Advent 1: Take a Retreat Wherever you Are

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I’m at the airport, thinking I had 45 minutes to write this post. I refreshed my flight info to see I now have two hours because of a delay. Clearly, it’s time for me to take some of my own advice—to take a retreat wherever I am.

The first day of Advent is technically tomorrow if you follow a Christian liturgical calendar, but I adopted December 1-25 years ago because it’s much easier to remember, especially if you’re not a math major. So today begins a season of waiting, a season of anticipation, a season of being present to both light and darkness.

I’m reading Rick Hanson’s “Resilient” right now. Just a few chapters in, I can tell it’s going to be something that profoundly affects me. He says,

In the flow of your day, find refuges such as time to yourself in a morning shower, the friendly camaraderie of people at work, listening to music on the way home, or thoughts of gratitude as you get ready for sleep…When you find refuge, slow down. Be aware of what refuge feels like; perhaps a sense of relaxation, reassurance, and relief. Stay with the experience for a breath or longer. Notice what feels good about it. Let the sense of refuge sink in, establishing itself in you as something you can go to wherever you want.

I had a headache on my commuter flight to Seattle and was beginning to settle into some familiar scripts: I am probably not getting enough sleep. There are a lot of things I should be doing besides taking some time off right now. I should have stocked the fridge with food. I took a breath and looked around. The young woman beside me was texting someone she loved. Two elderly men a few rows ahead were talking about how much they are enjoying this twilight time in their lives. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and practiced ducking into a little micro-refuge, a moment where I appreciated myself and the crazy luck of being alive one more day.

In this next month of unrealistic expectations, I think our longings are the same: as they always are To know who we really are and what we are here for and to connect with one another. I hope you can identify what your own places of refuge are and put your feet up for a minute. Because if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that there will be flight delays. The world won’t work like we want it to, but our inner life can warm and sustain us if we let it.