The Best Investment You Can Make


The window at Big Bend National Park. One of my favorite places to gain perspective on my life.

I just returned from an international women’s conference featuring personal development, leadership, life purpose and international women’s rights speakers from around the world. From authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Marianne Williamson to journalist activists Lisa Ling and Zainab Salbi (founder of Women for Women International)–everyone stressed the importance of regularly stepping back from your life to re-asses where you are, where you’re headed and if it’s time for a course-correction.

One of my favorite personal mantras is, “From stillness comes discernment.”   If we don’t regularly take time to pause and ask the hard questions (i.e. what in my life is working for me and what’s not?), we find ourselves living a robotic life that is joyless and rote.

Hands down, I believe retreats are one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

Stephen Cope, MSW, author and director of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, where I teach, says retreats don’t change our lives as much as they change where we stand in relationship to our lives—and our capacity to see the hidden possibilities there.

Whether it’s a one-day personal retreat at a nearby  greenbelt or a weekend or week-long experience in the mountains or by the sea–retreats have become key to helping me map out my next steps. I consider them to be as essential to balanced living as oxygen. But they take planning, courage and a commitment to step off the hamster wheel, even if just for a bit. I take retreats because they help me:

  • navigate career/life transitions: by gathering with others in a supportive, validating environment, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and everyone goes through periods of their life when they feel lost, uncertain and are having trouble finding their way back home. And this realization can make all the difference in how you experience the journey.
  • gain a shift in perspective: this intentional time provides me with the “30,000 foot view” and reminds me that, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer.
  • fill my well: navigating our 24/7 modern lives and living in a culture that rarely “unplugs,” means we need to find ways to recalibrate our bodies, minds and spirits and return to our natural rhythms. Retreats offer the chance to experience a digital detox and deep “to-the-bones” replenishment, rest and renewal. This is key to sustainable living.
  • hear what I most need to hear and gain clarity/focus around how and where to direct my energy, time and talents in the coming months or year; I believe we all inherently know what is best for us, we just rarely slow down or get quiet enough to hear this inner wisdom–often this comes right to the surface when we’re on a retreat.
  • learn to ask for and receive support: giving myself permission to drop my personae, “come as you are,” and receive help from like-minded people who see the highest and best in me is freeing, exhilarating and it reminds me of who I really am. We’re all one another’s teachers; often the biggest “pearls” from a retreat experience come from other retreat participants who are sitting just a few feet away.

I’m currently exploring how and where I am best meant to serve in the decades to come. As I sit with, “What is uniquely mine to do?”  and examine various opportunities coming my way, I make it a point to take a one-day retreat every 90 days (read tips here on planning a personal retreat) so I can sit thoughtfully with this question. Additionally, once or twice a year, I take a guided retreat and allow myself to be “held” in a healing space by others who are figuring out all the logistics!

I feel honored and privileged to have been able to create and facilitate retreats for others for the last 20 years –read  why I lead retreats— but even if I didn’t do this as part of my work, I would still be dedicated to this practice and I know it’s a commitment I’ll be honoring for the next 40 years of my life. (Does the thought of taking a women’s retreat sound scary? Read feedback from some of our retreat alums.)

JOIN ME FOR AN UPCOMING RETREAT:   Craving clarity, a greater sense of purpose and deep to-the-bones rest and renewal?  Join me at an upcoming retreat.  Our retreats always sell out, so don’t wait to register. Here’s what’s coming up:

  • Asheville, NC  June 10th, 9:30-3:30 Embracing the Wild Unknown: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at the Asheville Movement Center; learn more.
  • Lenox, MA  June 23-25 New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health; learn more.
  • Big Sur, CA  Sept. 29-Oct. 1 Embracing the Wild Unknown: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Esalen Institute; learn more.
  • Lenox, MA  Oct. 27-29 New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health; learn more.

Join us Friday, May 12 in Austin, TX at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for New Way of Being one-day self-care retreat; only two spots left!

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by coach/speaker and work-life balance teacher Renée Peterson Trudeau. Renee’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups and retreats based on her award-winning curriculum.  She leads workshops/retreats around the globe and is the author of three award-winning books on life balance including The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 15-year-old son. More on her background here.