the arrival of autumn in just a few days has got me thinking about going on a retreat.
(geek alert now) the word retreat comes from the latin word retrehere, meaning to pull back. exactly what i think of now when i hear the word.
when i worked with teenagers + their spiritual growth, i often used short retreats as times to really dig deep and connect – with each other + with their souls. contrary to what we usually assume about teens, they actually crave ancient practices, quiet reflection, and a chance to just be. and i never would have learned that, had i not pushed them + invited them to spend 24 hours together, creating a sacred, intentional space.
these memories are some of the best ones that i have from working with teenagers in a spiritual setting. i enjoyed planning the retreats as much as i loved hosting them. in fact, i remember wondering if having/hosting retreats was something that i could do full-time. i still wonder that, and i hope to actually incorporate that into my business as i grow it.
you would come + have a retreat with me, wouldn’t you?
retreats are powerful. they are very intentional times set aside for soul work. for connecting with ourselves and whatever divine, sacred, beautiful connection we have with the universe. they give us a chance to slow down, to listen, to learn, to unplug, and to dive inward.
retreats are like climbing a mountain and standing there, on top, gazing out in awe of everything that lays out before you. they are filled inspiring, soul-filling moments. chances to refuel, realign, reassess. they get us out of our everyday life and our everyday routines.
of course, when we think of a retreat, we think of jaunting off to some cabin in the woods or a monastery in ireland or scotland, or taking a pilgrimage to a little hut somewhere near the holy land, or sitting in a temple in some eastern country, or some cottage by the sea, or even a hotel room in the middle of new york city.
the point is, we often think of going somewhere. somewhere a bit exotic and extremely inspiring.
however, that is not always possible. or even necessary. my retreats with my teenagers that were the most amazing, were ones that we spent in our local church building. we simply gathered in a room and stayed there. we visited the sanctuary some, but other than that, we keep ourselves confined to one room and the kitchen. we didn’t even go outside.
with autumn arriving here in the northern hemisphere, we are all retreating to our homes to nest and snuggle and hunker down before the winter. so, it’s the perfect time for a little retreat i believe. a home retreat.
there is no reason that we cannot celebrate a solitary retreat at home. creating our own schedule, rituals, and routines. it is an opportunity to have a day filled with all of the things that touch our soul, that inspire us, that teach us and keep us in check with who we really are. not to mention, they just give us a time to slow down and really relax. a day of sabbath. of holy rest.
so, how we do a home retreat?
well, first we adhere to some common elements that make up a retreat: aloneness and routine
aloneness: it may be hard to find a way to be alone. for example, in my little apartment, we have a kitchen, a living room, and a hall with a little alcove at one end where we sleep. and there are no doors. the most obvious place for me to be is in our alcove. our bed is large enough that i can study, read, nap, write, meditate and even eat there. it would also be easy to create a little temporary altar beside the bed. of course, i can leave the alcove to prepare tea or use the bathroom. but, the point is that i need to communicate to my wife that i will be spending my day there. in functional silence (meaning that i only speak if there is fire or flood).
i also believe that a retreat day is one that is to be unplugged. no social media. no facebooking or instagramming. for me, writing + photography are ok. but, there is no need to be on the internet. this is a time to be with ourselves.
routine: this retreat is our own to create. therefore, there are no rules at all. it can be a withdrawal from the regular stresses of life, or a day filled with study and reading. it can be a day of mediation or even sleep. it can be a combination of all of these things. or whatever we want. the point is, it is our day to create the space and feeling that our soul most craves. so, it is just to decide what our priority would be. what do we want to focus on?
we decide for ourselves the elements of retreat that are important for us.
for me, there are many things that i could use a retreat for. like reading and learning and taking notes. really soaking up a book. working on editing and choosing photographs for a book i would like to put together. and, while these things sound like working, they are not during the retreat. instead, within the framework of a retreat, they become spiritual practices. everything would be done with a higher level of awareness and mindfulness and intention.
