The ahhhh of retreat

Waves and stones

Good morning, dear blog reader.

Let’s talk about ahhhh this morning.

The ahhhh of waking up on a fresh Monday morning with light shining through emerald green June leaves.  The ahhhh of feeling centered and “right with the world”.  The ahhhh of feeling recovered from too much news, too much national bickering and agony, too much COVID, too much racism, too much division, too much, too much.

So what’s a person to do when “too much” clouds the system with dark rain clouds?

How about take a retreat?

Slate river stones

I have been taking countless retreats most of my adult life.  The first one (this is embarrassing) involved hiding in a closet during my freshman year in college.  Some of us introverted types just close down with too much stimulation, too many people.  I remember, at eighteen, just wanting to be home in my white bedroom with my red typewriter creating stories.  Instead I now had to live 24/7 with another human being who made me so nervous…simply by being a strange and unknown human being.  So I dove in the dark closet, closed the door, and hid for twenty minutes until calm found its way back into the system.   Ahhhhh, the value of retreat.  Twenty minutes away from the crowd and the world settled itself right.

The first “real” retreat happened in my early thirties.  It was a doozie.  The Native Americans who live in our area taught about fasting in the woods away from home for four days.  Usually these vision quests occur under the supervision of an elder who guides and supervises.

Being an independent sort–and not Native American–I decided to fast on my own for four days in May.  No food.  No supervision.  Yes to some water.  Yes to tent and sleeping bag.  Every day I would leave my small circle in the woods and write a note in a sealed mason jar to husband/kids with a “Hello!” and “I am fine”.  If they didn’t find the note at the appropriate time, they would rescue mama.

Someone drew a circle with stones

The four days proved a) agonizing and b) wonderful.  If you’ve ever sat in a small circle in the woods for any length of time you may understand.  Taking away our societal props and games and behaviors can feel excruciating to the psyche.  It can feel like you’re dying–either of boredom or hunger or both.  If you’ve ever tried to meditate for twenty minutes and experienced the mind’s monkey-chatter:  please try to imagine four days of a mind that doesn’t know how to quit talking to itself.

On the second day of the quest the temperature hit freezing and it snowed.  I scurried to the mason jar and begged, “PLEASE DELIVER SNOWMOBILE SUIT!”

On the third day of the fast my mind told hysterical jokes.  I laughed myself silly.  (Shock?  Craziness?  Food deprivation?)

No major visions ensued, but lots of insights birthed during this quest.  I learned so much about this human being.  About my longing to truly connect with Spirit in this lifetime.  About what it’s like to retreat from the world.

Seeing spirit

Seeing spirit

After the retreat ended, I practically crawled back to the house.  Barry and the kids fed me blueberries and maple syrup water.  That night I fell asleep exhausted…opened my eyes suddenly…and saw a woman floating near the ceiling.  It was the first “real” vision of this sort.  (Was I calm and collected as the spirit floated?  Heavens no.  I shouted, “MOM!” like a wee baby scared to death.  Barry ran to help…but by then the spirit had dissolved back into the ethers.)

The following year shined with blessings.

I could write story after story about the various quests and retreats taken over the years, but let’s fast-forward to last Thursday.

It was time for another retreat.

Spiral of life

How can a person tell?  It seems like suddenly the energy is moving too outward.  You know how you can get trapped in endlessly scrolling through Facebook?  Endlessly caught in routines and activities that do not nourish the soul?  One of the wormholes I repeatedly fall into is statistics.  I love numbers.  This served well while working as a business manager and township treasurer, but it’s still sooooo easy to become addicted.  It doesn’t matter what kind of stats. Blog stats. Family budgeting.  This spring it’s been Coronavirus stats.  And there’s a point where Coronavirus stats can become Too Much, let me tell you.  It’s one thing to be informed.  It’s another thing to become obsessed.

Retreat began its siren call…come to me, darlin’.  Time to change pace for a little while.  Several unkind posts on Facebook sealed the deal.  Instead of “snoozing” my errant friends for 30 days…I would snooze myself for four days.

This time the space of retreat looked like this:  No Facebook.  No statistics (not even getting on the scales).  No news.  Not even a teeny tiny bit of news.  Unless, of course, someone inadvertently shared what was happening.  It also didn’t hurt that I was involved in a two-day online spiritual retreat Saturday and Sunday.  A Zoom retreat within a retreat.

Spirit in the stone

The four days are up today, dear reader, and all is well in the world!  The system sighed ahhhh.  I must admit that the first two days proved the easiest.  The second two days had challenging moments where I just wanted–pretty please?–to check statistics and the news.  Just to peek.  But I mustered through these times promising Monday morning would come soon enough.

