Retreat Centers: Why visit a center? Now?

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Why make a retreat? Why take time and spend money in the midst of a great financial crisis? Suzanne Buckley, director of Mercy Center (www.mercy-center.org) in California, believes that this is a perfect time to invest in yourself, your health and your spiritual well-being. She says, “When all around us seems to be constricting, allow yourself to experience the expansiveness of silence, nature, prayer and solitude.”

“In this era of global turmoil,” Suzanne says, “retreat centers continue to provide a place for those who seek solace, deep connection and refreshment for their souls. All are invited to spend a day, a weekend or a week in retreat and see what happens. Whether you attend a workshop, private retreat, sit meditation or learn Centering Prayer, we know that something will shift in you. When you change, the world changes.”

President Obama summarized our times, saying that we are facing “gathering clouds and raging storms.” Chris Murphy from Transformations Spirituality Center (http://transformationscenter.org/index.php) in Michigan says, “The uncertainty of rapid, profound change can mire us in anxiety if we lack the inner resources to trust and to live from the core of who we are called to be. Building awareness that the soul is full, even when the self feels empty, is the result of soul-work – the work that lets us live from the inside out. Retreat Centers offer a respite for all to come away for a time, quiet their restless minds, and let the soul find its voice.”

Today’s economic climate is generating clouds of doubt, stress, confusion and anxiety. All are impacted and are looking for ways to weather this storm by conserving their money and to deal with the worries and pressures associated with this recession. Some are seeking financial aid, while others are seeking meaning in prayer.

Throughout North America, more than 2,000 monasteries, abbeys and spiritual retreat centers offer space to reorient oneself from the strains of recession to a place of spiritual, mental and physical refreshment. Mike George, in his book Discover Inner Peace, described this escape from the buzz of our busy world as “periods of retreat – a weekend, a week, even longer if possible.” He says this private time “can certainly help us tap deeper into our inner silence, and in this respect a brief retirement from the distraction of daily living can benefit everyone.” The retreat experience is seen as a temporary withdrawal from the stresses of daily life. It is designed to empower the individual to fulfill his or her spiritual value within the strained circumstances of daily life.

Many retreat centers across North America invite us to partake of their beauty, solitude, holiness and teachers. As stress in one’s life increases, the need to re-energize, reflect and pray also increases. Retreat centers are wonderful places for this transformation to take place and also are economic alternatives to high priced resorts. These sacred places offer an environment where one can be alone or with family and friends to taste the silence and rest associated with the Divine.

Transformation is experienced by all faiths, denominations and ethnic groups. Jacques and Jo-Anne are directors of Still Life Retreat (www.spiritual-love-inn.com), a Christian Retreat Center in Ontario, Canada. They share their views about out current economic situation: “Reactions of fear, anxiety and panic are so painful that they can be impossible to overcome while knee deep in the circumstance. Getting away on retreat for a time will transform your life if you let it. We are told not to worry about life in Matthew 6:32-34; that we must prioritize our spiritual well-being. Although the storms of life rage on, you can live in the eye and be calm.”

Jo-Anne adds “Don’t be a victim of circumstance. Give it a try. Come on retreat. You’ll never look back.”

Many retreat centers have spiritual directors on staff to guide you on your spiritual journey. Sister June Fitzgerald, O.P., is a spiritual director and retreat leader at Dominican Retreat (www.dominicanretreat.org) in McLean, VA. Sister June emphasizes that while on retreat, consider meeting with a spiritual guide to help you “connect with God, re-center yourself and move from stress to calm, from confusion to knowledge and from doubt to understanding.” To learn more about Spiritual Direction and to locate directors in your area, go to Spiritual Directors International (www.sdiworld.org).

Some retreat centers have a calendar of workshops, programs and events that are designed to help one find meaning in the spiritual journey.

Retreat centers provide silence, simplicity, nature, rest, regeneration and a guide to the Divine at a reasonable price. Take a look at the retreat facilities in your state using the FindtheDivine directories (www.findthedivine.com) or even take a three-minute online retreat with Loyola Press (www.loyolapress.com). Review the retreat events scheduled in the coming months on SeekaRetreat (www.seekaretreat.com). Shirley Dobson from Pendle Hill (www.pendlehill.org), a Quaker Retreat Center in Wallingford, PA, suggests that when cost is a factor, look for facilities in your area. Take a day trip or share travel expenses with someone else.

Now more than ever, taking a retreat is a valuable investment in one’s Self. As the retreat coach and the founder/executive director of RetreatCoaches.com (www.retreatcoaches.com) – a professional training center and network of retreat coaches – Helene Van Manen has been reflecting on the importance of the retreat process.

“The media is blasting us daily with the collective fear around the failing economy,” she says. “Pressures abound for many people and the act of going on a retreat can provide one with the restored hope that will allow you to cope with this season of transition and uncertainty that we live in.

“Both women and men need retreats. Going on a coaching retreat combines the format of quiet introspection and ‘getting away’ along with the transformative power of having a professional coach lead you. There is an entire network of retreat coaches through RetreatCoaches.com that specialize in using nature, beautiful locations, music, art and other integrative creative experiences. Many retreat coaches offer custom retreats specifically for businesses and non-profit organizations to help them regroup. And retreats for individuals, leaders and other high profile professionals, can serve to integrate a sense of renewed purpose during a time when many are re-creating themselves.”

Victoria FittsMilgrim, PCC Certified True Life Coach and Retreat Leader, has written an article entitled “Take a Retreat to Detoxify Your Soul” which is pertinent during this time of stress and anxiety. She is located in Colorado and directs True Life Coaching & Retreats (www.truelifecoach.net).

So, why go on retreat? As Suzanne Buckley says, “We know that something will shift in you. When you change, the world also changes. Isn’t this the time for change? Join us and see.”

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