In March 1997, the year after my teacher died, I stayed at our hermitage in the mountains of Northern California. I’m glad I made the time to reflect on her passing and benefited greatly from the opportunity to concentrate on just sitting. Her death, like any death, brought about profound changes for those remaining. The retreat time helped me to adjust and redirect, it was however a testing time both spiritually and physically. Being out in the woods on my own dealing with the complexities of running a generator and ‘fetching’ the water from a distant hillside via a garden hose, not to mention the wild life, all contributed towards an interesting time! I remember particularly the day I caged a small mouse and walked three miles to liberate it so it might live, but not return? Being on retreat in such conditions is not all one might imagine, the stress of simple survival and the fear of not doing so can occupy a mind. Yes and it is sometimes ‘good’ to retreat in solitude, to be with oneself and ‘be’, especially when life changing events are calling for some reflection.
Yesterday during a conversation I remembered how I’d come out of my first retreat, in Wales as it happens, knowing I could live with myself. Not a small realization which comes in handy when sitting in stationary traffic on the M25 for unending hours. Of course knowing this is not dependent on camping out on a mountain side in bear infested woods, but it does press the issue, as does being stationary on the M25.
For those of you who have a yen to retreat alone Solitary Spiritual Retreat Facilities is a good first stop. Or if closer to home, your back garden for example, is all you can manage Shedworking is an absolute must. Or if you are bonkers about sheds anyway do take a look, but be warned reading about sheds is addictive. I was particularly pleased to see outhouses have been included on this site.