We were lucky enough to spend this past weekend on retreat at ARC Retreat Community. Have you ever returned from a trip saying to yourself, “This was such a good reminder of how simple and nourishing I can live my life! Why don’t I live this way every day?” Such is the purpose of retreat - to periodically spend time in a place that reminds us what is needed in our body, mind, and spirit.
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get away regularly enough to give ourselves this reminder. Sometimes we just can’t take the time for a vacation. It also requires some financial investment (ARC does offer a volunteer program for those interested but unable to pay for a full retreat, which we love). Some of us have significant home or family obligations that do not allow regular weekends away. If we can’t make it to a full retreat, how can we bring the essence of retreat to mind?
1. Remember the essence: “Getting away”
Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to boost us out of the daily grind. And this doesn’t have to mean driving a few hours to a secluded cabin. Do you drink a cup of coffee in the morning? Consider enjoying it for a few minutes in front of a window. Typically spend the evening in “your spot” on the couch? Try an evening in a different beloved room in your home, or even simply changing it up by sitting on the floor while you go about your evening activities. These tiny shifts can give us just enough experience of “different” that we wake up out of autopilot and have the opportunity to live with more presence.
2. Cultivate connection
What is that magic atmosphere on retreats that brings everyone together in harmonious friendship? You could say it’s all of the contemplative practice we were doing, but the answer is probably more simple: There was nothing else we needed to do! When the demands of everyday life are removed, connecting with those around us happens so naturally. Of course this isn’t realistic every day. Try practicing just one interaction with the easeful, goal-less intention of retreat - just meeting the other person. Nowhere else to be, nothing in particular to do or talk about… just being with this person. This could be a bank teller, work acquaintance, or a family member. You may be surprised at the connection that arises!
3. Finding silence
This can be a tough one, but it’s needed more and more in our world. We adapt to the noise pollution and hypnotizing screens surrounding us every day, so it’s hard to notice the stress this induces until we spend some time away from it. If you live in the city, getting true silence can be tricky. Even so, we can set a time each day for silence (say, 8:00-8:15pm daily), turning off all electronics in the house, dimming the lights, and just being for that time. It may feel a little unnatural at first, but turning this into a daily habit will allow those mini retreat moments to add up to serious replenishment. (Sometimes silence can feel like too much, and that’s okay. We recommend starting with a few minutes of switching from TV to classical music radio (99.5 FM in our neck of the woods), or watching Fireplace For Your Home on Netflix instead of movies or TV).
4. Mindful meals
At nearly every meal on retreat, someone comments on how lovely it is to spend a meal so focused on the nourishing food and good conversation. We also comment on how infrequently we practice this - breakfast is rushed, lunch is at our desk, and dinner in front of the TV. It may not be realistic to eat every meal with the total care and calm of a retreat, but we can typically eat one meal per week like this. Ayurvedic wisdom really encourages mindful meals, and it’s a powerful thing - many of us also commented what awesome digestion we experienced after these meals!
5. Try a Mini-Retreat!
Maybe you already practice these strategies, or they’re just not doing the trick. AwakenPeace offers regular mini-retreats to give you a little burst of retreat experience in a three-hour workshop. We’ll provide the silence, beautiful space, and guided reflection - all you need to bring is you!