How to Retreat

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, your pace hasn’t stopped accelerating or you are just tired of all people at the moment, you may be ready for a retreat. I like to schedule one for a few hours every month or two. Usually a Sat or Sun when my husband takes the kids to my in-laws. Without these times away I seem to lose focus on what I am doing and why.

Prepare for your retreat:

1. Since I usually stay home for my retreat, I like to make sure my bedroom is clean and I don’t have distractions. The first step would be picking a retreat area of your house and cleaning it up.

2. Decide what you want a retreat for. Do you want to concentrate on your health, learn to relax, prepare for a life change, make a decision, feel more creative, delve into your spirituality, find your authenticity, start to heal a relationship? Once you know why you want one, you can begin to decide what you want to do that would bring you closer to your intention.

3. Now create a ceremony to show you are starting your retreat. I like to light a candle and change clothes.

Relax and center

Most of us are too keyed up to get anything out of a retreat right away, so start by doing what relaxes you. It could be yoga, deep breathing, playing the piano, tending to a plant, taking a walk, dancing, or reading something inspirational. You are creating your retreat so everyone will be unique in their relaxation.

Check In

Throughout the retreat keep checking in with yourself. Ask, “How do I feel?” and “What do I need?” Take your cues from your check ins. Sometimes if you have planned something, you may end up doing something totally different after you check in with yourself.
Grounded in the Spiritual

Towards the beginning of the retreat is a great time to pray and ask God (or whatever name you choose) to guide you and be with you.

Play with the Question

Depending on your retreat topic you may have questions you are dealing with. Questions like, “How can I be more authentic?” “How can I be healthier?” “What is my next step in my life?”

You can journal the question and the answers that flow from you. Maybe draw. You can sit with the question and mull it over. Sculpt, paint or scrapbook the question. Try an unusual medium that you don’t normally use to bring a fresh perspective to your question.

Take breaks

After intense inner work, you may want to do something fun and relaxing for a bit. What kinds of things did you like to do as a kid? Can you pick one to do? Make sure you have some healthy snacks on hand in case you feel like doing some nervous eating. Keep a bottle of water nearby.
Exercises

If you have some self-help books in your bookshelf, you probably have some exercises in there that you have wanted to try. You haven’t had the time yet. Now you can. Also, Jennifer Louden has some great exercises in her book, “The Women’s Retreat Book.” Many of these suggestions are gleaned from her writings.

I also like Self Nurture from Alice Domar and Living Out Loud by Keri Smith. And remember you don’t have to do anything. Sitting and listening is also important.
Get Physical

After more inner work I like to do some moving. Preferably outside. Maybe a hike or a bike ride. Or a little yoga in the backyard.

Mindful Meal

When it’s time to eat, eat at the table with no distractions and enjoy the taste of your food. Use all your senses to be totally present. Feel the gratitude for your food and for all the good things in your life.

What have you discovered?

Before ending a retreat I like to write in my journal any insights they came up. For instance, in my last retreat I wrote that I missed being out in nature. Winter has been so cold here I haven’t ventured out much. So today I took out my cross-country skiis for a 25 min ski.

You can also schedule a few mini-retreats in the coming weeks. Some ideas for mini-retreats:

  • Getting a facial, manicure, pedicure or massage
  • An hour in prayer
  • 30 minutes doing something creative
  • A 3 minute music break where all you do is listen to the music
  • Playing in your garden on the weekend
  • A 10 minute hike in a nearby woods or park
  • Smelling and looking at flowers
  • Going to your room for 5 minutes of silence
  • Planning something fun for an evening

Re-entry

So I will be loving with my family when they come home and not annoyed that my peace is gone, I need to do a little re-entry ritual as well. First I blow out the candle. Then I putter around the house. I picture all the things I appreciate and love about my family. Soon, I can’t wait for them to get home.

When can you next schedule a retreat?

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