Away days are important. We need to stop for a while to look around us and ask ourselves what we are doing and why. We cannot do that slap bang in the middle of our lives with screaming kids, a full time job and a million things on our to do lists. We need to take ourselves out of our routine, go somewhere quiet, where we can hear ourselves think.
I have been organizing away days, retreats and mini-retreats for 10 years now and am still amazed at what such away time can do to people.
So if you were ever wondering why you should go on a retreat, here are 57 reasons:
Peace and quiet:
you get to go to a (usually) recluse location, far away from all the hustle and bustle of every day life. A retreat usually has a lot of quiet time built into it’s daily schedule.
I had a massage scheduled the first day of the first retreat I ever attended. I had to pick a card. It said SILENCE. I was confused by it. I had come to the retreat to get my money’s worth. I wanted all the information I could get, ask all the questions I had in me, talk to as many people as I could. And I usually talk to massage therapists too. I did not talk to this one. I enjoyed the massage 200% more. I also enjoyed my stay a lot more. I went walking through the woods in silence. I did not speak nearly as often as I would have otherwise. It taught me the value and pleasure of silence.
a retreat usually has a theme that tells you what it’s all about. Themes can range from art (teaching you new skills) over spirituality to finding your purpose. They allow you to find exactly the retreat you are looking for at a certain moment in your life.
thanks to the point above, you will meet people who are more or less in the same situation as you are, looking for the same support and solutions. As in every group, you will connect with some and stay in touch with others.
retreats usually have quite an important element of coaching built into their program. Whether the coaching is done by the organizer or through some invited speakers depends on the program.
retreats come in all themes and sizes. From a small gathering of 10 or 12 to big conventions of 200 people. Again, depending on your need, you will be able to find the one that suits you at this moment.
this weekend (or these days) are all about YOU. Forget work or the kids. You get to concentrate on you and just you.
You do get a lot of time to think. So you can tackle a problem, solve an issue or discuss future plans with your coach.
A retreat is all about discovery. Of yourself, of other people, of a new place, of new tips and tricks. Be open and soak it all up.
you are in unfamiliar territory. New place, new people. New things are demanded of you. New is interesting. It is exciting and can be so much more if you let it in. Enjoy the newness. Step out of your comfort zone and be new for a change.
Handover (of responsibilities):
let your partner take care of the kids (and who cares if he dresses them totally wrong!). The world won’t go down because you are out of it for a few days.
hopefully the retreat is in a network hole, which means you get no access to phone or internet. Go with the unplugged feeling of the 80ies for a change. Enjoy the silence. Enjoy the time you have because you have no emails to answer or Facebook pages to update.
Missing (your loved ones):
yes, you will miss your loved ones, especially if you have kids. But missing someone is a feeling. Dive into that feeling. How strong is it? What does it do? Learn from it. Missing is anticipation. Learn to enjoy it. It teaches you a lot about love. You know you will see them again soon.
of course you will feel guilty. Guilty for taking selfish time off to do YOUR thing. Guilty for leaving your kids. Guilty for loading your husband with stuff he is probably not used to (but very capable of) handling. Play with that guilt. Juggle it from one hand into the other. Why do you feel guilty? How can you reduce it?
a retreat is chock-full of learning opportunities. From the coach, from the other participants, from (and especially about) yourself, from the silences in between, from the rested body, … And isn’t learning the essence of life?
A new you:
you will be a new you when you come out of a retreat. You may not change 180 degrees, but something will have popped, or sparkled, or ignited. You will come out wiser, quieter, more balanced, thoughtful, full of energy, wanting to take action, etc.
Contemplation = thoughtful observation.
