Life Lesson:
Keeping the Peace

Red Bar
Sugar Blues
Keep It!
Best Lesson

  • Friendly
  • Comfortable
  • Restful
  • Deep
  • Confronting
  • Puzzling
  • Clarifying
  • Healing
  • Necessary
Woman Relaxing

Who would have thought that "a bundle of energy" person like me could slow down and be quiet for even a few hours? Who would even want to do that! After my first structured, Silent Retreat I discovered that I really enjoy a good, long period of silence. It's like fresh air in my soul. It's a deep sigh that has been waiting a long time to be heard.

The Big Question
Here it is: How in the world could I carve out time for it far away from the peace and quiet of the retreat house? I had a husband and a couple of kids at home. Clearly, this would mean a big life-style change. Catholics would understand. Episcopalians would understand. But Presbyterians like me? This was foreign territory.

The most
    difficult part
         to do it.
Mustering up my courage, I made a date with myself for each and every Thursday. It was difficult to say "no" to friends and family without feeling guilty. No easy feat! I made the decision and stuck to it.

The phone was off the hook (too bad, telephone company!) and friends were asked not to call or drop by on Thursdays. Peace and quiet reigned from the time my children left for school until they returned. It was awkward at first, as I have been programmed to be doing something all the time. All during the previous week, I had worked hard getting all my chores completed before Thursday. This was a big help in making my Quiet Day guilt free. The only guidelines I gave myself were:
 To cut all visual and verbal communications with others

 To remove all pressure "to have to do something"

"Shutting the mouth" (as they told us at that first silent retreat) really slowed me down. I found myself walking softly and slowly. My movements became smooth and fluid. I was on my way and at home in my own heart.

In the days that followed, friends began to ask questions about my Quiet Days. "What in the world do you do all day long!?!" I answered their questions and invited them to join me the first Thursday of each month. Thus began the first of our many "Quiet Days." together.

Our First Quiet Day Together
The "Quiet Day" sign was on the door. (Yes, you have the right day, walk on in.)

The ground rules had been explained before they came: Come in and make yourself at home. Coffee and tea are waiting for you in the kitchen. Walk around inside the house, peek in every nook and cranny and find youself a snug spot to settle down for a spell. All were encouraged to come and go at their own pleasure. This was not an endurance contest.

A Little Awkward at First
At noon we began to find our way to the kitchen, (still not talking - how different this seemed to many), and with smiles and gentle understanding, we quartered all the lunches and placed the food on the diningroom table.

We giggled (silently of course) as we accustomed ourselves to eating together in a new way. We peeked at each other to see how we were all handling this new silence. Soon we settled back and gave in to the joy of just being together at a common task. To ease the tension and give a common goal to concentrate upon, I read to them for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Girl by Tree As people finished eating, one by one some got up and moved to another spot, some remained at the table. Some retired to a bedroom and stretched out on a bed. Some moved to the fireplace and curled up before the fire. This was their time to do whatever they wanted. Sometimes, the task at hand was to get in touch with what you wanted. No one was there to tell you what to do. What a change!

There was something delicious about having a quiet day with friends. We discovered how nice it was to sit together on the same sofa or in a near-by chair and not have to talk. We learned to enjoy each other's presence in a different way. Faces relaxed, deep sighs were heard, and people began to be at home in their hearts.

Finally We Can Talk!
At 3 pm, the quiet part of the day was over. We gathered in the family room and chatted with one another. It was fun to hear their reactions, observations, insight, and wisdom. Some surprised themselves saying they wanted to come back next month!

Retreat Resources
Companions on the Inner Way Conference
San Francisco Theological Seminary holds their annual; 5 ½-day retreat at Sierra Madre, California.

The retreat will be led by The Reverend Howard Rice, Professor Emeritus. For more information call Ann Pope, 415-258-6583.

Women at the Well, Menlo Park, California
933 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park.
Drop in for a mini-retreat of your own. Enjoy the quiet of the resource room or the freshly landscaped backyard. Self-guided retreats are available or bring your own book or journal.

Call the Center 650-328-8966 for information or a Retreat Brochure or email:

Call the Center 650-328-8966 for information or a Retreat Brochure.

St. Columba's Episcopal Church and Retreat House, Inverness, California
Group and individual retreats. For a schedule of group retreats or making a reservation for your own personal retreat ($20 per night), call Janet West at St. Columba's, (415) 669-1039.

San Damiano Retreat, Danville, California
For a schedule of retreats call (925) 837-9141.

Mercy Center, Burlingame, California
For a schedule of retreats call (415) 340-7474.

Hesed Community, 3745 Elston Avenue, Oakland, California
For a schedule of retreats call Sister Barbara, (510) 482-8769,

If you know of some special places to have a silent retreat, will you please share them with us? We'll add them to our list on this page. Drop me a line:

Lessons learned the hard way:


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Joanne Rae Meads Ball
August 20, 2001

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