It’s a funny thing, but I used to be at odds with the word “retreat.” It had come to mean in my mind something to do with running away. Running away from life, turning away from what you should be facing, giving up.
My first retreat experience changed all that. I found that far from running away from myself and life, I had found a portal back to myself and a connection to life that perhaps unwittingly I had been craving with all my heart and soul, but could not find while I was busying about all my daily tasks.
I found that a retreat has the power to rebuild you, re-set you and heal things that are getting between you and a healthy, happy life at a very deep level.
How does this happen? How can going away for a few days really be so life-changing?
That, I think, has to do with the potency of intentionally going away for the sake of going in. Going in to your own body and through yoga, walking in nature, massage and eating nourishing foods, experiencing the delight that at a nourished, engaged body can reward you with. Going in to your own heart, the parts of it you simply do not have time to hang out with in the maelstrom of your busy life, the parts of it you may not have visited for a long time because there are wounds there, and who has time for wounds and healing when there are so many other people to look after? Going in to intentionally enter a deeper connection and conversation with yourself. Going in to your true nature – that nature that sometimes barely has time to breathe – and remembering who you are.
I have a love of language and the roots of the words we use, so I looked up the word “retreat” and was surprised to find it had nothing to do with running away. The word comes from Latin and Old French and its meanings are “to pull back”, “to fall back from battle”, “to draw back”, “to call back”.
Far from surrendering to overwhelm, going on a retreat is about you intentionally offering yourself – gifting yourself – the holy grail of self-reunion. A retreat is a time for massive assimilation and reintegration and we need that so much in our often crazy, scattered ways of living.
This “calling back” is a calling back of all the parts of you into wholeness. All those parts of you that you have been giving out in all directions and all of the time now have a chance to return to you and only you. By answering the call to retreat, you have afforded yourself the time, the space and the perfect ingredients for a reunion with the real you. By drawing back from the usual routines and obligations, shedding the usual roles and demands, you get closer and closer to your essential self and remember what it feels like when it is well rested, well nourished, nurtured by yoga and breathed full of prana from spectacular nature. You are giving yourself a complete life-exfoliation. The result is a new healthy “skin” – the membrane of your own self becomes glowing and plump again.
This “calling back” that under-vibes the whole experience of retreating is powerful stuff, by the way. There are places in our lives – lost places, forgotten and exiled places – which long to be called back. There are things we are doing in our lives, almost unconsciously because they have become such a familiar part of the auto-routine, that are craving a break or a complete change. We continue with habits and ways of thinking and talking to ourselves that do not serve our thriving. Once you know what these are, once you recognise your own vitality again, once you remember the powerful precedent of being an advocate for your own heart and your own free spirit….and believe me, all of these things will come to you in the magical oasis of a retreat…you get the kind of clarity that demands a response. It may be a job, a relationship or a habit of yours that you know now does not serve the growth and nourishment of who you really are. A retreat offers the space to call in the resources, strength, support and inspiration needed to return to life with your highest vision of yourself in full activation.
No, a retreat has nothing to do with running away. But it does have everything to do with coming home.
Alison is partnering with Amy Wilkinson, founder of Inna Bliss, for their upcoming At Home In Your Heart - a winter luxury farm retreat at the Stunning Wybalena Organic Farm in Byron Shire this August. Her and Amy and also very excited to be once again hosting 'Embodying Bliss' Bali Yoga & Meditation Retreat this October at the gorgeous Shala Bali in Ubud.