LAST week I had to go on a silent retreat. “What’s a silent retreat?” I’m hearing you ask. It’s where you go to a quiet place for a few days and meditate on your life without talking to anyone. Is it boring? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it hard not to talk to the other people doing the retreat? Yes. Is it as big a waste of time as it sounds? Um, no.
I’ve always found it hard (impossible?) not to talk on one of these retreats. After many years of doing an annual silent retreat, the priest running the retreat (he’s allowed to talk) asks me “So Brendan, is this your first silent retreat?” I replied “No Father, but I promise, the next one will be!” Don’t judge me; keeping silent for a week is near impossible.
Maybe you don’t have the luxury of taking a whole week off to bliss out and smell the roses, but taking time out to just meditate on your deepest musings is a far more beneficial practice than it appears.
Rugby league legend Brad Fittler stated in an interview last year “If I didn’t train for a month I wouldn’t be in great nick, but I’d be OK. But if I didn’t meditate for a month, I’d be a wreck.”
Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of US history’s most famous religious figures became so convinced of the benefits of retreat that he resigned his positon as Archbishop and spent the rest of his life giving retreats.
Actor Charlie Sheen’s father was so impressed after he attended a retreat Archbishop Sheen put on for actors that he changed his name from Martin Estévez to Martin Sheen.
As a family, we can be super critical of the people on our team, but not when you’re not allowed to talk to them for a few days.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and you may even begin to admire their successes and good traits. Now I’m the first to admit that often any action is better than no action, but a retreat is not “no action” but rather “deciding what action”. Is it not true that there are decisions about things and people we have been putting off for even years? Even a brief retreat of two days can find the answer you haven’t found in two years.
Think of the biggest mistake you ever made … Now don’t tell me what it is … I bet you rushed into that decision. And that’s why late night TV offers free steak knives or a second piece of this never-to-be-used junk if you buy in the next ten minutes - mistakes are rushed into.
Now think of the best decision you ever made in your life … I bet you took your time making that decision. That’s the power of retreat.
You hear talk these days about someone having “me time”; and they spend it watching TV. But meditation through retreat is the individual contemplation of the soul to better ourselves. To better understand and engage in life, paradoxically, we sometimes have to retreat.
A retreat helps us understand more clearly the path laid out before us. This path can be challenging, at times seemingly impossible, but the path strengthens us at the same time. It’s during these times a retreat helps manage these challenges with a rational calm.
Ever seen Olympic runners before a race? What do they do? Who do they talk to? They retreat into themselves and they speak to no one ... except for Michelle Jenneke.
In the silence of retreat you may even find yourself talking to God and with the guidance of silence you will move forward with small steps that can turn into an impressive sprint.