Blog by Lisa Wilson.
Deciding to take a retreat is an intentional decision to set aside a specific time to deepen our relationship with God. Just as we take a holiday to recharge our physical and emotional batteries, a retreat can do the same for our spiritual life, it’s a holiday for the soul.
Many locations around the world offer a place to engage in Christian retreat, some are fully or partly guided, some simply provide a quiet space for people to engage in their own practices. The Saint Cuthbert’s Centre on Holy Island, for example, has a small but perfectly formed Bothy attached to the main church which can be hired for this purpose and residents even have their own tiny chapel in the former Boiler House! However, if circumstances don’t permit a trip away, with a bit of forward planning it’s still possible to recreate the retreat experience at home or a room in your church or community centre.
Here are our top tips for creating you own retreat time:
Plan ahead: the more you prepare, the less you will need to worry about ,leaving you space to concentrate on your retreat activities.
Set a specific time and date: obviously this is easier if you are booking somewhere away from home but try to pick a time when you know you can get away without worrying about too many family or work commitments.
Take care of the practical: arrange for child or pet care, buy and prepare food for yourself and others who may need it in your absence, tell people you are on retreat and won’t be contactable or will only be contactable at certain times, leave an emergency contact number with those who need it.
Do your research: think about how you would like to spend the time in advance and ensure you have everything you need. Order books, buy any art materials, download the music or prayers you are planning to use. It will be useful to have a notebook or journal to record your thoughts and feelings during your retreat.
Below is a suggested timetable for a one day retreat: this can be condensed to an afternoon or extended to fill a weekend or even a week depending on the time you have. Consider incorporating a range of activities such as prayer, reading, creative arts and movement and using it as an opportunity to try new ways to pray and praise God.
8am Early Morning Prayer
For this and all prayer sessions, you may wish to consider using a daily liturgy e.g. from the Northumbria Community to guide your prayers or to pray on a set theme, for example, giving thanks for creation.
For this and all meals during your retreat time, choose food that is nourishing and simple to prepare. Prepare it with care and give thanks before eating.
9:00am Spiritual Exercise
Engage in a contemplative practice of your choice e.g. Lectio Divina, Ignatian Exercises or Christian Meditation, record your thoughts in your journal.
If you are unfamiliar with these techniques, Lectio Divina, an imaginative and prayerful way of reading scripture is a good place to begin. There are many books and on-line resources with instructions. You may like to watch this clip before your retreat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKYEOc3ik9k
11am Mid-morning Prayer
11:30am Creative Time
Choose an activity such as drawing, painting or crafting – perhaps you can link it to something that has arisen from your prayers or bible reading so far? You may like to listen to some music perhaps some Gregorian chants or a composition by Hildegard of Bingen. And remember you don’t have to be perfect so have fun!
12:00 Midday Prayer
1pm Time to Move
Take a walk, you can turn this into a walking meditation by allowing yourself to be aware of God’s presence as you walk slowly and reflectively. You may wish to repeat a short prayer as you walk or to pray for the things and the people you pass on your route.
If circumstances don’t allow a walk you could consider a Body Prayer, you can find some examples here and here, they are short so you may wish to repeat them a few times to deepen your practice as you become more familiar with them.
1:30pm Free time
Take time for something you enjoy, you may want to extend your walk, explore the local area, read or take a nap!
3:00pm Mid Afternoon Prayer
3.30pm Tea break
4pm Spiritual Exercise
Repeat the exercise you did earlier or choose another practice such as a Christian Meditation.
4:30pm Free time
Again prepare and eat your food mindfully and eat gratefully.
After dinner may want to take some time to read or listen to music or go for a stroll
8pm Evening Prayer