Taking retreat is built in to our biology; usually, in times of deep work like childbirth, death or sickness. But in our modern age, these milestone moments are so much more subtle. We take an afternoon to retreat from social media. If we have the discipline, we take retreat from the never-ending demands of our work emails between the hours of 7pm and 7am. Some of this retreat ritual is built into our culture: we take a short vacation away from our hometown to enjoy a change of scenery. More subtle than this, we take respite from our partner or children with a day or night out with friends. In all of these ways, the little retreats we take give us a brief pause to reboot from surviving the low-grade overstimulation that has become our social norm. In a time where technology has never been more available, finding the space to truly unplug couldn’t be more necessary to our biology and even more to our spiritual survival.
To “retreat” is a cornerstone of spiritual life because it is required for us to thrive. Daily practices like yoga, meditation, self-love and compassion, help us to navigate and survive the inevitable highs and lows of being human. These practices support the journey through day-to-day moments. The moments that shape our attitude, our ability to adapt and change, our karmic debt are the same moments that can reinforce all the ways we get stuck and dig ourselves into a rut.
True retreat - stepping away from the day-to-day, leaving home for foreign terrain, leaving the comforts of our social and professional networks for the company of strangers, experiencing new practices, foods, sounds and conversation, taking literal space to get a different vantage point on our life - this is where the revival of spirit takes place. This is where spiritual thriving takes root in the garden of consciousness, without the white noise of our normal responsibilities and expectations.
And here’s the thing: the garden is constantly being seeded. When you’re aware of it, intentional living, deliberate action, conscious relationship can flourish. But more often then not, the daily grind gets the better of your best intentions and you end up using yoga classes, meditation apps, and the like to escape from the grind in a subtle plea for true retreat. The small moments that should just roll off of your back start to add up, the tension in your shoulders becomes the new normal and eventually you reach a point of self-preservation shut down. Then you fall into the good old habit of distraction, using whatever vice has never let you down. You lose your way…even just a little bit. It’s the same cycle for just about everyone, because we’re human, and we’re flawed and being on top of our game takes work.
So whether we are really tending the metaphorical garden or letting it roam wild and unkempt, something is growing and something else will flower from the things we do and the thoughts we entertain.
So here’s the other thing: Thriving is seldom born from the seed of luck. We have to plant that ourselves. We have to take care of our one, short life! This August, we’ll leave the familiarity of our life to take a true retreat into the simple, family-style scenery of rustic Tuscany, Italy….on a literal farm…with seeds that were planted by hand. We’ll cook real food. We’ll pick olives and sip Chianti wine. We’ll hike in the countryside to natural thermal baths and soak our bones. We’ll explore ancient cities with new friends and do our daily practices of yoga and meditation. We’ll have the time to indulge in the deeper work of sound healing, self-examination and massage. Revival isn’t something we need everyday. It is the pause that’s just long enough to really get us breathing deeper and more freely so that we can reenter our life with more gusto, more enthusiasm and more inspiration.
Can you imagine what seed it will plant for the next year of your beautiful and wild life?