Monday, July 27, 2009

Retreats and Intentionality

I mentioned over here that I do a planning retreat every summer and that I felt somewhat ambivalent about this. I can see the good things about it, but at the same time the pattern I follow is remarkably similar to the beginning stages of acedia. Several people reassured me that they thought retreat times were valuable. That helped clarify things for me, because I realized I wasn't feeling troubled about the value of the exercise in itself, but about the way I was handling it. But the way I was handling it made me feel like the thing itself was indulgent.

Dawn, who wrote about depression and gave me some insights into some of my tendencies as well, commented on my post:

This may sound weird but I get "feeling" when I've passed the refreshment/recharging/helpful phase of something. It's similar to when I eat more of a dessert even though I'm already stuffed. I know I've passed the point of satisfaction but I figure a little more won't hurt.
This totally made sense to me. Especially, the food metaphor is one I can relate to.

After thinking a little more, I realized that the problem with the way I have been doing retreats is that I haven't been preparing properly. Once I've decided that they are worthwhile, I can set things up ahead of time so that other things don't slide.

Even though my retreats are home-bound ones, I can still plan them as if I were going somewhere, or like I would if I knew I was going to have surgery or have a baby (not perfect analogies but you get the idea).

So I'm listing a few planning ideas to remind me for next time, which will be in December if past experience is any judge. (I usually seem to retreat in early January, sometime after Easter and then again in mid-summer). Hopefully this will streamline things so that I can maintain more intentionally during these down times.

  • Plan dates of retreat ahead of time so that I can transition in and out more smoothly.
  • Plan meal schedule ahead of time and stock up on supplies.
  • Keep up morning routine (laundry, food prep, tidy, devotions and personal care)
  • Devote daily times for interacting with family.
  • Set aside things to bring out for the children to do (put away some toys ahead of time so they will have fresh ones, or inventory things in closet so I can plan to bring them out).
  • Prepare list of things they/we can do.
  • Make a short list of things to do/talk about with each family member so I maintain communication with each one according to my relationship with them.
  • Include the rest of the family in some parts of the retreat (novena, goal-setting, etc).
  • Continue to do what I did successfully this time -- sticking to a general theme and thinking about applications or resolutions related to what I learn during the retreat.

As you can see, the main ideas are to keep things running as well as possible, to make sure the family is somewhat occupied and getting regular input from me, and not isolating myself in a sort of well of thought, which I CAN do if I'm not careful!


  1. Oh, I can relate to this one! Living in the city is surprisingly isolating, even when you belong to groups, and I fight hard against the feelings that come along with being an introvert who prefers to read or stay home than attend social events.

    A retreat may be a different sort of occasion, but when I'm home for days on end, I'll make myself go out and engage in small talk, even though I dislike it, as a form of "social exercise." Of course, those times when you find a genuinely like mind are very refreshing, but they come and go.

    For acedia, I think routine (especially personal grooming) is a key component. Healthy food, too. And some kind of exercise. The nice thing about exercise is that you can ponder over your material while you're at it.

    Anyway, take this for what it's worth! If it helps, great. If not, forget it! I also liked what Dawn wrote when she made that comment a few days back.

  2. Acedia - I've never heard that term but when I followed your link I was particularly struck with the description of not following up on simple daily routines.

    Your plan sounds good.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!