Why go on a retreat? Why take the time and why devote the money? When your life is so full and so busy why step away when relaxation could be obtained by flying to a sunny beach, or exhilaration might be accomplished by booking a weekend of skiing?
Why step into an environment wholly devoted to your inner life?
Because the very choice itself is a response to God’s call in deepening your relationship. The inspired book of Hosea prophesies, ‘Come back to me, with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart.’ It is an invitation that wells up within you without ceasing. Yes, without ceasing. And while it can be heard and found and lived out more and more deeply right where you are RIGHT NOW, developing the ability to live in this Presence and embody this Fullness takes devoted attention, continual surrender and a development of personal skillfulness to stay faithful to become who you are meant to be.
God/Spirit is faithful to you and to me, because God/Spirit cannot be unfaithful to Itself. But we, as individuals created for union, are on a path to learn what it means to be faithful. How often in our wounded ways we are unfaithful to who we truly are, or what we are being called to become.
The invitation is not one to be dismissed, in fact it can’t be dismissed, it will haunt you or me all our days until we realize that the answer of this call is what Life, True Life, is about. This is where the value and importance of retreat can be found. It is saying YES to yourself and your personal growth. This growth bears the fruit of freedom, peace, joy, insight, awakening, love and every quality you wish to have in every part of your life.
What a tender and exciting invitation it is, don’t you agree?
The invitation wishes us to taste bliss and joy in ways that undo you, unravel you and consume you. The invitation goes to the very heart of why you or I create defenses that we think will protect us from pain, loss, and fear. Surrendering to the Divine pursuit replaces the self imposed limitations with unconditional acceptance and transformation.
But the invitation here is not just meant to give us a passing consolation; it is not an oasis in the desert it is a beckoning to REMAIN and has within it the organizing factors to make it possible…herein we discover Life AS the oasis.
Jesus is recorded to say in the Gospel of John, ‘Remain in me, as I remain in you. If you remain in me and I in you, you will do much greater things than this…and in another section confides that this is the way our joy will be complete.’
As children we grow ‘up,’ and as we grow up so often we move away from ourselves. We become indoctrinated into the expectations of society, culture, and religion and identify who we are with these very human constructs. In the process we slowly constrict our ability to become who we are meant to be-FREE and LOVING. Most of the time all this conditioning is motivated by noble human qualities (that’s why self deception can be so easy!) such as duty and belonging, or even ideas of what is good and right, and of course the list could go on, and on, and on…
Why is it that growing up oftentimes goes hand in hand with growing out and away from what it means to be truly human and whole? And this moving out and away, while enticing us with empty promises never gives you or me the satisfaction for which we long, in fact it does the opposite and results in discomfort physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Discomfort like this inevitably leads to all sorts of disease and distortions. While these words of Augustine are truly his own experience there seems to be such a universal insight contained therein when he realized and uttered, ‘Late have I loved you beauty ever ancient ever new, late have I loved you. I searched for you, ran through the streets shouting your name, asked every passerby where to find you, and begged to hear you, and then you shattered my deafness and I found that you were already always within me.’
Have you ever felt this desire, this longing?
And have you ever looked outside yourself for the answer?
Growing up, maturing, and becoming whole is the process of becoming free through the experience of God at the very center of your being. John of the Cross, a mystic and saint whose writings such as Dark Night of the Soul and The Spiritual Canticle are inspiring thousands even today said towards the end of his life, ‘The soul’s center is God.’ IS God.
What could that mean for you and for me to KNOW that beyond a shadow of a doubt? And if it took John and myriads of other mystics most their lives to discover this truth, how can you and I engage the growth with greater vehemence?
Retreat focused upon your spiritual growth is one compelling answer to these questions and desires. It could quite possibly be the best choice you could ever give to yourself. At least I think this is true.
Why? Retreat provides a powerful and immediate opportunity to experience coming home to yourself, to restore the memory in such a way that you are changed by the recollection. Perhaps this change is incremental, (most of the time it is,) but incremental is not baby steps along a linear progression, in matters of spirituality self growth has quite a different effect upon us and within us.
