Removing gracefully – the Commune retreat.April 15, 2016
Retreat is such an odd word in my head, I hear it shouted as a cry of defeat which is truly ridiculous because often backing away can be the most strategic way to win. I imagine the rest of the world must see them as our ‘Godly holidays’ but these times of pause are so valuable. Removing yourself from daily life gives a perspective that we just can’t find when in the hustle of our routines.
When ‘Velvet Ashes’ announced their on-line retreat this year and I jumped at the chance. With no flights or travel I splurged on a nice hotel with a pool and restaurant, both greatly appreciated as the heavens opened and lightening cracked. Knowing hubby and baby were safely at home I turned off the mummy button and breathed in the quietness about me. On a comfy bed I sat to work my way through a guide book, stream video’s and listen to the music that accompany it. Logistically you’ve given the tools and allowed to make your own schedule: mine read a bit like this (roughly an hour per part):
Scripture, meditation and prayer session 1
4 testimony videos
Holy yoga testimony video and
workout + colouring page
Swim + sauna
3 testimony videos + scripture, meditation and prayer session 2
Swim + sauna
The session parts were good, especially the first. The testimony video’s felt a little long, I wish I’d broken them up a bit more, loved the latter ones and found some great truths in the stories. By booking for the first day of the retreat I couldn’t follow through the program with others around the world, the on-line discussion is set for Saturday, which was disappointing… however hotel rooms are cheaper on a Thursday night and 2 sessions in the sauna was simply heavenly. The colouring pages were lovely but I only half finished one, I think if there had been a group of us I’d not have had time for even that. The only part that really didn’t work was the yoga. 10 minutes in, as we were rolling around, the instructor said “Breath in his love, breath out your fear”… I just lost it, que puzzled look slowly turning into giggles. Everything lead up to the final session which sadly meandered a little and lost me at parts, but the overarching story of it spoke deeply.
If any VA people are reading I adored the song at the end, couldn’t find it on the audio files though 🙁
Was it worth it?
Retreats are great because they offer you space. Pennies wise it’s good value too, I could join people bi-yearly in the UK but it would cost a lot more. Yes, I could have read the psalm at home, but I know I wouldn’t have taken the time to underline and scribble notes. In the space my answers evolved, I ended up restarting as truth dawned. In the space the testimonies stood bare and exposed, their rawness cutting me, their stories nudging memories and maybes to the surface. I’m really aware how much I flit and float about, run on self imposed schedules and creative whim, I really needed the discipline and commitment of being away.
What did I walk away with?
The tag line of this retreat was Closer to Christ further from fear and fear is a theme that we all resonate with. I think the biggest thing I came to realise is that a lot of my fears are linked to my expectations, linked to the ideals I hold in my head. Though a process of grieving well and trusting in God’s plan over my own, many of these fears can dissipate like sugar in the rain.
I found myself returning to the idea that many of my deep worries were connected to my faith being anchored to community, not just of friends but of believers. I fear that I am unable to lift the weight of the tasks set before me without their collective strength. I think a lot of this comes from the fear stories of youth, if we do not surround ourselves with believers our faith will die, any kind of solo faith is insufficient in this view. However, God calls us to be with him, in him, commune with him as we are, he is enough and we are enough as we are. At the end of the time there was a questions: What has God had spoken to your heart? This was my answer:
My identity is in him,
My faith is in him,
My ability to share that faith is with him not a community of people.
Looking forward to next years retreat already. If your work moves you from community to community, overseas or not, I’d recommend the velvet ashes retreat. Linking up with Velvet Ashes – “It’s Time to Commune”