When many people hear that I offer retreats in the Algarve they look puzzled and ask me what that’s all about. For many, a retreat is part of a religious experience that involves going off to some ashram, convent, monastery or other isolated place for a time of spiritual reflection and time away. If people know me at all well, they can’t quite make the connection as to why I’d be offering a highly ‘religious’ experience!
The truth is that in today’s world, time away from the madding crowd, a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a period of Self reflection and questioning about life is as important as it has ever been. Perhaps it is even more critical given the break-neck speed at which most of us live these days.
Time to consider new possibilities
What’s different now is that for so many of us, organized religion is not present in our lives, nor is it a priority; we are much more secular in our approach to living. But religion was about much more than a belief in a higher power. Because it was organized, religion provided social connection and support; we were invited to consider our lives and our issues in a larger social context. That is missing for many people in today’s world.
So people like me, people deeply involved in the world of human growth and development have begun to offer ‘secular retreats’ to those in need of time and space from the daily grind. We know that there are periods in every person’s life where we need to reconnect with ourselves and consider the larger context of our existence, whether we believe in god or not. We also know that those who have eschewed a religious path likely haven’t developed the skills and practices to support a meaningful period of Self reflection. At some point, we discover that another beach vacation, camping trip or jump off a mountainside isn’t giving us what we crave. We don’t know how to find it on our own. So most modern, secular retreats offer some sort of framework so that searchers, seekers, cravers and lost souls can get in touch with themselves in ways that not only satisfy a deep inner need, but that help to illuminate the future in meaningful ways.
Modern Secular Retreats
The approaches to modern retreats are many. Some have a highly kinesthetic dimension to them: they use exercise such as yoga or martial arts, combined with meditation as their focus. Others involve journaling, activities to break down barriers and spiritual practices of traditional cultures to expand perceptions or a combination of diet and exercise to shift awareness.
My retreats, for example, offer a period of adjustment from the busy-ness of daily life, followed by a period where educational models are offered that invite participants to consider their lives through new eyes, along with a series of conversations and exercises that invite Self discovery and awakening to new possibility and potential. I always allow a 2-week retreat period. The first week allows people to slow down, to bring body/mind/spirit back into alignment so that they can really have meaningful explorations of Self during the second, more structured week.
It’s all about priorities
In the end, if you are considering a retreat, the right one for you really is all about your priorities and what you want to accomplish. Come on back next week when I’ll be offering a post on tips for selecting the retreat experience that will best suit your needs.