“Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul.” - Thomas Merton
In early January two friends and I traveled to Kentucky to stay (5 days) at the oldest Trappist Monastery in the United States... “The Abby of Gethsemani.” Several months before that my roommate and I were talking about how it would be so much fun to just take some time off after school and use it to read, pray and meditate. When we joked around about turning our house into a monastery after we graduate, a friend who was in the room said, “You know, there is a monastery in Kentucky.” This is where it all began. As we researched more about Gethsemani we found out that guests could come and stay at the mosastary for a small donation and act like a monk for a few days. They call this their silent retreat. Each retreatant gets a room to himself in the monastery. In this room there is a twin size bed, a desk, and a bathroom (if you stay in the nice building).
Silence takes some getting used to. As soon as you step foot on the walkway leading to the door there is a sign that says “Silence Beyond this Point.” As you walk into the lobby a monk greets you and gives you your room key. Its is some what of a peculiar feeling to say goodbye to the world and hello to solitude... even if it is only for s few days.
The first 24 hours was the hardest. I went to my room and sat down in the chair... I didn't know what to do with myself. I had five days devoted solely to meeting with God. I opened the window that looked out into a courtyard and sat in the window seal and journaled for a while and then went to bed. Sleeping was not at all scheduled for those five days. Three hours of sleep at a time is how worked... I dont know why, but it just happened that way. When I would wake up I took a stroll down to the kitchen and grab a bite to eat (the monks are vegetarians!) and then spend some time in prayer.
The monastery has countless acres of land outside of the walls. The land is beautiful and covered in trails and lakes where you can walk (in silence ofcourse) and enjoy just spending time in reverence for God; enjoying and worshiping him. It snowed while I was there which made it even more quiet. I really feel like the silence helped to renew my soul. There is a point a which you are silent for long enough that all thoughts of the outside world cease. When this happens all you can see is God and your own sin. In this state you must deal with the sins that you have put off for a while... because if you dont deal with the sin (which is the only thought in you mind) you cant truly rest in the presence of the Lord.
My time at Gethsemani was great and I will definitely be going back sometime in the next year. There are so many things that can be found from just being quite and still before God and listening to what the spirit might be saying.