How To Plan A Personal Retreat That Fits Your Life
Whether it’s due to job stress, family responsibilities, or technology overload, most of us feel that we need an occasional break from our daily lives. A peaceful retreat on a remote mountain top would be ideal, but that comes with its own set of stressors: i.e., the money, time, and travel required to make it happen.
Maybe we need to redefine our notion of ‘retreat.’ Can you step away from the world without actually leaving it? Would you be more inclined to give yourself this re-energizing practice if the cost and travel time were minimal? And are you willing to design your own stay-in-place retreat that works within the boundaries of your world?
If so, read on for a brief guide to designing your customized, low-cost, in-home retreat.
SEE ALSO: The 10 Rules Of Dharma
First, a few questions
Planning is the key to success. Let’s begin with some preliminary questions to consider when planning your stay-in-place retreat.
- How long do you want to devote to your DIY retreat? A day, a weekend, or even a full week?
- Where will you have this retreat? If you live alone, you can declare your home a sanctuary for the duration of the retreat and enforce any rules you like. On the other hand, if you share living space with other human beings, they won’t necessarily comply with your wishes. In that case, consider having your DIY retreat at an inexpensive motel, in a tent, or in a place of worship. You might even want to swap living spaces with a friend for a few days.
- What type of retreat do you need? Is your goal to deepen your spiritual foundation or to perfect your pada bandha in Warrior poses? Do you want a silent retreat, a yoga retreat, or a detox retreat? Knowing exactly what you hope to gain from the experience will help you decide on the details. Be honest with yourself. If you’re dreaming of full-body massage and mimosas for breakfast, you ‘ll only feel more stressed after a weekend of all-day meditation and macrobiotic meals.
Make the plan
Once you have a clear idea of what your personal retreat looks like, you’re ready to assemble the pieces.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Account for every moment of each day. Write down your schedule, carve it in stone if you can, and post it in several different places so that you can always check to be sure you’re on track.
- Plan menus in advance. Gather your food supplies ahead of time. Be sure to include ‘Meal Preparation’ in your schedule.
- Disconnect. Put away all your devices. Put them FAR away. In fact, have a friend hold them for the duration. Eliminate the temptation so that you don’t have to struggle with it.
- Clean, launder, and organize BEFORE you begin the retreat.
- Begin with an offering. End with a blessing.
Know that the familiar will beckon. By disrupting your regular routine, you remind yourself to be aware and in the moment. Put all your usual foods in the freezer or give them away. Lock doors, rearrange items on shelves or use other barriers to stop habitual movement in its tracks and bring your thoughts back to the moment.
Retreat for the Body
Decide on your menu ahead of time and stock your pantry with the few simple, healthy foods you’ll need. Before you start a meal, say a blessing or –if you prefer—take a few minutes to think about the source of your food. Spend at least 30 minutes eating each meal. End by sitting with gratitude for a few minutes, then enjoy a leisurely, contemplative walk.
Retreat for the Mind
This is the time to finally savor that classic inspirational text you’ve been meaning to read. Whether it’s the Gita, the Koran, the Bible, or a more secular but equally uplifting work, be sure to make room in your retreat schedule for religious or philosophical contemplation. Equally important is your meditation time. Even if you have never meditated before, a well-rounded retreat should include this aspect of mindfulness. If you are new to this practice, you may choose to sit quietly in a comfortable chair and just listen to the sound of your breath for a few minutes. For more information, see Matt Caron’s “7 Tips to Start Your Meditation Routine.”
More experienced meditators may want to shake up their routine for this retreat. Just as changing your routine reminds you that you are on retreat, stepping outside your usual meditation style can help to break up stagnant energy and give new life to your practice
Retreat for the Soul
Two words: Shinrin Yoku. It means ‘forest bathing,’ and it refers to cleansing the spirit by spending time in nature. For the science behind this practice, see Jasmina Agonovic’s “Ancient Art of Forest Bathing.”
There’s no need to drive miles and miles to the nearest state park or natural area. If you have a relatively secluded yard, you can practice walking meditation there. Apartment dwellers can spend time sitting with a potted plant or plants, admiring their structure or sketching their shapes. Open a window and listen to birdsong; try to count the number of different birds you hear.
However and wherever you choose to make contact, nature will welcome you.
Where Do You Go from Here?
Once you’ve experienced your very personal retreat, you may find that you want to make it a regular part of your life. You can tweak it, expand it, or turn it upside-down in order to give yourself an even better experience each time. You can go on a retreat weekly. You can incorporate one or more of these practices into your daily routine. Know that whatever you do with the experience, you have made the right choice.
I hope that you’ll also share your experience of a DIY retreat in the comments section here. What worked for you and what didn’t? What will you do differently next time? And what guidance can you offer to others to help them plan their own retreats?
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