Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Come to the Quiet: Very Productive…wait…productive?

A few weeks before I attended the Charis Come to the Quiet retreat at Bellarmine Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois, I was asking my spiritual director if she had any guidance for me before I entered into the two and a half days of silence. She started out by asking me how I dealt with silent retreats, (how did I function on them, did I like them), to which I replied matter-of-factly, “They’re very productive for me.”

After the session ended I had to stop and think about my choice of words. Productive? Was I expecting an end result? Was some internal button going to click “ON” and all of a sudden I would understand my role in the cosmic order of things? I entered into the retreat with a spirit of curiosity provoked by my own language.

Too often I struggle with projecting my own expectations onto life:

  • I want to finish graduate school by a certain time
  • I want to be so far along with a career by another time
  • I want to be engaged, then married and on the path for having children by a certain age
  • I should gain a spiritual peak/awareness from a certain experience or retreat.

The idea of leaving my intentions of productive silence behind was both appealing and liberating. By dropping my expectations of productivity the time and space instantly felt lighter, more interesting, and more inviting. Over the course of the retreat I tried to be present to the moment, to the space around me, and most importantly I was present to my own feelings. This was the most “productive” part of the weekend. I was finally able to be present to what was happening around me and within me, not for any conclusive purpose but because my busy life does not often permit such a privileged space of carved out silence for prayer and reflection.

- Katie V.

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