Throughout my twenties and thirties when my chest tightened from overwork and I could feel overwhelm lapping at my door, I would increase my work pace, thinking, “I just need to move faster and get more done.” Much of this stemmed from an entrenched but misguided belief that my worth was directly tied to my productivity.
Fast forward twenty years. Today, one of my favorite personal mantras is, “From stillness comes discernment,” and I’m a big fan of pausing. I’ve found if we don’t regularly take time to step back and ask the hard questions (i.e. what makes me come alive? what is my life trying to tell me?), 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, an afternoon virtual retreat (join me April 24th), 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 decade 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, prior to COVID, once or twice a year I would 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 25 years. However, even if I didn’t do this for work, I would still be committed to regularly stepping away from 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. If not now, then when?
HOW CAN I SUPPORT YOU? HERE ARE TWO OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMING INTO BALANCE:
**JUST ANNOUNCED: A SPRING RETREAT** Mark your calendar and join me Sat., April 24th from 1:30-5:30 ET for REBIRTH: A Soulful Self-Renewal Retreat for women (virtual/online). What seeds do you want to plant/nurture? Learn more/register (and check out the limited time Bring-A-Friend special offer).
**NEW! For NC Self-Employed Women** Live in Western NC and run your own business? Join me for a small in-person Mastermind Group this spring in Brevard, NC (just south of Asheville) for women who are birthing something new or who are self-employed. We’ll meet twice a month; I’ve been coaching women women entrepreneurs for 20+ years. To receive details on this powerful, invitation-only small group experience email renee at reneetrudeau dot com.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, AARP, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups for women based on her pioneering work. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She and her husband live in Western North Carolina and Austin, Texas and are enjoying a new empty nest. More on Renee here.