Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all. Life may seem stale, or life may seem overwhelming. Sometimes. you may feel no one understands you or no one truly appreciates you. All these are perfectly valid reasons to take a self-retreat. Another perfectly valid reason to take a self-retreat is just because you have time and feel like you want one.
Taking time off to heal and rejuvenate is totally fine: after all, you need to look after yourself before you can look after the other responsibilities you have. Recently, I took some time off and did a few brief self-retreats, culminating in a full-day at-home self-retreat that really did the trick! Here are a few pointers I would like to share with you.
Why do you need a self-retreat?
When I was planning a self-retreat, I thought I just needed to get away from urban life and daily routine. So I thought I would feel renewed after Eddy and I took some time off in Cameron Highlands. I was wrong.
The change of pace and change of scenery did help, but if anything, I returned to work feeling even more frustrated than I did before we left. I tried changing my workout routine by adding swimming, and that too helped, but not as much as I had hoped.
I just felt so wasted in the end – physically, emotionally and spiritually – and I couldn’t pinpoint why. So I told myself I would just take an entire day off to heal.
What I felt like doing for my day off was to meditate, practise yoga, spend time with my pets and also reading, and also to journal.
Why I needed a retreat dictated in a way what I was planning to do. And why I needed a retreat caused me to reflect on what I felt was not working in my life. After that final day of self-retreat, I realised I had a lot of clutter in my mind that needed to be cleared out and organised.
Not everyone though has the luxury of flexible time as I do. You may try doing it my way (taking half day retreats and holidays to declutter and renew) or you may also spend some time in reflection prior to your self-directed retreat.
Why you need a self-retreat dictates what activities you do during that time.
How to conduct a self-retreat?
Keeping in mind the word ‘retreat’ implies a withdrawal into self, so the activities usually are within the realm of mindful activities, such as physical yoga practice, journaling, meditation, breath work, perhaps walking if you have a good venue for that – activities that help you discren your self and what you hope the self-retreat will reframe for you.
So here are a few ideas of what you can do for your self-retreat:
- Concentration practices
- Meditation practices
- Gratitude practice
- Yoga mat practice
- Praying (if religiously-inclined)
- Mindful walking
There is a whole range of activities you can choose from to help rejuvenate yourself. My suggestion for your agenda is:
- Select a range of activities you usually do as well as you usually don’t do
- Be flexible with the apportionment of time
- Begin with what you feel is ‘hardest’, then follow that with something you enjoy
Where’s a good place?
Of course, if you have the time and money, a trip away from home may be helpful when planning your self-retreat. However, if there are constraints, a workable solution is always home or a friend’s apartment or renting an AirBnB for the day.
There really is no limit when it comes to your venue. Of course, a quiet place where you can explore your own self is better than being in a hub with easy access to shopping malls and cinema complexes (lest you be tempted!).
For me, I like somewhere surrounded by nature, like the hillside or by the sea. But really, I have had retreats within the city (for example, the Seven Fountains Jesuit Retreat Centre, right smack bang in the middle of Chiangmai, Thailand) and it was really very good as well.
Putting it all together.
When you begin your own self-retreat, it is always best to tread with with no expectations. The point is to explore yourself and explore each moment as they come. I have even abandoned all activities I had planned just to read the gripping thriller I had and to sleep more. Sometimes, that is what we need.
Whatever it is, the most important thing is the invitation to explore each moment that presents itself to you.
All the best for your self-retreat! Let me know how it goes in the comments, or email me!