Silent Retreats

" Reality is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect."
C.S. Lewis

Hilton is a quaint little country town in the Natal Midlands. The first time I drove through this area, I did not see it at all as it was covered in a thick shroud of magical mist. Today, however was just the opposite as the glorious winter sun revealed a windy lane of stone houses and mementos from colonial days past. I was attending a ‘ silent retreat’ with twenty women who were coming to a center called Beth Shalom, which is off the beaten path in Hilton. Twenty women on a silent retreat sounded like a misnomer- but time would tell if we could honour the divine appointment of the day.

We all gathered in the atrium below the attic chapel. Our facilitator, a nurturing woman of wisdom shared that we needed to firstly cast aside all the demands that we had on God and all our urgent requests (as God knew them already). She then shared a portion of scripture with some pointed questions that we were asked to meditate on as we wondered throughout the uncultivated fruit and flower garden. We were encouraged to walk about, definitely not speak to our other guests and then find a place where we could simply listen to what God was saying.

It was difficult to find the right spot but eventually I rested under a large protective tree that provided shade for my face but allowed the wintry sun to massage my feet. I did not feel like opening my bible or meditating on scripture but just wanted to still my inner self and listen to the sound of God - if He chose to converse with me. I knew that He would teach me a few lessons as my spirit was both willing and available. I decided to breathe easy and let God’s creation speak the language of the soul. I was pleasantly surprised by the lessons that unfolded.

As I settled into the calm and solitude of the garden, I noticed a huge poinsettia tree with bright red flowers. It was showy, magnetizing and stood out like a bold mascot. I wondered how many times I had taken this stance and position in my life and what the results had been. Had I been successful in communicating my viewpoint or intimidated others into submission? This gave me much to think about and pondered as to whether I had fulfilled my purpose in this spiritual position?

As I looked up over the aging country house, I noticed a tree that had shed all its leaves in winter and stood as a testament of the harshness of that season. It looked lifeless, bare and lonely. Yet, the fact that it stood and waited for the spring rains proved that it believed there was potential for a new season and therefore impending growth. How many of us are willing to tolerate the dryness of life knowing that a new season will arrive in its appointed time?

And then right down the path in front of me was a beautiful bright orange sterelitzia plant that stood bold and rich with life. Its lush green leaves provided a backdrop for its striking orange tones. It was a well-defined flower that seemed content and thriving in its peaceful surroundings. This made me contemplate how much of my own life was in balance with sufficient brightness, peace and divine support? This was for me was a picture of living in harmony with my creator - a place of contentment. Lifting my eyes to a cloudless sky reminded me that I am always under God’s covering in the garden of life – a cover that can never be removed. There are many lessons in solitude and we need to make the time to really see and really listen to the mysteries of everyday life.


  1. Embrace daily moments of solitude.

Written by Dr Rani Samuel
Clinical Psychologist