Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Going into the Dark

If you already know you need a retreat,
and that you love Going into the Dark,
just click here and be welcome!

If you already know you need a retreat, and that you love Going into the Dark, just click here and be welcome!

We Can Learn from the Dark


I mean.

I just.

Weeks have gone on forever. Months have flown by. And the year itself has felt interminable.

For all the reasons you know. All the fear and death and grief and terror and shock and shock again…you know the reasons. 2020. The hits have just kept coming.

And on top of it all, the December holidays. They shouldn’t feel like more “hits,” but they can, especially when we just cannot DO all the things that we’d love to be doing, and we’re trying to figure out new ways to manage, to parent, to keep kids happy and well, to be in relationships, not to be isolated…well, again, you know.

Even during this time of “social distance” — really especially during this time, we need to feel connected to our own hearts, to the Divine, and to other beings. 

Even when most of our shopping is done online or in the crafts of our own hands, the deep character of the often-beloved, often-dreaded December holiday season can be obscured by fretful shopping, messy cookie making, and mandatory cooking. It is that frenzy that is another dis-ease of this season. Advent, Chanukah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa…none of these holidays demand frenetic activity. Yet, the quality of this time of year tends to be frantic, even in this strange, strange year. We tend to feel the push and pull of conflicting obligations, like the desire to find ways to spend meaningful time with family, even as we find some of our family challenging. 

But as the light grows dim we naturally want to join our other mammal siblings in rest and renewal, a kind of hibernation, a retreat, as it were. Especially in times of uncertainty and unrest. 


Not everything is uncertain. 

Some things remain.

Gaia, Earth, makes Her way around Sol, our brilliant, yellow sun, each year. Each year they come close together in our winter, but in the Northern Hemisphere, that closeness is accompanied by the slanting light and the deep darkness of the solstice.

The solstice remains a time that, no matter the frenzy and fear around us, we are welcomed into the dance of Gaia and Sol. We are welcomed into the seeming slowing of time as the days shorten. This dance is for us, in our blink-of-an-eye lives, an eternal thing. An eternal dance, so many long ages in Gaia’s slow spin. As we are part of Her, not merely residents in some sort of terrestrial neighborhood, so we are invited to attend to the seasons, however they show up where we are in this blue-green ball of which we are a part. 

And this year, in order to do that, we will go deep into our own hearts. Deep into stillness. Deep into listening. Deep.

“The Great Above Calls to the Great Below” 

This year, we will make our way into the Underworld, with the help of an ancient myth that is a profound teaching I have studied over the last 20 years. Not merely the Labyrinth, turning in and in and in toward the Center and back out into the world. But down and down into the Underworld, House of Shadows, into a place where we can learn to see in the dark and from which we can be reborn into new understanding. 

We will not have a splash of flashy presentations or lots of notes to take, just the time we’ve spent together as we have the last five years. A PDF for you to make notes (if you like) or doodle on. Time between each of four Zoom gatherings to think and to process. To nap and take a walk. To lunch and to sing. To take care of obligations that simply could not be set aside. No special effects. Just sharing and being together and going on a journey, together and alone.

And during our gatherings, an invitation to come in your pyjamas. To knit and share the sweet rhythm of your rocking chair. To lounge in bend with the light off, staying in the dim of an overcast day. To keep your video off and to be with us that way. To dip in and out. To do exactly what you need to do to have a day of gentle, gentle, gentleness.

As you know, there is no magic panacea for peace and communion with other beings. God/dess knows we haven’t seen much of that in 2020. Not even at the time of year when the holidays are supposed to be life giving and joyful. Peace on Earth and in our hearts, we are told. Light faithfully shared will get us through a dark time, we are told. The Light of life is returning, we are told. Community sustains us, we are told. 

These are the things–love, joy, hope, peace, light, communion with one another–our hearts require, aren’t they? Our hearts do not require the grasping, pressure, terror, and anxiety this year has heaped on us. 

This season calls for attention, for anticipation, for rest. 

Dare to Come into the Dark

This sixth year of my virtual retreat, Going into the Dark, will be a day set aside for renewal and for rest with the support and companionship of others seeking the same. 

