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Planning a Retreat

Today I felt the need to schedule some recovery time. On a retreat, you spend a lot of time getting to know yourself and I need to find a self I used to know. One that didn't find the world outside her door scary. For so long it feels like I've been hiding, keeping myself safe but you know what I don't know why I feel that way. And what's more, I'm getting tired of it.


The Queen of Retreats has extensive retreats you can pay for but I don't have that kind of money so I created one instead.

I have a book, (don't I always), called "The Women's Retreat Book" by Jennifer Louden on Kindle that I picked up after I decided to change as many of my paper books for electronic ones as I could so I would always have them as a reference.

Rabbi David Cooper in Silence, Simplicity and Solitude writes “All of us have a deep reservoir of mystical experience that sustains the part of what some call the soul. The soul yearns to be nourished, and if the reservoir begins to run low, we feel ourselves becoming dull, empty, brittle, and arid. If it sinks lower, we enter into states of angst, despair, and depression.”
Louden, Jennifer. The Woman's Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self --In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 
There are so many things I want to share from this book but a retreat is meant to be unique to you as it is yourself you are trying to SEE. That doesn't mean you can just crawl into bed and sleep all day, that is not helpful. A retreat must-have ritual

Basic Ritual

Prepare- gather a journal, writing tools, art supplies. candles or anything you feel you will want during the retreat itself. Of course, you can take a simple approach to the retreat idea simply by going for a walk while your mind is in your sacred space. This kind of contemplation can be every bit as useful as a longer retreat.

Set an intention- State the question you are looking for the answers of ie mine would be something like "What is appropriate for me in the next third of my life?" or "How can I celebrate turning 60?" or even "How can I create more health & lightness in my life?"

Withdraw from ordinary life through a ceremony- Can be as simple as a cup of tea and a verbal confirmation of your intention or as complicated as a ceremonial bath and prayers.

Create a container- This is a visualization of a safe, calm place and is where most of the work will take place.

Listen in Sacred Space- this is the centre of the retreat it is where the transformation will take place, where your answers may be found and where you will use any tools you have with you.

Re-emerge into Ordinary Space & Time- Like the intention, this is accomplished with a simple statement. A restatement of your intention or about what you have learned bringing it back with you into daily life.

Sounds quite simple but trust me when I say it can be difficult as well especially if you are adjusting to a change in your life or long-standing emotional issues. Indeed for emotional issues, I'd recommend multiple retreats because it can be very tiring. The first time I did this it took me nearly a week to recover.

One last thing a retreat can last an hour or a week or any amount of time in between but after a week you should come back to daily life for a few days to give your mind time to integrate what you have learned when you are on your own.

An example of an opening ceremony from the book:

This was created for a woman retreating at home but can be adapted easily to a retreat centre or outdoor area.

Prepare.

  • A large piece of paper and colored pens or paint. 
  • Art supplies such as beads, glitter, feathers, a photo of you. 
  • A piece of writing that inspires you and moves your spirit and relates to your intent. 
  • A Do Not Disturb sign and an answering machine. 
  • An offering. 
  • Lotion and a new scented soap, oil, or bath gel that you bought just for the retreat. (Save some of this new scent or product to use in future retreats or in everyday life to remind you of your retreat.) 


Write your intention in bright colors on the largest piece of paper you have. Draw around it, paste pictures or photos next to it, decorate it with flowers, glitter, doodads. Place your intention where you can see it.

Take a few deep breaths, then read aloud the inspiring text you chose.

Make your sacred space come alive. Unplug and hide the phone, put a message on your answering machine that informs callers you won’t be returning their calls and what to do in a real emergency, cover the TV with a cloth or wheel it into the closet, put the Do Not Disturb sign on your front door, put away all signs of work and all distractions like magazines, bills, correspondence, unfinished craft projects, or food you don’t want to eat. (If you have to take your ice cream and Pop-Tarts to your neighbors, do so.)

