I was talking with some friends this morning. They have both given themselves the luxury of experiencing one of my retreats. And they are very clear that a retreat and a vacation are not synonymous, even though many women think they are. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in taking vacations as often as possible. I also believe that one 3-week vacation a year does much more for our sanity than 3 one-week vacations possibly can. So what’s the big deal about a retreat then?
Basically it all comes down to the power of intention. Vacations, by definition, are periods of rest, relaxation, and travel. They are opportunities to step outside our normal day-to-day activities, especially work and to rediscover how to relax, to play, to see new places and people. We return to our normal life refreshed, invigorated, ready again for the challenges of our life.
Retreats, on the other hand, are get-aways with an entirely different purpose or intention. They are opportunities to step outside our normal existence, to reflect upon who we are, to explore life’s challenges, to discover new things about ourselves and our relationship to our existing life, to consider changes we want to implement and then to move back into our life with a new perspective. Sure, a new perspective might happen by taking a vacation. But when we choose to invest ourselves in a retreat, we are committing ourselves to a process designed to up the ante on the likelihood that we will return changed.
Women, in particular, seem to be drawn to retreats that are designed to nurture and support them through periods of questioning their lives and purpose. Some women like retreats with a strong physical component: hiking, yoga, wilderness adventures designed to challenge our physical limitations. Others are drawn to religious retreats where the nature of God and their relationship with a creator is explored and deepened. Still others seek explorations of secular spirituality, of the meaning & purpose of their lives, of exploring and discovering their innate creativity and of letting go of lifelong habits that no longer serve them or bring the outcomes they desire. In my experience, women over the age of 40 are especially attracted to retreat experiences because they are examining their lives and wondering what they want from life after children, after work or after a significant relationship ends. Many have tried taking extensive vacations to exotic destinations, only to discover that while they had a good time and returned relaxed, the essence of their life hadn’t changed.
Our modern world is especially challenging for women. Not only are we expected to ‘be it all’, but we demand it of ourselves. Professionally successful, wise, sexy, always available to our friends, families and life partners. Oh yes, and young looking to boot! But for many of us, there comes a time when we begin to question our lives. We wonder
. . .what if
. . .what else
. . .what’s possible
. . .who might I become if
. . .
These are not only the only reasons why women need retreats, but I find that when these thoughts start to surface is the sign that we need to step off the exotic vacation treadmill and give ourselves the gift of a couple of weeks to ourselves, for ourselves, guided by someone experienced in creating a framework that breaks through our existing worldview and invites us to consider possibilities and potential we’ve never contemplated before. In short, we need to start to invest in ourselves and our future.
So when you notice yourself wondering . . .what else? . . .what if? find a retreat for yourself. Take the plunge. I’d certainly welcome you to any of my offerings in lovely Algarve, Portugal (shameless plug: A Taste of Life, Oct 9-24 and Feeding the Muse Oct 23-Nov 9, 2011). And you may need something different than I offer. So I encourage you to resist the urge to book yourself on yet another cruise or all-inclusive beach vacation believing that will make the difference you seek. Go online instead and discover one of the many wonderful self reflection and self discovery retreats that are available. Begin to invest in yourself, begin to prepare yourself to step into a future that you create and that you deserve!