Some years ago I lead a retreat in which 16 men gathered in the crisp Autumn morning sun at an outdoor education centre, for the beginning of a three day experience entitled “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life“.
Men ranging in age from mid-thirties through to their early sixties had come together in the hope of rediscovering their joy.
Does Middle Age equal Depression?
The retreat was about recovering what had been for the most part lost – the magic and enchantment in the ordinary.
Many men and women reach middle-age more or less dis-enchanted and somewhat depressed. The dreams and hopes of youth have been buried beneath the cares of hectic, over-burdened modern lives.
The retreat involved a series of reflections; symbolic ceremony and ritual; group and solitary exercises and activities designed to reconnect the participants with their “hearts”, finding the sacred in the ordinary or what has been expressed within the Christian mystical tradition, as living the sacrament of the present moment.
The Sacrament of the Present Moment
The sacrament of the present moment refers to the understanding that every moment in our lives can be revelatory, and an encounter with the exquisite mystery of the loving Presence in each moment. At the heart of most religious traditions and philosophies of life, lies a similar hope and goal.
Thomas Moore (whose work provided the inspiration for the intention of this retreat) had this to say about enchantment:
“The soul has an absolute unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thought. Yet our culture often takes pride in disproving and exploding the sources of enchantment, explaining away one mystery after another, desecrating for material profit the natural world. We have yet to learn that we can’t survive without enchantment and that the loss of it numbs and finally kills our spirit.”
He goes on to say that our contemporary culture creates disenchantment by the worshipping of productivity and profit, by placing economics at the centre of the human endeavour instead of the needs of the human soul.
The three days we spent together appeared to open up within each of these men, a renewed appreciation for the beauty and joy of living. Listen to some of their written evaluations submitted at the end of the retreat:
- “I had lost my way and thought that I was alone on my journey. I suspected that I was on the right path but couldn’t be sure. This time away has confirmed for me the truth and has lit my way to re-enchantment.”
- “During this retreat I have explored and experienced places within myself that I have been searching for all my life. Everything that we shared seemed so relevant as though there was a plan specially designed for me.”
- “I have so appreciated being given the tools to self discover; opportunity to hear other’s journeys; the normality of disenchantment and the need to nurture re-enchantment.”
- “I found myself saying constantly Yes! Yes! Yes! It has confirmed everything I intuitively knew.”
As this last participant’s testimony expressed, we all intuitively know – and long for – re-enchantment.
Although I am not at present running retreats such as these, if the sentiments expressed in this article have touched something in your soul I would be very happy to offer a chance for you to explore the journey toward re-enchantment. Although the retreat that this article refers to was a men’s retreat, I have run them for both genders so am very happy to accompany women on this journey as well.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a psychologist with over 25 years’ of experience, and a keen interest in helping individuals, couples and families to negotiate the various challenges of life and relationships.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!