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Come along with local registered social worker Cathy MacDougall as she journals her way through her first self-imposed solo silent retreat.

I awoke today at 7am, before my alarm was to go off at eight. I am starting to feel “normal” now. I am getting back to my usual routine of getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. For the first time I feel rested today. Healthier. I did not want to roll over to just lay there or to continue sleeping. I did my reading and meditation and then I realized I had to do something work related.

I reluctantly started to text people about events that were coming up and needed to be advertised. I did not mind really, but I did observe that it might be a little difficult to go back to reality, back home that is, in the next few days. Clarification: It is not home per say, its going back to the demands, the responsibilities, the noise etcetera, etcetera.  For someone who could do so much in the run of a day, I simply cannot anymore. I can say this with strong conviction and acceptance. The good news is I do know this, and I like it! 

So why is it so hard to do? Maybe it is an age thing. However, age gets blamed for many things. I do believe that it is more than just aging.  At the risk of sounding to mainstream or flavour-of-the-month type of thing, I think its more about taking care of yourself. We hear this a great deal in the media these days, but do people really know how to do this? Women in particular? Well, I think it’s about the life cycles we go through. Remember I commented in an earlier entry that I am going through a developmental stage? (And who isn’t?) Well, that informs you a little about what I mean. Again, another universal human experience. We all go through the stages of life, and they are all similar. What is unique or sets us apart from each other our timing of entering those stages. There are many factors that will influence this of course, but my point is, again, we are more alike than different.  

Today is a very good day. I feel not only rested physically but mentally. My emotions are back to being stable. This is why I did this retreat. To get healthy when I knew I was falling into a pit of poop. Actually, I did not realize how much until I gave myself the time to be by myself. I am so grateful that I am at a stage in my life I can go off on my own. This is an age thing. A right of passage! It is the universal responsibility we all have to ourselves. To take care of ourselves, to learn to do this and as a sidebar in the larger picture of things, it will cut down on our dependence on an overrun healthcare system.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. After exercising, meditating, and having breakfast, I went for walk that turned out to be a three-hour hike! I did not know where I was going to walk but when I arrived at the end of a long and winding road, my driveway, I decided I didn’t want to take my usual route, so I went in the opposite direction. Being in the country you do not get much traffic, so I started down the main road. I often thought about taking this direction but have never followed through; I always take the same path. I now know I did that because I knew how long it would take and I had to get back. The story of my life!

It was enlightening to see things from the road rather than driving by in a car! It may sound trivial, but I felt like ‘wow!’ It was really like I had never seen these places before, the houses, the driveways ...everything! Up close and personal. I was in ‘beginners mind.’ I also found myself getting a bit sad. In the 24 years I had this bungalow I have never taken a different direction, pun intended. I was always curious about people, where they live, what they do, their communities, old roads and where they lead. I would occupy myself driving by wondering about these things. Saying these thoughts mostly to myself, I would often imagine what or who came before me and what would it be like to walk these roads. I never did it. I had the same thought after walking about three miles and seeing a dirt road, perhaps a driveway, off to the left that I figured must take you to the railroad tracks, now defunct. I wanted to walk back using a different route too and always loved and wanted to walk on the tracks. I never did. Until today.

Observing the ruts and remnants of the rain-soaked mud on this road, I soon surmised that this road was not used very much. No tire tracks or footprints and no signs of a structure. As I walked this long road it became obvious it was not a driveway leading to someone’s house and someone’s privacy. I did not want to intrude. Relief!

I was amazed how much distance there was between the main road and the water. From up on the main road, you would think the water was ‘right there.’ Not so. I walked at least ½ kilometer before I reached the tracks and the water. I was shocked in some ways to see how much the tracks were overgrown. The train stopped running on the island about 10 years ago, and it was sad day for all who loved the sound of the train and, like me, always had a fascination of walking the railroad tracks. The simple things.

I began my trek back toward my bungalow. I began to imagine what it would be like to have the trains running again. I also imagined what else could become of these train tracks that will soon become obscure by time and a lack of care. Like most things in life, I thought it would make a grand walking track and make work for those who need physical labour. The scenery along the track is beautiful! There are some gurgling brooks running down from the mountain and when you stop to listen and look you realise that they are so naturally meditative. Music to my ears.

It is during his walk that I had some insights. Insights for me are lessons that I did not know or things I knew but did not pay attention to. Insight involves a clarity that can’t be denied. No going back. What became clear to me is this: I have time to do this. To take long hikes, to sit, to read, and the like. I had time in the past 24 years, but I did not take it. This bungalow was supposed to be time away from work. Time to allow for rest, leisure, creativity, exploring, just being rather than doing, and for fun. Rather, it became work. The type of work that never ends. The type of work that goes beyond what needs to be done. The type of work that did not allow for anything described above because for some reason it was like a dirty word to do “nothing.”

Well my insight is that this type of nothing is not nothing. Can we ever really ‘do’ nothing anyway? My answer is no. My point is, I do have to work but that work changes, and, comes in many ways, shapes and forms. It is in the eye of the beholder. I see this so clearly now. I am not wasting time…ever!  My priority from a life perspective is to myself first, to those I love, and to the things I love and will need to do to survive. Sounds dramatic? Well after this week and knowing I was not going in the direction I wanted, it is about survival, especially mental and spiritual.

This is where the word entitlement is not a dirty word. I am entitled to pick and choose what work means to me. As one who was probably addicted to traditional work, shall we say, my insight is that work is defined by the one who is doing it, and I worked very hard. I still do.  With insight, I become less afraid. I arrive back to the cabin, at home, and feel relieved. No more ignoring what has come up. Now for the hardest part: putting it into action.


I really can do what I want. Not so much what I need to do. Perhaps the want and the needs have become the same thing. I can work differently and get a different reward that does not involve remuneration. I’ve done that and I do not have to do it again. That part is over.

Everyone needs to take time. Even a little bit for themselves to survive in a heathy way. If you ever feel that you must justify this or fight for this, it’s time for you to figure out why.

Taking a different direction allows you to see things and if you want to go back, you always can.


I invite readers to take a different direction, to keep it simple. You can always return to the usual route.




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