One of the most important things to establish for a healthy, joyful, life is a good daily routine. Doing things daily, even for a short amount of time, is better than doing something big, one day a week! Things like yoga, meditation, body oiling (an Ayurvedic technique called Abhyanga), eating healthy foods, exercise, playing – all these things can fold into your daily life and will bring you into a place of joy in the moment. Instead of waiting for the week to end when you can finally do something good for yourself, take some time, even if its small, and create space for yourself right now.
Then, when you do have more time, and you at last get to that amazing retreat location you’ve been dreaming about for years, you will be able to fully surrender to the retreat because you’ll already have a template of self-love.
And that, after all, is what a retreat is all about. You give yourself the time, space, and surrendered focus, to be all about you!
Retreats are amazing in what they can provide us. Sure, we all know the baseline amazingness. Beautiful locations; incredible nourishing food (that someone else prepares! Three times a day!); interesting and compassionate new friends from around the world; powerful learning opportunities; did I mention the spas! Massages, and body treatments to bring you to immediate bliss!
But all of those are trumped by the one most powerful aspect of retreat: You!
This is the time where you get to unplug completely from your day to day world. Where you get to focus all your hours on you! You get to look deeply at your life, and your place in the world, and re-examine your choices to discern if they still suit you. Are you content in your life? Are you spending some time on your own dreams and inner joys? Is your life too busy to support the true peace of your own soul?
These are the questions you finally have time for, on retreat. And you’ll have lots of support to help answer them. But not only that. This time away will give you tools to help fuel you through the rest of your life when you return to it. The things you’ll learn on retreat will stay with you forever.
Here in the sweet wilderness of upstate NY (Omega), the roiling Pacific Ocean (Esalen), towering old growth forests (Breitenbush), wild remote Canadian islands (Hollyhock), and many other retreat centers across the country and the world, you have an opportunity to get still, to get quiet, to listen to the pulse of your own being. When you take off your shoes and step onto the raw and wild and sacred land of these places that are devoted to personal growth and change, you will feel yourself plugged in to that grand matrix of life itself, and you will feel yourself pulse with the powerful beat of your own soul. A sound that has perhaps been submerged under the louder pulses of daily life.
Here, you get the time, the space, the support, and the majesty of nature herself, to guide you back into the soul spaces you have been missing.
I have been very lucky to experience many incredible retreat centers across the world and each one has helped me transform and grow in ways that are still reverberating today! Over 15 years ago I sat with Ram Das at both Hollyhock and Breitenbush, and with Gangaji at Omega. These are only 3 of the many retreats I took, that helped reshape my world view and my spiritual path. And now I am incredibly lucky to go back to two of these as a teacher. 2016 will be my second year teaching at both Omega and Hollyhock, and they are two of my favorite places for very different reasons.
At Omega, an old summer camp refurbished to eco-luxe accommodations, you are mere hours from the biggest cities on the east coast. The thrumming energy of arrivals day, with people intentionally stepping out of their busy lives, is palpable. And over the course of days, where we all wander around on twisting paths, through gardens, to the lake, the dining hall, the classrooms, the Ram Das library, the hidden prayer spots – you can see the focused intensity of city living, giving way to the holistic understanding of interconnectivity, and soul awareness. That laser focus then refocuses on matters of the heart and soul. You can feel it when departure day comes. You. Have. Been. Changed. And the gratitude for that covers the entire eastern seaboard and beyond.
It is a different feeling entirely at Hollyhock. There, it is almost a full day of travel to arrive at your bed, where you’ll hear the sounds of the ocean from every angle. You arrive tired, but with a glimmer of majesty in you, from the long drive along the ocean road, the three ferries you’ve taken. You have to make an effort to get here. And then, once you do, it is an almost instantaneous, and full, surrender. I usually take my shoes off before I even get to the registration door. And I don’t put them on again until the departing ferry. This place has a smell in the air, and it isn’t just the ocean breeze, or the flower gardens, or the insanely delicious food. It is the smell of peace. I can’t put it any other way. This island holds such a peaceful intensity of deep love, of the possibility of deep change, and of the love of deep acceptance. It is true, we are all from the sea. And doing a retreat at the edge of her healing waters, is a profound experience, not to be missed in this lifetime. The practice of releasing your grief and reclaiming your joy at the water’s edge will transform you in ways that will ignite your soul to your own greatness!
So what are you waiting for? Don’t delay another moment. Find the time to be good to yourself every day. Right now. And then take the leap and do what you’ve been wanting to do, and needing to do, for as long as you’ve started listening to that quiet inner voice: Pick your spot. Book your week. Come back to yourself. And then, make a promise, to stay with yourself forever.
Lauren Walker is the author of Energy Medicine Yoga: Amplify the Healing Power of Your Yoga Practice (Sounds True, 2014). She teaches Energy Medicine Yoga across the country and internationally. She is a certified EM practitioner and assistant for Donna Eden. She’s published in The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, Salon.com and has a periodic yoga column on MNN.com. She’s also been featured in Yoga Journal and Mantra Yoga + Healing. You can find her complete schedule on EMYoga.net