Manual First Things First, A Personal Retreat Journal

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Last Friday I went on a wellness retreat. The air smelled sweet and vibrant, I rested, and I spent some quality time pampering myself. I write about how simple personal retreats are to DIY for yourself. The to-do list keeps me busy all day, and then I crash on the couch to read in the evening. Seriously, who is jealous of their preschooler?

Feel free to pick and choose ideas for your own! First things first: Planning. He and my daughter had a meal waiting for them, and they got to play which is her favorite thing ever. I hit the lotto big time! Made a hot cup of green tea. What can I say, I was in a drinks only mood. Does the summer do that to you too?

And that worked for me. This is likely a personality "thing". I would share things with my husband and daugters. I also visited the sharings on line. Sometimes when I was stuck it was helpful to read what others were receiving that week. I also shared on line a few times. I used the retreat material for pray each week and was almost always faithful to daily reflection and prayer the material. I found the resources very helpful in learning things about Jesus that I would have never considered before. Especially pondering the years where there is nothing written about him. Some weeks were easier than others to reflect upon during the week.


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Those that were helpful did bring a greater intimacy with God--especially as I learned to use my imagination to put myself in the scene and be there with my God. This is the fourth time I have made this retreat and I must say, that with the Spiritual Director's help, I gained so much more that ever before. I used the material more intensively than extensively because I used it mostly for inspiration. I am a Sister of St. Joseph and so the St. Ignatius and the Exercises have been an important part of my life for 30 years.

I made my first 19th Annotation Retreat in Brentwood about 25 years ago and have always felt like this is the way I am called to live my life. I made a 30 Day Directed Retreat in I had been using Gene Merz book "Moment by Moment" - many times! I had just come to the point where I was searching, when someone told me about the online retreat.

I read every word, and used every single weekly resource you offered. I prayed with those reading every day and worked with my Spiritual Director as I moved through them. They have formed my life completely since Sept. Perhaps I will do reviews until September! I found the introductory parts, and especially the "Dear Jesus" to be the most helpful to me.

I used all the guides, the photos, readings and prayers every week. I read part of them each day of the week, and they helped me stay focused on the week's lesson. Every day during my prayer time I would review the materials for that particular week. At the beginning of the week, I would highlight things that "jumped out at me", then during each day, I would review the highlighted areas.

How to Make Your Own Wellness Retreat

It helped me to stay focused and see where the Holy Spirit was leading me. The materials also helped keep the subject in focus for the background times. I found them to be very helpful. At times, when the 'retreat' seemed harder, they provided an anchoring to hold fast to ans just keep going. I was able to follow almost weekly. Saturdays, I would go through readings, most of the material.

It would often be a real change from the week before that I would immediately have some response, or some thoughts to carry through the week. The desktop picture brought it back to me often during the week. I enjoyed reading the sharings and the many different ways God was with people.

I particularly followed Nell from Tweed. She was so open. She was a blessing. I often copied the resources and carried them in my calendar to reflect on them. I spend time with God in silent prayer and I feel God's closeness. I setup a web site to bring together a group of fellow bloggers who were interested in taking the retreat. We began with 30 and ended with a couple active participants. I also setup a discussion board for us to share our thoughts along the way. I did this retreat with 2 other faith sharing women on-line and we'd share our reflections every week with each other.

I am much more aware and grateful for the wonderful abiding love of my God. It's given me a focus, and I find myself reflecting on it daily, and returning to it for strength and focus. I have been taught that Jesus is REAL - at his birth, ministy, death, rising from the dead and still with us now!

I'm more conscious of trying to find where I can show compassion, helpfulness, and forgiveness. The retreat has made me thankful for what I have and helped me to find ways to help others that are less fortunate. I made the retreat alone I made the retreat with my husband. He's Methodist and I'm Catholic.

