Preparation for your retreat

You will see from the brief overview of our day, that seven hours has been set aside for you to spend with me at Mountain Ash Farm.  

But the retreat actuallybegins the evening before, on your own time.  

Try to lay aside Wednesday evening as best you can to take care of any details that will distract from your day of contemplation and rest. 

Come as lightly as you can, attending to any of your particular needs 

so as to avoid fretting once you are here.  

  Except for emergency contact, please allow your day to be disconnected

 from the technology that ties us to the outside world. 

As much as possible, spend the evening of preparation in quietness.

Wear comfortable clothes - it is a day for you to relax.

 Weather in the country can be changeable  

and the cold weather approaches, so bring an extra sweater

and comfortable footwear for country walking.

 You may consider bringing a journal or notebook.  

But leave behind all reading books, cell phones, lists and agendas of all kinds.  

This is a day for your own pleasure - a day to wonder and wander, to absorb new thought and to find yourself refreshed by the simple act of being.

Take time to consider the writing I have included on the third page. 

Bring your open heart.  

Your precious self is what is most needed.

shape of the day

Arrive, settle, Light Breakfast

9:00 - 10:00

Sabbath Keeping

10:00 - 10:30

Morning: Division of Dutie

11:00 - 11:30

Evening: The Examen

12:00 - 12:30

Lunch, Rest, Wander

12:30 - 2:00

In the Moment Recollection

2:00 - 2:30

Spiritual Direction, Retreats

Resistance as Mysticism

3:00 - 3:30

Afternoon Tea, Departure

3:30 - 4:30

We will be following this pattern: 20 minutes teaching, 10 minutes of inquiry, followed by a half hour to reflect quietly and separately. We will gather in a large comfortable room for the teaching. There are endless individual places inside and outside the farm to sit, reflect and journal. Except for the morning breakfast, afternoon tea, and periods of inquiry, we will be practicing noble silence.

Noble Silence

Between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. we will be observing ‘noble silence.’  This is a restful gift, allowing you to turn inwards and more fully absorb what is being taught.  I will be speaking, of course, and you may ask me questions directly, but there is no cross conversation among yourselves during this time. 

 If you have not practiced this discipline before, 

you may find it challenging in the beginning.  

We are social creatures and the need for communication is natural. 

 But you will come to see the restorative value of compassionate silence. 

 I will speak more on this matter when we begin.  But as we gather before hand and settle, be mindful to leave behind social chatter and instead 

attend to the natural companionship of our gathered group 

and the beauty of the world surrounding us.  

Look into the face of the one before you. It is divine. 

Listen to your heartbeat.  It will tell you all you need to know.

Two WRitings to Ponder in PreparatioN

The term spiritual discipline has a particular meaning in contemplative practice that refers to the opening of one’s spirit to the working of God, or the placing of oneself in the way of grace,  as an unmerited gift of spiritual understanding.  Henri Nouwen writes: 

“In the spiritual life, the word discipline means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’ Disciplines are practiced in order to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.  Discipline means that somewhere you are not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you had not planned or counted on.”

Discipline, then, is not a punitive affair. In Christianity it involves a renewed understanding of the authority of Christ, motivated by a desire for a deeper understanding of the love of his way and a desire to respond to the needs of others.

Ultimately, the purpose of practicing certain spiritual disciplines is to improve our ‘sight’, that is to begin to see past the misconceptions presented by our culture, to another reality which may include the five senses, but is beyond them. Richard Rohr, writes that “all spiritual disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be present. These disciplines exist so that we can see what is, see who we are, and see what is happening. On the contrary, our mass cultural trance is like scales over our eyes. We see only with the material eye.” 

It should be noted, however, that though the development of various disciplines is of vital importance, as Thomas Merton wisely cautions, the inner life cannot be summoned into existence by mere discipline, nor tricked into revealing its wisdom and direction by our adherence to a certain process. What spiritual practices can do, Merton suggests, “is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart, and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some shy, unpredictable manifestations of his (its) presence.” 

Spiritual disciplines may be likened to tools that are used gently and reverently, in the loosening of the soil around our often impacted, intransigent thinking, in the hope that we will begin to live, as Tilden Edwards encourages, with ‘the mind in the heart’. From here new sight and new growth emerge. 
— spiritual discipline, Candice Bist
Contemplation is an art form requiring an opening of the senses to that beyond what we immediately perceive in any given situation.  Like all the arts - music, literature, painting - it co creates with a source beyond what is humanly known, blending inspiration with the skills and gifts of the one who is able to perceive the yet unimagined. 

Contemplation is a discipline of the highest order, requiring the resistance to follow conventional modes of doing and thinking, and instead steep oneself in the otherness that in the Judeo Christian tradition we have named God, but may also be spoken of as the sacredness of life. 

There is a movement to contemplation that is not self propelled, but rather moves from the circumstances and relationships, or potential relationships, that are presented.  

The art of contemplation surrenders any primordial claim on outcome.  

Time takes on a dimension not ordered by the human clock. 

The creative process involved does not take place in the sole sanctity of the human mind, but results from a lining up of the heart of the human with the heartbeat of creation itself.  

True contemplation requires patience, endurance and tenacity.  

In its practice of attentiveness, its experience of a fuller reality, and its encounter with the divine Other, this spiritual discipline of compassionate waiting gives new sight to standard perceptions, training the mind and eye to resist the known in order to attend upon the unknown. 

Compassionate action is its inevitable outcome.

A devotion to peace is its natural heir.

In a world embattled by violence in all forms and pressed to move at lightening speed to feed the mechanisms of avarice which are driving life forward, a focus on the art and discipline of contemplation is a revolutionary act. 

 It works alongside our daily routines of work and worry and though it is particularly crucial in times of stress, violence and despair, it is also the midwife of deep joyfulness and contentment.

Thomas Merton, who was a contemplative of particular artistry, called this intentional way of being“the highest expression of intellectual and spiritual life... life itself, fully awake, fully aware that it is alive...a spiritual wonder.”

We need to develop both the art and discipline of contemplation not as a place of escape, but as a method of providing a grounded place to begin all dialogues with the intention of peace and creative problem solving. 

It is my hope and prayer, that our day together will instill within each of you a way of regardingyourselves and the world that is attentive to the creative spirit.  And too, that the day will be refreshing and joyful, a respite in your busy lives, atime for reflection and gentleness of spirit.

May grace abide.
— Contemplation, Candice Bist