blog Kirtan Prayer

ReTreat Yourself!

Elizabeth is a communications consultant who is active with her Episcopal Church here in Washington, DC. She also loves kirtan, the call and response chanting of the many holy names of God in our Bhakti tradition.  Actually, the Biblical instruction to make a joyful noise unto the Lord transcends all religious boundaries. Here’s what Elizabeth has to say about her multicultural experience on retreat. ~ All the best, Rukmini Walker

I might be a retreat junkie. I’ve been on two already this summer. At home, my prayer life is at best irregular. Getting some time away from distraction, to read and learn and reflect, is sustenance.

In June, I attended a women’s retreat at Shrine Mont, which belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The vibe there is part summer camp, part genteel old resort, with rocking chair-filled porches and honeysuckle vines everywhere. The brilliant author/professor/priest Lauren Winner gave engaging talks throughout the weekend on by her latest work, “Wearing God.” In the weeks since, I’ve thought often of Winner’s illuminating exploration of the wealth of figurative language in the Bible, and of fellow retreatants who’ve been coming to Shrine Mont for decades.

A few weeks later, I joined my yoga teacher and some other students from her studio at a Hare Krishna ashram in West Virginia.

I’ve long admired the Krishna devotees’ full-hearted and full-throated worship, and as I rode the rise and fall of the energy in the temple, I felt Christ’s presence, even there. I participated in maybe one-third of the 24 nonstop hours of chanting, but sleeping in a room just off the temple I couldn’t help absorbing many more. On the way home, I stopped at Sheetz for gas and coffee, and could have sworn I heard the Krishna mantra playing on the mini-mart sound system.

Neither of these retreats was silent (the Krishna one was quite the opposite), but I do love a good silent weekend. It’s sort of a relief not to have to make small talk with strangers, letting your soul decide for itself what it wants to do through meals and strolls and journaling. One of the best places to try that is Holy Cross Monastery on the Hudson River in New York.

You don’t even have to leave town for a retreat! Twice, I’ve done the “Retreats in Daily Life” organized by Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Georgetown. Over a week, you engage in daily Ignatian-style reflections on assigned Scripture passages, and meet with a spiritual director. Both times I’ve been surprised by insights into my spiritual identity.

If you haven’t gone on retreat, think about trying it. And if you have, I want to hear about it!

Elizabeth Terry is a communications consultant based in Washington, DC. She is a parishioner at All Souls Episcopal Church in Washington.