Sometimes I’m asked why do you go on retreats? What’s so special about it? Those are indeed good questions. When we have endless opportunities to do and explore things why invest time and money in going on a retreat?
If we look at the root of the word ‘retreat’, it comes from the Latin verb ‘to pull back’. A retreat is a time when you can pull back from the normal world. It’s a time out of the ordinary, where you can step back, gain perspective, go inwards, rest and connect with yourself. In this hyper connected world we live in taking a complete time out seems like the most precious and necessary thing to do.
There are many different types of retreats; yoga retreats, meditation/ silent meditation retreats, spiritual retreats to name some.
For the last two years Steph Lisa Kelly and I have facilitated women’s retreats and looking back there are five core elements that draw people in:
Community. Strong bonds are created when we come together in a physical space with other people looking for similar experiences and intentions. We experience what it feels like to belong, to be seen and heard by others as well as getting to witness our fellow beings. There’s power, healing and joy to be found when we get to feel that we’re part of a community, and to experience that many of our own challenges, dreams, desires and fears are shared by others.
Value the feminine. In this space the feminine qualities are valued. In our world it’s still masculine qualities that prevail: doing, acting, striving, dominating, achieving – all used as measures of success. However it’s freeing to be in a space where being, nurturing, listening, creativity and compassion are prevalent. I believe this doesn’t only apply to women, when looking closer at the qualities of the polarities they are not confined to gender. In order for our world to thrive and be balanced both are needed and should be valued equally.
Self-care and acceptance. When we go on retreat we get permission and time to focus on ourselves and not take care of anyone else. This is needed and very nurturing. We are invited to be with all of ourselves; shadow and light is welcome and there’s no pressure to show up in a certain way. This brings relief and freedom. It also allows us to really see ourselves and gain perspective on how we might want to iterate elements in our daily life in order to live more wholehearted and aligned.
Inner light. With the practices that we integrate on the retreats; dance, movement, nature connection, universal connection, songs of devotion, creative expression, sensual exploration we get to reconnect with our inner light - that place inside all of us full of innocence, creativity, curiosity and joy. Being in our inner light is like connecting both to our playful child and wise elder as well as the vast universe. There’s a mystical element to it and this is something many of us are removed from, but what a gift it is to reconnect with that side of life.
Silence. At our retreats – and many in general – periods of silence are incorporated. Though it might feel daunting when it’s a new practice, we see how transformative it is. Being in silence create a unique form of spaciousness and peace. We get to be more internal and open up to insights and wisdom. It allows us to slow down, since we have more space to pay attention to every moment as we live it. Our senses are magnified when we are not distracted by chatter and a more external focus when eating, walking, seeing, touching, listening. As Zen teacher Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara puts it:
Becoming intimate with ourselves is the foundation for true intimacy with others and life in general.
Have you been on a retreat? If so I’d love to hear what motivated you? Share your thoughts in the comments below. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
I’m excited to announce that our next women’s retreat will be happening June 7-13, 2020 in Spain. All the details will be announced soon.
— and if you want to do a DIY mini mindfulness retreat here’s some inspiration for how to do that.
Photos from the 2019 women’s retreat by www.jacivibes.com/