Brian Draper is a writer, journalist, retreat leader (and more!) who helps people from all faiths and none to see the world from a creative and engaging spiritual perspective. Read on and download the audio file to join Brian from wherever you can for this immersive and soulful retreat, created for National Retreat Week – renew:all.
Renewal of mind, body and spirit
‘And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’
The German economist EF Schumacher once said that ‘an ounce of experience is worth far more than a ton of theory’. And I find that to be so true, when it comes to retreating.
You may have an afternoon – or a whole day! – in which to ‘be still and know that I am God’. But, equally, just one intentional pause for breath within the course of a hectic morning can return you to your Creator, if you’re willing to take it. To create a small oasis.
Pause, for a few moments.
Relax your shoulders.
Breathe, slowly and deeply.
At times like this, I find that my restless mind finds rest; and a space opens up, in which I can be present, again, to the Presence that was here all along, waiting.
The secret with a retreat, I find, is not to try to get something from it, or from God within it. Instead, try to bring yourself with humility to the space. Approach with reverence, in the spirit of loving reconnection.
Renewal of body, mind and spirit tends, I have found, to follow; sometimes you sense it there and then, sometimes it’s in the days and weeks to come, as we find ourselves back in a richer flow with the way God has created us to be.
I love how, in the Genesis story, God takes the dust and makes a person (body) and then breathes life (spirit) into it.
This tells me our spirituality is intrinsically related to our physicality – and where the two meet, in this story, something more is formed – a “living soul”, as the Bible calls it. The Hebrew word for soul is “nephesh”, which describes ‘the whole of our being’.
Soul is earthed, then, as well as transcendent – and maybe that’s why the risen Christ, for example, cooks fish on a charcoal fire for his disciples, on the beach, at sun rise, after his resurrection.
Restoration and renewal come through the smell and the crackle of the fire, the lapping of the water, the taste of the fish, the presence of God. There exists such a divinely generous meeting space at the heart of life; a life in God’s kingdom which is not about escape but embrace.
Perhaps that’s why it can be especially restorative to step outside into God’s Creation – for we are part of God’s Creation, too.
As we breathe the air, or feel the ground beneath our feet, or rest beneath a tree, or walk by a river, or simply pause to notice a flower growing through a crack in the pavement (what tenacity!), we recover something of the wholeness of who we are, and who we were created to be – for we become part of the whole, once more.
So I’ve created a mini-retreat for you to try in the open air – either by taking the short set of written reflections out with you, or by listening to them as an audio file. (And if you can’t get outside, please just look through a window, or use your imagination.) I really hope you enjoy it.
Let’s remember, a retreat is not just about our own, renewal, either. As we come to the well-spring to draw deeply from the Source of all life and love, such life and love will overflow us, if we invite it, to the world around us.
In this way, we participate actively, willingly, in the renewal of all things in Christ. And all it takes, to start with, is one simple breath.