To progress in an incrementally linear way can be is like plugging a direction into GPS and then following it step by step. Eventually you get to where you are going and you can mark the steps.
The incremental progression of personal growth and wholeness is quite different. It is an expansion throughout your whole being, recreating you and giving you new birth with each elemental insight.
It means that you expand step by step into NEW awareness, which then permeates all your life.
I remember with such fondness my years in the monastery as a Carmelite nun. We lived largely in silence punctuating the day with hours of chant, meditation, prayer and farming the land. We became so close without words. In fact I found life to be replete with a knowing that was itself, communication through heightened intuition and psychic connection. I found myself knowing my sisters’ thoughts and needs and movements with immediateness because of the simplicity and the focus of our daily abiding. This also offered awareness when another sister was going through inner dilemma and healing. Words cannot express the honor it to walk with my sisters in community supporting their breakthrough, and also knowing they were there for me as well. What is impressive to share with you is that when the breakthrough would happen the sister would literally- on a cellular and personality level- look like a different person. The incremental spiritual growth would affect her in such a way she became a new creation. It was Pentecost in its most intimate, familiar and utterly dramatic way.
This is what a retreat is all about-giving ourselves the breathing space to become something NEW again. The invitation is always there and when we hear the nudging (or sometimes the blow upon the head,) we have the chance to return. Then we return again. And then we return again coming home to our essential nature until the song of our Ancient, Timeless Lineage becomes the only melody we know.
Say yes, respond to the Divine Invitation already welling up within you. There is nothing as life-changing as hearing God whisper tenderly into your ear, ‘O my dove in the clefts of the rock, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and you are lovely’ (Song of Songs.)
Upon leaving my monastery and completing seminary training my service to offer retreats, teach meditation and offer spiritual direction began. It is now 17 years that this service has been my breath, my love and my passion and for the first time I have the opportunity to share with you a trip of a lifetime. My next retreat will be to 6 of the monasteries that Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross founded in Spain. We will let them guide us through the very poetry and texts (Interior Castle, Way of Perfection, Soliloquies, poems mentioned above and more,) written in the rooms we visit. I will offer the deep, dynamic space for you to come home to yourself through meditation and talks. We will walk with them through their own dark nights and moments of illumination so that you yourself may be consoled right where you are on your own path whether it is a dark night, a time of consolation and illumination or somewhere in between.
You and I, will become spiritual friends. Our group will journey together in a way that will be much like the intimacy of my journey with my fellow Carmelites in the monastery. And we will emerge, changed and enlivened for every part of our lives!
Join me. Come away with me that we may hear the Beloved anew.
And check out: all the details of the retreat (July, 2019,) here. We have 6 spots left!
Kimberly Braun, Minister, M.A., CSP, retreat facilitator and meditation coach has been impelled from and within her contemplative experiences from the age of 5, with over ten of her years spent as a Carmelite monastic nun. Her Masters in theology was completed in 2004 in Washington D.C. at the Washington Theological Union, and her training as a spiritual director is from the highly credited Shalem Institute As a CSP and Minister, keynote presentations and inspirational sermonas are a primary tool in her personal mission to inspire others to live from the power and wisdom within them. Her style is playful, deeply inquiring, and intelligent in the synthesis of not only how to access this part of ourselves, but how to live from that place more consistently. She is also a long time retreat and workshop facilitator, TEDx speaker, meditation coach and former faculty at the renowned Omega Institute. Kimberly is a fellow seeker on the path to living freely. She has three CDs and a book available about her time as a nun, Love Calls, Insights of a former Carmelite nun.
Her international offerings are launching into the virtual world with THREE NEW online courses:‘Standing Strong AND Happy in the Storm,’ ‘Essence Meditation Made Easy,’ and an immersion course into the writings of Teresa of Avila.
In addition you can meet like hearted others in a new online spiritual community offering an ever growing meditation library, live meditation, monthly webinars, videos, articles and audio commentaries! www.essencetribe.com.
Kimberly is now available for private sessions, keynotes, and retreats. Stay in touch by visiting: www.kimberlybraun.com
Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who directs the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity