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  • Eileen McDargh

Retreat In Order to Advance


Coffee with a journal and dried roses
“The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. And only she who listens can speak.”

I remember the thud in my stomach when I read these words by the late Secretary General to the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold. Here I was trying to grow a speaking and coaching business by surrounding myself with busyness, a constant influx of chatter, and an absence of any true internal “listening”. My business had not grown as I had hoped, everything seemed an effort, and I wasn’t getting the sense that my internal compass still pointed to truth north.

I knew I needed to take time away. But there was so much to do. I hated giving up what little time I had at home since it took me away from my beloved husband Bill (yes, he meets all my criteria). This time, Bill insisted. And he was right. I have learned the value of taking a 3-day silent retreat so that I can rethink, renew, redirect, and refresh my choices. Amazingly, the family survives without me, no client disappears, and I return re-energized for the year.

Many of us have difficulty with being alone. And silence scares us. In a world bombarded by sound, some of us promptly turn on the television or radio as soon as we enter an empty house. I have discovered the deep necessity for silence and alone time. Even if it means checking into a local motel, unplugging the phone, and ordering room service, choosing well demands that we spend time thinking and writing.

Yes, writing. I am convinced we do not receive the full power of our thoughts when they stay only in our head. The writing is for you alone. Use a spiral notebook, a blank book, a yellow pad. But write in ink. Write the question you are trying to answer. Write free form all your thoughts and fears and dreams about that question. Wake up in the middle of the night and record a dream you have. Then read it back. Keep the notebook. Pick it up after some time has passed. You will be amazed at the wisdom found there—wisdom that sometimes we don’t get on the first reading our words. If you wish to learn more about journaling as a method for self-discovery, check out the Intensive Journal Workshops offers around the United States by facilitators trained in the Progoff Journal Workshop method.

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