NFL Quarterback, Aaron Rogers, decided to turn out the lights this week. Not forever, just for a few days. He’s taking a total darkness retreat to decide if he wants to continue playing football for the Green Bay Packers, for another team, or retire from the game altogether. To him, it’s a very important decision and one that requires some deep thinking.
Rogers will spend 3-4 days in darkness considering his future. He was interviewed just before the Super Bowl and said, “I’ve got a pretty cool opportunity to do a little self-reflection in some isolation, and then after that I feel like I’ll be a lot closer to a final, final decision”.
I’ve written before about the importance of taking time away from the busyness of life regularly to refocus and plan. Most of my suggestions are a bit less intimidating than what Rogers or my friend and speaking colleague Eileen McDargh does. She writes:
“For over 20 years, I have taken myself away on a 3-day silent retreat. Silence is the operative word. No talking. No group gatherings. And NO cell phone. Now more than ever, we are bombarded by noise and chatter that demands our attention. I use these retreats as a way to just be still, to reflect, to read, to write, meditate and yes, pray. Some years I’ve actually come back with a draft for a new book. And other years, Walt Whitman’s words ring true, ‘I loaf and invite my soul along.’ Going away is essential. Otherwise, the demands of everything from grocery shopping to housework intrude.”
My friend Joy is also a veteran of retreats. She is a homeschooling mother of seven children and maintains a very busy schedule. One of her recent retreats was also a silent retreat. She wrote:
“I’ve done lots of retreats, the silent one was at a Benedictine monastery. The biggest takeaway I remember is to give enough time to calm your body/soul/spirit. I can be high energy and my thoughts can be going 90 to nothing, so it takes time to calm down and settle into silence and waiting expectantly.”
For Joy, it’s mainly a spiritual experience and requires managing expectations. Below are some questions she pondered:
What if God just wants my company on a quiet walk?
Am I okay if I don’t have a profound revelation?
Will it be worth it if I come away from it just knowing I am loved?
Can I just read the Bible and be still and that be enough?
What is it I need from this time away?
If you are faced with a really big decision, you might consider taking time to think deeply. Sometimes a simple walk is all I need to help make a quick decision or get inspiration but going away to nature for an extended period speaks to my soul.
My speaking colleague Joy Rains leads groups through labyrinth walking. She says, “All someone needs to do is walk the labyrinth’s narrow path. Since the ‘left brain’ is engaged with staying on the path, the ‘right brain’ is freed up to access insight that may not have been available otherwise.”
You don’t have to be an NFL quarterback, a speaker and author, or even a busy mother of seven kids to benefit from a retreat – or advance as I like to call it. Whether in darkness, in silence, a labyrinth walk, or just in nature, find a way to break away from your normal routine to rest, refocus, and ready yourself for the future.