INVITATION TO RETREAT – Ruth Haley Barton
BY PAULO SÉRGIO GOMES
A CALL TO REDISCOVER AND REGAINING YOURSELF
According to author Ruth Haley Barton, a specialist
in spiritual retreats, retreat attendance is
a countercultural practice, corresponding to a
divine invitation to rest, something unusual these days,
adjusting to the rhythms, discerning the presence of God,
recalibrating and repositioning our lives according to His will.
In a deeper sense, it is a generous commitment to our friendship with God, allocating an extended period of time to be alone, in the purpose of being with God and giving, whole and unconditionally, all attention to God. Barton calls it strategic withdrawal, that is, moving away from the daily hustle and bustle, from over-occupation, from the expectations of others, and in the same way to persist in tackling unsavory challenges, at the bottom of what does not work in our lives.
Many who participate in a personal retreat are already at the limit, faced with the “eminent disaster”.
That’s what happened to Jason Sullivan. After a decade and a half of persistent over-information and over-stimulation, he told his story in an article entitled “I Stopped Being a Human Being,” seeking the ultimate detox in one of these events.
In the hangover of the old existence, he had to be persistent to deal with the disconnection of technology, the constant checking of emails, and the refreshing of Instagram and messages. “Turning away”helped him regain the taste for life, the memories of childhood, the joy of friendship.
When is the appropriate time for a retreat? At one extreme, when we are dangerously tired. While we live long beyond our limits, working beyond our capabilities, without realizing the origins of our exhaustion, the damaging levels of this accumulated stress, and in this state we are unable to do our best, to decide sensibly, we drain our energies and our body can begin to collapse under the pressure to which it is subject. Dr. Gabor Maté, in his bestseller When the Body Says No, sums up: “Excessive stress occurs when what is required of an organism exceeds its reasonable capacity to match what is required”.
In a retreat, it is important to discover the appropriate rhythm for each one, for the main emphasis is on the participant to find stillness, silence, rest, listening and responding to the Spirit of God, allowing the freedom to accommodate body and spirit , and avoiding overloading the activity plan. As Dallas Willard wrote, “The cure for having so much to do is solitude and silence … This disturbing sense of having to come from above all from the void that exists in our soul …”.
Determining periods of meditation and prayer will also help you adjust to a new daily rhythm, different from the one you are used to. The book exemplifies various types of programs, from fixed times to more flexible schedules, depending on each person’s approach, and provides a final appendix with suggestions for detailed plans for times of prayer, worship, and liturgy.
Deep down, a retreat is no more than an invitation to recalibrate our lives, or aspects of our existence that need adjustment. As we encounter spiritual freedom we see the need to recalibrate our lives by answering a few questions, such as: “How do I live the day-to-day life of my heart?” Or “Do I prioritize my daily activities according to God’s purposes for me, and what are they? “And so we can begin again with a clear sense of how God guides us to live during troubled times.
In a second final appendix, the author offers a practical guide for the complete planning of a retreat, from the place of withdrawal to the items that should accompany the participant, according to the purpose and intention, without forgetting a notification to the family and colleagues as to its distance and the “disconnection” of technology.
Easy to read, Invitation to Retreat invites us to seclusion, it guides us in this important decision to grant a contemplative period alone, with God and with ourselves. The only criterion for this is that it is in a place where one enters into silence and where one is supported by silence.