One of the good things about Seven Fountains retreat center is that there are several good cafes along the main road it is situated at. One of them, my favourite, is the Art Roastery just across the road from its main entrance. It’s a hip, arty and creatively done up cafe with live birds and garden as its key features – besides good affordable coffee and cakes. It is a magnet for the Facebook and Instagram generation. Its unique setting beats the stale Starbucks blah blah standard decor.
Anyway, after four days of silence, solitude and prayer I gave myself a reward and had a flat white and a slice of exquisite and to die for coconut cake. Maybe the many retreat meals of vegetables and fruit and unsweetened chrysanthemum tea that I had made me crave for a booster. And so I had it. It was a great place for reflection and journaling. There is a back room away from the crowd where you have more privacy and that was where I went.
This kind self-reward of three hours of reflection and break from the normal routine adds colour, introduces freshness and eases some of the intensity of interior work. I find that the relaxing change makes me feel energised and ready to continue the prayer journey.
It was a wonderful and blessed retreat at Seven Fountains Ignatiun Spirituality Center in Chiangmai, Thailand. Every silent retreat is different but here is a diary of what it was like for those who want an idea of what it may be like.
It was the third day of the retreat. Enter the story, my director tells me. Experience the moment, the whole scene.
The passage he gave me was the wedding at Cana.
Tell Jesus how you are feeling and what you need and listen as he speaks in your imagination.
This Ignatian way of meditation took time. But it was worth it for the Spirit was free to inspire my often unused right-brain to yield insights and applications otherwise missed by normal left-brained, logical, rational interpretation.
Relax, he reminded me.
The silence at mealtimes seemed odd but I got used to it. We avoided eye contact. Eyes can talk too, as lovers and children know. We ate in silence, even if those who sat opposite or beside were friends.
Never liked food for the masses. Especially hotel food in church camps. The Thai food here was mostly rice, vegetables with slivers of pork or chicken, and gourd (and good) soup, and the occasional spicy dish(we had chicken curry once). But no complaints from anyone, which was unusual for Singaporeans, even Christians. Maybe the enforced silence.. haha. For me, I was happy with the food. Slowed down, with no distracting talk, my senses, including taste, became sensitive.
Tuesday, 16th November:
Be gentle with yourself, was his mantra to me. Was I so harsh with myself, or was he just warning me in advance, knowing my tendencies to condemn or judge myself? Be gentle, he kept saying.
You are suffering from burn-out, he said.
This was after having heard me for a few days. He had thus joined a chorus of pastor friends who had sung the same song. Well, that was why I was there.
Do not make any major decisions until after you have taken your sabbatical. Certainly, don’t make any major decisions here.
Was that a relief for me to hear? Not really, I did not enter into retreat with any intention of praying about making any major decisions.
Just enjoy Me, the Lord had said to me the morning before I left, and I have stayed with that word, since day one of the retreat.
Wednesday, 17th November:
Holy Communion every night. Eucharist sounded better. It means “thanksgiving”. Our reasonable response to his gifts of blood and body is, Thank you Lord.
Tonight was special. The Lord whispered, Everything I have is yours. My faith was stirred and joy bubbled up in song within.
Learned to doodle (see right) with my Samsung Jet Dynamic Canvas, some sketch software in my mobile. Yep, I guess I just had to touch something electronic. No laptop, no TV, no newspaper, no radio here in the desert.