Have you ever gone on a spiritual retreat alone?
Participating in a retreat as a stranger, let alone going solo, may seem like a boring experience but for me, it felt perfect.
Most of the meaningful spiritual breaks I’ve had was either spent alone or with a bunch of strangers.
I’ve gone on two retreats organized by communities I wasn’t part of. The most recent of which is a silent Lenten retreat held in Tagaytay last weekend. On both occasions, I appreciated the opportunity of worshiping God with others yet maintaining a healthy distance so as not to invite distractions. As a stranger, I can afford to be distant from others and to focus my thoughts in prayer.
Sadly, I don’t get this conducive environment when I go on retreat with people I know. We always end up chatting or “bonding” so much so that the retreat becomes an outing. I’m not anti-social but I realize that since we rarely go on retreats, we might as well focus on what we really came there for: to meditate and to spend quality time with God. And besides, I’d eventually get to make some new friends with the strangers I meet.
I also went on an unguided solo retreat years ago when I felt like I needed it. I chose to spend it in a retreat facility in Nasugbu, Batangas where I dream of being wed. The scenic place and natural beauty of the place helped me appreciate God’s creations, even the problems that plagued me at that time.
What I appreciate in this setting is the fact that no retreat master will dictate how your day will go. I can spend as much time in the Chapel as I’d like or wander around the place to appreciate the peaceful environment that easily invites me to reflect.
I also like it that on both occasions, I could confess to priests that I hardly know. There’s nothing shameful about confessing one’s sins but I’m more comfortable opening up to a complete stranger. Since we both don’t know each other, I don’t feel any reservations in admitting my flaws.
I can also cry all I want in an environment where nobody is familiar with me. Being the crybaby that I am, I easily cry when I am moved by a Gospel passage or the lyrics of a worship song and I can easily give in to my emotions unlike when I’m with people I know. Otherwise, I’d invite curious looks or, worse, even gossip.
This Lent, I encourage you to try and go to a retreat on your own. It may be foreign idea to you but it’s worth a try. Besides, the very meaning of retreat is to step away from your normal setting.
Spending time alone with God could just afford you a genuine retreat experience.