People when they return after a good holiday often say, “I need another holiday to overcome the stress of this one”. Holidays and celebrations can sometimes be stressful, as some of us must be experiencing after this short Dusshera/Deepavali holiday season, complete with shopping and a bit of overeating. But it was a time to celebrate, so why not?
The Bible says, “To everything there is a season; a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck…; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…
Drawing inspiration from the last verse as well as Jesus’ invitation to his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while”, gave birth to a strong tradition in Christianity of going on a “retreat”.
The term “retreat” is usually used in the context of war. The army either advances or retreats. Retreat in the spiritual realm, however, can only mean “advancing”. Retreat is actually a time to get away from our routine activities to spend time to know God more and to examine one’s priorities. It is a time to make and renew resolutions, reminding ourselves of the ones we made on New Year. It is a time to basically recharge our energies to rediscover the path that God wants us to tread on. When done properly with the help of a spiritual director, a retreat can be a sure and steady road toward personal conversion.
The Bible tells us that before Jesus launched on his mission of sharing the message of God’s love and liberation, he spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. The time was spent, to pack himself, as it were, with divine energies to withstand the challenges of his mission that lay ahead.
The first important requirement to make a fruitful retreat is to choose a quiet place away from family, friends and workplace. The second absolute necessary prerequisite that spiritual masters recommend is to observe strict silence, a silence, not only of the tongue/ear, but more importantly, of one’s thoughts. For it is only in and through silence can one begin to hear the divine whisper! Keeping silence is probably one of the greatest challenges of our modern times, as we are endlessly distracted with hundreds of things around us.
Anyone looking for a spiritual experience can begin with a short retreat of two-three days and having tasted its sweetness can gradually attempt longer ones. And one need not wait for end of holidays to begin a retreat.