Have you ever thought of planning a retreat? Most people plan vacations but only a few plan retreats. What exactly is a retreat? A retreat is an opportunity to step back from the busyness of life and spend some time intentionally reflecting on your life. Our lives are so busy we don’t realize how busy they are. I’m a huge believer in planning time to retreat – literally to step back out of life. This time is so important to allow us the opportunity to see what is important, set new priorities, allow ourselves to connect more deeply and to renew our energy.
A retreat does not have to be a long, expensive endeavor. It can be a few hours where you turn off all weapons of mass distraction (cell phones, ipods, TV, computers etc.) and sit quietly in your own backyard or take a walk through a local park. The advantage to planning one a little further away is that leaving our environment can give us new perspective while remaining in the environment can leave us open to the temptation of returning to the many tasks and chores.
Some people like to plan to read specific books or consider specific questions. This can be helpful, however, be careful not to over-plan your retreat otherwise it just becomes another time and place where you have planned to do a lot of things.
You may also wish to give consideration to what kind of a facility would encourage good self-care and opportunities for reflection? Some facilities are rustic, which tends to make them more affordable. Some give a deeper sense of appreciation of nature while others offer more amenities. If you find you are able to reflect better when you are in motion, then choose a place that has opportunities for exercise. Consider how far you want to travel, type of accommodation and meals offered. Some facilities offer complete silence while others offer programs on a variety of topics. Do you find it more meaningful to go alone or would it be more enjoyable to have some friends along?
It is easy to say we don’t have time but over the years I’ve found a retreat is an investment in time. By stepping back once in a while, I see more clearly what is important and am better able to set priorities. Upon my return, I have more energy and focus. If planning some time away seems overwhelming, start small. Plan to retreat from the world for one hour. You may find that once your spirit begins to be nourished the desire for retreat time will grow.
I’m hoping to start a retreat revolution. Plan a short retreat and send a comment to let the rest of the readers know what you did and how it went!
One of the questions that often comes up in Spiritual Care is “How can I forgive?” Everyone will face the challenge of trying to forgive someone who has hurt them in some way. If they have intentionally hurt us, it can make the challenge even harder. The first question I often ask is “What makes you think that you haven’t forgiven?” The usual answer involves naming a bunch of strong (not negative) emotions such as anger, frustration, desire for revenge, hurt, jealousy etc.
Unfortunately much of the material that has been written on forgiveness defines it as a mental state of release or peace and when someone hasn’t experienced that, they often feel defeated and frustrated and even more so if they come from a religious tradition that defines forgiving as imperative. This adds guilt and failure to the pile of emotions. Usually this sends self-esteem spiralling down! Ironically, many people find themselves in a place where they feel that they need to forgive themselves for not forgiving someone else. This can lead to feelings of being victimized a second time.
People are surprised when I tell them I think they have already forgiven the person. In their daily life they have chosen to go on living in a way where they choose actions every day that promote their own health and healing and often the health and healing of others around them. Forgiving is nothing more than the choices we make each and every day to live as well as we can and not take any actions of retaliation or revenge.
While forgiving may involve a feeling of peace and wellbeing or release, the reality is that you might still be experiencing strong emotions for a long time and sometimes just when you think that you have moved on, something will come along and trigger those emotions all over again, leaving you frustrated all over again. Forgiving is hard work and rarely achieved in a magical moment. Here are some things that might help you to work through some of those difficult emotions.
Befriend your emotions. They are telling you something. They are pointing to areas of your life that you might need to attend to, areas that might need healing. Journal what you are feeling. Be honest.
Find an expression for them. Express those emotions through art. Consider taking an exercise program specifically with the goal of releasing the pent up energy that is stored within you.
Practice meditation. The hardest part of forgiving is trying not to obsess over the situation. People can find this practice discouraging but like any other skill, it takes some time and practice to learn.
Find a ritual that speaks to you. On one occasion, I went to the dollar store and purchased glass cups for victims of crime to shatter in a parking lot (and cleaned up the mess). For others, it might be the daily lighting of a candle and remembering of those that bring light to your life.
Choose a good deed instead of revenge. Living well is truly the best revenge. When you are tempted to call someone and give them a piece of your mind, call a lonely senior instead. Try making some of the great recipes on this blog and sharing them! Then you can give yourself two pats on the back. One for forgiving and the other for doing a good deed.
Remember that forgiving and reconciliation are two separate processes. You may forgive someone but that does not necessarily mean that you will allow them back into your life. In fact, it may be dangerous to do this.
Tell yourself often all of the ways that you have forgiven that person and give yourself a pat on the back. This breaks the cycle of helplessness when we feel we haven’t forgiven someone and are feeling discouraged. Sometimes talking about what has hurt us and exploring our feelings can take away some of the fuel from the fires of anger, frustration, hurt and desire for revenge. Consider accessing some professional help for even a session or two.
As a Spiritual Care Professional, I meet many people in the hospital who are suffering from an injury that is caused by someone. If they suffered a broken leg and forgave the person who hurt them on the first day of their injury, we wouldn’t expect the leg to heal any quicker because they forgave the person. They would still need the same surgeries, pain medication and therapy. Similarly, when we have been emotionally or spiritually injured, we may forgive the person, however there is still work to do to move towards recovery. Be gentle with yourself as you undertake this difficult journey. If we can be of help, you can find a Spiritual Care Professional through locating.
My name is Moe Anderson and I work as a Spiritual Care Professional at UHN. When I started here I received the Wellness Newsletter and enjoyed all of the articles. I suggested that perhaps we might consider putting articles into the newsletter about spiritual wellness and practices that promote spiritual wellbeing. I was beyond thrilled when they accepted my offer and are also allowing me to blog. So my first blog is answering the questions “What is Spirituality?” Spirituality is that part of our life that helps us to make meaning. It is that place where we connect deeply with ourselves and others. While it can include religious practices, it can also be found in many activities and creative expressions. So much of life is spiritual if we have eyes to see it. Our spiritual wellbeing has the power to influence our mental, physical, emotional and intellectual well-being so it is important to be attentive to our spiritual lives and I hope that the blogs over the coming weeks will give you food for thought, some new ways of living and promote spirituality.
In her poem “Birdsong” Rumi writes, “Please universal soul, practice some song or something through me!” I hope that as I have the opportunity to live out my dream of writing that I will open the path for you to connect to something that has deep value for you and you will find new places of meaning and hope in your lives.
Many staff are not aware that Spiritual Care is available for you too! If you would like to speak with a Spiritual Care Professional, check to see if one is assigned to your area. If not, you can contact us through paging. We are available 7 days of the week from 0830-2300hrs.