Quieting a Distracted Mind on Retreat

By Rhen

Are you thinking about planning a retreat, but perhaps you are worried that you will be too distracted or have too many things to think about outside of the retreat, such as work or family, to get much out of the retreat?

This is incredibly common. While there may be no way to completely remove any distracting thoughts, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  1. Write Them Down

Let’s say you are preparing for a weekend retreat, Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. When you have many items on your mind, bouncing around in your head, such as to-do items and problems in relationships, they take up a lot of brain power and prevent you from quieting your soul in prayer.

Try this:

On Monday of the week leading up to your retreat:

Set aside fifteen or twenty minutes of quiet time to just sit with a notepad and make a list of EVERYTHING on your mind. This includes everything you need to accomplish before the retreat both at work and around the house, any anxieties in your life that just need some attention, and anything else that comes to mind.

After you have written down everything try to sort through the list and note the “to-do” items. From these, make a checklist of tasks that need to be accomplished before retreat, and cross them off as you complete them in the coming days. The sense of completion with each item will help to eliminate it from the clutter of your thoughts.

Any heavier items or anxieties that are on your list, such as maybe a relationship struggle with a friend or family member, write down on a list to bring to prayer during the retreat. These are the items that you do not want to eliminate from your thoughts – they are the ones that you likely need to focus on heavily during your time of quiet and prayer during the retreat.

On Friday, before leaving for your retreat: Do the same exercise as Monday. Write down everything. Any to-do items can be set aside as a list for Monday when you return from the retreat. This way you do not have to worry about forgetting about a task. You can let it go from your thoughts, knowing that you can pick up the list when you return on Monday.

Again, any heavier items should be added to your prayer list for the retreat.

  1. Cut off Communication

This has become the most difficult part of making a retreat over the past decade or two.

The urge to check your phone, email, and social media accounts can be enormous. On a given day we might check each dozens of times. On retreat they are going to ruin your focus and quiet. In all likelihood, they are going to fill your head back up with all of the worries and concerns that we worked to remove by making the lists in step one.

The obvious concern (or excuse) is that we want loved ones, or in some cases work, to be able to contact us in case of emergency. This is easily solved by providing the retreat center’s contact information to anybody that might need it. If there is a real emergency the retreat center can be contacted, and the staff will know where to find you.

  1. Pray about It

This seems like a no-brainer, but few of us do it. In the days and weeks leading up to your retreat, simply pray for the ability to have a calm mind during your retreat so that you can quiet down and get the most out of your time of prayer and silence.


Thinking about planning a retreat soon?

Are you looking to go deeper and get the most out of your retreat experience? Our new community is coming – a place to work through in-depth courses on the best preparation for retreats and returning from retreats, a community to share experiences and help you on your journey, and regular challenges to help build your spiritual “fitness” and encourage a strong habit of daily prayer.

We will be opening this course to a small number of people to test and work out the bugs in the coming days. If you would like to be notified about the opportunity to access this community and information before anybody else, enter your email in the box below.

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If Sharing with a Group is Keeping You from Making a Retreat

By Rhen

Maybe you have experienced this: you are participating in a retreat, or even an event like a seminar for work, and somebody asks you to stand up and share your thoughts or experience with the whole group. Not only does it catch you off guard, but speaking in front of a group is one of the last items of the list of things that you want to do.

For many of us a situation like this would cause our heart rate to spike, we may start sweating, and the nervousness may be overwhelming.

It is the potential of this exact scenario that is often a stumbling block for somebody considering making their first retreat.

While sharing like that can be very powerful and beneficial for the group on a retreat, we don’t want it to be the factor that holds anybody back from the refreshing and impactful experience of making a retreat.

If speaking in front of a group or being asked to bare your soul are holding you back from making a retreat, consider these suggestions.

  1. Don’t expect it. On most retreats this type of sharing in front of the entire group does not happen. At most, participants might be asked to participate in discussions with a small group. Over the course of the retreat you will get to know your small group well and it will be much more comfortable to discuss spiritual topics with them than with the entire retreat group.
  1. You have the right to pass. If you are in fact asked to speak in front of a group and you do not wish to, you have the right to say “I will pass, thank you.” If the person asking is insistent, you also have the right to be insistent on passing. Almost anybody who is asking people to share with the group will understand the first time that you ask to pass.
  1. Look at different type of retreats. There is only one type of retreat in which you would be asked to speak in front of a group. This would be a “preached” or “group” retreat, in which the entire group of retreatants is getting together to listen to a series of talks over the course of a retreat. There are other options, though.You may decide to make a private retreat, which means simply renting out a room or hermitage at a retreat center, monastery, or somewhere similar and spending time in prayer and quiet. You may make it a “directed” retreat by doing the same thing, but arranging to meet with a spiritual director at least daily during the retreat to walk with you on the journey and guide you in your time of prayer. In these cases, the only speaking or sharing you would be doing on the retreat is with your spiritual director.

    Additionally, consider making a silent retreat. These can take many forms, but the main point is that the people making the retreat are to remain silent for the duration. There are even options for silent preached retreats, where you would still listen to a series of talks by the retreat director and participate in Mass and meals with the others that are on retreat, but all of the retreatants remain silent throughout the experience.

If you are considering making a retreat, do not let the fear of speaking in front of a group or sharing with others hold you back. There are many retreat options that will allow you to have the experience that you are looking for without the elements that you find off-putting.

Start looking for a retreat center in your area today by visiting our directory at catholicretreats.net


Are you looking to go deeper and get the most out of your retreat experience? Our new community is coming – a place to work through in-depth courses on the best preparation for retreats and returning from retreats, a community to share experiences and help you on your journey, and regular challenges to help build your spiritual “fitness” and encourage a strong habit of daily prayer.

We will be opening this course to a small number of people to test and work out the bugs in the coming days. If you would like to be notified about the opportunity to access this community and information before anybody else, enter your email in the box below.

Be the first to learn more about the Catholic Retreats Community

* indicates required