In this season of staying at home, what might it look to take time to stop, be still, and listen to God? What might it be like to take a retreat at home? The added work and stress of these days may mean brief respite for some while others seek meaningful ways to use their time. Realizing we have different capacities, here are a few ideas to consider.
If stopping at all seems overwhelming yet desired, consider something small, a short pause. Susanna Wesley—the mother of Methodism—had ten children including John and Charles. Susanna couldn’t get away. She would sit or kneel in the kitchen, sometimes for ten minutes, and pull her apron up over her head. The children were still all about, but everyone knew not to interrupt when the apron was up because she was praying.
Perhaps it’s not an apron. Maybe putting on a particular jacket or hat or shawl could symbolize to your family and to yourself—I am stopping now to pray for ten minutes, even in a room with others. Perhaps you have the ability to go into a room or a closet for a time. Perhaps you could hang something on the door to show—I am in here now to pray. What would it take for you take ten minutes a couple times a day? Could you schedule a day off from most of your usual routine? If so, what would you reduce? To what extent, in what space, or during what time could you be uninterrupted?
Besides time and space, try doing one thing in order to slow down. Turn off your devices. Whether standing, sitting, or dancing, just do that. When eating or drinking, savor the flavor. When something catches your eye, stop and gaze at it. Perhaps a picture or the sunlight or a shadow. Gaze to really see it. Perhaps get closer or see how it or your perception changes with time. Sleep, savoring, and gazing help us slow down to pay attention and be still with God.
Exercise and gentle movement enliven and refresh. Take deep breaths, and exhale with sighs. Stretch your arms up and out. Swing your arms, your legs, and what you sit on. Imagine you are tossing paint at the ceiling and like throwing or hitting. Try some slow, gentle movements, as if you are seaweed swaying in the ocean. Stop and be still. Take deep breaths, and exhale with signs. Put on music and move as you can, fast and slow, energetic and calm. Dance for an audience of one. Afterward, notice what you feel in your body.
Silence helps us hear what is present now. Shared silence still creates community. Retreat may something to share with those with whom you live. What would it be like to share intentional silence together? Perhaps you could choose to not talk, not listen to music, not watch devices, and still be together. Create a beautiful center, perhaps a candle or flower or image, and do your own reading, journaling, gazing, and praying. Then reflect about the experience together and name your gratitude. I know some housemates who tried this for a season. They doubted the idea but found it doable and refreshing. This practice might be as regular as a weekly Sabbath or a monthly or quarterly retreat.
On retreat, pray as you already do, in whatever form is already familiar: with or without words, eyes open or closed, standing, sitting, kneeling, in another shape, or moving. Pray with scripture. Read a short text slowly a few times and notice what phrase or word stands out. Hold it gently and listen for an invitation. That may be by drawing and coloring it. Take a psalm and write it in your own words, or use it to journal. When have you felt this way? How does your current life connect with these words? You might also pray without words. Sit in silence gazing a candle or focus of beauty. Sit in adoration at the One who is already gazing with love at you. Set a few times to pray through the day. Do what you know, and try something different.
Retreat, and any particular retreat, may take many forms and locations. How to begin? First, consider what time, space, activity and even clothing distinguishes and defines it.
- What could you claim to calm and refresh?
- What helps you slow down, rest, and listen?
- Where do you feel safe and secure?
- What invites you to encounter and struggle with God?
- What prompts thinking deeply?
The location, time, or practice itself doesn’t matter. What’s important is choosing to stop and spend time to be attentive, listen, and pray. What would you stop, and what would help you stop? What would support you in putting aside your daily work and routines in order to focus on prayer? How would companionship help or hinder you either in the planning, provision, or experience of retreat?
Start small. Be creative. There is no right way. Be gentle with yourself. You are worth it. God is present here at home with you, and delights in time turned toward each together.