The Seeker's Guide to Retreats
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What is a retreat?
Simply put, a retreat is a time (and usually a place) that is set aside for stepping outside of the day-to-day world in order to focus on some aspect of self-development.
Engaging in retreats and retreat activities can be an essential component of your spiritual or wellness practice and for developing and maintaining spiritual wellness.
There are many benefits of retreats. A retreat can be as simple as sitting in your room with your door shut for a few minutes to meditate or self reflect or it can be as elaborate as a year-long
pilgrimage to the holy sites of another part of the world. There are many types of retreats Typically though, retreats generally last anywhere from one day to one week – often occurring over the course of a weekend as that is the unit of time which tends to fit best with our “routine” lives and structure.
Although anything we do that is a focussed time set aside for the purpose of accomplishing something could be thought of as a “retreat”, there are several characteristics that differentiate a retreat from just another focussed task.
• A retreat is often conducted in a special place, set aside specifically of that purpose. Often it takes place in a setting totally removed from the normal day-to-day environment. There is a sense of removal from the mundane world
• There is a definite purpose for which the time and space is set aside for retreat. Something is to be accomplished or experienced – even if what is “accomplished” is simply to have some time to yourself.
• There is usually some kind of pre-determined agenda for the retreat – a set of activities to be done during the course of the retreat.
• There is usually and aura of “specialness” or “sacredness” created around the activities, which is accompanied by a sense expectancy that something new or different will emerge from the retreat.
• Most important is your mind-set. The key factor of a retreat is creating a sense of deliberately stepping outside of the “normal” world with a purpose of setting out on a special or even sacred task. One might think of a retreat as a mini-spiritual quest or sacred journey. This is what truly separates a retreat from just a vacation, having time alone, going on a weekend getaway or having focussed time to work on a project.
The truth is that a vacation, having time alone, going on a weekend getaway or having focussed time to work on a project could all be undertaken as personal retreats as long as we imbued them with a sense of stepping outside of the world and embarking on a sacred quest or journey.
When on retreat, we all become Grail seekers!
Types of Retreats