November 08, 2010
"So what do you do on retreat?" Friends ask. "No television. No cell phone. No computer. No radio. What do you do?"
Well, I spend some of the time with my friends, talking. Mealtimes at the women's guest house often includes long, intimate discussions. The Benedictines don't keep silence, so the retreats at my usual monastery include conversation. Brother Beekeeper and I are friends: we usually find time to catch up on each other's lives.
But my friends and I are good at respecting the need for quietness on retreat, so I also spend a good deal of time alone.
I go to services in the chapel, listening while the monks chant psalms. When the chapel is empty, I sit down in the crypt, cross-legged on the stone floor, and stare into the flickering light of votive candles. I meditate, usually for twenty minutes at a time. I read, I write, I pray. I stare out the window and watch snowflakes spinning against the sky.
Most importantly, I walk. No matter what I'm working through, no matter what swirling thoughts I'm trying to sort out, I find peace by wandering through pastures, tramping through the woods, or following a stream. My spiritual life needs the slap of cold air, the rustling of the trees, and the wholeness of the sky. At the monastery, I leave my books and papers inside on the table, and I walk.
Posted by jo(e)