What makes a successful retreat?
After having both attended dozens of retreats over the years, and more recently conducted my own retreats, I wondered what the lasting effect and takeaway is. A successful retreat, I believe, provides a toolset for a new way of being, and something that can be embedded and applied to everyday life.
So what is the makeup of such a life-redeeming breakaway, the thing that provides a compelling reason to attend a retreat?
After allowing these questions to float in and out of scrutiny and observation for some time with the goal of dissecting these questions and coming to a conclusion, I offer the following:
Attend with Intention
For the most part, we wonder and weight the value of what retreats give us, especially in exchange for our time and money. We have to consider these things, of course. However, the value really amounts to what we ourselves bring to the retreat. The memorable retreats I’ve attended in the past were those I was committed to, with the intention to bring my whole self into the experience and to be open to the grace of such an event. Coming with a mindset of intention and a spirit of openness and availability is the most important element of a successful retreat.
Give Yourself Permission
Next comes giving yourself permission to take this kind of break: in other words, arriving at a place of feeling deserving of this interval, this punctuation in your everyday life. Simply allowing yourself the time to reflect, renew, and reset your priorities is of great importance.
The third point has to do more with post-retreat commitment than the actual content o the retreat. Often when we ponder commitment to change, we think of what we will have to give up rather than what we gain. It’s the nature of the mind to fear change, and yet, this growth, this opportunity to release the bonds we’ve imposed on ourselves, is now a very real possibility. You need to maintain the stamina to recognize old patterns and habits, and to say goodbye to them as they arise.
The Ideal Retreat
Now, when considering such a break to reflect and reset our priorities, what can we expect from a retreat?
Certainly, the location should be free of distracting elements, one that emphasizes leaving your usual devices and routines behind for a bit. It should also be a place where you immediately have a sense of peace and tranquility, and sanctuary where all of you can expand freely. This place should provide a time with others who’ve come for the same reasons, and to share challenges, knowing that all are in attendance with a commitment to change. It should be a place that has been thoughtfully designed with every feature and aesthetic to nourish the soul. The accommodations, food, amenities, and staff should all fully support your being here.
In reflecting on retreats and how being a part of a retreat can be beneficial to you, remember first the importance of your own commitment and earnestness.