The deeper purpose of retreat
retreat– noun; the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.
When someone asks what I do, I feel indulgent responding that in addition to other things, I lead retreats. It’s a feeling of “Wow, I get to do this work?” It is a part of my ministry that I absolutely love.
But what do I mean by retreat? I think clarity exists in definition and intention. In our culture of productivity, retreat often implies vacation, a “time away” often for purposes of leisure and play, and I love a vacation as much as anyone. When I speak of retreat, however, I envision a place of quiet, and deep, important inner work. A place of soul rest and expansion where we seek to change not just our outer landscape, but our inner one. A place where not just what we see but the way we see is altered.
We can search Google for the benefits of retreats and find hundreds of good ones. At this moment, sitting in a post-retreat, holy fog, I couldn’t even begin to make a list. But I can reflect upon the purpose of retreat for me.
And it is this:
We are, quite simply, not meant to be perpetually contained in the harried details of our lives. We need to be occasionally reminded of the limitlessness of God, and in response, the limitlessness of our deepest being. This is not just the process of removing distractions, although it includes this process, but an openness to the sacred “a-ha”, recognition of wonder and Oneness. This recognition can and does happen in everyday life, but retreat slows us down and opens our eyes.
If we wish to live the fullest life possible, the parts of us– body, mind, heart, and soul– need places to reacquaint themselves with each other in a community of Wholeness. Retreat invites this. The work is then ours to choose.