It was a nice way to do something together in faith. I tried to do the retreat by myself, but I stayed with it only a couple of weeks. In August, I prayed to God, "Please help me find some people to take this retreat with. With no trouble at all, 10 people expressed interest. Evenually the number in our group settled at 8, which has been perfect. We have all grown in friendship, though, and plan to continue to meet together weekly for faith sharing, and spiritual reading. Each of us have been very happy we did this. We had a group of 7 women who "made" this retreat from the beginning.

We ussed your readings and reflections each week for prayer and once a week for the beginning point of our discussion. I did this retreat with a group at my church. We met about every 4- 6 weeks to discuss graces we have received and to help us get through the 'tough" parts. I also lead a contemplation at our mission retreat this year. I have found that experience to be completely satisfying and exhilerating. All of these groups have been multi-cultural, including Europeans and Africans I live in Uganda. I used in the materials almost daily for the entire retreat. I especially liked that all the materials were accessible; I didn't have to turn to the passage in my bible, it was all there.

I found the getting started pages very helpful, especially early on. For the journey usually provided a deeper insight for me. I was encouraged by the sharing and shared myself. I found the prayers extended my prayer vocabulary and often gave voice to my inner thoughts. I tried to go over the retreat material every single day.

Yes, I guess I did use it for prayer. Of the weekly resources, my favorite was "In These or Similar Words" because it seemed to be a personal response to and from Jesus. I shared the retreat only with a young priest who became my director during these weeks. I don't think I would have completed the 34 weeks without his guidance and encouragement.

As mentioned above, I shared the retreat with my spiritual director, my wife and when there was any discussion regarding the days readings, I was able to contribute more than I ever have in the past. I am a deacon in our Catholic Church.

I have used the retreat in connection with the liturgical year and homilies. They have been a good insight as how to bring Gods's love and intimacy out for the people of God to better grasp. I am also involved in the RCIA process.

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Starting with the feaast of The Triumph of the True Cross was extremely powerful because as the people begin the journey into our church they are signed on all senses with the sign of the cross. I have completed the 34 weeks a few years back and attempted to do so on other occasions. This time I printed each one out, reflected on them and then journaled on them. T he journaling was a big asset as i could reflect back as to my progress. Going from lent to the triduum, to easter season with the final weeks were awesome. Every week a small group of us gathered at our church after mass on Sunday, shared our reflections, prayed together and prepared for the next week.

I met monthly with my spiritual director, who made the retreat with me, to discuss what had happened during the retreat. We met every other week to discuss the retreat. The Sister who led the discussion was a great help in keeping everything in focus. As a Lutheran, I gained a better understanding of the richness of the Mother church.

Each week I basically followed the same format. I printed out all of the materials for every week early on in the Retreat. Then each Monday, I would read through all of the resources for the week - including the Readings and Prayers. I would usually only refer back to the materials during the week if we were asked to do so during the week or if I wanted a refresher on the focus for the week. I would keep the photo for the week on top so that I could look at it during various times. Then on Sunday evening or on Monday of the following week, I would read through all the resources for the week again - including the Readings and Prayers and then I would be ready to begin the next week with that Monday.

I usually prayed each set of Prayers at the beginning and end of the week. I made this retreat becuase I am now living far away from my former faith communities and am isolated. The internet is my contact with the "outside world". The retreat materials were most useful and beneficial to prayer, contemplation, and spiritual growth.

I loved the resources,and found much insight and help by reading and re-reading them. The wonderful writings and insights of Father Gillick, were very helpful and a blessing to me. I loved the prayers, and some struck a chord more than others, but all were used.

I really loved the photography and art work;the photographs were part of my prayer and contemplaton. We only meet once a fortnight but found it very helpful. I used all of the materials weekly, and usually accessed one or more of them each day. The "In these or similar words" section was often most helpful in connecting the theme of the week to my life. I also used the readings for most weeks to develop decades for meditation with my daily Rosary. I've been using every week, since last May, with a spiritual director over last summer we met less often familiar with Ignatian spirituality; she has used this website before.

