Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. –Matthew 11.28-30
Sounds good right? Maybe even a little too good to be true. How in the midst of full and mostly happy lives are regular people supposed to get away?
Last year I wanted to go on a retreat but couldn’t find my way to actually planning it. The longing didn’t go away, and it wasn’t any easier to block out time to go this year. But Aimee Kollmansberger wrote a lovely guide called Creating Your One Woman Retreat that spurred me on to actually take the plunge and get away for a night. She talks about why we need time away and walks you through common roadblocks. She also pointed me to Jennifer Louden’s book The Woman’s Retreat Book. Both are excellent resources that helped energize and inspire me to move past the resistance and claim this time away.
Finding the Space
I spent my retreat at the Franciscan Spiritual Center. Can you believe that I’ve known about this place for 25 years, and this is the first time I’ve been there? It’s a lovely old house that’s an hour and a half away from my house on the bus–away from my normal routines and places but still very accessible. Aimee offers many specific suggestions for finding the right space for your retreat even if money is tight.
Food to Eat
When I arrived in the little town where I was staying, I walked to a cafe and got a fancy sandwich to take with me for dinner. I also brought tea and cookies and trail mix to snack on, plus boiled eggs for breakfast protein. The next morning I ended up getting an americano and a scone. I had access to a kitchen, but I knew that I didn’t want to be cooking. So the purchased food let me have a break from that aspect of my work and still get to eat yummy food!
Filling Up the Time
As soon as I arrived, I opened the windows and took a nap! When I woke up, it was time for my spiritual direction appointment. That meeting left me with a few pages of notes to think about but no other obligations or appointments. What a good feeling! I went for a walk, ate dinner, looked out the window, read, and even colored!
I wanted the time to feel spacious–a word that Sister Mary Jo used during spiritual direction. But I also knew that a loose plan would help anchor my time. I was guided by Macrina Wiederkehr’s Seven Sacred Pauses, a gem of a book that’s been singing to me for the past year. I wanted to say all seven of the hours of the monastic day. Structure, but no pressure to get things done. I also ended up reading two short books related to my vocation–19 Apps and Teaching from Rest. I had loaded the pdfs onto my phone and read the books that way. Worked great!
The next morning I walked down to the river. It was lovely to be on the water as the sun rose. I sat quietly at the end of the dock and watched the birds come and go till I finally decided that it was time for some coffee!
The quiet, the space, the time away from my daily work was a balm. I really can’t wait to go again and encourage you to take the first step of signing up for Aimee’s course. It will help you think through why you might be longing for retreat and give you ways to think through the sticking points.