These many examples underscore the diversity of retreat. Jesus slept in the open air, Antony a rotting garrison, Newman a converted horse shed, Dillard a cabin. While Augustine and his mother shared a roof, most retreatants choose to be alone. Sometimes, however, these preferences come to naught: many solitaries attract followers who bunk down alongside them willy-nilly. Some retreats precede great events, as an anticipatory gathering of spiritual energies, while others come as an aftermath, a chance to reflect after the dust has settled. Retreats vary in content as well as form. We can never anticipate what will happen. Our time apart may overturn a lifetime of convictions or it may confirm our fondest beliefs. Whatever our experience, we do well to keep in mind the grand procession of men and women who have preceded us. The moment that we decide to withdraw from the world, however brief our retreat, however hesitant our resolve, we forge a new link in a great chain of retreatants stretching back across millennia to the ancient Israelites; we join in a common enterprise with Moses and all his spiritual progeny. Once again, the truth obtains: on retreat, we are never alone.

Philip Zaleski in The Recollected Heart: A Guide to Making a Contemplative Weekend Retreat