Going on retreat isn’t just for religious people.
Retreats are times to step away to remind yourself of who you really are, where you are going, and what is important to you.
What’s the difference between Retreat and Vacation?
Vacation is a time to get away from it all, to take a break from your normal, maybe to spend time in a place you love, with people you love doing things you love. And it’s important to take regular vacations!
But going on Retreat is a whole different level. On retreat, you get away from it all with intention to set down life as it is. The environment on retreat invites rest, contemplation and growth. Most often, people go on retreat alone — which leads to understanding yourself better, clarifying your values and goals, and often becoming better friends with yourself. Retreats can be about deepening a practice you already have, or they can be a time to learn something new and find a new rhythm.
When you go on vacation, YOU go on vacation, and YOU come home from vacation. When you go on retreat, you go with the intention that you will be somehow transformed or clarified, that the YOU that returns home will be a better, more whole version of yourself. You become more your full self on retreat, and (when done well) you carry that more full self back into your day to day life.
But I’m not religious!
Not a problem. Even if you are not religious, retreats can be incredibly meaningful times away to re-center yourself and your life.
Retreats come in all sorts of formats and spaces. Even places that initially seem “too religious” may be a great place for a not-religious-not-spiritual person to go. Every time I’ve been on retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in New York, I’ve met people on retreat with no religious inklings who were even more devoted to their retreat time than I am.
Why would I go on an Individual Retreat?
Oh! There are so many great reasons to choose to go on Retreat! Here are just a few:
Any price range, Any amenity level
One of the things I most love about retreats is how they exist in every price range and every amenity level. Retreats can be as simple and cheap as setting up a tent in a state forest for a few days. Or they can be a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world to an ultra-luxe spa. The most important part of any retreat is the intention you bring to it, not the place you do it.
Never let finances keep you from taking time for retreat. If need be, you can plan your retreat and do it in a friend’s extra bedroom. Many retreat centers run by religious folks have sliding scale or pay-what-you-can options. And lots of retreat centers offer at least partial barters where you can spend some time working for the center in lieu of full pay. If there is some place you’d really like to go but is out of your price range, go ahead and contact them. Tell them your situation and ask if they offer any of these options.
To build a more centered, sustainable life
Retreat comes from the latin for “pull back.” Imagine what it would be like to “pull back” from your life for a few days or few weeks… If you retreated from your day to day life, setting it all down… Then having time to breathe and think and rest… Then, you could choose what to pick up again and what to leave. You would return to life more centered on what is valuable to you. You would return to a more sustainable rhythm of life.
Time to think, time to be bored
I tell my kids all the time how important it is to be bored. It’s uncomfortable to be bored. We humans seek out all sorts of way to avoid it (including a ridiculous percent of college men who chose to give themselves an electric shock rather than sit alone in a quiet room).
Going on retreat helps you get use to time with your own thoughts. It helps you practice being alone with yourself so that you don’t literally or metaphorically keep shocking yourself to keep entertained at all times.
When you allow yourself time for your mind to wander, you invest in your own creativity, your own capacity, your own strength. Invest in boredom to invest in a better you.
To Get Sh*t Done!
Somewhat regularly, I just need to go on retreat to get sh*t done. When I had 16 articles due to the publisher, I wasn’t fitting the writing time into the off-hours of my regular life. So I scheduled a 3 day retreat at Order of St. Helena’s on the Georgia/South Carolina border and whipped those puppies out with time to spare.
When I want to write my own values statement, and when I need to create a new workshop, and when I need to re-imagine the next decades of my life, I go on retreat. I leave my regular life behind, and I have glorious, expansive, luscious days to do nothing but focus on what needs to get done. If you need to get sh*t done, strongly consider booking a retreat to do it.
Types of Group Retreats
Besides going on an individual retreat of your own creation, there are tons of different types of retreats you can join.
Learn or Hone a Skill
If you want to learn a new skill or deepen a practice, just google that practice + retreat. Really. It’s all there. Yoga retreats. Meditation Retreats. Circus retreats. Wellness retreats. Surfing retreats. Black history retreats. Really…whatever you want.
Retreats are a great way to do a “reset.” Wellness retreats are popular as ways to help people re-center themselves in their own health. There are options for wellness retreats at most price points, with a wide range of practices. When considering a wellness retreat, take some time to look into their philosophy to see if it meshes with yours. Are they hard-core or more laid back? Is their focus on dropping numbers on the scale or on sustainable eating practices? Are their meditation forms ones you are comfortable with or interested in?
If you are seeking more balance or more wellness in your life, consider booking a wellness retreat.
Writing retreats can be individual or group-focused. I love booking an individual retreat to get away and just write, write, write. But perhaps you are more of an extrovert, or maybe you want to receive guidance and feedback on your writing. Then a writing retreat might be a great option for you. Here’s an article with a mix of affordable individual and group writing retreat options.
And of course, there are religious retreats. Whatever your faith, or whatever you’d like to explore, there is a retreat for you. Most religious retreat centers are open to “seekers” and people new to or simply exploring a practice.
I have Quaker friends who practice buddhist meditation who love Southern Dharma Retreat Center.
The gender expansive language used for the 5-time daily Christian prayer at the Order of St. Helena’s does much to revive my Christian soul.
One First Nations retreat center is here, and there are many options for shamanic retreats.
Looking for something else? Google it, and you’ll probably find a lot of options.
Build Your Own
If you have a small or medium sized group and are interested in going on retreat together, contact me for a free consultation to discuss investing in a retreat tailor made just for your group. We will talk about your needs and interests, then work together to choose a place, schedule, activities and meals that will support your group. Past successful retreats include things like Care for the Caregiver, a variety of Spa-based retreats, Leadership Skill-building, Women’s retreats and more.
How do I Find a Retreat?
One option is an all-inclusive full-time retreat facility with tons of programming like the Omega Institute.
Camp and Conference Centers
Camps and conference centers are a great place to book individual retreats whether it’s someplace like Alton L. Collins in Oregon or Mustang Island Retreat Center in Texas or Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina.
Bed and Breakfasts
For individual and very small friends retreats, consider a bed-and-breakfast like the Swanson Inn in Vermont, the Akwaaba Mansion in Brooklyn, the Welcome Inn Manor in Chicago, the Windmill Inn in rural Kansas, or the Victorian Rose in Ventura, CA.
Whether you’re looking for a spot for an individual retreat or to join in on a group retreat, the website Find My Retreat is a great resource.