How often do you just sit there and observe, think? At a retreat you will have time to do just that. And it’s amazing to be alone with your thoughts in a place where you are not disturbed,
you will have time to read. Either during the travel to the retreat (if you take a bus/train/plane) or during the breaks and free time. I did bring a few books but did not really read much there. I was so busy contemplating and being silent…
you will take part in different exercises depending on the theme. It is always fun to learn tips and tricks. And usually they are set up in a very practical, hands-on kind of way so that they are very educational and can be used later one.
the retreat I went to had this exercise. It takes a few hours and really helps you set your life straight in a fun and visual way. You ask yourself a question or set yourself a scene to work on (such as ‘how do I want my upcoming year to look?’ or ‘what do I want to achieve in my business in the next year?’). Then you browse through magazines ripping out all the images that talk to you. When you have collected enough you start arranging them on a large poster board. The end result is a vision board that represents your question. It is a very useful exercise as it starts you right off into thinking about where you want to go with something. Funny enough, most people are amazed at what actually materialized months later when they look at the vision board again. It’s like sending out a message to the Universe saying ‘I want this!’ and then hanging it up in our office or bedroom to be reminded of visually. I organise such visionboard workshops regularly.
Often a retreat has a yoga or meditation session. These are not mandatory and if you feel uncomfortable you can go for a walk instead. But usually they help you relax and concentrate on the day ahead.
I love retreats that allow you to schedule a massage during the breaks. It’s all part of the ‘me-time’ experience. Of indulgence, quiet time, self-care and wellness.
making a vision board can be a creative activity during a retreat. Sometimes there are more crafty, manual exercises that tickle your creative nerve. These exercises are there to re-tune your brain waves, to have fun doing things with your hands or to think in a different way. Everyone is creative. You just have to be open to it. You will surprise yourself.
you are neither in heaven nor in hell. Though when you go to a retreat you have probably some hell to take care of or will feel like you’re in hell when you are faced with your own demons. And it’s a necessary and even good state to be in from time to time. It allows you to look at things and then move to a better place.
a retreat gives you the time to get clear. About where you want to go or what you want to do (with a certain issue). Before deciding on a retreat though it is always good to ask yourself: what do I want to achieve? Are you looking for just a relaxing art retreat where you can paint all day and learn a few new tricks? Or are you looking for a meditation retreat that allows you to shut off from the world for a few days. Or is a coaching retreat more what you need this time because you need some guidance on your road to follow? When you get this clarity beforehand, the retreat will be a success.
you should go to a retreat with an intention. Of what you want to get out of it. What you want to feel during the time there. How you want to come across and how you want to behave. Intention if a powerful thing, trust me. Some retreats teach you how to use it for your benefit.
you will not get all the answers to all your questions. A retreat is not a pill that cures it all. But it will answer some questions, get you into actions to solve some problems. And if you get clear, set the intention right, the answers can be huge.
a retreat does not only answer questions. It usually also brings some new questions. My major one was: why did I not do this earlier!?! It did give me more questions to tackle. But they allowed me to move faster into the direction I wanted to go.
you do get much more sleep at a retreat than at home. And that is just simple bliss.
some moments at a retreat can be very intense. Good and bad intense. The targeted exercises and the group effect can make some heavy stuff come up. But a retreat is a safe, supportive environment. What happens there, stays there. And what is life if not lived intensely from time to time?
I am not alone:
you will meet people and go ‘wow, you have that too?’ And it feels so good to ‘not be alone’ with your issues or questions. And it is a relief to hear other people talk about how they dealt with it. Because you will meet people who are at different levels in the process.
I am not so bad:
you may even realize that you have a tip or two to give to others and that your situation is not so bad after all (compared to others)
I can be better and it’s pretty easy:
a retreat can be a mirror. It teaches you about yourself, it shows you how others are doing things and gives you tips and tools to improve.
instead of running, searching, working, climbing the corporate ladder, organizing, feeding the kids, shopping, planning,…. during a retreat you can just be, simply BE.
during a retreat you get a map that shows you where you are now and a road of who you can become.
I personally like women-only retreats because I am convinced that we women have a strength in us that we need to share with other women. We can learn so much from each others’ strengths.
during a retreat you reconnect: with yourself, with nature, with other people, with time, with your fears… All loose ends get reconnected.
