5 ways retreats can change your life

I recently attended 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.

women's retreat

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.)  Retreats are powerful and life-changing and they’re one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

women's retreat


  • Hire me to plan/facilitate a custom workshop or retreat for your company, team or organization on life balance, resiliency or self-renewal. I’ve been speaking professionally for 25+ years on work-life balance and my clients include Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit agencies, national conferences and women’s organizations. Learn more and email me at workshops at reneetrudeau dot com to explore how I can help you.
  • Retreats are ideal if you’re in transition and exploring, “What’s next?”  Join me this fall for a deeply restorative women’s self-renewal retreat; I’ll be in MA Sept. 21-23, in CA Oct. 26-28 and back in MA Jan. 27-29: learn more.
  • Craving authentic community and want to find (or create) your tribe? Learn more about our global sisterhood of RTA-Certified Facilitators  and empower/support women in your community!  More here on how to become a RTA-Certified Facilitator and join our inner circle  ($100 off through 6/30; includes private coaching with me).

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness coach/author/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women experience balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum.  She is the author of three books on life balance and mindfulness including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 16-year-old son. More on her background here.