Perhaps the idea of ‘going on’ is a contradiction to the idea of a ‘retreat’ or ‘withdrawal’ but it is harder to retreat at home with all the usual distractions and temptations, so it’s good to get away. I’ve just come back from four days at The Well at Willen this is just on the outskirts of Milton Keynes and is a community made up of associates of the Society of the Sacred Mission. This was my second visit there.
What I liked about this time away – and it is in contrast to some other places that I have been – is that it seemed possible to be oneself…whatever that means. On some other occasions there has been a tremendous pressure and I don’t think necessarily from me to feel that you have to fit in to a rather prescribed and narrow situation. This may be especially so where the retreat house is run by a strict order and you can almost feel that you are there on sufferance. Allied to that feeling are then all sorts of projections that kick in of disapproving parents and then of course the rebellious adolescent begins to resurface. A few years back that happened and I found I spent all the time leaving the retreat house going off to look in the nearby town anything rather than stay in the enclosure which was the point of the experience… perhaps it’s a horror of being trapped in some way.
Anyway none of that happened at The Well and I felt happy. Now that’s a change! And I had one of those Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, moments where I saw ‘the tree with the lights in it’ and that is worth having seen…as Dillard writes ‘when I see this way I see truly’ and it’s only possible in solitude and when there’s nothing much else happening in the mind ..it’s sitting or walking and looking really looking without conceptual thought butting in and spoiling it all.