Am still going to take some more time off Facebook, but otherwise:  feel free to ask any questions about Coronavirus stats.  (Just kidding!  And if you feel pressed to share your disbelief in the accuracy of the stats–I shall reply in advance.  My feelings are that the numbers have been both under- and over-reported.  In my opinion the two factors even out to provide a generalized overall picture.)

And what about you?  Have you regularly retreated in any ways?  Have you found it healing or challenging or both? Please share!



About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in June, 2020 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The ahhhh of retreat

  1. Susan D. Durham says:

    Hi, Lovely Retreat Woman ~ So sweet to read of your retreat experiences, and to know that the most recent refreshed and renewed your spirit. Love how you describe your retreats fully; not merely extolling the joys and insights, but the harder stuff and the determination to stick it out knowing the outcomes are worth it.

    I’ve only gone on work-related retreats in my lifetime. Any other “retreats” have sneaked up on me. Mini retreats that happen when I used to garden outside, or when I go fishing. When I’m alone. Being transported to the deeper realms through no know effort of my own. I guess that’s really called “getting lost” and loving it. Times of reflection and restoring order and priorities.

    Boy, I need a retreat these days. Home is not working because there are too many who need services and the phone doth ring or the door receives knocks. The feeling of being “on call” isn’t conducive, etc. Sooo, I must find a way to escape soon. I am pretty drained and need replenishment. I think a quiet body of water with shiny silver fish is calling me.

    Thank you for this delight today! Much love…

    • Kathy says:

      Good morning, my friend! Yes, it does sound like you need a retreat from all the demands on your life right now. Can’t imagine how challenging that must be at times. You must want to hide in a closet. (gentle smile) Yes, it seems there are so many different kinds of retreats that can call our name. You and Barry would agree that silver-finned fishing retreats are some of the best ways to recoup. Gardening can be such a sweet sweet retreat for many. I suppose even writing a blog and reflecting on life can be viewed as a retreat. A twenty minute meditation? Definitely a retreat. Like you say, maybe it’s mostly about getting lost in something wider and more expansive than the drains on our time and energy. Thank you for reading what came forth today. I was going to write an entirely different post about the retreat…but this is what came up instead. Much love back atcha…

  2. Larissa says:

    Ahhh. I’m feeling the wisdom of snoozing oneself instead of one’s yelling FB friends. Glad you’re feeling better ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, my friend! Yeah, I know what you mean, that yelling just doesn’t get a person anywhere (except in the short term maybe. *evil grin*) Laughter, however, is another matter. I think one of the highlights of my retreat was laughing uncontrollably with a certain someone yesterday. xoxoxo

  3. Carol says:

    For at least all of my adult years, when life starts to overwhelm me I move back into my “safe harbor” – myself, in my quiet in my home. Ideally, I would be able to spend time on a beach, but there is no beach near enough to satisfy that desire very often. I have gone on retreats in my younger adult years, but time with just me works just as well. I agree, it is a necessity, especially in these days.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, I just sighed reading your words “safe harbor”. Being surrounded by ourselves in our quiet safe homes… Am thinking of you at a beach right now, perhaps along the coast of Oregon or Washington. Smelling the ocean spray, feeling the squish of sand beneath your feet. Ahhhh…. Glad to hear you recognize the value of retreat, as well, and have found ways to renew your spirit.

  4. dorannrule says:

    Getting in the closet might not be such a bad idea even for us adults who are sheltering in place. I love your different retreat options! And of course you have given me inspiration to start a blog post about my one and only retreat option. Spouse, Bill, has been taking me and our little scaredy cat dog for “rides in the car.” We all seem to be revived as a result…. except for the dog, who is so frightened she has to sleep the rest of the day to recuperate.

    • Kathy says:

      I am smiling at your closet suggestion, Dor. 🙂 Your retreat option sounds like it’s been a wonderful getaway for you and Bill. Not sure about your dear little doggie though! (Can’t wait to see if you write about your retreat…)

  5. We are on the same wavelength today. I’ve had retreat-taking and retreat-making on the mind all day.

  6. Robin says:

    I am badly in need of a retreat of some kind, and keep telling myself I will take it. At the very least, a half day. Thank you for sharing your retreat experience, and for what feels like a gentle nudge. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, can’t we just sort of sense when things are out of whack in our internal world? Then, it seems, the Universe will keep giving us those nudges until we figure out how to push the re-set button. Blessings my weary friend! xoxoxo

  7. Barb says:

    There is my Lady of the Rock. I’m reading to catch up on your posts, Kathy. Will write soon.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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