Time to reflect

Happy Easter to all of those celebrating 🙂

A text message from a good friend the other day (thanks Ara!) brought me back to the way I used to spend Easter weekend as a teen and young adult: in a retreat at a convent called El Palancar.

"El Palancar" convent (Extremadura, Spain) seen from a group of rocks high on a hillside

La Pascua del Palancar was a retreat for young people organized by Franciscan brothers from the Betica province, from Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. The main theme was obviously religious, as it happened with most spiritual events back then, but there was more to it: it was a wonderful opportunity to switch off from the noise and haste of daily life (even if mobile phones didn´t exist yet!) and get more deeply connected to Life, Nature, our travel companions, and ultimately ourselves.

Now that I think of it, these were probably my first steps along the path of self-discovery and personal development.

During the three and a half days of the event, most of the activities were done in company, either in one big group or divided into smaller groups. But there was one, on the Saturday afternoon, which was different: they called it the desertand it was a time slot of about two hours for which they encouraged us to find a quiet place for contemplation and personal reflection. You can imagine how challenging that could be for some of the teenagers: two hours on their own, without talking to anybody!

I remember I always climbed up the rocks on the side of the hill, up to a place very similar to the one in the photo: from there I could see the convent down in the distance, surrounded by the characteristic landscape of Extremadura in the springtime. I was carrying a notebook, a pen, and a piece of paper with a few questions as a guide. But apart from that, nothing.

Silence. Nature. Time and space to allow everything I had inside to come out.

I loved that feeling.

And up there, in that little corner of the world, the two hours would go by, breathing, thinking, writing... Then at some point I would start hearing voices down in the distance, maybe also the strings of a guitar, and I would realize it was almost time to return to the world. I felt like Saint Peter in that passage from the Bible about the transfiguration, when he says to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here, let´s put up a shelter, and Jesus explains that they can´t stay in contemplation at the top of the mountain, they need to go down again and continue with their mission on the ground.

Sometimes we get so sucked into this world we live in, that we lose contact with what matters most to us. But if every now and then we take a break to go up the mountain, then we will listen to our inner voice again, and it will guide us to get back on track. It´s been many years since I last went to El Palancar, and my "mountain" these days sometimes takes the shape of a beach, but the idea is the same: a little bit of time, solitude and silence, and the answer appears.

What about you? When was the last time you listened to your inner voice? And what would it say to you today, if you stopped to listen?

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