Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On Retreat and Rearranging the Furniture

During my recent retreat, one facilitator (i.e., a person allowed to talk) spoke about rearranging furniture in his assigned room. He was making a point about the challenges of simmering down and settling into silence. I suspect some retreatants thought he was kidding, but I knew he was serious. I do the same thing.

My ritual for entering retreat mode includes rearranging furniture in whatever monastic cell I've been assigned. I have my reasons.

Monks apparently do not pay as much attention to energy vectors as do yogis. I've encountered some serious prana-sucking feng shui bloopers at monasteries, ones that simply do not occur at yoga-based retreat centers. (Trust me, I worked at a one.)

These bloopers usually involve placing the bed in the wrong direction relative to the room's door and mirror, as well as the building's energy grid. I almost always have to move the bed to avoid triggering a monster headache having nothing to do with cathartic crying during moments of divine revelation.

This, in turn, leads to moving the lamp and chair, actions that inevitably reveal an inventive configuration of electrical extension cords. These have to be unplugged, moved, and replugged.

I can complete a monastic cell makeover in under 5 minutes. It may take as long as 30 minutes if I include sneaking into vacant rooms for extra blankets and then remaking the bed so it's comfy. (I bring my own pillow and suggest you do the same.)

But even if the feng shui is okay, I'll rearrange furniture as my last conscious act of control before surrendering to God's will. The real challenge? Restoring the room to how it was at the beginning of the retreat without doing likewise to self and Self.


  1. I'd love to go on a retreat, silent or not, but can't seem to find anything online suggesting a place I could go!! All advice welcome!

  2. I see from your profile that you're in NY, so highly recommend Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY. It's near New Paltz. Anglican Benedictine. Liturgy of the Hours chanted, silent meals, great food! You can go solo or check out one of their guided retreats or programs.


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