Ever thought of doing a retreat? ‘Retreat’, nowadays, has become a buzz word in many organizations where a bit of corporate soul-searching is seen as a good way of team-building or of just blowing off steam. But long before business fashion hijacked the concept, the idea was alive and well……and cheap. We don’t have to go to expensive places and pay a ransom for coaches. These may be helpful in the corporate concept of a retreat, but sometimes, we just want to go on our own and get away from everything that reminds us of the squeeze of living. This is the basic objective of a self-directed retreat. To do this, we need to explore the following:
Define a ‘self-directed retreat’. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the etymology of the word retreat is from the 14th century, Middle English retret, from Anglo-French retrait. As a verb, it is defined as "an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable," or "the process of receding from a position or state attained." It can also be a noun — "a place of privacy or safety." A self-directed retreat is withdrawing to a place of privacy where you can re-draw your life. It is a time to reassess priorities and decide on changes to take in life direction. Or, it can just be a time of quiet to rest a weary soul. When you go on your own and determine the steps you will follow for the day or several days, you are on a self-directed retreat.
Decide on a place. If you have a favorite place and it is easy to go to, by all means have your retreat there. Just being in a place you treasure, you will already feel rejuvenated. Any place where you can spend time for quiet and reflection, and where you feel your spirit is rejuvenated, will be a good place for a retreat. It can be a special room in your house, or your garden, or a park in your community, or a secluded place in the beach. It is better when it is physically and also psychologically isolated from the pressures of work. A day or two on a path along a river bank or near a mountain can be a good choice when you are reassessing your life and relationships and perhaps thinking of moving towards a new direction.
Set the date. It is good to choose a date that has a special significance to you. Then, you look forward to it. And the chance of forgetting it is nil. Say, on your 40th birthday. Milestone dates give a chance to put a line under life up to that point and look at new directions.
Prepare the things you need. Make a list of the things that will help you on that day. Stick to what is necessary. This is the day when you want to let go of anything that distracts you. You may think of your meditation mat, a candle, a journal, a prepared meal for the day and a book to read should you need some inspiring. Pack your bag before the day itself. If you have to drive or travel to the place, pack everything you need the night before so you don’t rush in the morning.
Decide on your approach. You may want to just go with the flow. This means that you have no schedule or structure to follow but that you will just start and let it flow as you go along. You can discern the direction you are moving as your day progresses. If you are more comfortable in having a structure, prepare a schedule.
Prepare yourself. You may do this by reading some articles on meditation, praying, or even your favorite poems. You may go through your journal to give yourself a sense of where you are in your life. If you don’t have a journal, this is a good time to start. To start, you may find this link useful: How To Spin Your Life Story.
Start the day by waking up slowly. Don’t rush at the ring of the alarm. Better still, don’t set the alarm. Whatever approach you settle for, the most important is how you start your day. Remember not just to rush on that day. Start by being mindful from the time you wake up. Be present to what you are doing. Clear away your mental cobwebs and clutter. Don’t fight these thoughts and concerns that often come to mind. Let these pass like scenes in a movie. Let them be. If they persist, just let them pass through over and over again until they disappear.
Listen to yourself. You are the director in your self-directed retreat. In silence, you will be able to access deeper levels of understanding, or areas you have locked up in consciousness may introduce themselves. Start a dialogue with these images and listen. Get beneath the data. Events happen, but it is how you feel about the events that you must open to. Don’t skim over the surface…take the dive and search for the meaning.
Center yourself. As the day progresses, keep listening to your inner self. You can do this by becoming aware of your breathing. Become aware also of your feelings and other sensations. Let your ears search for sound like your eyes search for light. Explore the world with your sense of smell…reach out.
Rest yourself. When you get tired of meditating, take some rest. Remember, this is the day to rejuvenate so don’t push yourself. A retreat is your time to withdraw and rest…to restore yourself. If all you are able to do on this day is rest, it is a day well spent.
Remember, not much can be attained in one day. For most of us, just to
be quiet takes a lot of time. But this is your day so whatever you feel
like doing, go for it. You are unique and only you can direct your day.
My guess is you will find a different and more interesting ‘you’ if you
can practice a retreat every few months.