A Silent Retreat - Part II
Or how I found my way into Lectio Divina.
I loved the roots breaking into the labyrinth. It seemed very symbolic.
The labyrinth was adjacent to the Sisters' cemetery, and I remember thinking, "Well, that's appropriate. All roads do lead there." But I was wrong. All roads lead to the cross.
Under the shade of the magnolia tree. A reminder that you are still, in fact, in the Deep South.
We had gorgeous warm weather, so I was able to sit by the lake for a long time. I tried to go there instead of the library or my room during our free time. I don't mind silence, but that's because I'm usually reading! Which is not actually silence!
Hildegard of Bingen's artwork with feathers! "I am a feather on the breath of God."
I drank from this Julian of Norwich mug at every meal & thought of Anne & Lissa! Unfortunately they didn't have any in the gift shop. They also had mugs with Mechtild of Magdeburg and Gertrude of Helfta, who was a new name to me.
While my husband benefited greatly from this retreat, I struggled. During our first silent twenty minute prayer, I kept getting sucked into the vortex of traumatizing images. There were some peaceful moments, particularly when I opened my eyes & focused on a candle. But for the most part, this was a real struggle.
I requested a private counseling session with one of the leaders, and without even hearing all my story, she said, "You're not ready for this. You still need to heal. And even if you were ready for this practice, you're not in a stage of life where it's realistic to make it a part of your daily life." Wow. Okay. While I appreciated her honesty, it felt like someone telling me, "I know you came here to get healed of your crazy, but you're too crazy for this to work for you." What she really meant is you can't approach these twenty minutes of silence as something that will cure, achieve, or win you anything. That's not how any prayer works. Also, in their intensive retreats (3-8 days), they don't allow anyone to attend who's been through a trauma within the past year, but she says the loss of a child would be more like 3-5 years. When you enter into silence, there's a purging that takes place, & if you haven't dealt with your stuff slowly (like we've been doing through counseling), you explode.
She was also quite honest about the fact that there was a reason I was the youngest person in attendance. As you age, you have more time to give to this practice. She gave me a beautiful article on The Monastery of the Playpen, which outlines some of the many spiritual advantages that come from being isolated from the world in this way. And I can always tell God the desire of my heart for silence later. She bluntly said, "Do you want silence, or do you want more children?" :)
She also suggested that I practice Lectio Divina, which we did as a group. It's essentially reading the same passage four times with shorter breaks for silence in between. The whole weekend was worth it to be introduced to Lectio Divina. I love this idea!
Even if I won't be joining a Centering Prayer group in the next ten years, we both had many take-aways, and we both enjoyed the silence. A perfect end to our Sabbath Season.
You can read my new friend Lisa's description of the Retreat here.