RE:TREAT-Stepping-back care for your soul
“O God,you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirst for you ”
” Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed“ – Luke 4:16 (NIV)
“He withdrew privately by a boat to a solitary place”– Matthew 14:13 (NIV)
WHAT IS RETREAT?
A retreat is to take a step back,
To hear the depths of your heart,
It is to stop the non-stop,
To pause the busyness
To break the attraction to distraction,
To decompress the pressures of life,
To defragment the chaos and soul clutter,
To create a space for Jesus, to rest in Jesus
Mini-retreats Ideas during the day: Taking between five and seven 15-minute mini-retreats or sacred pauses during your normal work week day can help nourish and care for your soul.
- Early morning prayer, praying the Psalms- before you head out for work. Read a passage three times slowly and at the end of each passage, pausing in silence with the ear of your heart listening and being still.
- Praying the Psalms before work- Read the same Psalms you read in the morning and pause for a moment what word or sentence is coming alive for you right now.
- Morning Coffee break- Choose either Breath prayer or Jesus Prayer and repeat the prayer at least three times pausing in silence in between. A Jesus prayer goes like this: ” Lord Jesus have mercy on me, a sinner” . A simple Breath prayer goes like these: ” In You O Lord I move and live and have my being. In me O Lord, You move and live and have Your being. ”
- Lunch Break Prayer- Saying your grace before and after your meal is a prayer retreat in itself. But, eating your food with your full awareness and fully present (without checking emails or connecting to social media) you put yourself in a posture of retreat- the leisure and nourishment of eating is soul care.
- Mid-afternoon coffee break prayer retreat- A simple deep-breathe remembering the ” breath of Life” that lives in you as you slowly breathe in, and slowly breathing out, give your life back to God with thanksgiving and gratitude. Repeat your deep- breathe prayer at least three times.
- Vespers prayer- This is your prayer as you finish your work day. In a monastic rhythm, vespers is the time where the tools used during the day ( turning your computer off or whatever tools you’ve used ) are laid down and they put on a new clothes for the evening. A simple prayer of thanksgiving for the work you were able to put and to give can help you welcome the later part of your day. Greet yourself a good evening.
- Evening prayer- The Prayer of Examen ( see Prayer Practices page to learn about this ) is a way to journal your day in your hope in finding God where you are in your day. This practice helps you see God’s movement in your soul and also helps in cultivating your discernment practices ( learning what God is leading you when you sensed a change of direction in your life).
- Compline prayer- a short “Lord, tuck me to bed” prayer. Thank God for the gift of the day and pray for a good night rest and may you wake in the likeness of Christ. Sweet dreams.
Sabbath Day of Rest ( please come back as I finish this section )
For other retreat ideas, check our Resource page for more suggestions.
The contemplative Life for ordinary people
by Archie Honrado
The contemplative life for ordinary people are prayers and spiritual disciplines designed to take us closer to Jesus and into an awareness of experiencing the fullness of joy- the gift of grace from Jesus- These prayers helps us step back to take a mini retreat during the day. There are always moments to pray during the day. Distractions and no time for prayer has always been an easy excuse since ancient times. The ever-present technologies can desensitize and clutter our mind and heart, or helps us draw closer to Jesus- using prayer Apps- use them throughout the day to step back and retreat to hear the inner voice of God in you.
A growing dependence on smart phones and social media can make an alternative and organic way to connect with God and self seems old school and uncool, right? Well, here’s an alternative:
This step concerns a simple breathing exercise to bring your respiration into a slightly slower and deeper mode than usual, leading to the breathing of a prayerful longing in God.
First, don’t change your breathing but note its rate and rhythm. Now gently begin to breathe from the diaphragm instead of from the top of your chest (belly-breathing), and with deepening, slow it down slightly. Your tummy will rise as you begin such breathing, and as the top of your longs fill it will lower slightly.
After a minute or so of such easy, relaxed breathing find your own level – that is, a level that suits you without strain or effort. The aim here is to let go all stress and be completely relaxed. Now you can begin breathing the prayer– first verbally and then mentally as you move into its rhythm. Again there are a variety of prayers, including The Jesus Prayer. expecting the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit to become the basis and ethos of your prayer.
The prayer runs:
In You, my Lord, I live and move and have my being.
In me, my Lord, You live and move and have Your being.
