Too often we get so captivated by the busyness and hecticness of daily living that we forget to reference our deeper, intuitive selves. TV can be entertaining as well as educational, but it can also be a distraction, deflecting self-reflection. Our relationships with lovers, family, friends and co-workers likewise provide the juice that makes life worth living and the necessary friction out of which growth ensues. Yet, they too can be a diversion from the inner journey, where the potential for maximum fulfillment lies.
The benefits of retreating from our lives, taking the time to pull back, are manifold. Besides relaxation, rest, healing and reconnecting with oneself, the opportunity to go within allows us to gain distance and perspective from the circumstances of our lives. As a result, we encounter the clarity and the direction we have been seeking. Retreats afford the opportunity to reassess the direction our lives are taking and to make the necessary course corrections.
The word "retreat" comes from the Latin root meaning to "draw back." In spiritual retreats we withdraw from the "real" world -- from surface living -- and enter the deeper inner realms. For most of us the inner journey is an adventure that remains vastly uncharted and unexplored.
One of the constants found among most spiritual traditions is the importance of going within. Jesus is said to have said: "the Kingdom of God is within you." "If human beings knew their own inner secrets, they would never look elsewhere seeking for happiness and peace," asserts a Sufi master. A well known Wiccan prayer, "The Charge of the Goddess," ends with: "And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without." The whole thrust of Buddhist or Hindu meditation is to quiet the mind and delve deeper inside.
Retreats, especially those that include time for silence, make possible the temporary quieting of the incessant inner chatter that Buddhists call the "monkey mind." Our thoughts are like monkeys randomly jumping from branch to branch, and we end up utterly exhausted by the end of the day.
Types of Retreats
Among the many types of retreats are meditation, yoga, and breathwork. Retreats can be solitary or in groups, guided or not. Camping for a few days alone in nature could be profoundly centering, healing and inspiring. Most people choose to join more structured settings, where they feel supported by a facilitator and a group of like-minded others, all sharing a similar purpose. Some choose to rent a secluded house or other venue and hire a leader to facilitate their friends or colleagues in a variety of experiences to deepen their connection to themselves and each other.
Generally, participants are then inspired to go without once again and reengage the world as integrated human beings making a real difference.
However you do it, please take some time for yourself, retreat, and dive deep into your own inner journey. You'll be glad you did!
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