I always read all sections except prayers , and most every week found at least one insight I needed. I was pretty faithful to the scriptures recommended--I'm an Episcopal priest preparing weekly sermons too, so sometimes I prayed the sunday lessons instead but usually both. I shared some of my reflections by way of e-mail and with friends at a message board.

I used it extensively, I made a copy of the week readings and reflections and I place them in a binder. My friend and I did the retreat together, we would get together once a week to discuss the experience. It was wonderful. I would read through the guide for each week every day to help me focus upon the process. I especially found the "For the Journey" very helpful and the "Getting Started" as it elaborated on the opening page very well.

I would print out the material each week on Saturday. I would underline the things I wanted to remember for the week, and I looked at these every day. The weekly resources were great and very helpful. The materials were a jumping off point each week. I looked over them at the beginning, went to the suggested scriptures, but often found that God led in other directions. Sharing weekly with a director was extremely beneficial. I used it for my own personal prayer, and at the same time as the basis for directing another in her spiritrual life.

I began this set of exercises as both a spiritual retreat and a Bible study. I am a seminary student taking an advanced preaching class. I was looking for a methodology to engage more fully with scripture. I found it here and am very grateful. There were 4 of us who gathered for dinner and sharing of the materials approx every 2 wks.

It is a very worthwhile experience and although we are from different circumstances, we all agreed that this retreat has made an extreme difference in each of us. We could recognize that fact in each other as well as within ourselves. I made the retreat with 3 Presbyterian colleagues -- all in differing ministry positions I was the only parish pastor.

We met twice a month for 75 minutes of prayer and sharing. Extensively--every day of every week. Yes, used for prayer, especially at the start of each week since my scheduled weekly Perpetual Adoration hour was, conveniently, on Monday mornings. So I started each week by going through the whole retreat material for that week on Monday morning and then referring to it throughout the week. Every morninh at 5AM before I went to work I used your daily reflections and retreat to atart my day. It gave me peace. I always used your daily reflecions.

The retreat helped me through the more difficult times this year. I always knew God has been with me, but the retreat made it more clear. Thank you. I made it with an e-sharing group set up by Creighton. Even though I was hesitant at first and rather shocked when I realized the sharing wasn't going to be totally anonymous, I found this part of the retreat experience very helpful. Knowing that others were praying with me and experiencing some of the same difficulties gave me hope. I was often awed by the goodness of God as I saw the pouring out of grace into my companions' lives.

The consistent weekly encouragement from Andy and Maureen made it so much easier and helped me to focus on the graces I needed to ask for. I found myself using almost all of the weekly materials as all of this was so new to me and gave me something to focus on. I did not have much of a prayer life to speak of before this retreat. I found the section, In These and Similar Words, very helpful as the prayer so often expressed what I was feeling. Eventually I was able to use this part as a springboard and could fill in the suggested prayer with parts of my life and my concerns and experiences.

Also, the individual prayers were helpful to me and I found myself returning to them weeks later. I used it daily. I met with another woman once a week and we shared our responses to the readings, and retreat materials. We shared our challenges and our growth. I did the retreat along with two other"spiritual friends". We'd meet every saturday at seven am for coffee, while our family was sleeping or slowing arising before soccer saturdays began.

We would use the weekly info. These meetings really assisted us as we would view the weeks graces differently among the three of us. It helped us to challenge eachother and to see all of lives activities as God incidences and no tco-incidences. We wwere a support to eachother and recommended others to join us, but realized three person was a fantastic, balanced number for a group discussion. I ran off the materials each and every week. I have 4 notebooks filled with your retreat materials. I looked forward each Monday to receiving the email intro for the Week from Maureen and Andy.

