In times of trouble, our hearts long for peace and turn to God. One way to recenter ourselves on our relationship with the Lord is to retreat, or withdraw, from the world. We can do so even at home, and this period of social distancing can be an opportunity to grow closer to God. Taking the time to retreat means that you are focusing inward and calling the Lord to come into your heart. The experience should help you feel more at peace and more aware that God is truly with you.
One retreat you can do easily is a Gratitude Walk. If you are near a forest or beach, that is a lovely setting. But if you live in an urban or suburban area, walking around your neighborhood is just as good. The point is to go outside by yourself, unaccompanied, without checking news, social media or email. This Gratitude Walk is solely for you and God.
As you leave your home, invite God to come walk with you. Say, “Lord, I know you are near and ready to be with me. Come, walk beside me, and I will follow you.” Then, begin your walk. You have no destination and no specific route. Simply walk wherever your feet take you. It can be for 20 minutes or an hour, depending on the responsibilities you may have at home. If you see someone you know during this retreat, kindly wave and smile at them from afar, but try not to engage in conversation. This is your time with God.
Because this is a Gratitude Walk, focus your thoughts on being thankful. Remain mindful to what’s around you: observe the people, animals, sights, sounds and smells. Whatever you encounter, praise God for his creation and for this moment with him. Whether it is a bird chirping, a daffodil newly bloomed or the breeze upon your face, thank God for his care and mercy upon even the most fragile of creation.
A modified version of the Gratitude Walk is Gratitude Watch. Sit from the comfort of your home near a window and carefully examine everything you see. Focus on minute details and say a word of thanks for each one. You can say, “Thank you, Lord, for [insert observation here]. Truly, you are wonderful!”
This retreat should put you in a positive mindset and help you realize that even when life is stressful, there is always something to be grateful for – most of all, God’s love for us.
Veronica Szczygiel is the Assistant Director of Online Learning at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.