I grew up watching my parents go on meditation and spiritual retreats, beginning in the early 1970s. I wasn’t really sure what happened during these periods when we were left to fend with the other parent, but I do remember how peaceful, grounded, and loving they were when they returned from these respites.
Stephen Cope, MSW, founder of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, says that retreats don’t change our lives as much as they change where we stand in relationship to our lives—and our capacity to see the hidden possibilities there.
For me, retreats—whether it’s a Saturday at a nearby greenbelt or a weekend or weeklong experience out-of-state—have become essential to how I run my life. I believe they’re one of the best investments I can make in myself, my business, and my family; I consider them to be as essential to balanced living as oxygen.
Here are the top five reasons I take retreats:
- To navigate career/life transitions. By gathering with others in a supportive, validating environment, I’m reminded that I’m not alone, and that everyone goes through periods when they feel lost and uncertain, and are having trouble finding their way back home. Hearing from others who are on the same raft, navigating similar waters, can make all the difference in how you experience the journey.
- To gain a shift in perspective. Intentional time away provides me with the “30,000-foot view,” and reminds me that, as author and speaker Wayne Dyer says, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
- To fill my well. Navigating modern life and living in a 24/7 culture that rarely unplugs means that we need to find ways to recalibrate our body, mind, and spirit, and return to our natural rhythms. Retreats offer the chance to experience deep, “to-the-bone” replenishment, rest, and renewal.
- To gain clarity around how and where to direct my energy, time, and talents. I believe we all inherently know what’s best for us—it’s just that we rarely slow down or get quiet enough to hear this inner wisdom. Often this comes to the surface when we’re on a retreat, helping us focus on our next steps. I try to take a one-day personal planning retreat every 90 days.
- To learn to receive. Giving myself permission to drop my persona and receive support from like-minded people who see the highest and best in me is freeing and exhilarating, and reminds me of who I really am. We’re all one another’s teachers; often the shiniest pearls of wisdom from a retreat experience come from other participants.
Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life-balance coach, speaker, and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, US News and World Report, Good Housekeeping, AARP, and more. She is the author of the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. Renée lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. www.reneetrudeau.com