The Retreat in Daily Life is a personal prayer renewal practice with roots in the Ignatius exercises and with inspiration from Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of the Presence of Prayer.” In his book Lawrence describes profound moments of Christ-centeredness and fortitude as he participates in the daily rhythms of life through such activities as washing the dishes or attending to other household chores. The idea is that we, too, can experience such grace-filled existence if we approach each day with the possibility of God showing Himself to us and using our gifts as an extension of our service to Him.
For many of us, the idea of going away on a week-long retreat to a nature reserve may simply seem impractical. Perhaps we work, are raising a young family, or do not have the means to pay for an expensive retreat centre. Perhaps we are taking care of an aging parent, struggling with a disability, or feel unable to justify relocating for a time. Thankfully, there are other ways that we can shut off the noises in our hearts and minds to permit even half an hour a day which will help inform how we choose to look at the rest of our day and week.
If you are feeling that a period of stillness and quietness is missing from the daily rhythm of your life, perhaps a retreat in Daily Life would benefit you. Here are some ideas for having an inexpensive and yet meaningful retreat experience:
Alone and Together – Retreat as Communal: Although the Retreat in Daily Life is largely focused on personal rejuvenation, having a communal aspect helps participants to be able to share with one another in a safe environment all that they are learning. In this way, enlisting the support of a spiritual director or a spiritual friend can be of immeasurable worth as God will surely bring up topics that are best discussed with another person. Additionally, having a group of friends or a spouse who will also partake in the retreat can also provide some new perspectives as you share together how Christ is moving in your midst.
Making Sacred Space: Choose a comfortable place where you can be at rest with God and with limited distractions. If you are choosing a place in your own home, shut off all noise (such as the TV and radio) half an hour before you begin your practice and for half an hour after. While I recognize that in certain cases you may not be able to shut off your youngster from talking, try to set the pace for this being a special place. Perhaps you can consider doing your devotions when the children are out for their sports lesson or carving out a part of your lunch hour at work. Once you begin your devotions, do something special to set the mode that this is a retreat. Pull out your favourite quilt or comforter, brew yourself a cup of specialty tea or hot chocolate, and put on your favourite housecoat. Try to come back to the same place every day. Make it your little secret cave. My mentor even set up a small tent in her living room and told her three sons that when she was inside the tent it was her time with God!
Preparing for Sacred Time: When you begin your daily retreat, make sure that it is just you and God. Make sure that all immediate chores have been attended to before you start and try to start at roughly the same time every day to make it a habit. Silence your cell and home phone and set an alarm for half an hour (this will give you a realistic goal for how long to spend time with God every day). Try to begin each session with a short prayer, music, or a Scripture reading and to end each session with a reflection on how your time with God went.
Sacred Pauses: In her book, Sacred Pauses, April Yamasaki discusses how Sabbath is far more than just one day a week set aside to God. During your retreat in daily life, try to be mindful of the movements of the Spirit. Take an extra moment to smell the flowers or look at the sunset. Do something you enjoy that you rarely make time for or take a bubble bath. This retreat is about you and God, make it memorable.
Other Tips: * Use a journal that you like and write with your favourite pen. Make it an enjoyable time and something you look forward to.
* Occasionally consider varying your devotions so that it doesn’t become stale due to doing the same thing every day.
* Choose meaningful Scripture passages and don’t rush through them. Let the words pour over your soul. Take as long or as little time as you need to digest the passage and make it meaningful to you. Enter through your five senses. Imagine that you are in the text. Which character are you? What do you see? Hear? Taste? Touch? Smell? How do you feel? What emotions arise? What thoughts does the text evoke? Where is Jesus in the text? Is He in the text? How does the text apply to your life? Today? In this moment?
* Don’t worry about finishing the chapter. Sometimes the Holy Spirit may simply be calling you to focus all of your attention on one paragraph, one verse, or even a single word.
* You can enter into the text in a variety of ways. Through writing the text out, through drawing or painting a picture, through composing a song, or through writing poetry. Whatever feeds your soul, make sure you get a chance to do it!
* Remember this is your time with God. Even if you feel like you aren’t a skilled writer, painter, or musician but you enjoy these activities, know that God will love it! You don’t have to share your work with anyone else (unless you want to!). Oftentimes I have been in groups where I have been the most inspired by someone who thought they couldn’t sing but still created a song or someone who thought they couldn’t draw but had the most profound picture at the sharing session.