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the impact of retreating on your life

I took a half-day retreat approximately 8 years ago that changed me. Bursting with indescribable color and drama, I watched the horizon as I hiked alone one morning to the top of Phoenix’s South Mountain. My husband had left for work, the children, off to school. There up on the mountain, I delved into all my questions about my life. The “what if's” the “should I’s”, the “only if's”..... and the clinchers.... “who am I” and "what am I meant to do in this world."

I didn’t know it then, but I was putting my intention out there - to Nature, to God, the Universe, a Higher Power, my Wiser Self, whatever your personal word might be.

A turning point happened on that retreat, and from that day on, retreating became a priority in my life. I am certain that ~ that experience ~ and the many retreats that followed, bridged a connection to my life’s calling, to a healthier marriage, to deeper relationships in my life, and most importantly, to my relationship with myself... That hike, to be sure, catapulted me to higher ground and amazing life change.

To go on a retreat is to invite change. Any retreat, any conscious time you immerse yourself in Self-care with an open heart, creates change. It can shift stuck relationships, it can restore and heal, it can show you a new perspective. When you’re in a rut, a retreat can shake things up and begin the process of change. The change can be a faint notion, a clear step, or a giant leap in a direction that feels good and right.

So, how do you invite these life altering changes into your life? Retreat ~ whatever form that might be. Each time you act from your deep self, each time you remember to be still and listen, each time you take a step toward something you wish to change or forgive yourself, pause and take it in. Notice the ripples of change in your life following a retreat. The more you retreat, the more the ripples become stronger. Retreating is strength training for the soul.

Jennifer Louden talks of those changes in her book, The Women’s Retreat Book.

Specific ripples to watch for:

  • Being more self-referenced. Asking yourself, “What do I think, feel, need, or want?” before considering what others think, feel, need, or want.
  • Feeling more centered, less affected by the criticism of others, by bad news, or by minor irritations.
  • Being more open and flexible. Finding that changing your plans, letting the house get messy, or being fifteen minutes late to a party somehow doesn’t irritate you as much.
  • Feeling less at the mercy of your inner critic, pusher or judge. Feeling more able to tolerate, dialogue with, or love her presence. Experiencing less guilt and shame and fewer “shoulds” and hurry-up-you-are-not-doing- enough-fast-enough thoughts.
  • Feeling lighter. Seeing a subtle shift in your daily attitude – a little more hopeful, up, or easygoing.
  • Becoming able to say no when you need to without excessive guilt or excuses.
  • Finding yourself able to carve out time for what you enjoy and for more retreats.
  • Becoming more aware of your body and what it needs. Drinking enough water, going to the bathroom when you need to instead of holding it, eating when you are hungry, stretching and breathing when you are tense.
  • Engaging in a spiritually nourishing practice more often.
  • Reconnecting with your spiritual discipline. Finding renewed faith.
  • Staying more current with uncomfortable feelings. Allowing yourself to feel them in private and/or express them when appropriate.
  • Experiencing more energy and/or direction in your work or parenting.
  • Feeling more at one with others and with nature.
  • Getting less caught up in crisis, either by maintaining perspective, by refusing to engage, or through better preparation.
  • Becoming more at peace with your past choice.

Know that, when you retreat, you are retreating for everyone in your life. Time away, connecting soulfully to who you are and what you value, is not only a gift to yourself, but to others as well. You will find that, away from the busy-ness of the world, creative thinking emerges. Ideas on how to enrich the lives of others will occur spontaneously, along with the energy to implement them. Retreating is one of the most empowering actions you can take for yourself and for the planet.

So, retreat for yourself ~ retreat for everyone you care about. I guarantee it will change your life as it did mine.

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