Sometimes in the deep winter darkness of January I wish I was a bear. Curling up in a dark, secluded cave would be perfect. I could sleep and sleep and sleep. However, if I did this, my loved ones would likely think I was clinically depressed and take action on my behalf. Bears don’t get clinically depressed, they just get to sleep all winter as a part of their normal life cycle.
My desire is not actually for sleep, although I love it. Rest is what I’m really searching for. Rest can take many forms. Sleep is a form of rest. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rest as a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities, freedom from activity or labor, a state of motionlessness or inactivity and peace of mind or spirit.
What resonates with me from Merriam Webster’s definitions are freedom from activity or labor and peace of mind or spirit. This is important for all of us. Everyone needs time to rest, to be free from our work and to gain peace of mind and spirit. This is part of what happens when we sleep. We can also find rest in other ways. Going on a retreat is one.
This week I was at a nature center that would be perfect for a retreat. My husband and I took our grandson to the Dillons Nature Center. This is close to our home and a wonderful, free resource for our community. As we walked around the pond, I saw several people just sitting and I wondered if they were having a meditative or retreat moment. This place has walking paths, a large pond and entertaining wildlife. The geese were very entertaining as they moved their large wings back and forth and then dove beneath the water’s surface to find a bit of breakfast.
I’ve been to this nature center several times and have often thought I should come back and do a retreat morning there. This urge was even stronger in my recent trip. My need for a pause from my daily labor to gain a sense of peace and balance in my life felt especially strong. Going to the nature center would be a part of that time and I would add other indoor activities. But how can I make this desire a reality? What do I need to have a restful retreat day?
The first step for me and my personality is to develop a plan. I can ask myself what I want to gain or what I am hoping for from this retreat time? What is my intention? Besides getting away from my day-to-day tasks, I want to feel more grounded. I want to go deep and tap into my inner wisdom and listen to what she is saying to me. I genuinely hope to let my wise mind speak to me.
So now that I know my intention, how will I do this? The things that work for me when I’m trying to access my wise mind are meditation, yoga, calming nature, writing and art. These are all things I love to do, but don’t always set aside the time in my daily life to do them. This is my emotional medicine that brings inner healing. These are all ways I can tap into my wise self.
The next step is to make a schedule. For me, meditation and yoga always come first. So, I’ll plan to do a short meditation and a little yoga before I leave home. Then I’ll go to the nature center or the beautiful park that is near my house. There I will sit and simply pause and be. This would be a good time to do some grounding. By using my five senses, I’ll be in the present moment and recognize what I smell, hear, taste and touch.
Next, I’ll go to a coffee shop or my local library and write. Some writing prompts might be: What am I feeling now? What is coming up from my inner, wise self? What is bringing affirmation in this moment? (Note: I’m using the term “affirmation” to avoid using words that may be seen as labels, such as “positive”, “good” or “happiness”.) What is something I’m being challenged to work on in my life? What am I grateful for at this moment?
I can do art or something creative at the coffee shop or library. I could also go back to my house and do some art. For me, I would probably create a mandala. Another creative expression could be to go to an art museum or exhibit and ponder what someone else’s creativity means to me.
The last step before going on the actual retreat is to gather what I will need. This is a way to eliminate or lessen any stumbling blocks that could stop me from going on the retreat. The
biggest one may be the people that need me or just want me to be there for them. Informing those individuals of what I’m doing and when I’ll be gone is an important step. Be firm and guard this time. Next, I’ll make sure I know where I’m going. This is where google maps come in handy. 😊 I’ll also check to make sure the places I’m going to will be open when I want to be there.
Then I’ll gather supplies. Besides my journal, pen or pencil and art materials, I’ll pack some healthy snack, maybe a candle (I’ll use this during meditation and yoga at home), hand lotion and gum. Other things I could bring are a list of favorite songs to play, a book of quotes, poems, etc. Finally, I’ll make sure I have comfortable clothing that are appropriate for the winter.
Then it’s time for my retreat!
Sleeping all winter is not an option for us, but there are other ways we can find rest and retreat from our daily labor. This is just an example of how I choose to find rest. I hope this inspires you to explore ways you can retreat physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to do this. Be gentle with yourself and embrace whatever you decide to do. I hope this was helpful as you contemplate creating your own mini retreat