At the time of this writing, it is middle of summer, and quite seasonal to think of, plan, and go on vacation. But let's explore the difference between a vacation and retreat. Vacation is that time that you take leave from work and regular activities for rest, pleasure, and travel is implied and assumed. There are many times we hear however, that the vacation ended up being very tiring, and people to need to catch up on rest from their vacation. This is often due to lack of planned buffer travel and rest time, or being so “busy” trying to “enjoy themselves” that the end result is exhaustion and a lack of true joy. When we can find joy in being rather than going, this is a choice and perspective that is blissful. Likewise, when we realize that we don’t get happy by going to a place, but by making peace within. When we suspend regular activities on our “vacation”, very often we suspend all regular activities, including the ones that are beneficial such as physical exercise, reading, meditation, prayer or any variety of other spiritual activities. This is an issue as well, as these are some of the most beneficial aspects of our day to day, so to leave them out of a retreat is more harmful than restful. You may retreat at home or locally, thus saving the money you may have spent on transportation, hotel, dining out, entertainment and shopping. The individual hermit style retreat draws us inward, allowing us perform reflection and examination. At times, the greatest journey you can go on is the one of spirit or mind which is primarily internal.
The retreat may involve travel, but if it does such travel will be focused on pilgrimage to sacred sites to make connections or to hear or participate with spiritual teachings or community. Simply being with community is refreshing, as they provide support, and love. Plan it as if you were planning a vacation, but with higher mindfulness and intention. State to yourself, or better yet, write down “I am taking a spiritual retreat. I will not “check in” on things. I will focus on my personal spiritual activity and rest, and will do so by __________________________________.” When we write things down, we tend to commit to them more, as if making a contract with ourselves.
An additional way to save money on retreat is often events, festivals, or retreats offer a discounted or free rate in exchange for volunteering work time.
If possible either don’t take, or keep unplugged the electronic communications. Or, if necessity dictates, have communication technologies available, but avoid using them. If they are available but you do not use them, this actually exercises strong character. When we unplug devices, we reduce our attachment to them. If traveling, pack lightly and minimally. In any case, try to reduce spending by withdrawing a certain amount of budgeted cash, and then only spending cash. Keep a journal or notebook to write down any observations, insights from meditations, notes from books being read or take notes from teachings. As well, if making any friends or contacts, get their information so you may keep in touch. Have a camera available to capture that once in a lifetime image. Keep this notebook and these photos in places where they are accessible and visible daily. Most importantly, take any growth or learning back with you and keep in your mind to apply day to day in your personal and work life.
Take the challenge and make a personal commitment to try a retreat over a standard vacation, as an experiment and witness the difference.
There are documented stories and tales of modern as well as ancient masters going on retreat or pilgrimages to improve their growth, including Jesus, Buddha, Ghandhi, Mohammed and many more. On a personal note, I have been consciously making this choice of retreat over vacation recently. It was personal challenge to make this type of commitment and stick to it. This has been some of the most refreshing and revitalizing experiences, and one of the best choices I could have made.
Heres wishing you a very Happy Retreat!
Robert Scott, Reiki Master and expert intuitive reader, has been a student of the metaphysical for many years, practicing a blended Dharma-Pagan practice. He is available for Reiki, Tarot / intuitive, or teaching sessions in the Cincinnati Ohio area. He has also contributed to the books Finding the Masculine In Goddess' Spiral, Paganism 101, Naming the Goddess, and Circle Magazine.