I spent the long weekend on a retreat with people who share the same Faith as I do. We drove the three hours to Big Bear Lake in Southern California. The drive was treacherous and windy but the views were worth it and so was the time away.
Stressed? Feeling depleted? Everything going wrong? This was how I was feeling leading up to the retreat but as Friday rolled around, my stress levels dropped just because I knew I would be going away for the weekend.
Going on a “retreat” does not require you to go really long distances, spend a lot of money, or be gone for more than a day. What a retreat does require is that you disconnect yourself from reality and spend time more simply. Many people probably cannot even imagine what that would be like or how to do that. Here’s how to retreat from the world for even just a little bit:
1. Turn off all electronics. TV, cell phone, computer, iPad, and any other device that is distracting. iPods and electronic readers are a little different because they can deliver enjoyment and relaxation. Keep these things off until the retreat is over. I personally love being out of cell service.
2. Plan to go on a retreat at least a week in advance. When you have it to look forward to, you can conquer your week with more patience and grace than was perhaps possible without the knowledge that there is a light at the end of your stressful, busy week.
3. Leave your house (assuming you have the physical capacities to do so). Go for a day long hike and camp out. Stay at a bed and breakfast near the beach. Drive, walk, take the bus to a nearby park to spend the day. Find a meditation center in your area and go to relax and think.
4. Go with people you want to be closer to or have a fundamental value in common with. You can form extremely tight bonds with people you spend every day of a weekend with.
5. Spend time creating, in whatever form that takes for you. Many people don’t think they’re inherently creative but I beg to differ. I think we are all blessed with different forms of creativity. Do what makes you happy.
6. Pack all your meals so that you don’t have to go home or return to the “real world” in order to eat. We brought food and cooked it all in the cabin we were staying in.
7. Go somewhere that doesn’t look like home to you. I think this is a crucial element to feeling relaxed. When you’re in a new place, you don’t have to associate any of it with where you live or work.
8. Plan for the retreat so that you can feel truly relaxed while you’re on it. Get your work done during the week. Finish your to do list early. Put an out of the office notification on your email. Let people know you will be out of contact if they aren’t coming with you. This will help you simultaneously be extremely productive during the week and able to decompress during your time away.
9. Don’t be afraid to connect with feelings and emotions you have been ignoring while busy. This is healthy and part of the gift you are giving yourself of going on a retreat. Maybe there is a person who you need to connect with because you have been out of contact or your relationship is suffering. Bring them with you.
10. Pack lightly. Bring only what you REALLY need. How many pairs of shoes do you need for a weekend? One or two, depending on where you’re going. More importantly, bring what you need to help you connect like a journal, sketchbook, reading material (that is not work or school related), or any religious documents.