Taking a Spiritual Retreat1
Reclaim Your Inner Peace:
Tips and Suggestions About Taking a Spiritual Retreat
By Expanding Light Retreat Staff
Everyone occasionally needs some inner rejuvenation. Whether you want to break new ground, spiritually speaking, or you simply want to reclaim your peace in the midst of a hectic life, going on retreat can be a perfect solution.
A true retreat is much more than a vacation—it can be a time of conscious, spiritual opening, of making an enjoyable effort to rise to an entirely new state of awareness. Here are a few tips for a retreat experience that is both relaxing and spiritually rewarding:
Plan for It:
Take the time and give some thought about what you’d like to focus on during your retreat time. Is this a time just to get rest and see what happens? Would you like to focus on healing a relationship or something from the past? Would you like to work on goals for the coming year? Having an intention for your retreat often helps give it momentum
Find a Supportive Environment:
The right environment can give you a tremendous boost. If possible, choose a place with an established spiritual tradition, one that is harmonious with your own spiritual inclinations. For example, if you are a heart-oriented person, you may not feel nurtured in a strongly intellectual environment, and vice versa.
If you’re new to being on retreat, go to a retreat center that offers individual guidance. Optional, guided group activities—such as yoga postures, meditations, nature walks, and so on—are also a plus. Occasionally tapping into focused group energy can help even experienced retreatants keep their energy high and inspired.
Look for a place with beautiful natural surroundings. Being quiet amid nature’s beauty can be tremendously restorative. Choose a retreat that will give you time and space to be alone when you wish.
Allow Initial Time to Relax and Unwind:
It will help you to get more from your retreat if you’re able to spend the first full day resting and orienting yourself to the retreat campus and staff. Take the time to catch up on some rest after traveling and to de-stress from your busy life. Hide your cell phone and computer! In particular, during your first day or two, you can “speed the process” by scheduling a massage or other healing treatment that many spiritual retreats offer.
Once on Retreat, Go on a “Worry Fast”:
As soon as you leave home, determine to put all problems out of your mind. Tell yourself that the more you allow your mind to focus on the joy of the present moment, the more inspiration you will feel for dealing with those problems creatively and effectively after your retreat is over. When you can put problems aside and focus on lifting your awareness, you might find the answers you need coming from inspiration.
Seek Good Advice:
If you have some issue that is too bothersome to put aside, you might benefit from speaking with a qualified staff person, teacher, or trained spiritual adviser on the retreat staff. When you call to make your reservation, ask about setting up a personal counseling session. Sometimes a session such as this at the very beginning of your stay can give you the clarity you need to “reframe” your approach to the situation and help you have a more inspiring retreat.
Schedule Variety Into Your Retreat:
What you do during your retreat is not as important as whether your inspiration and “joy level” are high. You don’t have to pray and meditate all day long—few people can do that constructively, anyway. You don’t even have to stay in silence or solitude, though many people find these beneficial. Focus on enjoyment, rather than “should’s.”
For example, you might use the mornings for inward work: prayer, meditation, journal writing, or spiritual reading. Then be more expansive in the afternoons: Walk in nature, do something creative, or listen to uplifting music or lecture tapes. In the evening try lighter fare: a spiritual video, a humorous book, or simply relaxed, quality time with like-minded people. And always allow for the inspiration of the moment; don’t be locked into anyone’s agenda—even your own.
Relax and Enjoy Your Retreat:
When you go on retreat, you’re planting a spiritual seed. If you water it by your continuing spiritual efforts, in time it will sprout into the flower of peace and joy that you seek.
This overview was provided by the staff of the Expanding Light Retreat at Ananda Village, Nevada City, CA, a nonprofit retreat center two hours from the Sacramento International Airport. It has offered more than 100 weekend retreats each year since 1969. Visit www.expandinglight.org.