Have you ever taken part in a spiritual or religious retreat?
As fall continues its steady progress toward the chill of winter, the word “retreat” comes to mind. Not as an act of “withdrawing from what is difficult, dangerous or disagreeable,” but in the sense of a spiritual retreat. Retreats are an integral part of many Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Catholic and Sufi (Islamic) communities. Many retreats are held during the winter months when it feels natural to turn within.
I thought it would be fun to explore retreats from the different spiritual communities. Perhaps your interest in making a retreat during the winter will be sparked. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to custom design your own at-home retreat. Either way whether you go to a monastery, desert, cave, different country or a local yoga or meditation center, going within can be very rewarding.
In Buddhist traditions, a retreat can either be a time of solitude or a community experience. Depending on the type of Buddhism – such as Tibetan or Zen – some retreats are held in complete silence or there may be a great deal of conversation. Retreats are often conducted at rural or remote locations, either privately, or at a retreat center such as a monastery.
Spiritual retreats are considered essential in Buddhism as they allow time for reflection, prayer or meditation.
A Christian retreat can be a definite time (from a few hours in length to a month) spent away from one’s normal life for the purpose of reconnecting, usually in prayer, with God. Although the practice of leaving one’s everyday life to connect on a deeper level with God, be that in the desert or in a monastery, is as old as Christianity itself, the practice of spending a specific time away with God is a more modern phenomenon. The practice dates from the 1520s and St. Ignatius of Loyola’s composition of the Spiritual Exercises. Jesus fasting in the desert for forty days is used as a biblical justification of retreats.
Christian retreats may have various themes that reinforce values, principles, and scriptural understanding. They may be individual or involve a group Common locations for Christian retreats include churches and retreat centers.
The retreat was popularized in Roman Catholicism by the Jesuits, whose founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola began directing others in participating in the exercises in the 1520s. Another form the exercises came in, which became known as the nineteenth “Observation”, ‘allowed continuing one’s ordinary occupations with the proviso that one would set aside a few hours a day for this special purpose.’ The spiritual exercises were intended for people wanting to live closer to God’s will for their life.
Sufi retreats are called Khalwa from the Arabic meaning seclusion or separation. However apparently the connotation is different than our meaning of those words. Khalwa is the “act of total self-abandonment in desire for the Divine Presence.” In complete seclusion, the Sufi continuously repeats the name of God as the highest form of remembrance of God meditation. This practice goes on for forty day and is performed only with the permission and supervision of a Sufi authority.
The Beauty Of Going Within
Spiritual traditions throughout the ages have always espoused going within, sitting in stillness and silence in order to hear and sense what is happening inside our individual vessels. I love what Rumi has to say about this: “We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us.”
It’s the perfect time of year to plan a retreat from the swirl of life outside and find the center of stillness within.