The value of retreating: doing less, being more
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau
With the Satvada team just back from our last Mindfulness for Wellbeing retreat of the current season, it seems fitting to reflect on the value of spending some time stepping out of our everyday routines and the demands that accompany them.
It is a deep pleasure to hold the space for a group of people stepping out of everyday life to go on retreat, and always a huge reminder for us, as teachers and facilitators, of both the power of practice, and the value of spending time out when we can.
For me, the importance of retreating could be summarised as follows:
- Perhaps most obviously, the golden opportunity to re-visit the practices of mindful movement, mindfulness and yoga nidra – always so helpful, so powerful, yet somehow more so in a retreat setting, where the space, nature and quiet is so pervasive to practice.
- The chance to let go of technology. This means turning off the smartphone, giving up emails and the internet for a few days – and in doing so, giving our minds and nervous systems a break from the constant anticipation of interruption; the stress of thinking we have to act instantaneously.
- An opportunity to do less, 'be' more. Moments to sit and watch the birds nesting or the squirrels playing. Being present to the turning of the sky during sunset. These moments are so easy to miss when immersed in our usual frantic lives, yet, one by one, monent-to-moment they form the fabric, and richness, of our days.
- The permission not to fill moments with 'doing' – whether that's grabbing the phone (again) to check for latest messages, or submitting to the urge to take the car out and visit somewhere. The permission not to be busy all the time. And the curiosity to feel what that feels like.
- Letting go of cooking, washing or clearing up, planning the next meal. The joy of handing all this over to someone else engenders a tremendous thanks for feeling cared for. (Relevant note: on all our retreats, whether in the UK, Croatia or Morocco, there is no mucking in or helping out – this is your time out).
- The chance to meet people. Many (even most) people come to retreat alone – and personally, I always recommend this chance for the optimal retreat experience. It means there's no-one else to please; simply a chance for you to be you. However, mealtimes and long afternoons by the log burner invite a wonderful opportunity to connect to like-minded people, and having the support of a group, whilst also maintaining your own space. This balance of time alone and time spent with others is a wonderful equilibrium of yin and yang.
- The chance to experience a period of silence, in a world that seems constantly noisy. These particular weekends offer a light period of silence - usually overnight: a chance to strip away external stimulation, read a good book; generally drop another layer of busyness.
- The space to let go of unhelpful habits. We all have them. A retreat allows a safe, gentle space to shine a curious light of awareness on habits that may not be serving us well. For me, these weekends are especially useful to trim my social media habit, and (so far!) I have managed to be more mindful of my internet use since returning to real life!
We are so looking forward to our next Mindfulness for Wellbeing weekend in late November 2018. Before then, we are excited to be organising and teaching two further luxury mindfulness weekends: the first at a stunning manor house in Norfolk in May 2018; the other at a breathtaking Riad in Marrakech this October (with spa and heated pool).
Until then, we'll be doing our best to hold onto that retreat feeling.
By Lucia Cockcroft. Lucia is co-founder of Satvada Retreats, and an experienced meditation and yoga teacher.