As you breathe this repetitive prayer you will enter into its rhythm and yield yourself to the loving mystery of God. Stay there for as long as you want (five minutes is not too short nor thirty minutes too long)
Taken from “ Heaven on Earth, A Personal Retreat Programme
” Brother Ramon
Marshall Pickering, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
by Archie Honrado
Arriving at our base camp, I asked our NIKO camp participants to put their backpacks down and to pick up “clean dirt” with their hands. Then I told the story of God creating man- “ The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” -Genesis 2: 7. After the short story, I led them to my version of breath prayer to help them feel the nearness of God in the wilderness and hopefully, continue the practice when they go back to the city.
As I have listened youth and youth workers, I found contemplative prayers to be one of the most relevant spiritual disciplines. Simple prayer practices could make a difference like what punctuations does to a sentence, creating space to an otherwise unreadable and chaotic paragraph. We need apophatic prayers for our 4G technology generation. We need an archaic and organic way of distilling information into knowledge and wisdom.
So, here’s my version of Breath Prayer:
-Follow a comfortable position to sit in.
-Take a few deep breathe
– Imagine God forming you out from the dirt of the ground and breathing into your nostrils the breathe of life.
- Take a deep breath and as you inhale, remember the breath of life that God breathed into your life.
- As you exhale, say a prayer, thanking God for your life and giving your life back to God.
– Repeat a few times until you feel its time to be guided by the Holy Spirit to your next step whatever that might be.
Prayer of Examen
In the 16th century, Ignatius of Loyola wrote The Spiritual Exercises. The Exercises begin by recommending that everyone be taught the Daily Examination of Conscience also known as the Prayer of Examen. He understood that one of the ways God speaks to us is through what he calls consolation and desolation, which consist of our deepest feelings, yearnings, and influences of the spiritual realm.
This prayer consists of asking ourselves two questions:
For what am I most grateful?
For what am I least grateful?
Reflecting on these questions help us identify moments of consolation and desolation, which lead us to a better awareness of God in the midst of our daily life.
-For what am I most grateful?
- When did I feel most alive today?
- When did I give the most love today?
- When did I receive the most love today?
As you become aware of the consolations you’ve had during the day, let the feeling bath over you again and offer back to God a prayer of gratitude for showing love to you in this way.
-For what moment today am I least grateful?
-When did I feel life drained out of me?
- When did I give the least love today?
- When did I receive the least love today?
As you become aware of your “bummer” desolation moments you’ve had during the day, try to name the emotion you are feeling and ask God if there is something for you to notice in this. (Perhaps you an area of sin that God is gently convicting you of, a wounded place that needs God’s healing touch, a distraction or discouragement that is keeping you from hearing God’s voice. Respond to these noticings with a prayer back to God. If nothing is revealed in the desolation, simply offer the experience up to God without dwelling on it.
This whole process usually takes 10-20 minutes.
I recommend using a journal to write down your two questions. This can be a helpful way to notice patterns and better understand how God speaks to us in the midst of our life situations.
The Prayer of Examen can be used in many times and places. It can be used in small groups, with a spouse or friend, with children, directed towards a particular question for discernment, or to help discern a life calling. One can also do the Prayer of Examen for a particular experience, season, or for the past year.
compiled by Beth Slevcove
For a simple and practical introduction to this prayer in its various forms, read:Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life, by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn, Paulist Press, 1995
THE PRAYER OF CONSENT BY THOMAS KEATING “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of Contemplative Prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier times in an updated form.
Wisdom Saying of Jesus
Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount :
“…But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” MT 6:6
Centering Prayer Guidelines
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- The sacred word is chosen during a brief period of prayer to the Holy Spirit. Use a word of one or two syllables, such as: God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Amen, Love, Listen, Peace, Mercy, Let Go, Silence, Stillness.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word.
We introduce the sacred word inwardly as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton. Should we fall asleep upon awakening we continue the prayer.
IV. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
- “Thoughts” is an umbrella term for every perception, including body senstations, sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries, and spiritual experiences.
- Thoughts are an inevitable, integral and normal part of Centering Prayer.
- By “returning ever-so-gently to the sacred word” a minimum of effort is indicated. This is the only activity we initiate during the time of Centering Prayer.
4. During the course of Centering Prayer, the sacred word may become vague or disappear.
IV. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
1. The additional 2 minutes enables us to bring the atmosphere of silence into everyday life.
2. If this prayer is done in a group, the leader may slowly recite a prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer, while the others listen.
