Why Retreat?

We take classes, listen to lectures, attend workshops – all to enhance or grow some aspect of our lives, or to learn a new skill.

We read, practice, ponder, meditate. We do our jobs and care for our families. Our lives are full of incident and responsibilities.

Sometimes it feels like we are constantly in motion, running from one thing to another and perhaps never feeling like we have caught up with all that needs doing.

Recently, I went on a ‘retreat’. What is the difference between a retreat and any other type of workshop event?

If you think of life as a constant struggle, a battle against all odds in pursuit of your goals, then a retreat may take on the military meaning, which is something like: “The forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or armed force before an enemy.”

If you think of life as a fascinating game or journey of exploration, you may go with the definition of retreat as: “a retirement for religious exercises and meditation” or “the act of withdrawing into safety or privacy.”

In any case, it is essentially taking yourself out of your usual context. Stepping temporarily outside of your day to day routine. This provides a change of pace, a change of venue, a change in perspective. It is voluntarily embracing change. (small, safe change maybe, but change nevertheless)

When you are stressed or pressed from many sides, it is easy to go into a trance state, where you are just moving through your life like an automaton, without really embracing the moments. Instead of being present, you are off in your head, planning your next move, judging your past performance, wondering what someone else meant by whatever, worrying about what may or may not happen if….. Engagement with others becomes a quick means to an end rather than a living encounter.

Some of us then retreat to our homes and the TV, some play video games, some go out drinking, some just get some sleep. But those activities can become a part of our trance as well. We all have our ideas of how to relax, but if they are also habitual and automatic, then how well do they revive or refresh us?

Once in awhile it is good to really step back from daily routine and re-calibrate your approach to life. To un-trance yourself, if you will. To retreat, not just to a safe place, but to a place of wonder. To connect or re-connect with nature, with folks you don’t normally encounter in your life, with ideas that you hadn’t considered before.

I got that from my recent retreat. So now I feel that I can somehow see the forest as well as the trees, and they are my partners in the game. Thanks Tommy and Rick!

So here are some thoughts to consider:

The last time you felt the need to retreat, were you wanting to get away from something, or wanting to go toward something outside of what’s normal for you?

When you take a vacation or break, do you bring all of your troubles with you? Do you stay mentally in the same place that you normally are, or can you shift your attention out of your past story and into a fresh engagement with the present moment?

Do you know how to easily shift out of trance?

Your feedback is welcome, either comment on this blog, or email me if you like.