At least once a year - often, over the Presidents' Day Weekend - my wife and I make a three-hour trek south of Louisville, near Bardstown, to the Abbey of Gethsemani for a weekend retreat. We did so again last week.
The forty or so Trappist Monks who live and work at the Abbey have a very structured life: seven services a day, from 3:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., within which they chant the Psalms (completing all 150 Psalms every two weeks), simple meals at the same times each day, work assignments between services, because each monastery must be self-sufficient (The Monks at Gethsemani make and sell cheese and wonderful bourbon fudge.). And, although the Trappists do not take a vow of silence, they do speak only when it is necessary, thus leading lives of contemplative silence, in order to make them more receptive to hearing and understanding God's will.
My wife is Catholic; I am not. She looks forward to our regular retreats as an opportunity to reinvigorate her faith (and to regain a modicum of her sanity, which is always at risk because she has to put up with me). Even though I find it easy to consider weightier topics than usual during the retreat, I usually am satisfied just to retreat into the silence for a weekend to catch up on some reading, perhaps a little writing, and empty out the clutter in my mind. And, though I don't often wake up for the very early morning services, I do attend most of the ones I am awake for. And I never get tired of the neat little tent signs that are placed on the tables of the dining room: "Silence is Spoken Here."
One of the lessons I have learned as a result of the eight or ten years I have been retreating is that there is value in taking a step back and examining your life and its priorities to make sure the two are lined up. Someone once told me that in order to understand what is important to a person, you need examine only his calendar and checkbook. That was a revelation to me, and one that I use often.
In addition to weekend retreats, I try to take a little time each day to reflect on the alignment of what I think is important, and what I am spending my time and money on. It's an exercise I would encourage for anyone, and it takes just a few minutes at the beginning or end of the day.
And if sometimes, a weekend of peace and quiet sounds like a good idea, check out the Abbey of Gethsemani.