Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Happy Woman's Guide to a Two-Day Silent Retreat

Whenever someone asks me why I've been looking glum over the past few weeks, I would immediately respond with one of the usual lines: "Too many things going on." What could that response possibly mean? I would, perhaps, be as honest as I could be by telling the whole truth, but most people--especially those whom one would bump into at the Mid-level escalators, or at Park 'N' Shop--really DON'T want to know. I know of one busy person whose customary greeting goes, "Hi! Good!" because he automatically presumes that an acquaintance would say--and at lightning speed--"Hello! How are You?" So when, during one gloomy morning, I merely mustered a "Hello," he laughed at himself for having said "Good!" straightaway, without my asking the question.

These greetings happen in seconds. Before you know it, the person you've been talking to for a short time has passed you by, and has forgotten about having this exchange because it happens every day, the same exchange with different people.

So much for Eeyore's little introduction there.

There comes a period in a woman's life when, indeed, too many things are going on. She forgets appointments set in advance, which--because they've already been set--need no confirmation nor email. She misplaces her date-book. She forgets to make deadlines, especially self-imposed ones. She begins to lose her balance.

One day, she resolves to quit. Oh, not that she was going to relieve herself of all her responsibilities altogether. It's not like that at all. All she needed were two days away from everything and everybody. Just two days to heal her weakened body and her wearied soul.

So she spent some time here and had an exceptionally great time here. Now, she's thoroughly recharged.

The following books helped her during her silent retreat:

a. The Rule of St. Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life - an introduction to monastic life, as experienced by the Benedictine monks
b. The Little Book of Hours - a guide to allotting time for God and one's spiritual nourishment during specific times of the day
c. Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day - the order of the hours and their symbolism
d. A Retreat with St. Therese of Lisieux - a one-week retreat consisting of passages from the writings of Therese Martin and self-examination exercises.

Happy is the woman who can pace herself accordingly in this frenzied paradise called Hong Kong!

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A postscript: I decided to go on a retreat quite suddenly. It happened the evening I bought The Beatles' Let it Be. . . Naked and listened to it. It's funny how one can find wisdom through the most unexpected sources, like a rock song. Three cheers for serendipity!

The true way goes over a rope which is not stretched at any great height but just above the ground. It seems more designed to make men stumble than to be walked upon. - Franz Kafka

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