Generally speaking, all my ideas are brilliant. I am not boasting - this is a fact.
Climb a mountain? Quit my job and set fire to my life without a plan of how to actually put the fire out? Dye my hair blonde? Yes, YOLO and what would Beyonce do?
I rarely regret my brilliant ideas because they are, by very definition, brilliant.
But, every now and again I find myself questioning my sanity and wondering what under heaven led me to that particular questionable life choice. A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat in my ‘cell’ in an old convent entertaining such a line of thought daily.
I was on a silent retreat based on the teachings of a long-dead Catholic Priest called St Ignatius of Loyola. I'd kept coming across books and articles referencing his teaching and he seemed to have an intriguing take on what it means to follow Jesus. So, I figured I had nothing to lose from finding out more. As for the silence, I’m a good listener and committed introvert. I so looked forward to no small talk over meals and time to hear my own thoughts. I thought the silence would be a rather giant and delicious piece of cake I’d delight in eating over the course of the seven days of the retreat.
Hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha*stops to breathe* ahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha*cries JT a river of almost hysterical tears*hahahaha hahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
O how the mighty do fall (off their chairs from laughing at their own naivety) and question their supposedly brilliant ideas.
Turns out, it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But it was so worth it. I will spend the next days/weeks/years pondering the many things I learned and the many new questions raised. I am so thankful my sanity took a backseat and let my curiosity drive us outside of my comfort zone.
Disclaimer: It wasn’t complete complete silence. For about 30 minutes every day I met with a spiritual companion who, lucky for them, got to listen to all of my rambling and helped me make sense of it. This 30 minutes was life saving. Also, we had two hours of teaching each day. And Mass. And prayers. And so we heard people talking, we occasionally contributed and we sang. But most of the day we didn’t speak, not even over meals – which could have been incredibly awkward but I ditched awkward a few years ago and life has been exponentially better since.
Silence. No phone, no internet, no TV and no radio. And yet you hear everything else – birdsong, doors closing, doors opening, mud squelching, cutlery scraping plates, wind, waves and rain.
Things I missed:
Laughing. Surprisingly, I missed this the most. Sure, there were small things that raised a smile but not much to make you actually LOL. Not laughing was sad and painful and isolating. Apparently, I dearly love to laugh.
Being called by name. As the poet once said, what is in a name? Being known.
A week of Winter Olympics - whats not to love about an international platform for sports you didn't even know existed?
(Things I conveniently avoided: my sister's Birthday; Valentine's Day)
It wasn’t just the silence that was tough. The teaching raised some challenging questions that couldn't just be glossed over. Ignatius was all in:
Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will – all that I have and possess. You Lord have given all that to me. I now give it back to you O Lord. All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with your grace, for that is enough for me.