Feeling frazzled? Take a spiritual retreat. This does not mean visiting some swanky spa, but visiting a proper retreat, and there are lots of them around England. There are other retreats run by alternative religions, but oddly, the ‘simple living’ ones tend to be more expensive than the traditional ones.
England has many religious retreats, where nuns and monks live, often in Eastern England, as that’s where they all fled or lived, when Henry VIII decided he didn’t want to be Catholic anymore. But as religious life has steadily declined, it means that all these religious communities have beautiful large houses and peaceful grounds, but not much money to care for them. So most offer simple dorm-style accommodation (on your own) and if you help with washing up, go to prayers and walk the gardens, you get a lovely break away, for not much more than £35 to £50 a night.
The Retreat Association lists the main retreats nationwide, with links to websites, with details and prices. You can also enjoy ‘Quiet Days’, where you just turn up for rest and prayer, then go home.
If you can’t get away, then here are some books to help you take your own little home-based retreat. Sometimes just slowing down and taking time out can make all the difference, if you feel you’re falling off the edge:
- Be Not Troubled is a 6-day personal retreat based on wisdom of Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Find meditations for anyone looking to renew their trust in God, and live in the present moment. How does the modern person experience God’s presence. Find influential spiritual reflections from this beloved 18th century French Jesuit. Cherish the present moment and find a visible sign of invisible grace.
- Peace of Heart is based on the life and teachings of St Francis, the patron saint of animals, simple living and ecology. Learn the story this former good-time boy who slowed down and became so at peace, that birds would listen to him preach. The first lessons advises to ‘value wisdom over gold’.
- Set Aside Every Fear is based on the works of St Catherine of Siena, who has inspired people of faith for over 600 years. The perfect prayer companion for busy people, her close relationship to God enabled her to minister to the poor and sick more deeply.
- Let There Be Light offers a personal 30-day retreat with Hildegard of Bingen, the Benedictine who was made a saint in 2012. A preacher, teacher and healer, she was a visionary and prophet who offered complex images in her writing.
- True Serenity is ideal for anyone who feels stressed, the moment they wake up. The calming words and wisdom of Thomas Kempis is made accessible to the modern reader.
- Where Only Love Can Go explores the central mystery of who God is, and offers readers a month of contemplative prayer. With daily morning and evening devotions, this unpacks The Cloud of Unknowing for the modern spiritual seeker.
In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion. Albert Camus