I have just returned from a four day silent retreat. The first time I did the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, I found it very, very difficult. The meditations were challenging, the self examination was somewhat akin to an interior salt scrubbing, and sitting still and being attentive was almost impossible for me to do...but far beyond all of that, the most challenging part was … the silence! I can remember wanting to smile and chat-it-up with every woman on the retreat. I was so antsy I had trouble quieting my inner spirit and my body. I would go for a run, Ipod blasting, in between meditations and zip back in, just in time to try to quiet myself down for another round. I kept thinking perhaps this was just not for me, that it was for other personality types. I was quite convinced it absolutely was not for mine! And, at the time, I had not yet converted to Catholicism. By the end of the retreat I had decided I never would!
Wow! How far God has brought me in the last six years. I not only became Catholic but I have gone from a person who pretty much HATED, dreaded and avoided silence and stillness to someone who CRAVES it.
These last four days were a little slice of heaven for me. For four blessed days I was able to sit. listen. pray. and ponder. I was able to enjoy the quiet and better yet… BE quiet.
Not long ago I was sent a link to a website that interviewed now-deceased, famed Irish poet John O’Donohue. In this beautiful conversation he speaks about “The Inner Landscape of Beauty.” (You can hear it at this link: http://www.onbeing.org/program/inner-landscape-beauty/203/audio?embed=1 )
If you could take a peek at your inner landscape...what would it look like?
Would it be cluttered with “old things” littering your inner scenery like rusting junked cars, long forgotten and overgrown with weeds? Things in need of “clearing out” by confession?
Would it be a noisy, busy place, so full of activity that things are blurred together because they are rushing past at such speed you can’t truly focus on one thing and the noise such a cacophony of sound that you can’t truly hear individual voices?
Or perhaps would it be a simpler scene, one more orderly, and yet still not filled with a lot of interior BEAUTY because there has been little time taken to sit in prayer and let God love you. (We can be very devout, say our prays and go to Mass dutifully, but without experiencing God’s warm embrace of love our scenery can be a bit bleak.)
I have experienced all of these (and still do at times!) but what I have personally seen transform my own heart and inner landscape is the daily discipline of prayer- of all types, quiet, spoken, written and from the heart.
Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people. Prayer changes me.
The Psalmist states this: “...I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul. “ Psalm 131:2. What a beautiful picture of a soul’s quieted interior landscape.
Jesus longs for us to come and experience this “little piece of heaven “ with Him each day. I find Him in the Adoration Chapel or by staying after Mass and just sitting with Him and being. And then, once a year, when I have the chance to spend extended time with Him...I do. I actually can’t wait to get there.
If you are longing for quiet, I encourage you to go on a retreat. There are many organizations that run them, [and I very much love the ones at Our Lady of Bethesda retreat center: http://ourladyofbethesda.org/spiritual-exercises/] but the trick is to carve out the time and to go. You will be surprised how little-by-little God will take you to new and beautiful places within yourself that you never even knew existed.
“He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’” Mark 6:31
My soul longs for quiet even if I don’t know it in my busy “get ‘er done” world. I humbly ask for the grace that You give me moments of quiet each and every day. I want to form the intentional habit of being alone with You and learning to quiet my spirit. You say that if I do, this gentle and quiet way will spill over into all areas of my life. I want to be like You. I want to have a beautiful, peaceful interior landscape. I open my heart to You, come and be my Master Landscaper and let me work with you by giving You opportunity to speak to me daily in the quiet. And if it be Your will, please give me opportunity to “Come away with You” on an extended time of quiet so that You can love me into being a more beautiful version of myself.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This photo was taken from my window at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center this weekend. I also want to give a “quiet” shout out to Fr. John Pietropaoli who was the AMAZING Retreat Master and reads this blog before each publication for theological error, and to my fellow retreatant, Maribeth Harper, who lovingly edits this blog and posts it each week. Thank you my dear and faithful “Anam Caras” (Celtic for “Soul-Friends”) … from the bottom of my quiet little heart!