Tag Archives: Reflections

Retreat Reflections

If you’ve been following along with me as I reflect upon my personal retreat as it happens, then you will most likely have noticed a change to the ‘series’ title from ‘Notes from a Writer on Retreat’ to ‘Retreat Reflections’. 

I suppose that part of the beauty of time set aside to be creative like this is that it often organically moves beyond definition. I have had personal retreats before, and as in my blog post from a few days ago about preparing your own personal retreat, these at times have varied in their central focus or purpose. Previously, I had a ‘staycation’ which was really about rest, relaxation, exploring my surroundings, taking care of myself, general creativity, and most importantly to me, my relationship with God. 

I also once had 9 days in total, including weekends, set aside specifically for writing my novel and I was able to make progress and inhabit that creative time and space for writing. I have taken time to be still in nature, and connect with God and to seek healing and meaning to certain life experiences, as well as for the purpose of rest and relaxation. Last year, I encouraged a friend to join me on retreat as we are both very creative people, both fairly quiet and reflective in nature, and also both sisters in Christ, so we had a lot of fun exploring a variety of arts, crafts, inspiring readings, picnics in the park, a musical event all of which was underpinned by the focus of exploring and strengthening our identity in Christ and as Christian women. 

For this retreat, I really wanted to set aside time specifically to write, to work on my novel, to work on a photography project I have started, and to have the chance to reflect, work through some things, rest, relax, be strengthened and more connected with what is important to me in life, so that when the time comes to ‘re-join the world’ in a couple of days, I will feel refreshed, satisfied creatively and with a better perspective going forwards. 

I am so pleased and thankful that I set a goal to write at least 3,500 words in the first day, and I feel that this discipline really enabled me to re-engage with my novel, press through to discover certain thought processes and meanings to me, and to gain some forward momentum. As I said previously, I exceeded this target and wrote 3,720 words today. And despite a bit of struggle mid-way through, I am so glad I did. 

There was a real sense of satisfaction and rest afterwards, and I was able to put the novel writing away for the evening, and enjoy a pleasant stroll by the riverside near my home. I felt reconnected by being in the gentle sun, and feeling a fresh breeze around me, and gaining a sense of God’s unfolding purpose in my life, which also came through the writing process in discovering new ways of looking at things. I enjoyed watching the sun glisten on the water, feeling the breeze upon my skin, and taking some photos, as well as admiring a swan that was nesting, in a bundle of twigs, awaiting the time for her ‘babies’ to come. A lovely older lady came to chat with me having noticed that I was admiring the swan, as she had come to feed it, and a male swan nearby, with some bread. We chatted, enjoyed the life before us, and then moved on and went our separate ways, and the gentle ebb and flow of life continued on. 

I have a sense of rest this evening, having worked hard earlier and accomplished what I set out to do for that day. I am growing in the sense of awareness of myself in this time, and the importance of letting me settle in and simply ‘be’ and inhabit the creative space as well as take time to process certain thoughts and emotions and to grow stronger and to heal. There is a line from Max Ehrman’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ that advises us to ‘enjoy our achievements as well as our plans’. This also reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, where we are told that ‘to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven’. Writing helps us to realise this, but so too does rest. 

As satisfied as I am to have given myself writing goals today, I think I am in the process of deciding not to apply the same approach tomorrow, for there is a time and a season to each day, and while today’s purpose was to work, to re-engage, to accomplish, to create, I think moving forwards, the ‘purpose’ is to slow down, to savour, to inhabit the creative moments organically as they happen and as I engage with my solitude, in the Presence of my Creator, to find them, and to really truly enjoy the process. I can tend to lose focus, so I will need some sort of accountability with myself, but I think that probably won’t be in terms of word count or time spent writing as much as to just sit and write, and to connect deeply with the process and the unfolding lessons I too am learning through the developing narrative, which are life lessons that have been forming within me for some time, that I am slowly beginning to reflect upon. 

When I think of going back to work, I am aware that there are different seasons, even between and within our days and short spans of time. Knowing that this time and space is sacred and limited before returning to my usual work schedule, which has many benefits to it in and of itself, just not so much creatively, gives me a desire to really inhabit this creative space, even if that means thinking and resting rather than producing something, for creativity is of the heart and soul and mind, and often our stories are being written within us as we journey through our lives, before we even write a word.

