Rest well, eat well, exercise in silent retreat

Myself: I am here because I am worn out and tired. I also find I am not drawing as much life from scripture as before. What is going on?

Fr David: Yes sometimes people find it difficult to pray well simply because they are exhausted. It is possible that this may be the reason scripture meditation is not as life-giving as before. You are a Singaporean and you are a very busy stressed up people. Furthermore, you are Chinese.

Myself: Ha ha (laughter). I still have some pain in my heel. Gout.

Fr David:  Oh that’s terrible. I had that too. There are three things important to health: 1) Prayer as a relationship with God, 2) Resting well. When we rest well we are better able to pray well and move closer to God. 3) Exercise. Exercise the mind and well as the body.

Take a good rest. Rest as much as you want. Be present with the silence. Enjoy the quiet. Go out to the open air, to nature. Maybe go to the Chiangmai University lake or the waterfall. Walk the labyrinth and the garden,

I love Ignatian spirituality. It is holistic: spirit, mind, emotions and body are all important. It is very practical and contemplative active.

I did not know how tired I was. I thought I was quite rested. Church camp in Bangkok, followed by an extended eight day of vacationing. Then the week before I was home bound and even bed-bound because I was recovering from a vicious bout of gout. I was indeed surprised that I slept more than usual including catnaps between meals. Furthermore, I found myself drowsing during prayer. I made a deliberate effort to sleep and rest more in this retreat.

I slept with a tiger in my bed

The food at the Seven Fountains is wholesome. There is always rice and simple salad available for lunch and dinner, plus a vegetable and a meat and a vegetable soup. So it was not difficult to cut down on my meat intake and increase my vegetable and fruit consumption. Gradually I got better and I believe the fiber heavy diet helped my recovery from gout.

We ate healthy food in solitude and undisturbed silence

The interesting thing is that as I rested well and ate well, I was also praying better and the scripture began to come alive for me. “He make me to lie down on green pastures, He restores my soul”.

I prayed well in my room with a candle and my cross

No wonder the angel simply let a stressed out prophet Elijah sleep, wake up to eat, and exercise. It readied him to hear God by the time He got to the cave.

Upgrading in Seven Fountains

The Seven Fountains Ignatian Spirituality Center keeps upgrading itself. It is almost like it has a Singapore spirit. Upgrading and improving is a passion that drives the country. I see it here in Chiangmai. If I remember correctly there were so many improvements over the last seven years. One major one was ensuite bathrooms. Another was the bitumen repairs. Then the rabbits and turkeys came. And the wooden hut was renovated and air conditioned to be another great prayer space. Yesterday, when I came in, I saw the new elevators.

New elevators to the joy of seniors

Apparently the sight of older retreatants lugging luggage up the staircase moved the priests with compassion, and in addition the financial means was there for the lifts to be done. I also noticed the enlargement of the dining space to accommodate more dining tables and chairs. The grounds have also been spruced up, with the unwanted plants and weeds and ponding and stagnant water removed and the grounds looking like a newly barbered head. All in all it gives the sense of hope, freshness, and progress.

Additional dining space by extending into the garden grounds

Where did they get the money from? From donations, many of which I suppose to be from Singaporeans.  It is a lovely partnership or fellowship where giving and receiving is the order of the day; the priests and their generosity of opening the retreat and giving direction freely, the Singaporean retreatants so blessed and transformed by the ministry, giving generously in return. What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the Everlasting Arm!

In a sense this upgrading is what also happens in our lives as we learn to be silent, and pray in solitude, with the help of spiritual directors. The Lord draws near, we become sensitive of the movements of the Spirit, we become open to Him and obey Him and we are transformed or “upgraded”.

That is why I am here this week. I feel tired physically and weary emotionally. I have not been praying well. I have lost my appetite for lectio divina. I spend more time on reflection and journaling. Is this a season I have gone into?  I need to understand what is going on. Is it perhaps my tiredness and weariness dulling my appetite for God? I look forward to a deeper love for the Lord, which is the grace I desire and seek.