a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
Educators are a resilient crew. Those of us who stick around through more than a few years of teaching know the hours are long, the expectations are high, and the accolades are few. In the past few years, educator self-care has become a hot topic. Personally, I believe this focus is long overdue. Unfortunately, teachers have been reporting in mass a concern that administrators and higher ed professionals are telling them to engage in self-care while piling on additional work and higher expectations not to mention COVID related procedures. The concern is real and weighs heavily on my heart as a special education administrator.
Job stress is not new to me. The language of self-care is relatively new. Through trial and error, I have found a few strategies that really help alleviate stress. I can feel signs in my body when it is time to be more serious and intentional in taking care of my mental health. Rather than pushing through those symptoms, I now engage in what I call a silent retreat.
Many times, when I discuss my habit of taking silent retreats, the listener looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. The typical response is something along the lines of, “How can you be quiet for so long?” For me, the art of a well-executed silent retreat is getting alone to talk with and listen to the Master Teacher. This practice is very similar to Sabbath.
Let’s get practical. When I feel the need for a silent retreat, I hop on Airbnb and start looking for a place to stay that is under two hours from home and fits in my budget. I don’t need a lot of space, but I do like to be close to water and have a few options for walking in nature. In my area in the U.S., we have lovely state parks with perfect little cabins or inns. I also have found Airbnb options just outside state parks or near a river. The place needs to have enough space for a yoga mat and several seating options for journaling. A common area is nice, as is an outside space. If there is a rocking chair, I’m on cloud nine. I typically stay two nights, but one night has worked as well.
What does one do on a silent retreat? Planning makes me feel safe and helps me relax, so I always have a general idea of what activities to engage in. Each time I’ve been in a different place in my spirit so I’ve taken different types of books and activities. I typically take some sort of guide for the Word. That might be a study or a book. I also like to listen to audio books while walking. I always have a journal and colored markers. Lifting gratitude, my needs, and the needs of others is a very big part of my time away. I enjoy asking my friends and family for specific needs they may want me to lift during my time away. Journaling what I lift helps me stay on track. My journals often look more like roadmaps than lists or a letter.
Meditation is another part of my silent retreat rotation. I like to engage with guided meditation. Alisa Keeton, founder of Revelation Wellness, hosts the Revelation Wellness Podcast. She has a series of podcasts called “Be Still and Be Loved.” In those episodes she guides you through meditation practices while speaking the Word. It’s an excellent way to calm my body and heart to help hear from the Master Teacher. Additionally, walks along water or through trees help me focus and rejuvenate. I like to stroll through nature while breathing and thinking. Sometimes I listen to music or an audio book that speaks life. Other times I just remain still. We have to be still and allow time to be spoken to. Finally, I engage in yoga. Revelation Wellness offers yoga sessions at www.revelationwellness.org for a small monthly donation. You can also search on YouTube for Holy Yoga where truth will be spoken while moving and stretching.
Finally, I enjoy time alone. I eat alone. I go get coffee alone. I drive with the top of my jeep off, alone. Our world has become so loud and full of influence that being alone feels sacred and special. It’s good to be alone and quiet. We can be healed when we get quiet and seek answers from the One who gave us life.
If you are worried about safety or feel uncomfortable renting a space alone, I have retreated with a friend. It went very well. I would suggest you take someone you know very well and feel comfortable telling what you need. My friend and I are very close and set parameters for our time. We had meals together and chatted about what we were learning and hearing. We also took walks together but separated for journaling time. Retreating with a friend also helps with costs.
As a support, I will offer an idea of a loose plan in the document linked here: Sample Silent Retreat Plan. However, I suggest you keep it loose. Allow the One who made you to guide how you spend your time.
Perhaps after reading this post, you’re feeling like some of my friends and wondering how I could possibly be silent so long. If so, come back in two weeks. A few teachers will share their ideas for shorter-term–but still silent–self-care with the Master Teacher.
Jill Schafhauser is the Assistant Director of Special Education in a school district near Indianapolis, Indiana in the United States. Jill has been loving life in the world of special education for over twenty years. She also has two handsome sons and an awesome husband. The Schafhausers serve the Master Teacher as a team, trying to be a bit more like Him daily.