Have you ever taken a silent retreat?
My first silent retreat was less than a year ago. For years wise people have claimed that silent retreats can be profound. Many people with various spiritual bents have made amazing assertions about being alone to hear what many would call God, what others might consider a higher power. A cycling friend said that “a day alone with God”, ADAWG, pronounced “a dog” was a common practice for him and his buddies in college years.
If there is a God, and if He had your best interest at heart, and if you deliberately minimized distractions and tried to hear what He had to say, might your likelihood of hearing increase? That makes sense to me, but not all retreats these days are religious nor are they all silent.
There are retreat organizations devoted to helping people immerse themselves in nature. Some retreats help people develop skills like mindfulness and meditation. Most silent retreats help mortals like you and me gain insight and clarity about our life and legacy.
I’m inspired by the way historical figures I admire have stepped back to gain clarity about what they should do. William Wilberforce, the British politician, led the fight against the slave trade for 50 years. As a member of Parliament, he offered bill after bill to abolish England’s slave trade. It was courageous because the slave ship owners and their allies had immense political and financial power.
Wilberforce had a practice of pulling away to a quiet place to make important decisions. He did that when he was offered a ministerial position in the government. Many friends thought that he could use the post as a stepping-stone to becoming Prime Minister. He was tempted, but, after quiet reflection, Wilberforce declined the post. He felt called to continue the seemingly hopeless battle to outlaw the slave trade.
The rest is history. About 50 years later, just before his death, Parliament abolished the slave trade. Within a decade it had withered to maybe 10% of its previous volume.
Eleven months ago, I finally acted on the nudge to take a silent retreat. I picked a day and resolved to get away to seek divine guidance about who to be and what to do with my remaining time.
That may sound presumptuous, but I knew it was time to refocus. I found a secluded spot in a nearby mountain and sat among some pine trees. In six hours, I read the Sermon on the Mount and thought about what Jesus said. I had read it before, many times. Yet when I stood up and dusted off my pants, I had new insights. The escape from routine and mundane distractions helped me clarify my purpose. The strategic can get swamped by the tyranny of the urgent. When that happens, we forget the truly important issues of life
Last month a trusted friend invited me to join him at an ocean view retreat this week. He suggested we pull aside for two days to listen, reflect, and review. We chose a location that was built originally as a seminary but is now a retreat center.
The vistas were majestic: a mile of beautiful shoreline and scores of $20+ million homes. These sights contrasted with the spare retreat room. It was sparse and clean. There was a tiny bathroom with an efficient shower, two chairs, a small desk, a ceiling light, and a low watt light over each of the two single beds.
Within a few hours, a challenge of five years was resolved without fanfare. A one-sentence revelation became blindingly obvious. I had struggled too long with this issue and sought human and divine assistance, but nothing had registered before. Suddenly, without any deliberate thought, came the one-sentence revelation that I sought for years. It was so simple even I could implement it. I would never have had that insight in the hurly-burly of everyday life.
I’m not your spiritual director, pastor, priest, rabbi, or guru. Instead, I’m a man who, like you, wants to leave the world bit better. My worldview is that all of us were created for a purpose. Our purpose is greater than “more and more for me and mine.” Many of us believe that our gifts and talents are only important to the extent that they help others.
Gaining more clarity, focus, or purpose, or restoring hope, might be a valuable outcome for you. Likewise decreasing pressure, disarming vain distractions, recognizing, and then denying lies we have believed, would also be good.
Friend, try it….at least once. Perhaps you’ll discover some greater significance or gain some clarity. What have you got to lose? Are you afraid the rats will win the race that day?
You know I always ask for feedback. How do you reset? How do you increase your chance of positive long-term benefit to others?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”