and leaving my little alcove is something that i would also enjoy doing. leaving for a long walk outside, or a bike ride. something done in silence. a chance to photograph + just be in nature.
other than aloneness + routine, though, the retreat becomes whatever we want and need it to be. thus creating a very intimate retreat experience.
so, here’s a little example of what i am thinking about right now:
6:30a – 7:30a Meditation
730a – 8a Breakfast
8a -11a Reading session
11a – 1:30p Photography walk + lunch break
1:30p – 2:30p Nap
2:30p – 3:30p Photography book planning
3:30p – 4p Fika break (coffee/tea)
4p – 5p Meditation
5p -7p Read, study, write
8p – 930p More study
930p – 10p Closing practice
while it seems that there is a lot packed in and i am not just being, actually this is me spending time doing exactly what i want. fulfilling those things that fill my soul. it’s not about feeling the need to do something that i should do in order to have a proper retreat in the eyes of anyone else. instead this is all about listening to what i need and crave in my life at this moment in time.
and, there is always a desire + a place for retreats that we pay for, that take us way out of our regular days and place us in the midst of other pilgrims or in exotic, beautiful places.
i know that a home retreat, even though it doesn’t require travel or money, is not a completely easy thing to make happen. we have families, jobs, small spaces. but, with some creative planning, i believe that we can find a way to make it happen. just one day from morning to night. if you’re lucky, you may even plan a whole weekend or a week. a weekend is most definitely something that i would like to plan to do within the next 12 months. but, no matter how long or short, planning a retreat is planning a special time for just you and your spirit.
here are a few tips to help you plan your home retreat:
1. limit your communication with your family/partner/children/people you may come in contact with. If you cannot go completely silent because of responsibilities (not because you don’t want to. hehe.), then only talk in the morning and in the evening. try to only let your soul speak to you.
2. unplug. you have got to unplug. do not answer your phone. do not text. turn off your notifications. better yet, just leave your phone somewhere else. if you will be writing on your computer, turn off notifications and limit your use to a document app. no surfing. promise me.
3. make your space yours. clean. neat. separate. gather all of the things that you will need throughout the day: journals, pens, camera, books, candles, headphones, blankets, sweaters…
4. decide on your retreat priorities. what do you want your day to look like? what are the things you need, that speak to your soul? what are you missing in your life? keep it simple. Don’t try to do everything. focus, and know that you can plan another retreat soon.
5. prepare for your meals in advance. be basic. be light. be healthy. but, don’t start something new. just go with things you love. and keep it simple and relaxing. and of course, if you take medications, keep taking them while on retreat.
6. step away if you want. you can leave your retreat space, especially if your retreat is longer than few days. take a walk, go to the grocery store or gym. if you do leave, try to stay as quiet and as mindful as possible. listen only to the natural sounds around you. keep your responses brief. parties and dates are not meant to be part of this day, of course. this day is all about you.
7. this is the most important part: create a schedule + stick to it. it may sound boring and confining, but it will set your free. and if you want free time, schedule it in. but, make sure you stick to your schedule, other wise you will wander off track, lose focus, and miss the magic of the retreat.
8. lastly, there is no need for guilt. you and i deserve this. this is all about learning how to become better us’es. there is so much within us – so much power, inspiration, love, peace. and choosing to create a home retreat is simply us taking care of ourselves, our souls. it’s a day that gives us freedom, that reminds us who we really are + what we really want, that inspires us and prepares us to be used out in the world. so, really, you think it’s all about you. but, it’s not. it’s all about loving and living and making a difference.
challenge yourself. do this. i am. my retreat day is scheduled for saturday, the 14th of november. it’ll be good + dark in sweden then. most likely rainy. and a perfect day to be inside – literally + figuratively. care to join me in your own retreat in your own home?
leave me a comment below if you’d like to join in and create your own retreat. and, of course, let me know if you have any questions/need any guidance. (a few ideas + suggestions inspired by this post.)