The word retreat has two main meanings. It can be used in wars about battles and can imply that an army is running away from stronger opposition, there is a tactical withdrawal or it’s a chance for the attacking force to fall back and regroup. There is another meaning to the word retreat with quite a different emphasis. The second definition is to withdraw to a place of peace or calm, to give some time to quiet contemplation or to have some kind of treatments or therapies to assist the body and mind to relax. I’ve been thinking about the way in which these meanings give one word two really opposite definitions. And two very distinct ways of understanding what we mean.
If we stop and consider for a moment we migh agree that life has become much more busy. We pack lots of events into our day as well as giving a lot of time & attention to technology. I confess I miss my iPhone, iPad and computer. I also miss TV (or at least the programmes I record to watch later), my car and my CD player. All the time I am running from one task to the next my technology is running alongside of me apparently keeping me in touch with the big events in life I can’t afford to miss. I get alarm calls so I don’t oversleep, alerts when I have a diary appointment, text messages to remind me I’m due at the doctors and my Facebook events reminders. So as well as seeing people, collecting the shopping, running the Centre and catching up on the admin I’m also juggling the onslaught of additional info from my technology. The day of the humble paper diary is long gone.
You could say that I attack my day. I rush into it full of determination spontaneously charging ahead to where and what needs doing. Or I take a more tactical and planned approach to getting through all I feel I ought to be doing. Like any general I check out the lie of the land, send out scouts and focus on what I feel has to be done first. At night I fall into my bed exhausted with attacking but feeling like I’ve won the medal because I’ve got through all I planned. Often though I end up feeling like I haven’t done enough. I have had to walk away from tasks unfinished, mountains unscalled and situations unconquered. I fret that there is too much left to be done tomorrow. I worry that I have been defeated by my busy life. I stress about not having enough energy to get up and do it all over again on the next day. Does this sound like you too?
Perhaps we are guilty of seeing a retreat as a ‘bad’ thing. The word retreat can be strongly connected with failure, with giving in and giving up. Yet what about the other side of the definition? Do we give ourselves space and time to withdraw from the world? I set up my Centre after observing that there were no longer places where it was possible to go and sit quietly to think. These places often used to be in our churches, parks and countryside. I remember long walks to high points in the area where I could sit, be still, passing time looking at the view. I could clear my head. As my life has been overtaken by tasks, outcomes, demands for my time thre has been less chance to retreat. I also notice that churches are less able to open as once they might and some of our quiet spaces have become ‘busy’ too. We have lost our time and space to retreat. We might even be out of the habit of retreating. So why is this second definition so important.
My Guides usually have to wait until I’m ready to listen. Even if they are sending in requests for me to communicate they know it might be hard to grab my attention. They are very patient so they hang on in there. So when I do stop, sit down and say I’m here I can get message after message, a tidal wave of inspirations or a to do list as long as my arm. They don’t mean to send it all in at once but if I don’t choose to set aside time (they tell me) then what can I expect. It’s all done with loving laughter on both sides. They are especially keen to help me find the answers I need that are often inside of me buried under a lot of other distractions. And that is why they encourage me to retreat from life as regularly as possible. If I turn my thoughts inward I have more of a chance of recognising what my heart, my intuition, has to offer about the situations I face. I also have more chance of hearing their suggestions, options and explanations for what I am experiencing. Human beings have spent thousands of years practicing the art of contemplation. We have been healthy when we have recognised the need deep within us to withdraw and reflect. We have also understood the value of prayer – not necessarily to any particular Divine Being – as a way of sending out our requests to the Universe. Putting our wishes into words, saying a prayer for someone or something, is us asking. By asking we may find we receive both inwardly and outwardly.
There is indeed an art to retreating. It’s about making a time in all the busy schedule, switching off all (& I mean all) technology and sitting quietly by yourself. Keeping an open mind. Letting your thoughts drift into silence. Creating a space where intuitive feelings and ideas can emerge. Letting your brain idle, observing not interrupting the flow, being still. I find that starting my retreat with gratitudes (the people, places, experiences, things that I recognise I am blessed to have in my life) or a peace mantra helps me have a positive inner journey. Practice will always improve the quality of your retreat time. Keeping a set time will also alert your Guides that you are ready and listening. Having a retreat experience also shows you that you love yourself enough to value spending time on & with you. That is the best benefit.
Today is Valantines Day – the day to say I love you to someone we love. Did you love yourself enough to spend time with yourself? Or where you so busy that you forgot to retreat and treat yourself to you?
Day 90 of my blogging challenge.