One of the aspects of a retreat that I appreciate is the ability to be dedicated fully to the purpose of the retreat. Because you are able to go elsewhere in a space dedicated to that purpose, you can ignore the day-to-day. Of course, for me (and most people) that means running around a few days before "taking care of business" and "clearing your plate" so as to be able to go with a clean conscience. Invariably I forget something that I meant to pack, but it usually isn't a tragedy. For this retreat, I'd forgotten where I packed my make-up and my journal. I purchased another journal (not like they'll go to waste) and went with very light make-up (powder/eye pencil/chapstick) though I ended up having to purchase two powder compacts before finding the right shade (sigh . . . ).
The retreat was at a facility dedicated to spiritual growth workshops so it was designed to calm and inspire. It had a sauna hut, various gardens, lots of wind chimes and statues and crystals. Hummingbirds and bees busily flitted amongst the flowers. Chipmunks ran along the paths. The food was all local, organic and prepared with an exceeding amount of care and pride. We were treated to truly healthy food that nourished on a multitude of levels. The whole place reminded me of what is possible when love, focus and purpose are put toward creating a vision. It was inspirational. (If you are interested in looking at their programs, please see this link: https://www.northernedgealgonquin.ca/)
Most importantly, the retreat allowed me the chance to come into myself and into a state of concentrated calmness. All the way up to the park, I was in a vile mood due to the rainy weather. As it turned out, the rain was lovely when we arrived--cleansing and refreshing. The weather didn't matter at all. The rest of the weekend we saw sun, some clouds, a bit of warming up--but again, it really didn't matter. It was a good reminder of how I can get wound up about something that doesn't merit anxiety or anger.
Over the weekend, we drummed, and sang, and canoed. We saw a family of loons protecting their two chicks (amazing), we saw herons and cranes and we saw the Northern LIghts and the Milky Way. We ate well, slept well and connected with people also dedicated to deepening their spiritual connection to the earth. So, perhaps think about how--before summer is over--you can engage in your own retreat either away or at home.
You can, of course, look for a local retreat (either stay-over or not) but there are ways to accomplish this at home as well:
- Set your retreat to last from 4:00 Friday to Noon Sunday.
- Buy yourself simple but really health food to get you through that time. Ingredients for smoothies, high-quality eggs, field green salad mixes, vegetables for grilling, beautiful berries, rice pasta with a great marinara. Keep it easy but clean, fresh and comforting. Buy a high end organic coffee and/or a terrific tea as well.
- Get yourself some spiritual reading from any tradition, or go with something like Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. Dedicate time throughout the weekend to reading.
- Buy a journal for daily writing and reflection.
- Get some relaxing "spa" music. CD's, Amazon Prime Playlists, Pandora, YouTube--so many options! Choose what appeals to you. For some this may be nature sounds, for others crystal bowls, for others relaxing piano. Test out a few and see what induces a feeling of calm.
- Unplug. No cell phone, no checking email, let your answering machine pick up calls.
- NO TELEVISION. At all, Period.
- No other obligations. For families, this means telling your family members that this is your retreat time and that this is what you'll be doing. You may want to organize a family hike, but no activities that involve large groups or very public settings (no ball games, for example). Plan ahead places you may go for calm and quietude: parks, trails, art museums, libraries.
- Get to bed EARLY. No staying up to surf the internet. You should ideally be in bed by 10:00. Rest is a prime component.
- Get up early and greet the day with a meditative walk, taking in the sights, smells and sounds.
Retreat is easier when arranged by professionals, but it is also more expensive and not always available when you need/want it. Arranging your own retreat time is always possible with forethought and dedication to taking time for yourself. Each season should involve a period of introspection--a stepping back from the day-to-day. In this way, we can always appreciate the uniqueness of the cycles of the year and prepare ourselves to move through life more gracefully.
And finally, if you are interested in learning more about Healing Traditions, check out my course special available through August 31st--a $75 savings.