We’ll meet online together four times over the course of the day. During our gatherings, we’ll set intentions based on our needs and the needs of the world, listen to and meditate on myth and poetry, hear one another, and delve deeply into the needs of our yearning hearts. 

Again this year, the cost is $150 for the entire event. Four simple, uncomplicated Zoom gatherings, beginning at 11 am Eastern/8 am Pacific.

No bells. No whistles. No YouTube.  No complicated presentations. Nothing prerecorded. Just us, together, as we are each year. Just communion with one another. Just the depth of our own hearts.

In between our times together, I encourage you to engage in quiet, renewing activities. Maybe that means having a big nap or curling up with tea and a novel. Maybe it means getting out your markers and coloring. Maybe it means stringing popcorn and cranberries with little ones. 

By traveling to the Underworld, that magical space that embodies the close and holy depth of our hearts and somehow also reflects the farthest reaches of the night sky, we will learn to let go of some things we have grasped close to us in order to see what it feels like just to be ourselves, alone and together, in the darkness of the deep regions of our hearts.

Going into the Dark lets us develop traditions that turn the volume down, slow our frantically beating hearts, invite contemplation, enhance our wonder at the miracles of one another, the turning Earth, and the Source of Life. 

We need a moment to touch the quiet of the long night, to be present to the deepening dark, and to be still.

In a season formerly filled with glitter, gaiety, song, and eggnog, there is something especially nourishing about pausing and being present with the darkness and the chill, especially when that chill is something we feel on the inside, as well as in the world around us. There is something wonderful and healing about being together in this way, something magical. 

Especially when we feel alone, grieving, frustrated, lost, and starving for genuine connection…

I invite you to a time of connection. I invite you to a tradition. I invite you to a pause that can bring some peace, some rest, some wonder.

I invite you to a virtual retreat in preparation for the depth of winter. 


Together we will share the beauty and wisdom
of the dark time of the year.

The Details

This year’s Going Into the Dark retreat will take place on Saturday, December 19th, 2020. We’ll meet four times over the course of the day:

8:00am PT/11:00am ET for setting intensions

9:30am PT/12:30pm ET for journeying

12:30pm PT/3:30pm ET for sharing

3:00pm PT/6:00pm ET for blessing

We’ll meet on the online platform, Zoom. I’ll have my video on, and you can have your video on or off as you choose. 

The cost for the whole day is $150.

Here are some questions folks have asked over the years:

There tend to be few enough that there can be intimate and deep sharing, but large enough that not everyone has to verbally participate in every question, invitation to share, or time of wondering. You can always have your video on or off. As I say with a smile, “This is an empowerment-based retreat.”


Come anyway! Any amount of getting in touch with yourself and the quiet of the world will be a balm to your soul. One of our retreatants in a previous year could only attend two calls, and yet he spoke of the richness of the day for months thereafter.


Yes! In the email you’ll get a day before the retreat, you’ll get phone numbers you can use to dial in via telephone for any or all of the calls.

Based on feedback from past participants, Going into the Dark is not recorded. This is to protect the sacred Mystery of the retreat and to respect the privacy of what participants share.

Our time together creates a deep Mystery, and it is a Mystery that I do not believe can be evoked through a recording.


What others have said

"Catharine is truly magical. Her ability to create and lead ritual is unparalleled (and I am very picky about that!). Catharine has taken me to deep and powerful places, and I am profoundly grateful for her capacity to hold space and help me feel safe as I'm doing deep work. That she can do this through the inter-webs and that we do not have to be in person with each other is especially mind-blowing. To work with Catharine is to be held deeply. I highly recommend it."
Julica Hermann de la Fuente
“No matter what your calendar tries to tell you, the timing for Rev. Catharine Clarenbach's Going Into The Dark retreat is divine. I recommend it to all religious professionals struggling to stay connected to a sense of the holy through the intense emotional and performative demands of December. I am so grateful I said yes. Signing up with dear souls whom I know and love across this continent was an extra bonus of sustaining joy.”
Rev. Deanna Vandiver

Are you in?

I’m so excited that you want to share this sacred and mysterious time with me! Click the button below to sign up, and come with us, come into the Dark.