The concept of time:
time does not exist at a retreat. Not really. Yes, there are schedules of when what is happening, but everything seems to be slower, less stressed. This is how life should be. And a retreat reconnects you with time.
The concept of priorities:
argh, priorities… We all have them. They change all the time. But which ones are really important? And which ones are more important than others? And why? A retreat puts them all in perspective. It’s in line with putting your own oxygen mask on first on a plane before putting it on your child.
Pause and Suspension:
a retreat is a break. It takes you out of ‘real life’ for a few days. You are gone. Everything is paused. Like a movie which you put to a halt when you need to pee. The action is stopped in mid air. Except that you are still there to observe. People continue to float around but nothing is happening. It’s a great feeling.
a retreat costs money. Usually quite a bit more than you are willing to spend. Why? to make sure you really want to go. To make sure you are the right person for that group. To make sure you are serious about this step in your life.
often enough, retreat organizers offer such a guarantee. If you are not happy, they return your money, no questions asked. Why do they do that? Because they have a high standard. They are convinced of their product. They know it works if you’re ready for it. And if you’re not happy, that’s fine. Whatever the reason, they don’t mind loosing a ‘customer’, because it wasn’t their ‘ideal customer’.
a retreat is an investment in yourself. In your future. We continually invest in our children: we put them into school, put money aside for their studies etc. Why do we stop investing in ourselves once we are grown up? A retreat is like taking lessons. It’s like redecorating your house. It’s like replacing broken appliances. It’s normal, it’s necessary and is definitely worth it and the outcome will pay off.
a retreat teaches you that it’s all in the journey, not the destination.
it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone. To sign up, pay the fee, open up to strangers, be ready to grow. A retreat shows you the boundaries of your comfort zone and teaches you to leap and soar.
a retreat tackles your fears. It puts them right in front of your nose. It also shows you that ‘you are not alone’ and that ‘this is normal’. It shows you how to use your fear. That life without fear is nothing. That fear is good. It makes you more creative. It shows you where your power is.
retreats often take place in a natural environment because of the need to disconnect from the busy, technological, urban lives that we live. So go for a walk, hug a tree, breathe in the air, be one with the elements.
a retreat is about the truth. No mask, no facade, no excuses. The plain, old, slap in your face truth. The truth about you and all your flaws. The truth about your good and your bad. But also the truth about everyone else. Because only the truth will show you your path, your purpose.
a retreat is for YOU. It takes energy, it’s work. But you get a lot out of it. Benefits depend on the retreat. They usually include some tools and take aways. Whether they are tangible or not. Most of the time the benefit is more ‘spiritual’. So make sure you get what you need.
retreats give you hope. A new start or a better path.
besides yourself, they are the first ones to benefit from the retreat. They will welcome a replenished, relaxed partner, mother… Your relationship with them will grow, become better and more intense.
retreats often end with some action items. Nothing major, but just a simple ‘checking in’ a month or so after the retreat. It may also include an online group where participants can keep in touch after the event and ask about that next step you were going to take or how your project is going. Accountability is a great driver for success.
retreats give you ideas. Lots of ideas. They are a creative goldmine. They spice up your life in all sorts of areas. Whether it’s a recipe for that vegetarian polenta dish, a theme for a children’s book you could write, a tip on setting up a system to get rid of clutter… Drink them all in. You will need them eventually.
you will get it. You will give it. During and after. Receive it. Learn from it. Pass it on and let others learn from it.
you will hear stories. You will tell stories. You will get material to write a book, a blog post or two. You will realize that life is all about stories. And each story is equally fascinating and worth listening to.
Humility and gratitude:
a retreat teaches you to be humble and grateful for what you already have. And it shows you what you can become.
you will come home with lists. Lists of people you have met. Lists of ideas. Lists of things you want to do. Lists of things you need to change. Lists of projects you want to start. Lists of things to tell your friends. Lists of books and blogs to read and website to visit. Lists of 57 things to like about retreats.
So now that you know all about the benefits of going on a retreat, how about signing up for one?