A year ago, when I told those close to me that I was going on a personal retreat to experience several days in solitude and silence, I encountered mixed reactions. Some were concerned that something was wrong, some thought it was such a great idea they wanted to go with me (uh...what part of solitude is confusing?), some expressed a bit of envy. To the envious, I asked why they didn't do it? Oh, there were many reason why they couldn't in spite of the wistful look in their eyes that told me they needed it - badly.
A primary excuse was time. I get that. I really do. Every day of my life seems to be a battle against the clock with pressing deadlines and an endless to do list. I work long days on the job and two hours of my day is spent commuting. Somewhere in there, I have to sleep, eat, take care of a home, tend to my relationships and everything else that comes with living a "full" life. Oh, and I have this little photography (obsession) blog, which not only requires writing, but photographing things.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have now been on five retreats in the last year. One time was all I needed to know that taking time for intentional rest and reflection was as important to my well-being as getting food and sleep. As with sleep and food, we can eek by on less than optimal portions or quality, but our bodies (and our spirits) will eventually suffer for it.
And so on that mountain top a year ago, I committed to a series of four more retreats - one in each season of the year to come. Life was moving way too fast, and I thought perhaps a few virtual speed bumps would slow things down just enough to feel a bit more in control of the vehicle as I careened down life's highway.
I can honestly say that this has been one of THE busiest years of my life. As each time of retreat approached, I seriously considered skipping it. Overwhelming doesn't begin to describe the tasks that were before me at work and at home this past year, and yet I took the time out as I promised myself I would.
Of all the gifts these periods of retreat have given me, the area of my life that seems to have changed the most is the amount of time I'm devoting to photography. On my first retreat, I took a just few pictures on my last day there and with each subsequent visit I took more and worked with them more. As the year progressed I also began to take more and more photos during the interim. My interest (obsession) with photography exploded between August and October of this year and thus this blog was born.
Let's just add one more thing to the already crowded schedule, right?
But, that's just it. The well known proponent of solitude and silence as spiritual practice, Thomas Merton, explained this best when he connected productivity with solitude, "it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.”
It is true. Not only did I make time for my retreat in terms of prioritizing it, but going on retreat had the net effect of creating time in my life. I couldn't have imagined a year ago how much time I would be able to devote to my photography. If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have told you I would love to pursue my it more seriously, but I just didn't have the time.
Turns out I do.
Life didn't get less busy, and all my problems and concerns didn't miraculously resolve in the course of a year. Life is more busy in some ways, but it is a better kind of busy - a fulfilling, rich, textured kind of busy that makes the harder parts easier to bear and the beautiful parts lovlier still.
Today's images are a few shots of the outside of the converted sacristy where I stay while on retreat. There is an altar on one side that faces what used to be the nun's garden. I'm linking up today with Lisa Gordon's Creative Exchange