In this world of too much and too fast, we all need to find conscious ways of slowing down and rediscovering what is truly important to us. As a meditation teacher, I believe taking a little time each day to meditate is essential for optimal mental health and happiness. And I believe the next best thing is taking some extended time, at least once a year, to completely disconnect from your everyday life and reconnect with your inner life, on a retreat.
I’ve been running retreats in the Himalayas of Nepal for the past 7 years and over this time I have had the honour of witnessing just how life-changing retreats can be for many people. There is power in pulling back and reclaiming scattered energies. There is clarity in stopping the hamster wheel for a while and discerning whether you still want to be running in that same ol’ direction. And there is magic in stillness and listening to the voice within.
Here are 5 of the most profound ways I have seen retreats change lives for the better:
1. The Gift of Perspective
Time flies not just when you’re having fun, but also when you’re perpetually busy. We get so caught up in everything we have to do that before we know it months, years and sometimes even decades have flown by in a flurry of work and rush. When we don’t take time to stop and take stock of our lives, we end up giving away little pieces of ourselves without realizing it until it is too late. The first thing that usually goes is our sense of fun, creativity and play… there is simply too much to do for these non-essential items! Then as we get busier, our relationships begin to suffer…both our relationship to others and to ourselves…. less quality time, less meaningful conversation and less connection. Inevitably our natural sense of joy, aliveness and enthusiasm begins to wane, and then after that our energy levels and our health. Taking time out every year to pause, check in with yourself and reassess how you are living your life and what your true priorities are is essential to making meaningful use of the precious and finite time you have left here on planet Earth.
2. The Necessity of Recharging Your Batteries
Though we live in a very linear, left-brained society obsessed with productivity and output, we are not machines. We can’t just keep going like an Energizer Bunny. Our bodies and minds need rest and relaxation, we are natural organisms that need to reconnect with the natural world and we are also spiritual beings with spiritual needs – for silence, stillness, reflection and inspiration. While many people take regular vacations that can certainly be fun and relaxing, retreats take recharging to a whole other level… the whole experience has been designed with optimum wellbeing in mind.
3. The Importance of Extraordinary Experiences
As I mentioned before, we are not machines or robots…and our needs go beyond just the physical. The human mind and spirit craves meaning, inspiration, transcendence… the mind sometimes needs to escape the ordinary and enter into the extraordinary. These experiences, though intangible, somehow fill us up on the inside, they reignite our hopes, rekindle our passions and reawaken our appreciation for the beauty, wonder and adventure of life. I’ve seen the light bloom in people’s faces after witnessing a Himalayan sunrise or traveling to an exotic new culture or experiencing a deep meditation session. Extraordinary experiences change us on the inside.
4. The Magic of Like-Minded Groups
After 7 years of facilitating group retreats, I definitely believe the sum is greater than its parts. The power of a group of like-minded people coming together with a shared intention creates a special energy that holds, nourishes and uplifts each individual in its embrace. With the breakdown of orthodox religion and traditional community structures, we have a need for meaningful, shared experiences with others, and retreats are a fantastic way to meet this need and forge beautiful friendships with like-minded souls who are on a similar journey of self-discovery and spirituality.
5. The Power of Inspired Action
From what I have noticed over the years, retreats seem to act as rut-breakers. Folks who have been unhappy in certain areas of their lives but have been unable to follow through with making necessary changes somehow find to courage or the means to do it after they have been on a retreat. I’ve seen unhappy jobs and marriages finally left, new businesses and creative passions courageously started and many a new leaf turned over. I am not 100% sure why this seems to happen so consistently, usually within 3 to 12 months after a retreat… perhaps it is the perspective gained from completely leaving your old life behind or perhaps the stillness and silence allow your true voice to be unmistakably heard once and for all… either way, the changes start subtly on the inside and then radiate out powerfully to the outside, and lives are irrevocably changed for the better.
“Discover the Peace Within”, my truly extraordinary signature retreat in the Himalayas of Nepal, is open for registration for 2017. This is a 10 day deep-dive into yoga, meditation, spirituality and adventure and will leave you recharged, inspired and reconnected to your true self. An early-bird discount of $200 is available up until the 31st of March 2017, get the details here.