They have a natural ability to find just the right words to get us going and keep us going on the retreat. I joined the retreat online sharing group in September. That is what was the "icing on the cake". I live in a small midwestern town and we do not have any faith sharing groups in our parish. While we have a few adult ed classs for a few weeks a year it doesn't lend itself to heartfelt sharing. The online sharing group became "friends" so that we felt comfortable enough to share our thoughts in a safe forum. I also shared this retreat with my friends and pastor. This wonderful online retreat has been part of my everyday life since I started it in September.

I used all available materials and the weekly resources are fantastic. As a workinghours-per-week-outside-the-home-wife and mom, I was limited in the time I could regularly commit. But it would have been so easy and natural to reflect and follow the links a couple of hours per day. Weekdays I managed to be at our home computer about 20 minutes a day and on weekends about an hour.

My husband and I have made this retreat since week 1. We begin on Sunday evenings and read the prayers and reflections throughout the week together. Often we sit and share our thoughts with one another. This retreat has deepened our love for Jesus and one another. Many times throughout the day I would find myself imaging the background reflections. This was extremely helpful me throughout the retreat. I did read the materials every week, even though I did not participate in the sharing each week.

I felt very connected to the entire group, knowing we all had the same "jumping off" point for our weekly journey.

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The retreat materials were an integral part of not only my background each day, but very frequently right there in the forefront. I found myself relating the materials to every aspect of my life -- driving, working, praying, standing in line. I printed the materials and carried them with me in my car. When stuck in traffic, I re-read them; I actually looked forward to traffic snarls!

I suspect that you have given me a gift that will remain with me always. I took a moment to just put myself in God's presence and to wonder about who I am, where I'm going and what's out there. At work, I put the picture of the week on my computer as wallpaper each week. I read the first page of the week, For the Journey, and Getting Started the first day of the week. I tried to evenly break out the readings and prayers to last through the week.

I often reread For the Journey and Getting Started during the week. I used the material every day for my prayer. All the materials were a marvelous help for my daily and weekly prayer. Not only did I share the insights of the writers with RCIA, but our small network of 'pilgrims' would discuss the ideas presented. We all felt that we could place ourselves in the desert scenes much easir after reflecting on the writers interpretation of Jesus's ministry and words.

I participated in a group e-mail sharing with wonderful, simply amazing, and generous people. I also told others outside the retreat about my experience. I used the retreat materials almost daily as part of my prayer ritual. I tried to have a special time usually at night to do the exercises and really enjoyed many of the insights offered through the weekly and daily resources.

The Retreat

I shared the retreat with my family especially one member who recently was diagnosed with cancer. Plan to share the web site to my fellow catechists. I was in an online group. I was quite faithful to sharing but the majority of the group seemed to fade away. Two friends of mine and myself went through the material readings, prayers and beginning pages of each week every Saturday. We found the quantity of data overwhelming and usually each talked about what hit us most that week.

We had to narrow down our scope. We were initially doing the daily reflections, but it got to be too much. I read them thoroughly once a week and find to my unending delight that that seems to be where I am in my life so the retreat is kind of an affirmation -- it follows the liturgical studies in time as well.

Regarding whether I used it for prayer, I try to use the background for the week and then again I find it is at the same place I am. The resources are helpful in clarifying items I do not clearly understand. I began my retreat each week reading over the materials and that definately set the tenor for the week.

A friend invited myself and 3 other friends to join her when she discovered this retreat. We have met every other Friday for over a year now, only taking a break during lent this year, when we were approaching week 30 and it was confilicting with our Lenten prayers since we didn't start it in September with the liturgical calendar. There were 4 of us who met every other Friday to share what we interpreted in the readings and experienced in our putting them into practice in our daily lives.

We rotated houses and the evening started with dinner by the host, then we'd move to the living room to share about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes , and then we'd have dessert and plan the day and time of our next meeting. We all had different experiences, but it was obvious that we've become more aware of Christ's presence within us AND that our relationship with Him is now a priority in our lives-above work and other relationships. It was difficult at first, as any change in patterns is. I especially struggled with the guided imagery of placing myself into a scene.

