'Thought for the day'
by Fiona Hollow for BBC Radio Scotland (Broadcast on 21 November 2019)
On Monday I experienced a bit of a crash-landing, having been out of the loop with the main headlines and prominent news stories. This was largely down to me taking time last week to go away on a four-day silent retreat. I travelled to rural Wales where I stayed at a retreat centre to focus on prayer and quiet. During my time there I walked, painted, prayed and was completely switched off from the world.
I definitely found it really hard. The first day, in particular, I was restless and my mind was whirring with thoughts and ideas. But, as I leaned into the silence over the course of the week, I found it easier to enjoy being quiet and still. Every day had its ups and downs, highs and lows. There were moments of profound delight that were then paired with moments of deep discomfort. All in all, however, I experienced refreshment and felt as though I came to understand Jesus and myself a bit better.
At the end of the four days I was able to finally chat with fellow participants out loud which was such an enjoyable experience. One conversation really intrigued me. The retreatant spoke to me about needing to get away from Brexit and anxiety-inducing news headlines. For him, the retreat had been a safe haven from difficult topics.
It got me thinking about the state of our current world and how it makes us feel. We seem to endure lots of news cycles that cause us deep anxiety, worry and distress. Many of us are addicted to listening to the noise as we wrestle with politics, climate change, scandals and other challenging issues.
I don’t believe there is a quick antidote to all this. But our bodies and minds deserve rest. I am not suggesting that we all go on four-day silent retreats. But, perhaps, there is something to be said about taking breaks and learning the skill of silence. For in these moments, we may find peace, openness and refreshment.