I used to read retreat announcements and think, “Who’s got time for that?” I had things to do for heaven’s sake and my list didn’t include sitting around talking and contemplating with a bunch of people I didn’t know… and then I went to my first retreat. In just one weekend, I rewrote my perspectives about life and found a greater sense of peace and balance than I had ever known before.
Fortunately, my first experience was with renowned facilitator and author, Judith Duerk. Her approach was simple and in its lack of complication, it was profound. The gifts of that weekend didn’t come from all the cool stuff we did–the internal rebirthing came from the authenticity with which each person shared from the depths of their being, and held space for others to explore their inner worlds.
Because I was in the midst of some of my most significant healing around sexual abuse, the retreat became a safe container where I could stop doing everyday things long enough to feel and honor the profound transformation that was longing to take place within me. I went to the retreat living life in reaction to my abuse. I left in the peaceful knowing that the whole of me was beyond my wounds.
I began living life with respect for myself and the lessons I had learned from my abuse, rather than weighed down in the reactionary sorrow and anger I had been feeling for so long. I discovered perspective that translated into greater balance in my life. I became less judgmental of the world and more compassionate toward myself and others. I also discovered that there was less distance between the one being abused and the one doing the abusing than I wanted to believe. Realizing how “one” we really are, was a difficult but necessary aspect of finding inner peace.
After that one weekend, I made retreats part of my regular ritual for furthering my peace of mind and spiritual growth. Retreats, like my first one in which an individual led an experience for a group of us, stretched me into realms of insights and experiences that I wouldn’t have imagined on my own. Witnessing the experiences of other participants opened my mind to possibilities of mystical experience and interpretations of life that I had never considered. I grew exponentially as I tried on the viewpoints of all those people I didn’t know.
The unexpected surprise was that my health improved as I gave myself opportunities to meet and accept myself through retreats. It is too easy to run away from yourself when you are meeting daily obligations. There are a million excuses for putting off a deeper relationship with yourself and discovering the truths behind illnesses and injuries, but in a retreat you are dedicating time to be with yourself. The insights beneath the pain are the ones that lead to substantial healing and ultimately to more enjoyable living.
Recognizing the spiritual and healing benefits of retreating, New Dream is hosting a special weekend for women in October. If you would like to know more about how you can be a part of this weekend going deeply into the Sacred Feminine, visit: http://newdreamfoundation.com/womens-retreat.htm
Eventually, I longed to go deeper into myself, and I created a private retreat for myself at a cabin in the woods. I had significant spiritual experiences in my aloneness. Although I was single and living alone at the time, retreating was different. I was consciously stepping away from my daily activities in order to be present with my true self.
With each step that I took in retreating to be present to myself I found greater balance and harmony in my life because my perspectives were truer. The painful beliefs I adhered to, the dramas I created in order to give meaning to my existence, and the attachments I clung to in an attempt to satisfy myself, became less and less a part of my world. What I needed to be happy and healthy was an honest and loving relationship with the real me that was emerging.
Retreats are presents we give ourselves. Before I had attended a retreat, I thought they were luxuries. It only took one good retreat to realize that retreats aren’t luxuries at all. They are opportunities we give ourselves to unplug for a while and to discover the happiness and health living below the surface of our crazy, busy lives.