RETREAT AND RENEWAL

While parking my car recently, I looked up to see a new day spa being completed. Amazed at the proliferation of these day and away spas, I began to reflect on the notion of retreat, a well-respected and ancient practice recognized by most cultures as a way to renew and sustain personal well-being. I recently returned from a poetry retreat in Baja, California, where, nestled in a sleepy coastal village within walking distance of the ocean, my room was filled with a cacophony of bird song. Yes, the sound of poetry and word play I came for soothed me, but I found the sounds of nature a balm as well for the internal chatter of my busy mind.

What is so important about taking time away from our daily lives? While women are well skilled at juggling many plates simultaneously, there is also a debilitating cost. We end up craving opportunities to rest our brains and souls. Neuroscience tells us shifting our brain activity strengthens our long-term health. Periods of rest, right-brain activity and lack of constant stimulation create a sense of balance and well-being.

For our mothers, going to a spa or simply getting a massage might well have been out of the question; today, however, self care is increasingly accepted in our culture as valid and necessary rather than as mere indulgence. It is no surprise we participate in exercise and stress reduction programs, meditation, yoga, spiritual practice and community building—all ways to feel less overwhelmed by a myriad of activities. Such time is as necessary as diet, exercise, work, family and community involvement.While parking my car recently, I looked up to see a new day spa being completed. Amazed at the proliferation of these day and away spas, I began to reflect on the notion of retreat, a well-respected and ancient practice recognized by most cultures as a way to renew and sustain personal well-being. I recently returned from a poetry retreat in Baja, California, where, nestled in a sleepy coastal village within walking distance of the ocean, my room was filled with a cacophony of bird song. Yes, the sound of poetry and word play I came for soothed me, but I found the sounds of nature a balm as well for the internal chatter of my busy mi

Living longer lives and no longer circumscribed by family obligations, women are seeking more ways to contribute on a significant scale. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest questions I hear in my practice from women of all ages is, “What shall I do that will both bring me a sense of satisfaction and make a difference?” Many women are realizing that such introspection requires time away from their day-to-day lives.

A retreat is useful in removing us from ordinary routine, allowing natural rhythms to reassert themselves and surprise to enter. We can seek this through a walk, a drive in the country, a day at a spa, or lunch out with a friend. Even participation in such communal activities as a book club or poetry group can lead to insight. There seems to be an upsurge lately in the domestic arts, thoughtful activities that slow us down. One day I had three women—strangers who had never met—in my waiting room talking about picking out yarns for knitting! This ancient craft has returned with a fervor, not just because it is cool, but because it is restful and enjoyable.

If you have been putting off that need to retreat, whether for several days or just a few hours, don’t wait. You will get back more than you might imagine in terms of self-nourishment, surprise and insight.

IMG_1297“The rest-note, unwritten, hinged between worlds, that precedes change and allows it.”

from “The Door,” by Jane Hirschfield.