Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Silent Retreat Attempt#4

I went on a Silent Retreat on the last weekend of August. It's been 2 weeks since and I still haven't published my token "retreat" entry. I actually tried to write about it, at least 3 times already. I've had 3 different opening paragraphs from 3 separate attempts, but somehow, none of them feel like they do the experience justice. So if this entry actually made it to "Publish" status on my blog then let's all give a big woop woop to the entry that almost didn't make it!

 LD82 yo! Everyone :D

I think the retreat was such a momentous experience, it feels like I take away from the experience if I write about it wrong. So now, this this is attempt #4 and hopefully, finally get to put the experience into writing before the feeling goes away.

The Coffee Bean Revelation
I heard about Life's Directions from Lourdes when we went out for coffee one post-gym Wednesday night. We ended up in CBTL with some coffee and muffins and a few stories. At the time, my head felt noisy and crowded and I was looking for some rest away from my everyday regular. I've been looking for -- although not actively, more like waiting to stumble upon -- a retreat for quite a while. The conversation went the way of careers and vocations and finally the retreat was brought up. Later, Lour sent me the link to LD and I toyed with the idea of going.

Say hello to Nadya!

LD is a Jesuit-run program closely affiliated with the CEFAM group of the famed Kuya Clem of DZAS. All it took was for me to hear "CEFAM" and I was sold. I knew it was reputable program. Lour said it was a Catholic retreat but gave the disclaimer that the approach was more academic than religious. Since I am not Catholic, I knew I was going to just take part in the silence and not much in the religious stuff. So I thought it was good that they won't be Pentecostal-pushy on the doctrine. That was one of the big reasons why I thought this retreat was a good idea.

Almost Didn't Quite Make It
I was flip-flopping about going for a while. On the one hand, I knew I wanted to go. On the other hand, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go "now". But since the next one will be on November pa, I knew I had to go for this one. I submitted my registration first week of August and never got a reply. I just assumed (which was naive, okay and stupid) that they got it and took me as one of the 30 participants. Four days prior to Retreat Day 1, I sent an email to the Secretariat asking for bank details cos I was gonna pay. Surprise, all 30 slots reserved and paid for already!

Just when I convinced myself that I "had" to go for this batch they announce they have no room for mee! In the next email, the Secretariat (Chesa, who I later met and thought was cool. Hi, Chesa!) said someone's bound to back out. Happens in all batches so I just had to sit tight. Imagine the stress of not knowing whether I can go or not. I didn't know whether to get excited about going up to Tagaytay or you know consider shopping with my retreat money. I really don't like this kind stress thinking. But in fairness to Chesa The Secretariat, true to her word, someone did back out 2 days prior! I got an email as soon as a slot freed up, and just like that, I was Tagaytay-bound again!

Prelude to the Retreat
The days leading up to the retreat felt weird. I was excited at the prospect of finding my peace and quiet but at the same time, clueless about what to expect. Finally Friday came and I was on SLEX on my way to The Karis Retreat House. I thank the Lord for the wonderful weather which was just perfect for an early evening drive by the superhighway. The rain stopped late afternoon, the skies cleared and it felt like the heavens were giving me a hug with the perfect weather :)

The Karis Retreat House on a Saturday morning

Retreat Step 1
SLEX was friendly, the weather was cooperative, and the drive to the Retreat House was generally peaceful and uneventful -- just the way I like it. Save for the creepy stretch of side streets leading to the retreat house, I'd say I arrived in Karis unscathed and safe and happy. The drive alone gave me some time for some clearing of the head, just in time to get ready for my quiet weekend. I knew I was in for a good weekend when I was welcomed by friendly faces to the pink house.

LD82 on Sunday afternoon. Everyone refuses to leave! :p
The very first person I met was a guy in a pair of interesting shiny red shoes, smoking by the front steps of Karis. I later find out this guy to be Roland, one of the husband-and-husband team who own the house, who was unbelievably "maasikaso" and incredibly nice. I was ushered in and met with other equally friendly people, Nat, Chin and Ged, who were manning the registration. There was so much happy and warm energy I could touch it in the air. Seriously, no kidding. I really thought it was a welcome break for me from all the doom and gloom in the office. My first few moments in the retreat I thought gave me a pretty warm and welcoming first impression to the rest of my weekend.

Saturday, Silence Day
True to the promise of the silent retreat, there indeed was a rule imposed on Saturday ordering a day of silence for everyone. The day's task included sitting in listening to modules and sharer stories and taking part in silent meals. 

I loved this Pico Iyer guy, for all that wisdom on silence :)
The modules were amazing. They were incredibly insightful and most definitely gave direction to the rest of my retreat. The sharer's hands down were also a highlight of the weekend. I get a renewed sense of amazement every time for all those that took to the stage and bared their lives to a room full of strangers. I am humbled by their willingness to share their stories to us, to point out where they went wrong, and to let us know that indeed, everybody goes through something.

As for the silent meals, we literally had to sit through meals without saying anything. For each meal, our name cards are shuffled by the lunch tables, so we had to sit silence with a new set of people each meal and fight the need to socialize/ engage in small talk/ do polite pleasantries/ fight the awkwardness by engaging in awkward small talk. Oh, the struggle.

The Gift of Silence :)

At first it was such a struggle to sit in silence with a new set of strangers for every meal and "suffer" through the silence of it all. It got pretty stressful, I relied on a lot of staring up the ceiling. And then gradually it became comfortable. The silence wasn't deafening anymore. The silence became comforting.

The need to start asinine small talk slowly dissipated. The silence became a safe place of thought, introspection and the bliss of just being comfortably silent. Eventually, the need to fill in every lull of silence, every 'dead air' went away. I slowly learned to appreciate the emptiness of the moments. The 'empty' stopped being an awkward gap to be filled but slowly became a moment to enjoy.

The silence was a breakthrough.  The struggle slowly went away and was gradually replaced by ease. The silence was cleansing. The silence became bliss :)

** This entry has been 3 weeks in the making already. I'll publish the first part of the 'retreat entry' for now. I feel like if I don't, it'll end up sitting in my drafts box for a few more weeks. I'll write about the rest of the retreat experience in a separate entry :)

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