Thursday, April 19, 2007


RETREAT! many of you appreciated the Monty Python reference to "RETREAT...RUN AWAY...RUN AWAY!"??? (It is curiously tempting to do an entire blog connecting Monty Python and Religious life..hmmmm...)

No RETREAT as in the "vacation...with God" sense...not the Monty Python sense. was outstanding. Just a couple days; precisely what I needed. I had a dynamo director (whom I was told before I left "Oh she's goooood. She'll be VERY gooood for you!"); who was a great balance between swift kicks to get my spirit back in alignment, listening, processing, and feedback. Yep; she was challenging (one of my requirements) and superbly insightful.

Now a little context setting for all you non-retreat people out there in blog-land. This would fall under the realm of "silent-directed" retreats (I'll do a nunspeak on retreat categories.) I follow something I invented and like to call the 80/20 method of retreat--80% silent and 20% if the spirit so moves to have someone there to talk to--don't squelch that spirit. Directed meaning--you have spiritual direction, usually for an hour, once per day. Most often these retreats are at retreat centers.

I have three requirements for a facility: my own room (that's pretty standard), water (as in a body of water), and walking/outdoor places. This was unique because it was at the director's house. She has a nice place/space for 1 retreatant and she is just a couple blocks from Lake Michigan in one direction and a bike/walking trail in the other. Perfect.

So this director's format for her retreats is: for breakfast (if you do that kind of morning thing)and lunch, she puts food out or has food available for you. You have a meeting with her 1 time during the day and the rest of the day is yours. She cooks FABULOUS...I MEAN FABULOUS dinners for you and you eat with her and chat over dinner (perfect...remember the 20%!) Then the evening is your time too.

It was great...I actually don't mind the quiet time...but a whole day for multiple days is sometimes like torture. This was a mini-retreat, so I could have managed, but when I do my week long ones...days 1-3 are fine with the quiet stuff...then by Thursday I'm ready to explode and the 1 meeting per day--just doesn't cut it. This was a nice BALANCE...ya hear that folks...BALANCE!

So this retreat was just nice. I needed some space. I needed to just have my spirit realigned and kicked into gear again (it's like a spiritual tune up--I just needed an oil change, new brake pads, windshield washer fluid, and I'm sure my maintenance light has been on for a few months!)

One way I find most helpful to pray is with Mandalas. Mandala is a Sanskrit word which means circle. I find because my mind is usually going 560 bazillion miles an hour, when I incorporate some creativity and give my hands some thing to "do"; I let go of the head and connect with something in a deeper place.

Mandalas can be very revealing depending upon color choice, shape, and placement of what you draw. THEY ARE NOT MEANT TO BE AN ARTISTIC EXPRESSION (that's mostly in all caps for my benefit, because sometimes I forget that and get irritated that my mandalas will never be hanging at the MET). And because I tend to have more difficulty letting go of that whole head thing...I have rules for my mandala time--given to me a few years ago by my spiritual director (not to be confused with the retreat director :) ). MY MANDALA RULES:

  • 20 mins
  • If I am compelled to pick a certain color I go with it (rather than "pre-planning" what I think looks right)
  • Go with the first instinct; don't think about it--if it pops into my head it goes on the paper.

Sometimes I am more disciplined than others. Don't be afraid...mandalas don't have to be this structured, the structure just tricks me into making the most out of connecting with God and my "inner spirit"--oooooh! So I usually start with a blank page, say a little prayer asking the spirit to whatever, and then start drawing, and then I sit with it for another 20 mins ish and see what emerges. Then if it's one that I want to talk about, I share it with either my spiritual director or in this case the retreat director. first morning on my mini-retreat...I woke up and thought "MANDALA TIME...BABY" and really followed my rules this time! This is what I drew: didn't start out that way...I only had the head in my mandala and this little voice said, "DRAW FEET". And I thought, "Draw feet?" So I remembered my rules and thought, "Oh Great...draw feet." So I did. Well..."DRAW FEET" became quite an insightful reflection the rest of my retreat!

