being hard on myself at all. Just caught off-guard by the internal push and pull going on that I appeared to be only an observer of. I'd say the "retreat" was successful in that it pointed up some changes and how easy it is to fall back on routine and what one might think of as a safety net. I became very aware of the lessons from my yoga teacher that started out the year: don't need those old stories, time to write some new stories.

And yes, I saw that FB post and nodded in agreement. I've been bumping up against this thought in one form or another for over a year now. But you must admit, letting go is one of the hardest things we do. The idea of writing new stories really is about letting go, but it is phrased so much more appealingly for me. Must be the control freak in me. ;-)