What Centering Prayer Is and Is Not
a. It is not a technique but a way of cultivating a deeper relationship with God.
b. It is not a relaxation exercise but it may be quite refreshing.
c. It is not a form of self-hypnosis but a way to quiet the mind while maintaining its alert- ness.
d. It is not a charismatic gift but a path of transformation.
e. It is not a para-psychological experience but an exercise of faith, hope and selfless love. f. It is not limited to the “felt” presence of God but is rather a deepening of faith in God’s abiding presence.
g. It is not reflective or spontaneous prayer, but simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and emotions.
THE PRAYER OF CONSENT BY THOMAS KEATING “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
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Praying with Icons
by Archie Honrado
Pray with Icons? This Eastern Orthodox Christian prayer practice can be a breath of fresh air into our prayer life. We are in the midst of spiritual renaissance– the unearthing of some of the ancient Christian prayer practices, kept alive by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. This movement is an image of a precious gift that has been lying somewhere around the house unopened for a long time.
The Renaissance period rediscovered buried gifts from the past, spurring a revival of the many classic learning styles from ancient Rome and Greece – preserved by the church, yet largely reserved for the educated clergy alone.
Art and icons is a companion and guide for prayer. I am not talking about hanging sacred icons in the sanctuary with worshippers lined-up to kiss and touch an art or icon. We could however learn from our Orthodox Christian cousins in praying with icons, not to the icons and not just Eastern Orthodox icons, but icons through artists from our own church.
There have been Sunday worship services where I longed to see and gaze at the Lord through art and icons; I couldn’t, the service was mostly listening and no seeing. This made me want to run to my prayer closet, hide from the “iconoclasts”. Similarly, there are occasions that instead of having another session of counseling, ther- apy or talking prayer meeting, we should be engaging with the Holy Spirit through “sit and gaze”—at the beauty of God’s holiness. Additionally, gazing attentively at our life in the present moment, we become our own iconographer of the image of Christ incarnated in and through us.
I was spiritually nurtured listening to preaching and teaching, I have been guided by the Holy Spirit in awe gazing at Jesus represented in sacred paintings in Cathedrals and art museums in Europe and at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I was exposed early to listening and seeing. My Catholic father immersed in icons and my mother, Protestant, emphasized the centrality and sacredness of the bible. I was a comfortable gazing (contemplating images) as well as listening through the meditative reading of the printed Word of God.
Pray with and through art and icons and pray with your heart and eyes open
Here are some ways I have practiced praying with art or icons.
-Gaze through your heart not your mind. When drawn to analyze the image, allow your heart only to see
– Gaze with complete attention, pray with the icon. What are they praying for or about? Our invisible God became flesh (visible and incarnate) and live with and among us.
– Avoid rushing for a life application or a moral message. Gaze patiently
– When you gaze, kiss with the lips of your heart– adore and worship God– the beauty and love that you see.
– When praying with a “ secular image”, look beyond the “art in it” ( like styles, colors, symbols), or intended meaning of it– gaze the visible toward the invisible.
Group Spiritual Direction: What Is It?
An Online Verson of The Shalem Pamphlet on Group Spiritual Direction by Rose Mary Dougherty
Group spiritual direction is a process in which people gather together on a regular basis to assist one another in an ongoing awareness of God in all of life. They are seeking support for their responsiveness to God and they agree to support others in that same responsiveness. Three conditions are essential to the life of the group. Members must agree to:
commit themselves to an honest relationship with God
to participate wholeheartedly in the group process through prayerful listening and response
to open their spiritual journeys for consideration by others
These conditions of themselves do not guarantee the effectiveness of group spiritual direction. They do, however, foster and reflect the willingness needed to engage in such a process. The depth of sharing necessary in group spiritual direction demands a level of trust not often found in other types of groups. This trust is not dependent upon similar personalities, mutual interests or common experiences; rather it is grounded in a trust of God’s desire for each participant individually as well as the group as a whole.
Shared Desire for God
What draws people to the group is a reciprocity of desire, God’s desire and their desire. Having been touched by God’s desire, they want to make their desire for God the determining factor of all of their choices, and they recognize that they need some help to do this. This shared desire gives the group its coherence as well as a shared commitment to be there for one another in that desire. The group’s primary task is to make the shared desire explicit and to hold one another in it.
When asked by a friend how she prayed for her, a thirteenth-century anchoress, Julian of Norwich responded “I look at God, I look at you, and I keep on looking at God.” Put simply, the group’s challenge is to keep on looking at God for each person in the group.
