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On retreat

Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

This week I was fortunate to go on the Sydney Central Coast minister’s retreat. It was a chance to leave the office, and to get away from everything at beautiful educational centre right off from the coast. The many different birds and their songs, the flowers and orange trees make this a true paradise.

Retreats have changed over the years. Only a few years ago one could tune out of the world completely. There were no radios, no televisions, and no newspapers. You truly retreated to somewhere else away from the world. But now in this world of mobile phones and Wi-fi, the world does seep in. Within hours of it happening, I heard of the mass shootings in Toronto. It is not possible to shut the world out completely.

Retreat is a strange world. As a pacifist, I am no war strategist. Yet I do know enough to say that generally retreat is not a good thing. In politics, retreats show a misjudgement of popular opinion. A government proposes a policy, faces harsh condemnation for this policy, and then must retreat from this policy. In chess, to make a retreat shows signs of weakness. Retreats rarely seem to be a good thing.

But in terms of one’s spiritual life, retreats can be very positive. At a spiritual retreat we try to step back from the noisy distractions in our lives and in our world and reflect. We put aside the everyday and mundane for a bit and we reflect. What is my place in the world? How can I be the best me? What am I called to do? What can I offer? Where am I hurting? Where do I feel I am succeeding? Where am I failing? What grounds me? Where is the source of my inspiration and faith? During retreats, we selfishly put aside our responsibilities and our to do lists and look for new ways that we might better connect with the universe.

Going on retreat is tough. It means having to step back. And for those of us who are doers, that means putting aside our to do lists. And tomorrow when I step back into the office, my should do/must do list will be a bit longer. But hopefully when I do go back to real life I will understand a bit more about who I am and what the world wants. Blessings

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