I ventured out to my annual personal retreat last week, hoping to meet Spirit in all her personae of dove, fire and wind to ignite in me the energy I need both for myself and for those to whom I am called. I arrived at my familiar place (although there were plenty of personnel changes), settled in to a known room (although my favorite was already occupied), entered into well-tried practices to arriving, attending and resting. I walked, I read, I prayed, I listened, and in the first hours I felt the filling begin–no one else to react to, nothing on my to do list, no place to drive, no food to prepare. My brain and heart began to take notes, glad for the spacious interstices between impressions and insights. And then the energy stopped!
I am not sure what had happened. There was evening conversation around the table. There was problematic material in the book I am considering. There was a writing style that unnerved rather than reassured. There was lots of maintenance and construction noise in the surrounding neighborhood. However, as I checked in with my own heart, I noticed that I was becalmed, nothing was flowing and moving ahead. What had begun in energy now lay flat and still. I came to an awareness that even thought I had consciously intended to “come apart and rest for awhile,” another part of me was highly invested in achieving something on this retreat–setting an agenda, working a problem, moving on up a little higher with God.
But I was out of ideas and energy. So I put a stop to my Achiever in order to wait…and I discovered that the Spirit was still moving–in my breath. Breathe on me, Holy Spirit; breathe in me, Breath of God. Evening was falling, light fading, sounds diminishing. And I breathed–breathing out the clutter, breathing in Spirit. Over the next hours I kept reminding my self of the Breath, keeping me alive, even when I was not “accomplishing” anything. Jesus’ words, Come apart and rest awhile, reminded me that one thing was necessary for me, as it was for Mary–to listen to and for the Wind of the Spirit, even when it came in ways that were not Bright Red, or Aero-dynamic or High-Flying. The Sound of Sheer Silence was enough for now.
Over the remaining hours I had set aside, I rested, tuned into the moment in my body and in my mind, trusting that what I needed would be provided when I needed it. Into the rest I continue to take in and expel the Breath of the Spirit, to follow its lead, to let it propel me where it willed. I discovered a forgotten resource for my planning in the trunk of my car. I discarded one vista for another that took me into a peace garden full of Sadako’s cranes surrounding an infinity pool. I prayed for rain in our parched climate where the creek is no longer flowing. I sifted through images that spoke to me of gardens, of grief, of letting go, of loving. I savored poems of beloved poets who continue to feed and nourish my spirit. I drank peppermint iced tea, awaiting me in the pantry. I engaged in appropriate conversation with other retreatants when the time was right. And out of that rest I was led to some sacred texts in books that i had already discarded that had a Word for me in that moment.
When it was time to leave, I was ready. But I had no outline, no calendar, no assignments for people; nor did I have insightful imagining into my own questions and musings. Yet, I had experienced the rest that comes from standing down from even my unconscious lists of “to-dos” and trusting in the freedom that the Breath of the God brings, even, maybe especially when we are out of the energy we generate out of ourselves. I met and was met by the Spirit of Christ, and She set me free.
…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom! 2 Cor. 3:17