Distractions That Spoil A Silent Retreat


Whether it is a laptop, cell phone or tablet, any kind of device that gives you a wireless connection will be a major distraction. Our frequent usage of mobile devices and its resultant positive emotional rewards have conditioned us to a habitual pattern of usage whenever we hold our cell phones in our hands. Our muscle memory takes over and we unconsciously repeat our usual routines of phone usage. In normal life, this is at worse, a time stealer. In a silent retreat, this becomes a distracting idol that disrupts the time you have set apart for the Lord and Love of your life. 

There was one recent retreat where I thought I was able to limit my usage to using the Bible App in my cell phone, and take pictures for blogging and sharing with loved ones. I was fooling myself. I got absorbed in it, and the digital idol took over and became a major distraction from listening to the Lord. 

I felt that the precious time I had set apart to be with the Lord would have been better if I had not bought that Thai local SIM card at Changi Recommends. If I needed to communicate with my family or church office, I could do it when I arrived on the first day. Most cafes there have free wi-fi and I could have communicated my whereabouts from there. I regretted falling into temptation and learned an expensive lesson.

An even greater distraction is urgent work. Do ensure your work will not chase after you where you are. Finish whatever you have to before the retreat proper begins. 


Silent retreats can be forbidding and we wonder how 16 to 18 waking hours will pass. We may think one way to pass the time is to bring along books for work, for spiritual nourishment and for leisure. Most books are not helpful and may not flow in tandem with what the Spirit is wanting to accomplish in you. Why not let the spiritual director guide you in your meditations and readings if any? Let him or her sense what God is doing in your soul and direct you to scripture passages or spiritual exercises that will facilitate, and not hinder, God’s ongoing deep work. 


It is natural that when you are in an unfamiliar place or overseas for a silent retreat you would want to get to know your environment and surroundings. Some exploration is inevitable and with it the joy of discovery of new sights, things, and experiences. However, if you put on the tourist cap, looking for things to buy and see and experience, it will be a distraction from your main purpose of seeking God. 


We Singaporeans are used to a high level of comfort. Our standard of living Is first world. However, retreat houses are not five stars hotels, not even three stars hotels. They are modest spaces designed for worship, prayer, quiet and rest. 

The mattresses are not Simmons or Sealy, but definitely better than a sleeping bag. Some have en suite bathrooms but many, especially in Asia, have common bathrooms. They are not restaurants. You wouldn’t queue up for the food, but it is balanced and we Singaporeans could all do with eating less anyway. 

There are very comfortable retreat houses but they are more expensive and often found in Western countries like Australia, Spain, USA and England. 

Accepting that the comfort level is not ideal in retreat houses, and being mentally prepared will go a long way in helping you focus on seeking God. If you are fixated on fixing your comfort level, you will be totally distracted. Do what you can as you anticipate some problems with comfort, like, bring your own pillow if it is really necessary!! But accept what cannot be changed, and pray for the grace of enduring hardship like a good soldier of Christ. 

What are some major distractions you have experienced in your silent retreats? Share it with all the readers by writing below in the comment box.

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