When your retreat space feels enclosed, safe, magical, and warmed up, take a purifying bath (or swim or shower). Use a soap or bath gel that you buy specifically for this purpose or essential oils like grapefruit or neroli (which are biodegradable and can be placed on a washcloth). After a nice long soak or brisk paddle, bathe your head and say aloud, “I am washing away all my busy thoughts. My mind is clearing.” Bathe your shoulders and say, “I am washing away all my tension. My body is softening.” Bathe your heart and say, “I am washing away all my worries. My heart is opening.” Bathe your hands and repeat, “I am washing away all my responsibilities. My hands are empty.” Bathe your feet and recite, “I am washing away all exhaustion. My feet are relaxed.” And finally, bathe your entire body with long strokes, saying, “I am washing away my ordinary life. There is nothing I need to do now but be here, with my most precious self.” This last line can become your retreat mantra, to return to anytime you feel yourself being sucked out of retreat time and into everyday cares. If you are retreating in a city with noises all around or if you must check the phone machine for a very crucial phone call during your time off or if the UPS person rings your doorbell or if your child must return to get something she forgot, this is a good mantra to hold on to.

After your bath, anoint yourself lovingly with lotion or oil, chosen especially for this retreat. Concentrate on giving attention to the parts of your body you dislike. Do something new to yourself—fix your hair differently, put on makeup or don’t, go braless or don’t, wear jewelry you save for important occasions, shift your habitual view of your body. Eschew the tattered sweats or yellowed bathrobe you always wear when relaxing. Wear something you have forgotten in your closet or are saving for a special occasion, sew a ceremonial robe, borrow a leotard and flowing flowered dress from a good friend, or go naked (for the truly courageous).

Make an offering to whomever or whatever feels appropriate: to your Divinity, to the land you are retreating on, to your retreat coordinator, to your partner for helping you arrange the free time. This gentle half–sun salutation will get your body involved. If you are elderly or physically disabled, try this sitting down.

Repeat this several times. Each time you return to prayer position, state your intention again. Try to do so joyfully. Imagine your heart opening to the delight and possibility of your retreat. When your body feels looser and warmer, end in prayer position. Scan your body again. Imagine that your deep breaths are a prism of colored light and that you are sending this warm light to any areas that are tight or fearful. Expand your chest by rolling your shoulder blades down and toward each other.

Focus your attention on the base of your spine. Breathe into this area with a warm, full breath and chant aloud the sound lam three times. Take your time and use your entire exhale to make the sound. La-a-am, la-a-am, la-a-am.

 Next, center your attention just below your navel. Inhale into this area and sing out three times the sound vam. va-a-am, va-a-am, va-a-am.

Breathe into your navel, and on your exhale vocalize ram three times. On an exhale, ra-a-am, ra-a-am, ra-a-am.

Concentrate your breath into your heart now. On your exhale chant yam three times. ya-a-am, ya-a-am, ya-a-am.

Feel your breath in your throat. Inhale deeply, and on your exhale intone ham three times. Ha-a-am, ha-a-am, ha-a-am.

Finally, breathe up and into your third eye, the area between and slightly above your eyebrows. Chant om three times with each exhale. Ooomm, ooomm, ooomm.

Visualize or sense a vision of the Divine as you know it. Whatever comes to you spontaneously is perfect. Trust your feeling or image. Ask the Divine, in whatever way feels right, to help you on your retreat. Imagine streams of love flowing from the Divine over you and through you, washing away any fear, tension, worries, or fatigue that may still be present. Imagine any dark or heavy emotions washing out of the bottom of your feet.

Feel the energy coiling and cresting in your body. This is the energy of your retreat, the energy to start your journey. Do not squander it. You are being held. You are blessed. Decide right now, in this moment, to say yes! to your retreat with all of your heart, mind, and body. Do not waste time in guilt. Do not waste time in lack of discipline or shoulds or could-haves. What do you want to do first on your retreat? What immediately occurs to you? Launch yourself now by jumping joyously into what you wish to do next.

Louden, Jennifer. The Woman's Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering and Reawakening Your True Self --In a Moment, An Hour, Or a Weekend . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I think I will end this here today as it is already getting far longer than I like it. Check out the book you will not regret it!


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