So tonight and tomorrow I will slow down, enjoy the solitude, and allow myself to connect, with God and with myself, within this quiet space and time, which in itself is a rare and precious gift and blessing, and will let tomorrow unfold organically and uniquely just as it should. I do want to accomplish certain things, so I will keep in mind a looser ‘goal’ simply to do and to engage with writing and with my photography project, but without any pressure, or particular expectations, and allow myself to live authentically and grow through it. 

One last thing I have reflected upon that I’d like to mention before I conclude this post is the beauty of time and space that we so often seem to have ‘snatched’ from us in the busy-ness of every day life, of other people’s expectations and demands, and of even simply being around people so much, whether that be from work, friends, family, or strangers. I have tried to work into my daily life ‘mini retreats’ whether that be a walk in the park at lunchtime, slowly enjoying a hot cup of tea, or reading one of your blog posts during my lunchbreak at work. Unfortunately, however, I am only afforded ‘snippets’ of time to do such things in the ordinary busy day to day of my life, ‘as it happens to be’. Tonight, however, I am going to take my time, to savour one or more of your blog posts, to listen and hear from the person writing, who I have never met, but for some reason who I have come in contact with through this medium, and have been granted the privilege of a glimpse and an insight into your unique world, mind and life. I apologise that I rarely have the time and space to truly savour and engage my mind and heart with from other people’s blog posts – probably like a lot of us, I am able to ponder things for a few moments before having to ‘snap back’ into the real world, most likely the office work I have to do, or the tasks I have to do at home after a day at work. Perhaps today, it will be one of your blog posts I will read…and if so, I’d like to thank you for it. I will take the time to honour and engage with the insights you have allowed to traverse through space and time and come into my world. Goodnight for now, I hope that you find stillness to enjoy the space and moments you are living in right now. 

coffee cup notebook pen
Photo by Free Photos.cc on Pexels.com

Slow down, just breathe, & live a little deeper this year… Part 1 & 2 — Life as it happens to be

It’s January 7th 2018, and I don’t know for how long it is reasonable to talk about the ‘New Year’. One thing I do know however, is that it is always a good time to reflect upon our lives, and to consider whether there are ways we can do things differently, and to look for […]

via Slow down, just breathe, & live a little deeper this year… Part 1 — Life as it happens to be

Part 2 –

And so it continues. We embark upon a new moment together. I wonder what you have wondered about since reading my earlier post (above). I left you considering that perhaps universal childhood sense of a slowness of time, that somehow evaporates as adulthood rushes us from one fleeting year to the next, sometimes causing us to crash and burn through sheer exhaustion of the many things we need to get done in such a little amount of time. 

And yet, perhaps we have more time than we think we have, as short as our lives may be. We fail to leave margins at the edges of our lives, and cram them so full that we can never keep up with ourselves. I’m not saying that as adults we should abandon our responsibilities so that we can gaze in absent minded wonder at the stars of our own imagining, but that perhaps we could…and should…be doing things a little differently, especially as we embark upon this new year. 

What if being always active and busy with our ‘to dos’ is actually counterproductive? Perhaps all of our multitasking means that we are less focused, more anxious and more prone to making mistakes and taking longer in getting things done and having to redo a task to undo our mistakes. What if unchecked we let ourselves ‘burn out’ and in fact lose far more time than all that time we were trying to save in the first place?

There is something to be said for planning and preparing and knowing our responsibilities and dreams and setting goals to achieve them. And there is also something to be said about slowing down, and taking our time in each precious moment of our often busy and hectic lives. I can all but guarantee that if you do take your time, and see the opportunities in life’s simple (sometimes perceived as ‘mundane’) happenings, then you will find more enjoyment as you move through your days. 

Maybe you can’t ‘get away from it all’, but can you get some of it away from you? Can you leave wider margins at the pages of your life as your days unfold so that you can slow down and live deeper rather than faster? Can you cut down the incessant stream of information you absorb through social media so as to be able to breathe, centre yourself and think more clearly, and perhaps spend a few more moments of your adult life enjoying the beauty of the simple things as you did as a child? Maybe instead of seeing all the chores that need to be done as a burden, you could change your perspective to gradually be able to see them as a joy? When you are present in the moment to be thankful for the ability to be able to perform such tasks, and even perhaps listen to some nice music or encouraging talks while you are doing what you are doing? I have started listening to my MP3 while vacuuming, and finding that I end up doing a more thorough job because I am enjoying myself and want to make the experience last a little longer – strange but true, I know! Or that when doing the dishes I might slow down to notice the warmth of water  and the playfulness of the foam bubbles, and might be listening to something encouraging or inspiring at the same time. You might have a busy and hectic life, but there are ways in which all of us can widen those margins in our lives, and take time not just to exist, but to LIVE. 

