Learn to Pause. Else nothing worthwhile will catch up to you. A silent retreat.

Sediba Retreat Centre.  Silence.  A retreat in silence.  A time when you, by choice, spend the better part of a Sunday listening.  Hearing.  Feeling.  Discovering.  Praying.  With silence in your head.  And heart.  I write this during our lunch pause. 

The less than 45 minute drive from Pretoria to the Dam is easy to make.  Once up the hill in Meerhof, on a winding road surrounded by bush, you find the Centre, overlooking the beautiful dam.  During the initial 20 minute meet up and coffee session you get to say hello, make new friends, eat the scones (with a story attached) and get a feel of what lies ahead. 

The morning has 4 silent sessions of 25 minutes each.  The meditation room reminded me of those seen in a movie ... slightly elevated off the ground - wooden floor, natural lighting only, plenty of big slatted doors fully opened to allow in the sound of nature, candles, the beautiful view and the heat.  There are cushions, blankets and little neat yoga type mattresses available in abundance. You find your space somewhere around the room against the wall and settle yourself down with whatever you need.

Three gentle gongs are sounded - the first to settle yourself, the second to feel fully present and the third to start the 25 session.  After each session the gong sounds again and you walk around the room very very slowly in a circle (I battled with the slowly part) to stretch your legs and refocus your mind. You can also dash out if you have an overactive bladder.  

You can take books in, water, rosaries, verses, anything that will make your time meaningful.  Or you can just sit - without any external stimulation.

The sessions are interesting, especially to notice what happens to both your mind and your body when you have no outside distractions.  No phones, TV, novels, family, traffic.  Just you.  As a "first-timer" who is known to be lively and talkative, I was apprehensive about how I would manage, I was also apprehensive about what I would find inside myself in those quiet periods. 

The first session was the hardest.  I found myself staring at the water 90 % of the time and staring at the other people the other 10 %. The nun opposite me sat as if cast in stone for every single session.  I admire the ability to do that.  My mind raced.  All over.  Simply because in my daily life as a wife, mother, secretary it has to.  I have a teenage son at home, the school run, sport, a very busy job and boss to keep up with, my friends and family, the Repository and of course the coffee shops.  I found my thoughts consumed by my job and the people related to it.  Many questions were flying. 

For the second session I chose to lie down.  With my head on the cushion and the great quiet I started slowing my mind and had dozed off by the end.  Thank heavens for the gong. 

The third session I used for reading.  I had written a prayer for someone who I think needs it for a variety of reasons and I used the session to read and reread that prayer for them.  I hope they felt that prayer and that it meant something in their busy life.   I also concentrated on my breathing. 

The fourth session I took to alternating staring at the water and reading.  For me to dedicate my attention to one thing at a time as opposed to reading and my phone, reading and watching TV ... that was a challenge.  I admit to feeling fidgety. 

After that we strolled down the hill to another Retreat Centre and joined them for Sunday Mass.  The Priest was very different to our own and it took adjusting, however he delivered a brilliant Homily about pausing long enough to listen.  In silence.  It rained.  Beautiful moment.   Lunch is then taken in silence .... scattered all over and I write this as I eat. 

Three more sessions follow ...... I know that it will get a little easier now.  But to still and focus my thoughts will take practice according to the lovely and kind people from our parish that I went with. They gave me tips on focusing my mind and on how to deal with the racing around of thoughts that the stillness brought. 

Will I go again?  Most certainly.  Sometimes God leads us to something just when we need it most. Since I battle to pause in my everyday life, He probably decided that I needed a more than gentle nudge to find that Pause.  In silence.  I am still dealing with two issues around my car accident and in addition I am struggling to find my place in two friendships where I so desperately want to be cherished and needed. And more so to know it.  

I hope that some of my parishioner friends will consider joining me next time.  All it costs is the lunch you take along.  And one day a month. 

Be loved
Till soon
c'est la vie  xxx

Title quote Learn to Pause.  Else nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.  Courtesy of Doug King. 

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