This picture is one Debbie took at OLM in Iowa while she was on retreat at the Stone House.
Once you’ve located your retreat spot and made reservations, there are some preparations that will help you get the most out of this first step to becoming your own counselor. The key is learning to Listen to the One true voice within instead of the clamoring voices from without. Here are 5 more tips:
Cut off all routine contact. The week before you leave, give your loved ones an emergency number at the retreat and be prepared to turn off the cell phone when you get into the car. Maybe put an auto-responder on your email. Leaving means isolation. Be firm with yourself on this if you really want to benefit from solitude, you can’t be problem solving or chatting. This isn’t a group activity.
Only check phone and email once a day for the time you are in retreat. You’ll probably be disappointed how well people can get by without you. (If there’s one individual who will not respect your retreat, that tells you some truth, doesn’t it?)
Take time to rest. Get as rested as possible before leaving. While I am on retreat, I sleep more than usual anyway. In general, that’s a good thing, but I’ve sometimes lost the first day to recuperation. Surprisingly, it’s hard work to be contemplative and being rested before I start keeps me alert to what God is showing me. You wouldn’t want your counselor to come to the session exhausted. Give yourself the best.
Ask for God’s wisdom. Seeking God is the objective. It’s my practice to ask God to show me He cares. I’ve never been disappointed. I told the rainbow story in an earlier post. Start praying for God’s direction during your preparations. Becoming your own counselor means seeking from Him the wisdom to live your life in a way that He prepared ahead of time. He knows the U-niqueness that is U!
Gather nature sounds or soft music. I spend as much of my time as possible outside in isolation during retreat. Since I was a little girl, I’ve connected best with God when surrounded by His creation. Second best, I play nature music. Sounds of moving water, birds or the wind with a gentle background of piano or guitar. I’m not sophisticated enough for classical to me it always sounds like cartoon music. (Really fast classical sounds like a mouse on the keyboard.) Pack what works for you when you want to feel peaceful.
Ensure silence. Use headphones and wax earplugs. We are never sure what will happen on retreat. You don’t want to be distracted by intrusive sounds. The goal is to free your mind from distractions. I believe God is always wanting to talk with us. Learning to listen takes practice. Our lives are crammed with sounds. He doesn’t usually intrude but waits for the invitation to be heard.
A personal retreat is the best way my friends and I have found to prime the process. Becoming your own counselor becomes possible when you make room for His voice.
But he had found God—and in finding God had found himself. ~AA p 158