When thinking about your goals for this year, if you think that way in the first place, you might find that a more intentional way of living and doing the things that you otherwise would just like to get out of the way actually frees you to be more present, feel more connected with yourself and those around you, and be far more productive and efficient as you begin to learn and find new imaginative ways to enjoy the process of the everyday things of your life. 

Which in turn ultimately means that you have more ‘breathing space’ to be able to more intentionally pursue those loftier goals that you may have, and to use your time on this earth each day as wisely as you can. For I assure you there is no one else on earth like you, who can express life the way you can and with the uniqueness that you have. And perhaps someone else in this life’s journey needs to hear what you have to say, or see that smile you have to offer when you have time to notice the beauty around you which you could not offer when otherwise stressed, anxious or preoccupied. You have something so special to give each and everyday, so first give yourself that breathing space, slow down, live a little deeper, so that this year ahead you will live more fully and deeply rather than just existing or getting by. I would love to see what you have to offer the world, and to hear of your hopes, dreams, goals and plans, and wish you wisdom, love and blessing in the year to come. x

‘Travel Snaps’ ~ Serendipity ~ Evening 1 in Prague

Wednesday 16th August 2017

Welcome back. For earlier episodes in my ‘Travel Snaps’ series, to bring you up to date, just visit my previous posts by clicking on the ‘Travel’ tab in my main menu.

What is time to the traveller? Do our experiences ebb and flow, fading into a faint memory that eventually disappears as a bubble bursting on a stream? Over two months have passed since my travels, and everyday life at home has resumed. It is Sunday 29th October 2017, and I realise it has been a while since I last sat down to write my blog, and share some of my thoughts and experiences with you. Perhaps I am feeling reflective about time because the clocks went back an hour today, and for a usually rainy and wintry place, it was surprisingly sunny and summery today, with a hint of autumn in the air, and crisp golden leaves scattered on the ground. 

As I write I can hear the hum of my washing machine in the background, and I am curled up on my sofa looking at a beautiful city scape with the sky fading from blue to beige to yellow to grey as night falls. Lights from the traffic over the motorway blink incessantly as car after car blurs one into another. I wonder at my sense of anxiety and nostalgia about my experiences. Do you also ever fear forgetting? 

Musings aside, let’s return once more to the Hotel Diplomat in Prague. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as they say. The evening meal was a buffet meal. I sat with my two friends, the couple that I had met earlier on the trip, at a table for four. However, I was asked to move by the coach driver, who wanted to make place for two ladies to be able to sit with each other and nearer to their friends, so he showed me to a window table where he sat with two other girls. I had, as many others did, presumed that these two young ladies were friends, perhaps teenagers on a trip together, but it turned out that they were a very youthful looking mother and her mature looking thirteen year old daughter. 

Sometimes what might at first seem like an inconvenience and a move out of our comfort zone, such as being asked to move tables away from new friends, can turn out to be a happy little piece of serendipity on our journeys through countries and through life. The ‘girls’ turned out to be very friendly, and the ‘little one’ an inquisitive, smart and funny chatterbox, both of whom I have kept in touch with, with the daughter showing more interest in maintaining a friendship, perhaps because of being more well versed with the world of social media 🙂 

So my travels progressed from being a single, solo traveller, knowing no one on the trip, to making new friendships that I am hopeful will last long into our new, and perhaps once more, shared adventures. 

So keep an eye out friends, for the ways in which those little ‘inconveniences’ in your day may actually turn out for the best. 

 

 

‘Travel Snaps’ ~ First Glimpses of Prague

Please click on my ‘Travel’ tab in my main menu to find previous ‘episodes’ of my Travel Adventures.

The very act of traveling forces you to think about the demarcations of time, of journeys, of chapters, seasons and new beginnings. The several hours spent on the bus from Frankfurt to Prague afforded a time of ‘enforced rest’, and yet that brought with it its own sense of waiting and anticipation.

Eventually, as early evening approached, so too did the first glimpses of Prague, or at least a small part near to the Hotel Diplomat where we would be staying.

In my mind, I had imagined a city of spires, and old ornate buildings, history and bridges at every turn. These views would come the following day, however, my first glimpse of Prague outside of the main city was of long clean streets, trams, people strolling through the town and pretty houses.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words (whether or not that is true is a matter of perspective), so I hope you enjoy these pictures, and my first glimpse of Prague with me.