How to Plan a Spiritual Retreat

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How to plan a spiritual retreat

It’s important to take time away from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced modern life. Unplugging from technology, responsibility and even social obligations is an incredible way to spiritually rejuvenate. While a five or ten day meditation or yoga retreat would be ideal, not all of us can get away for so long. But most of us can certainly take a day off to devote to our spiritual growth. Between one and three days is a great start, so if you’ve got a long weekend coming up and are looking for a way to recharge your batteries, regain some clarity and establish more balance to your life, a personal spiritual retreat may be just what you need. 


Schedule your retreat in advance and mark it on the calendar. Prepare by purchasing whatever food & supplies you’ll need, as well as informing friends, family & coworkers that you’ll be off the radar for those days. Provide a way to be reached in case of actual emergencies, but otherwise, try to be strict about limiting social engagements during your retreat. This stay-cation is an opportunity for you to reconnect with yourself, not just hang out with buddies. 


So now that you’ve taken off work, cleared out your schedule and turned the phone on silent, it’s time to determine what you actually will do during the retreat. Take some time to determine your intentions: why are you doing this retreat? What do you hope to gain from the experience? What are you trying to gain insight or clarity on? What areas of your life need balance? What issues or problems have you been avoiding that need some attention? 


Consider all of these questions to figure out the true purpose of your retreat, and then you can start coming up with activities to help you pursue those goals. So, for example, if your goal is to lose weight and implement better eating & dietary habits, then you would probably want to incorporate some type of light fasting into your retreat, as well yoga or some other type of fitness activity. Or for a more spiritual focus, maybe you just want time to go into deep meditation, practice ceremony or cast spells for self-improvement.  


Next, consider the four aspects of the self and determine ways to nurture each one during your retreat: 


1. Body


How can you take care of your body during your retreat? Maybe some yoga, stretching, running, or hiking. Or maybe even bubble baths and massages to round it out. Consider what your body would like out of this retreat and then schedule time to break a sweat and pamper yourself. 


Besides exercise, consider sleep. Most retreats have strict schedules where participants are expected to wake up as early as 4am. While you don’t have to be so austere, you should plan an early time to rise and an early bedtime so that you get the perfect amount of rest. 


As for food, determine what you will and will not eat. Do you want to incorporate fasting into your retreat? If so, do some research beforehand and find a safe, healthy method of fasting that you might want to try. Otherwise, determine your meals and do all your grocery shopping before the retreat starts. Put your meals on the schedule so that you know exactly what you’ll be eating and when, so that your meals don’t become distractions.  


2. Heart 


Figuring out what to do for yourself emotionally may be a bit more difficult. The best option may be simply journaling your feelings during this time. Our lives are so hectic these days that we seldom get the chance to process the parade of events bombarding us. Use your retreat to do some healthy self-reflection. Writing your reflections down is critical to avoid dipping into self-absorption and wallowing. You don’t want your self-reflection to turn into self-pity or indulging in sadness. The point here is to genuinely reflect on your recent experiences and document what they mean to you. 


Getting your feelings on the page will help you clarify a lot of what’s happening in your life. It will also lessen the power the feelings have over you.  


If you are suffering conflicts with others, you may want to take some time to write letters to those who have wronged you. You never have to send the letters—in fact, it’s probably best if you don’t—but getting the words out of your heart and onto the page will help you process the real truth of the situation. 


3. Mind 


Meditation, meditation, meditation. 


You always say you’d love to meditate more, but you never have the time. Well, now you don’t have that excuse. Establish a rigorous meditation schedule that you know you’ll be able to meet. Something ambitious enough to feel rigorous but not so intense that you’re bound to quit. Find your limit and try to push gently past it. 


It’s best to schedule at least two meditation sessions for each day of your retreat, one in the morning and one in the evening. If you can add a third session somewhere in the middle of the day, go for it. The more time you have to simply clear your mind and dwell in meditation, the more beneficial your entire retreat will be. 


Meditation is not about self-reflecting. Meditation here is referring to stopping the mind from thinking so much. Your scheduled meditation times should be left for focusing on the breath (or whatever other meditation object you prefer) with singular determination. This time should not be used for thinking, pondering, or reflecting. Your goal here should be to bring your mental energy under control and to ultimately stop your internal dialogue. 


Diligently practicing meditation alone will guarantee a positive retreat overall. Skip this step at your own peril. 


Also, it goes without saying, but if you’re serious about your retreat, you should completely disconnect from the internet, television and any kind of media. The purpose of the meditation is to clear your mind of garbage, and that includes other people’s thoughts in the form of media. So take a break from binging Facebook, Twitter and Netflix during your retreat—they’ll still be there when you get back. Doing a technology fast alone can do wonders for your mental & emotional health.


4. Spirit 


Try building an altar as the centerpiece of your space during the retreat to focus your spiritual attention. Consider what rituals you can do throughout the day to reinforce the goals of the retreat. Maybe a fire ceremony in the evenings or on the last day to cast off what no longer serves you or to plant the seeds for the days ahead. 


If there are spells you want to cast, the retreat is a good time to do it. Make sure to acquire all the supplies and ingredients needed for the spell before the retreat starts. And if you practice journeying, then your retreat is the perfect time to journey to connect with your guides. 


And of course, let’s not forget the importance of prayer. Make sure to schedule time for prayer during your retreat. Whether you believe in a higher power or just your higher self, prayer is a powerful way to focus your intention and to strengthen your connection with spirit. 


Prayer is fundamentally different than meditation, so don’t confuse the two. Meditation is about focusing on an object like the breath for long enough that your internal dialogue stops. Prayer is about actively using the internal dialogue to communicate your thoughts and feelings to a higher power or your higher self. Prayer is active thinking whereas meditation is active non-thinking. Schedule these two different activities separately and do not lump them into the same time slot because meditation is for your mind while prayer is for your soul. 




With these guidelines, you should be able to craft a suitable schedule for your retreat. Print it out and post it up on the wall so that you have a constant reminder of your plan.  


When you complete the retreat, make sure to close with a ceremony commemorating your achievement. Before you formally end the retreat, set your intentions for the next time you’ll take a retreat again. Once a quarter is ideal, and at least once a year is necessary. With the newfound power & clarity you’ll achieve after the retreat, you should be feeling like you’ve got a new lease on life and can conquer anything. 

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