A retreat can be something quite personal to you, it can be a way to reconnect with yourself and the things that matter to you. Generally a retreat is thought of as a quiet, contemplative experience, enabling a sense of peaceful connection. It might involve spending time in nature, possibly in meditation or quiet contemplation and this could be done either alone or in a group. In literal terms, the word ‘retreat’ can mean ‘To move backward or away; withdraw or retire’. The opportunity to get perspective on things can really involve just this: stepping away or going on a journey that takes you out of your everyday environment and routine. This way, there are none of the usual stimuli that we might be habitually familiar with. You could say, then, that it is a break from habit and routine. It could possibly involve the forming of a new routine, or the breaking of an old pattern.
Many people when they go on retreat like to limit the use of their mobile phones. Our link to our everyday world can be very much perpetuated by a phone, and many people feel that they cannot truly experience the full benefits of a retreat if they cannot disconnect or at least limit their use of such technology, at least for a significant portion of this retreat. This is sometimes easier said than done, however, with appropriate planning and communication to others that we are unavailable, this can be possible and provide the necessary breathing space to accomplish the true aims of our retreat.
So what are the benefits? How soon can we expect changes? Can the benefits be lasting? Well, this will depend on the individual and their individual aims, what help they receive, and so on. Many people find that it takes several days at least to really ‘switch off’ and get into a different ‘zone’. The noticeable results of this could include feeling visibly more relaxed, more ‘in the moment’ and, ultimately, more peaceful. Some will feel the need for some spiritual enquiry, while for others it may be more simple – getting plenty of fresh air, relaxation and or exercise to help bring a general sense of well-being.
These results are not necessarily achieved straight away. Sometimes it takes some work, we will need to alter aspects of our habitual routine – such as going to bed a little earlier and changing some of our dietary habits – even if only temporarily – so that we give our bodies a break from caffeine and other stimulants and enable some internal cleansing from toxins.