A retreat is something you can look at in two ways. It can mean “to go back” – back to basic life skills, back to family connection, back to faith. Also, it can signify a return to focusing on your own self-care (a “re-treat”).
Ever since I was a young adult, I’d wanted to attend a yoga retreat.
In the 90s when was just discovering yoga, we spent a summer in San Diego, yoga-ing and surfing (or at least trying). I took surf lessons at a school in La Jolla that happened to offer yoga/surf retreats, and that’s when the idea was planted in my brain. Only the price and time commitment were out of my reach at that time. Someday, I thought.
Over 20 years later, I finally got the change to attend a yoga retreat, and it was glorious. I spent four glorious days moving my body, listening to traditional Mexican ritual music, eating amazingly beautiful food, connecting with 28 other inspiring people, and spending lots of time contemplating my life.
Though I had booked the retreat well in advance, it came at a good time. I’ve recently struggled with trying to predict the future, wondering where I’m going as a physician, as a coach, and as a parent. Worrying about how my family’s transition to a more rural life will affect all these things.
“Over 20 years later, I finally got the change to attend a yoga retreat, and it was glorious.”
Feeling tired of the hustle that is always a part of being an entrepreneur. And even though I preach about not comparing and owning your own work-life balance journey, I still found myself comparing to others.
In the beginning of the retreat, I found myself reaching for my phone to record or show what I was doing. Then I realized how addicted I am to sharing on social to get that “I’m so cool” feeling. It’s exactly what I’ve recently been trying to get away from.
So I put my phone down – a lot – and just observed. And listened.
I had deep conversations with other retreat attendees, learning through their stories.
When I shared my own stories with them, it reminded me of the immense gratitude I have for my life experiences. The sense of community I felt was similar to when I’ve attended certain physician conferences; everyone there (several were physicians, but not all) had a unifying interest in yoga, wellness, and personal development.
Other attendees were on a quest for answers like I was:
- One for defining her business boundaries in the era of in-person vs. virtual services.
- One for knowing when to slow down at work and just relax into a simpler lifestyle.
- One for moving on from the devastating death of her business and life partner.
And as they likely had hoped, I figured I’d have some epiphany or vision of my future self while lost in deep meditation. But you know what I realized instead?
After all the movement and the rituals and the sound baths…
After the conversations and the meditations…
There isn’t an answer.
What I need to know, what I need to have, is already right in front of me. Right now.
“The more you honor the small things, the more likely you are to experience good things in the future…. The real retreat is within you.”
Other Ways to Retreat
Retreats don’t have to be long and luxurious to offer insight and renewal. Many yoga studios and wellness organizations offer small, local retreats.
There are physician groups and coaches offering domestic, weekend-long retreats, which are perfect for busy doctors who have a difficult time taking time off.
You could also fashion your own retreat. Maybe you can steal just one day away; plan a yoga class or other movement outing.
Afterward, take a slow and mindfully delicious lunch, followed by some alone time outside.
Have you ever been on a retreat? What did you learn? What does retreat mean to you?