Day of Silence

Well, by day, I mean about 4 hours. But it felt long.

This week I spent a "day" of prayer at the Ruah Spirituality Center, part of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Villa de Matel convent in Houston. They have facilities for overnight, but the director recommended I start with a day since I was nervous about being in silence for that long.

I arrived at 10 and met a spiritual director who first showed me around. Then we talked for 20 minutes or so. She inquired as to what brought me there and then gave me some guidance as to how to approach the day. The main thing is it's a completely silent experience... so you don't talk to anyone even if you see people. The grounds are beautiful, and the floor where the Center is has several rooms set aside for prayer. They give even day retreaters their own dorm room, which was nice b/c I left my stuff and returned periodically, and took a quick nap at one point.

I started by sitting in the roof garden doing nothing, just sitting, observing. It took only a few minutes before I was crying grateful tears that also reflected how much inside I knew needed to come out. Then I spent about an hour journaling, returned to my room for a few minutes, and went to lunch. Eating lunch in silence with other people is strange. There were only a few other retreaters, all there for the same reason so I didn't feel rude, but it was weird. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the grounds, sitting on the balcony, visiting different rooms, praying in the chapel, enjoying being quiet and being so aware of God's presence. I really enjoyed the Kairos art room, where there were tons of art supplies and I could express my prayers creatively.

I've heard several people who've done retreats like this say that it takes them a whole day (or more) to really get quiet enough to get to the deep stuff. I can see that now. My intention for the day was to process grad school and pray about the next step. I felt complete in that. But I sort of felt I dealt with the "obvious" stuff, and while deep stuff (some of it surprising) did appear, it was still stuff near the surface. In other words, I see the value of some long, intentional silence.

The spiritual director suggested times of concentrated prayer intermixed with walks, observing nature, etc. (which she emphasized was prayer as well). She encouraged me to reflect on greatest challenges, joys, and wounds throughout grad school. To confront any anxieties I had about England and to ask God how I could be used there. And finally to ask God what could be done interiorally in me. That guidance resonated with me and although my mind wandered quite a bit, I was able to stay pretty focused and really soak in the silence. 

It was a beautiful experience and I recommend it to everyone. I've known about this place for a few years but was either nervous about going or didn't make it a priority and wish I had. Cost is by donation. I'm really grateful.

"Let us be silent that we may hear the Whisper of God." - Emerson

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Daniel Buchanan said...

Lauran - cool! I'm so glad you got to experience Villa de Matel. I have been on a few retreats there myself and also sung several concerts in the chapel. I agree, the meal times are kind of strange, but after a whole weekend, it starts to feel kind of refreshing, because there is no pressure to make small talk. And yes, the longer you are there, the deeper the stuff that starts to come up. I have a few friends who go there for a week-long silent retreat every year. I haven't worked my way up to that yet! Anyway, I'm glad you got to reflect a bit. PS Was it Janet that showed you around? - Dan

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