By Renee Trudeau
Throughout my 20s and 30s when my chest tightened from overwork and I could feel overwhelm lapping at my door, I would increase my work pace, thinking, “I just need to move faster and get more done.” Much of this stemmed from an entrenched but misguided belief that my worth was directly tied to my productivity.
Fast forward 20 years. Today, one of my favorite personal mantras is, “From stillness comes discernment.” I’ve found if we don’t regularly take time to step back and ask the hard questions (i.e. what makes me come alive? what is my life trying to tell me?), we find ourselves living a robotic life—joyless and rote. I believe retreats are one of the best investments you can make in yourself.
Stephen Cope, MSW, author and director of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, where I teach, says retreats don’t change our lives as much as they change where we stand in relationship to our lives—and our capacity to see hidden possibilities there.
Whether it’s a one-day personal retreat in a natural area, an afternoon respite at a friend’s vacation home or a week-long experience in the mountains or by the sea, retreats have become key to helping me map out my next steps. I consider them to be as essential to balanced living as oxygen. I take retreats because they help me do the following:
Navigate career/life transitions. By gathering with others in a supportive, validating environment, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and everyone goes through periods of life when they feel lost or uncertain and are having trouble finding their way home. This realization can make all the difference in how you experience the journey.
Gain a shift in perspective. This intentional time provides me with the “30,000-foot view” and reminds me that, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” (Wayne Dyer)
Refill my well. Navigating nonstop busy-ness and a culture that rarely “unplugs” means we need to find ways to recalibrate our bodies, minds and spirits and return to our natural rhythms. Retreats offer the chance to experience a digital detox and deep “to-the-bones” replenishment, rest and renewal.
Hear what I most need to hear and gain clarity/focus around how and where to direct my energy, time and talents in the coming months or year. I believe we all inherently know what is best for us; we just rarely slow down or get quiet enough to hear this inner wisdom.
Learn to ask for and receive support. Giving myself permission to drop my personae, “come as you are,” and receive help from like-minded people who see the highest and best in me is freeing, exhilarating and reminds me of who I really am. Often the biggest “pearls” from a retreat come from other participants sitting just a few feet away.
As I sit with “What is uniquely mine to do?” in the decade to come and examine various opportunities coming my way, I make it a point to take a one-day personal retreat every 90 days so I can sit with this question. Additionally, twice a year I take a guided retreat from a master facilitator and allow myself to be “held” in a healing space by others who are figuring out all the logistics!
I feel honored to have been able to create and facilitate retreats for others for the last 25 years. However, even if I didn’t do this for work, I would still be committed to regularly stepping away from my life to get quiet and hear what I most need to hear.
Renée Peterson Trudeau is a nationally known author/coach and retreat facilitator. She lives in Brevard where she leads Wild Souls Movement and women’s circles/retreats, and helps people find balance through self-care. Join her September 15-17 for Sing, Dance, Pray: Romancing the Beloved in NC. Deadline to register is July 12. Learn more at ReneeTrudeau.com.