Meghan Thomassen | Friday, September 13, 2013
About a year ago, I went on a Silent Retreat at Moreau Seminary with a very good friend. For us, that’s crazy. More than two days of silent meditation and prayer, cut off from the news world, from the constant social interactions of campus, from Facebook, from phone calls home? No way. Talking was the way my friend and I expressed ourselves and became close in the first place.
But the idea of a blank weekend, an unscripted slate for my mind to work out all the ideas and problems I knew were knotted up in there, called to me.
I’m not going to lie. It was weird. My friend and I lived in separate bedrooms, would see each other in the long empty hallways and could only smile and wave. The hours stretched out for eternity. I took three or four naps a day and walked around the lakes at all hours. I felt like my capacity to form words was completely lost.
What I gained from this retreat, however, is ineffable. Replacing to-do lists and worries was a singular stream of thought, intermingled with prayer. My actions became extremely deliberate. I chose my words very carefully when I debriefed with the sister running the retreat.
The hours I spent at the seminary were some of the most precious hours of my life.
The afternoon spent gazing from my room at the lakes, telling time by the bells tolling from the Basilica, the feeling of cool marble beneath my feet as I walked to the chapel in the morning, the sensation of lightness and carefree joy when I went to sleep – all of these experiences are unparalleled.
It’s been a year, and so much has happened since that blessed weekend. I’ve studied abroad in London, worked a summer internship and started looking for a job. Although these events were both deeply rewarding and exciting, every time I tried to dig down for that serenity and peace of mind again, I would fail.
I’m looking forward to this year’s Silent Retreat because I’ve lost the ability to be quiet. I’ve lost the ability to turn off the incessant stream of anxious chatter that gets me through the day. And with that, I’ve lost my sense of direction and purpose. When I’m unable to be alone with myself, I’m unable to discern which path I should take, how to pursue the topics that I find engaging, and how to get to know other people better and take care of them.
I can’t stop you from being busy. I’d be a hypocrite if I tried to stop you from wanting to be involved in more things than you can handle. But I can tell you that this Nov. 8, I’ll be at the seminary trying to learn how to be sincere in my prayers, how to be purposeful when I am pulled in many directions, and how to be alone in my thoughts and be quiet in the storm.
Contact Meghan Thomassen at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.