Have you ever meditated on the topic of FEET? WELL I sure haven't. In fact I thought, "WHAT...DRAW FEET? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME." But I'm soooo obedient (ha ha) and gave it some thought that day.

I walked and walked and walked that day on retreat. (From Shorewood to the Art museum for those of you who know Mil-town) so obviously I was aware of my feet in the walking sense. Then I stopped on some rocks by the lake and mapped out what feet could symbolize. It was quite a good reflection if I do say so myself.

If you notice the middle is missing on my little person. So it's like that person has a head and feet. Some of my insights were: "What is my head trying to say?" "Where are my feet trying to take me?" "What's holding me back." Then I concluded with, "My feet will take me places if I trust what's in my head...the only way to do that is to connect them...which would be my heart and gut" Ooooooh...that was good.

So then you have an insight and that's exciting...UNTIL you REALIZE that you should reflect on what "deeper meaning" that insight has on what's going on in your life. UGH...that's the part that I tend to squirm with. In fact...let me give you a visual to what my face says initially when it's time to take "Cool I had an insight" to "UGH...I have to apply it." Well...maybe not that expressive, but you get the idea!

That's when your retreat director comes in and raises questions for you to ponder. Then you reflect on them and sometimes pretend that you didn't think what you just thought...and then you are cornered...INSIGHT WITH DIRECT APPLICATION AND CONNECTION MEANS...INTEGRATION.

Insights all reality that is a "good retreat" and I will admit I'm in a much less tornadoey space than I was when I that's good. And's the spirit at's just taking time to recognize it and know when it's time to act.

So...the moral of today's post folks: "Draw Feet"...see where it takes you! RUN AWAY!!!!...with God. And my favorite, "Insights schminsights".


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog, I learn so much!
- a fellow member of the 'late-20's'

Anonymous said...

Love the mandala!!! And your entry fits right in with what I learned at the Art Therapy Symposium I went to on Friday. You gotta use art to get back into your body and outta your head for awhile. Rockin!

-Jen :)

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog site, was taught by SSSF a looong time ago. Love your writing-how come you drew yourself as a brunette? God Bless!

Sister_Katy said...

I am a brunette! I just get some artificial variegation assistance with my hair!

Thanks for your comment...I'm glad you like the blog!

S. Katy

Sarah said...

Hi Katy,
I just stumbled across your blog and really enjoyed it. Your enthusiasm is contagious! I'm in the first phase with a congregation (mine call it Inquiry) and am probably doing the pre-novitiate thing later this year (fingers crossed) so it's lovely to read your very down-to-earth reflections on where you're at. I don't really know anything about Mandalas... is there a book or website where I can learn?
Thanks and please keep blogging, Sarah

Your Seventh Grade Class said...

Sister Katy we had no idea that you had a blog! Why didn't you tell us? If you hadn't been such a great cook,and if we hadn't seen you in the paper we would have never known

Sister_Katy said...

OH MY...what little sleuths you all are! My most wonderful 7th graders! You are right! I didn't tell you..yet! I need to keep some surprises up my sleeve because you all are so smart! I'm glad you found my you'll have to read it! Thanks for leaving me a comment...I have the best class in the universe! Peace, S. Katy!

7th grade said...

you should write about us in your blog!!!!!! it is really cool

Sister_Katy said...

Yes...yes...yes, my 7th grade scholars! We will talk about featuring you on my blog.

Now...if any of you are reading this, you should be finishing your concept maps for your religion test tomorrow! Ha! Homework reminders coming through on my blog! :)

See you tomorrow! I'm looking forward to it. Ciao, Sister Katy

Anonymous said...

Saw your article in the Journal and was quite impressed. I shared it with my friend to show the "NEW nun" portrait. I think it's great. I experienced the original training, the transition in the 70's, and not quite the very new. I'm a former SSSF, but still quite connected in spirit. Love your blog.