Yet as much as people know this faithful looking is why they are together and really want that for themselves and for the group, they may unintentionally collude to avoid it. They may become busy about many things besides spiritual direction. A process is needed that will help people do what they come to the group to do.
Dynamics of the Process
The process best happens in a group with four people, five maximum and three minimum, all of whom are seeking spiritual direction and are willing to enter into a process where spiritual direction can happen for themselves and the others in the group. Initially, this willingness as well as the rightness of the group for each person will need to be tested. Prospective members will need to pray together and then talk about their understandings of spiritual direction and what it is in their lives with God that makes them think this group would be right for them. Diversity of faith perspectives in the group can enrich the collective wisdom available through the group process. There should be sufficient time for participants to become acquainted with one another at a faith level and to become somewhat familiar with the faith language of one another before actually beginning the group direction. This time is especially important for groups comprised of friends or persons frequently together in other settings. Such groups might benefit also from the presence of an outside facilitator in the beginning. Once a group has decided that it wants to be together for spiritual direction, then it might agree to meet for ten months to a year and after a review of its time, contract for another year if it seems right.
A two-and-a-half hour meeting time allows a spaciousness for the unfolding of the process of group spiritual direction. A period longer than two-and-a-half hours seems to tax most people’s listening capacity. Four or five-week intervals between meetings honors that sacred space within each person where ultimately all discernment happens and yet allows for a continuity in the group’s life together. If a group can meet bi-weekly, six members would be optimum to allow for the participation of all members with three people sharing one week and a different three the next week.
The time begins with a silent gathering of about 20 minutes for people to gather their hearts into a common desire for God and to dedicate the evening for our world. After the silence, the facilitator invites someone to begin sharing when he or she feels ready.
Sharing by one person
(10 to 15 minutes)
While individuals are sharing, the group listens prayerfully through to the end without interruption.
(3 to 4 minutes)
This silence is simply a time for making space for God, for allowing God to cut through the limits of biases and accustomed ways of responding so that individuals might respond to the presenter from a place of freedom.
(about 10 minutes)
There is a period of sharing the questions or comments that have come up on the silence. The facilitator might need to encourage trust of God’s caring love for the presenter, active in the silence and in the words. This trust is honored when individuals listen to the response of others and move with the flow of the group instead of holding onto a personal agenda for the person.
(about 5 minutes)
During this time people pray for the person who has just presented. The presenter may want to take some notes on what she has heard.
The “Sharing—Silence—Response—Silence” is repeated, with a short break midway, until all members have presented.
Prayer for absent member
(at least 10 minutes)
This prayer reflects the belief that the most important thing members can do for one another is to pray. Not only does the group pray for the person who cannot be present, members also are asked to pray for one another in whatever way is right for them outside the time of the group.
Reflection on the time together
(about 10 minutes)
This reflection is not meant to analyze the time together or to control future outcomes. Instead, it is a gentle looking and noticing, God and the group together, and an honest sharing around what is seen. The focus for this time is the sense of prayerfulness within the group and within individuals. Whatever is addressed — silence, words, the human dynamics within the group — is viewed in terms of that prayerfulness, looking at what has served it or has gotten in its way.
When a group can give itself to the process over a period of time, and when individuals take seriously the responsibility to pray for one another within and outside their times together, transformation occurs. The group becomes a spiritual community where the uniqueness of desire for God and the commonality of that desire is celebrated, and where people want to be present to God for one another in the fullness of that desire. That desire for God becomes the ground for their discernment. Together and alone they continue to examine choices for responsible love.
Shalem Program Offerings in Group Spiritual Direction
Visit our Short Programs section for information on current Group Spiritual Direction workshops.
Dougherty, Rose Mary. Group Spiritual Direction: Community for Discernment . (Book and Video). NY: Paulist Press.
Edwards, Tilden. Spiritual Friend. NY: Paulist Press.
Gratton, Carolyn. The Art of Spiritual Guidance. NY: Crossroad, 1992.
Guenther, C. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. MA: Cowley Publications.
Lindbloom, Lois. Prayerful Listening: Cultivating Discernment in Community, 2007.
May, Gerald. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit. NY: Harper & Row.
RE:TREAT YOURSELF TODAY
Treat yourself, date yourself, listen to yourself and by “being so”,
you can hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.
When was the last time you went on a personal retreat?
Have you been on a date with yourself lately?
Stop and pause and care for your soul,
Slow down and hear yourself breathe,
Hear the depths of your heart,
Hear the heart of God.
