CREDOS : Silent retreat — II

I don’t know if it was the enforced silence, the spiritual reading, or the act of confession we all made the next day in the small retreat house chapel, but I left that weekend feeling as fresh as a newborn baby — my Catholic version of being “born again.” Of course, I didn’t share my newfound state with my friends for fear of being “uncool.” But forty years later, I can still recall that sense of being cleansed, of getting a fresh start, spiritually speaking. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I began purposefully “retreating.” I began when I was practicing Vipassana meditation and continued once I found my spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.

My spiritual discipline is Centering Prayer, a contemplative practice defined, described, and developed by three Trappist monks in the 1970s. But I’ve been quite ecumenical in my retreat choices, going on retreats of varying lengths—from one to ten days—in different religious traditions including Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim. The latter was with the late Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, then-leader of the Sufi Order of the West. What I remember about that retreat is that Pir Vilayat was leading us through a guided imagery exercise, describing a spiritual encounter with various spiritual teachers and prophets of history. I remember thinking how detailed was his description, when like a thunderbolt it hit me: He was describing a place he was, in that moment, occupying. —