6 simple ideas to plan your own retreat
Have you ever thought about taking a retreat? Don’t worry, you don't have to be a yoga expert or become a buddhism fanatic. Planning a retreat is quite simple and yes, it is really for everyone.
Taking a retreat means escaping everyday life, daily worries and chores, to spend some time reflecting and putting things into perspective. As soon as they return home, many people feel inspired to make changes and implement new ideas and solutions in their lives.
Planning such an experience doesn't have to be a big deal. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips.
1) Start by asking "why?"
Before planning a few days alone, it’s important to define what you want to achieve with this experience. Make a kind of “diagnosis” of your life and reflect on what you love and what you’d like to change in the future. Don’t let everything hanging in the air: write down your reflection, so that in the end you can review your notes and perhaps find a solution to a problem that’s bothering you. It may seem like an unnecessary exercise, but it is crucial so your retreat has the results you’re looking for.
2) Choose the perfect spot
Once your “why” is well defined, you need to decide where to stay. Try to choose a place that is exciting for you and that you are not familiar with, such as another country. The site must be special to you, and what works for others may not work for you. A quiet place away from civilization is usually the best option for those who are used to the bustle of the city. For some it may be a deserted beach, for others, a lost village in the midst of mountains and nature.
3) Disconnect from the world
Organize your schedule so you have as few worries as possible during this experience. Get some work done, make that important call, and deal with urgent issues before you go. Everything else can wait.
4) Open the door to a challenge
Ideally, a retreat should be an experience that takes you out of your comfort zone. For some, this means doing something they’ve never done before (such as attending a drawing class or creating your own artistic sculpture). For others, it may simply be learning to be alone and enjoying their own company. It can also be something as simple as trying to change your usual mindset.
5) Simplify your day
You don't have to plan activities: the fewer tasks and schedules to follow, the better! The way everyone enjoys this moment alone is very personal and you shouldn’t force yourself to do something that doesn’t seem natural to you. Here are some examples of activities you might want to include:
Walk / run in a place you don't know, discovering your surroundings along the way.
Get some exercise done in a different environment (eg. at a rooftop or in nature).
Discover the culture, cuisine and customs of the region where you are in.
Read a new book, even if only a part of it.
Photograph details of the local architecture, plants and animal life.
Watch the dawn or sunset in the company of a hot drink.
Review old diary notes you've written in the past.
Give free rein to your artistic flair and create something totally new. If writing is your cup of tea, start with a blank sheet. If you prefer exploring the fine arts, use shapes, materials and ideas that you’ve never used before.
6) Take a moment to meditate
Whatever you choose to do, devote part of your day to some kind of meditation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to start decorating “mantras”!
If you’ve never done meditation before, try starting with a simple mindfulness exercise:
Focus your attention on your breath and observe the air flowing in and out of the body, how the chest rises and drops down, how the body becomes light and then heavy. Just think about these feelings and forget everything else for a moment. Keep the mind focused gradually: first for 1 minute, then 2 minutes, and so on. If your mind keeps wandering in your thoughts, pause and don’t blame yourself: it’s completely normal. You can explore various types of meditation and decide what works best for you.
Above all, it’s important to understand that there’s no “right way” to meditate, relax or make a retreat. No matter how you choose to do so, we’re sure it will be an incredibly rewarding experience that you will want to repeat again and again.