Scroll down to read more about retreat.
Pay your Innermost Being a visit today
Download pdf A RETREAT GUIDE BOOKLET – available for a suggested donation of $5.00
Below are different ideas for your personal at-home retreat. Each piece presents a journey to your interior world.
Take your time, go on a “wanderlust”, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Decompress, Defragment, Debrief
Some ways to Decompress, Defragment and Debrief
-Finding “Consolation” from your day (activity,event), what are you most grateful for?
Let it bathe you and stir a prayer of thanksgiving.
Let it go, give it to God. Ask if there be a healing or sin to confess.-When did you received and give most love today? Let it comfort you and express your heart of
gratitude to God.
– When did you received and give least love today? Is there someone that you want to talk
more about this feelings?
– Try prayer practices that less wordy or even wordless like Centering Prayer, Breath Prayer. Go online to learn more about centering prayer: www.contemplativeoutreach.org
Living on your Daily Bread Today
My father told me to reach for the stars
Someone will give me the moon
I can not see the moon,
Something is blocking my sight
I guess it could be my thumb
I reached out to the stars
But my hands were too short
My thumb too little for the stars and too big for the moon
I could settle here on earth for now
I can still smell
I can still hear
The fragrance, the music
O the beauty, is right here with me
Here on earth today, thy bread I’ll eat
The moon, the stars, I’ll get to it sometime
A question to ponder:
– What did the “ear of your heart” heard from this poem?
Reflect with T.S. Eliot
Read this short poem to examine the way you care or feed your heart, mind and soul.
Reflect on the rthymn of your life- your schedule, your priorities, your habits and get some insights how you live your life.
Choruses from The Rock
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Questions to Ponder :
– What is the rtyhmn of your life?
– Is there a hint of soul-lessness,what are they?
– Soul-less rthymn lifestyle? Try to remember the last time you did your laundry. . .
– Do you remember the clothes you wore and what occassion-work,play, social, or home?
– Do you jump right away from one event/activity to the next without processing what the last event was about?
Prayer practice for soulful living:
– Collect 2-4 images for your sit down art contemplation. It could be your own collection of images-poster, photo album, or browse from flickr or any other source you can find.
– The practice of being ‘fully present’ – Give yourself at least 30 minutes to do this. .
1. Get an orange fruit.
2. Sit, relax and be comfortable until you can hear your breathing,
3. Be fully present to your orange fruit. . . You can peel, sniff, eat, stare, whatever it is you sensed doing with the orange fruit, just be fully present,
4. Whenever distraction comes, focus back to your Orange fruit.
5. Pray your response
6. Journal your response and prayer
A Date with Yourself
It is such a delight to come home to myself, to become my own friend.
Iexperienced this kind of homecoming once when I was living alone.
decision to spend time with myself.
‐ Sister Macrina Weiderkehr
Songs of the Seeds, Harper
Here’s a thought to reflect on why be still
“ He who has realized that sun and stars and souls do not
ramble in a vacuum will keep his heart in readiness for the hour
when the world is entranced. For things are not mute:
the stillness is full of demands, awaiting a soul to breathe in the
mystery that all things exhale in their craving for communion.
Out of the world comes the behest to instill into the air a
rapturous song for God . . .
– ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL
Examine your understanding of sabbath . . .
“Shabbat is often misunderstood as simply a day of rest, but it has much
deeper implications. For example, we often rest by lying on the couch watching
television, by going to a ball game, or by taking a vacation. But the type of
rest that leads to spiritual renewal is different. Menucha requires quieting
the mind and soul through spiritual practice, dwelling on the higher realms,
absorbing oneself in contemplation of the Divine.
“Spiritual renewal can be accomplished when we are able to separate ourselves
from mundane activity and thought.” The Sabbath day for the Christian
world, Sunday rather than Saturday, has been filled with television sports
programs, shopping in the mall, and tinkering around the house, These may
be pleasant activities, but most of them do not nourish the soul. . . Renew the
soul and one’s perspective of daily life will completely change. It is simply a
matter of taking time, slowing down, shifting mundane consciousness into
realms of higher insight, giving oneself the gift of reflection and contemplation.”
-David A. Cooper,
on his book “Renewing Your Soul”,
a book on Jewish spirituality and Sabbath practice
You can download the retreat booklet guide I wrote. Go to main menu and click on Retreat Booklet.
May the peace of God be with you always