Personal Accounts

Retreatants Write about their Experiences

"I come to the retreat after longing for it, because although my daily practices help to attune, balance and strengthen me, I yearn for the deepening, perspective and renewal only a concentrated period of repose can give.  Entering the welcome silence of the hut, I soon meet with my cherished guide to set the intention, and obtain my initial instructions. For the next three days of solitude, broken only by these meetings, I journey through the practices, the qualities and the rich presence usually obscured by my busier life. Though my friends imagine that three days of solitude and silence would be boring, I cannot express the richness, depth and subtlety of this alchemy, or the luxury of finding all that space between my thoughts. From awakening to bedtime, in dreams and in practices when I wake in the night, I journey along the planes, sometimes accompanied by Pir Vilayat or Pir Zia on audiotapes. At the end I emerge, having closed with a ritual and re-dedication, enriched, fed by a deep peace; and as the pieces of my life reassemble, they fit together just a little differently, more in the direction of my heart's deepest desire. I am as happy as a baby with a rattle, or a 7 year old with a giant cardboard box. "
(References are to Sufi teachers:  Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan (1916 - 2004) was the former spiritual leader;  Pir Zia Inayat Khan is the current spiritual leader of the Sufi Order International. -editor's note)
quiet seclusion"A retreat is a time for seclusion and withdrawing from our daily and busy schedules. While on retreat I met with my retreat guide every morning. After a brief meditation, my retreat guide would give me a series of practices of breath, light, prayer, concentration, contemplation, meditation, attunement and walks in nature. I also listened to retreat music, to guided meditations and practices and became acquainted with Sufi mystics and poets such as Rumi and Hafiz. Breakfast and lunch were self served and every evening I was served a warm and delicious dinner. I felt a deep gratitude grow i n me."
Hi, my name is Sandi... and I am a 40 year old Social Worker in Phoenix, AZ.  In January of 2008, I made my first personal retreat for 3 days in Sedona, Arizona with my Sufi teacher, who is also a retreat guide, providing guidance.  Her suggestions for my three days resulted in a transformational experience that had a sense of beginning, process, and completion.  The completion, however, was in fact a beginning of a deeper understanding of myself and my own spiritual make-up.  I had a profound experience with coming to know the ever-present support and love with which the prophets and guides are constantly surrounding me.  Since that time, the Spirit of Guidance has become an active presence in my life.  The sense of a more direct connection with God came out of this time of retreat.  I mark it as a turning point in my life and look forward to my next opportunity to experience it.
First-time Retreatant
deep peace"Looking back on the private one- to seven-day retreats I have done over 30 years, I  think I've always had  the wish just to sit and be in bliss; and what I really did was struggle each time and get some needed rest.  All of my retreats resulted in a cleaning-out of the clutter in my brain and an increasing sense of spaciousness and peace. My most recent retreat helped me come to terms with physical limitations and face what I needed to change in my life. For me, it's hard to pinpoint where my spiritual growth has come from.  Retreats are an important component of our bountiful path and I am grateful for all.
Rafia Wilcox
shattered and rebuiltWhen I began my first-ever 3-day retreat in the hut in my retreat guide's back yard, I was both eager and a little apprehensive. What was I supposed to do, for 3 days, and in silence? How would I "occupy" myself? What if I didn't reach any phenomenal spiritual understanding? What if—my secret fear—the dissolution-resurrection process shattered my ego to the point of no return? As it turned out, my worries were overcome by the sheer beneficence of compassion that I experienced as I made the journey from earth-bounded consciousness to cosmic consciousness and back. The compassion was everywhere present: In the practices themselves (conveniently housed in a looseleaf notebook for my use); In the sacred energy of the cozy retreat hut, a parting gift of all those who had come before me; In the beautiful way in which my guide, silently brought me platters of simple, delicious, hot food twice a day (lunch inner and outer divinefixings were kept in a cooler outside the door) — bowing to my inner divinity (which I was in the process of seeking, as well) and wordlessly teaching me that I was not alone in life, that I was cared for and well loved; and Eventually, over the course of the 3 days, in me as well. I emerged from my first retreat cleansed, vaster, humming with a radiant hugeness of being that lasted for a while when I returned home. And even though that experience has, on a daily basis, now faded, the very fact that it all returns to me now as I write these words for you reminds me that the truth of our being never goes away, is always available for dipping into. A 3-day retreat is a wonderful gift opportunity for doing exactly that. I remain grateful.
Halima Naomi Rose