Tomorrow I am doing something I’ve never done before: going on a silent retreat. I will be completely alone in a tiny private cabin (called a hermitage) with no electricity or running water in the middle of Nowhere, Minnesota surrounded by trees and little else. Oh yeah, did I mention it’s literally freezing cold? Seriously, it was -15 in the cities today.
But the scariest part for me isn’t the lack of electricity, water, wifi, or central heating. No, it is the thought of what in the world I am going to do with myself for the almost 48 hours I’ll be there.
I’m packing a Bible, of course. I’ve got a drawing pad and some charcoal to do some sketching. I’ve got some sturdy, warm boots to hike in. I’ve got snacks, tea, a warm prayer shawl, and slippers. I’ve got all the right things I need to go on a retreat. What I don’t have is the right mind to go on a retreat.
Going on a retreat is kinda scary, to be honest.
About a month ago when I first heard of this retreat, the idea of being alone in the woods for a couple of days sounded wonderful. What could be a better way to celebrate the end of the semester than two days of doing absolutely nothing? No deadlines, no emails, nobody demanding your time or attention.
But it turns out I need those things. I’ve gotten so used to defining myself by whatever project I’m currently engaged in. I can’t feel productive if I don’t have a deadline to work for. And if I’m not being productive, then what use am I? What purpose do I serve in this world if I can’t point to specific things I’ve accomplished?
And I think that’s precisely why I need this retreat. Before I completely forget that my most important worth is as a part of creation, a beloved child of God who is perfect just the way she is, I need to go out and find out who I am without a bazillion things to do looming overhead. I need those two days of silence and nothing to just be in touch with God and the rest of the real natural world. I need that time and space to just be me without any constructed filters of obligation or responsibility.
Let’s be honest—it’s not all going to happen in just two days. I won’t leave my hermitage on Wednesday morning having achieved perfect enlightenment and self-understanding.
But I bet it will still be fun to try.
So, if anyone has any tips on what to do to mentally prepare yourself spiritual retreat, please leave me a comment. Or just some prayers that I don’t freeze would be appreciated, too!
The retreat center I will be going to is called Pacem in Terris. The picture above is of one of their hermitages and will probably be very similar to where I’ll be staying, snow and all. I encourage you to check them out if you are ever in the area.