That was completely new to me, but after prayer and making the concious choice to do so with the scene where the man was being lowered through the roof into the house where Jesus was, I was shown how powerful it is to take on a 'character' to fully experience the emotions of the story. I joined a group of 15 members whom I did not know personally, beginning with the the beginning of liturgical year.


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  • As a busy mother of 6 children and gran to two it is difficult to find time to pray. There is always "something to be done". However it is so easy to become absorbed and still in front of the computer screen it detatches my mind from hum drum activities and i can become open to prayer and be totally unaware of time passing. My family respect my "space" on the computer and don't butt in. The resources were very helpful for prayer, especially since the retreat was synchronised with the liturgical cycle so it was woven into the fabric of other spiritual aspects of my life.

    As a catechist in RCIA the retreat material provided the basis for more enlightened catechesis. I also used the Reflections in daily life, which I discovered about a year ago. The readings formed the basis of my prayer each week. The weekly resources were helpful, though sometimes I felt there was a tendency for the notes to prescribe what I 'ought' to feel - which was not necessarily what I did feel! I looked in at the site, each day, and found a focus there, as well as exercises to promote a deeper remationship with Christ.

    While we find it very difficult to match our schedules, we've either met or e-mailed each other each week to share our reflections on the themes. This has been enormously helpful for both of us--we experience each other as one of the sources of God's grace, as we both support and challenge each other to growth in discipleship. The weekly resources were VERY helpful. I have formed a habit of sitting down to the computer when I first arrive at my office and starting with the retreat most mornings.

    That gives me a very important centering experience with the week's themes that I can carry through the day. All the resources are helpful; I tend to read a short segment and then will often go back and forth between it and my own reflections, which I type right into a document on my computer. So the process is very interactive and workable for me. Some weeks I got more out of them due to what was going on in my life.

    I intend to start over after Christmas. I find them a help in developing a better prayer life. I read all the materials and links for each week. I read the sharing once or twice over 31 sessions over about 36 weeks. I dabbled in the Daily Reflections from time to time and discovered two online video talks that we most worthwhile on the Creighton site. The retreat materials were my guides during the entire week.

    Life was better for having the materials like fertilized soil to grow from. I usually use all materials for each week. I read a material you provide for the week, spending sometime to think, to pray. I have written some journal after such moments. I usually use a part of my lunch time before the computer about 4 days a week. I used all the materials every week, sometimes extending the "week" by several days.

    It became the foundation for my study and the framework of my prayer life. For many weeks in the beginning of the retreat, I went through each week all at once. That is, I read through all resources and reflections at one sitting, and I would do this, say, every Monday night. I don't get online that much so I would make a retreat night.

    It was so awesome. And, the resources, for me, were very much a key part. I reviewed all the retreat materials each time I signed into the retreat. I found it helpful to focus my attention on the different topics at hand and to clarify some of the material I was reading.

    At the beginning of the week and before work each day, I would go first to the retreat. I always chose a prayer and reading. It usually took minimum of two weeks to go through the materials. I never felt that I absorbed it entirely. I read all the material and used this as my guide in doing the retreat with my Jesuit director.

    The resources are excellent and gave me the direction I needed. All the material was very good and explained well. The scripture was very, very helpful. I might add that I have extensive theological training and found all material refreshing and valuable. The material is excellent regardless of experience level. I printed all of the retreat materials and read through everything at least once.

    I kept each week's materials in a ring binder and often went back to review something.

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    Once a week. I accessed this retreat about once a week, and read just about everything at that time. Every week I took an index card and made notes to put in my bathroom, in front of my mirror, so I would be reminded every day of the themes of the week and the meditations. At first my director handed me the readings plus the introduction. Once I got online, I used all the material. I used the retreat materials as an outline for prayer each week. I went through each item each week, finding the prayers, the "getting started," the picture -- all helpful.

    I did not read the sharing every week but found it most uplifting when I did.