In today's society, many of us approach life full speed ahead. Low-grade stress, in the form of worry, is our constant companion. Often we're concerned about work, family life, and finances. Sometimes this leads us to cram more activities into or eke more productivity out of every day. It is as if we've become hamsters on a wheel and forget that we have a choice about whether or not to get off that wheel. We rarely pause long enough to allow another perspective to enter our hearts. Meditation retreats help us get off the hamster wheel.
Of course, we could unwind at home. We could attend a yoga class, or meditate five minutes at a time during that gap in our busy schedule. But often these small snippets of time aren't long enough to reset the patterns in our brain and way of being.
Attending a meditation retreat helps us create space and time away from everyday distractions. We can give full attention to self-care. We are supported in that process because everyone we're with is doing the same thing. We've unplugged. We've slowed down. We've chosen to take care of ourselves so that we can return home refreshed and renewed.
Unlike the moments of downtime we carve into the middle of our usual routines, meditation retreats or wellness vacations, whichever name you prefer, offer a full immersion into contemplation and open-heartedness. On retreat, you begin to find improved self-awareness and stillness of mind that isn't present in the midst of your ordinary busy week.
Typical vacations tend to bring about short-term improvements in well-being; however, mindful vacations improve emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health for the long-run.
Consider a retreat, or wellness vacation, the next time you book a holiday. Below are eight great reasons supporting this choice.
1) EXPLORE BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS WITH A PURPOSE
Meditation retreats are always unique, even if you return to the same place and spend time with the same facilitator. At the moment of the current retreat, your perspective on life, and that of the other retreat attendees creates opportunities for unparalleled conversation, insights, and personal growth.
All the planning is done for you. Your only job is to immerse yourself in the surroundings, deepen your meditation and qigong practice, rest, and relax. You don't have to worry about scouting places to visit, creating reservations, arranging transportation, etc. Your responsibility is to register, and the rest is taken care of for you. Though you may adeptly handle these tasks in daily life, they can become stressful in new and unfamiliar locations.
Mindful vacations are often held in beautiful places around the world, whether it's the mountains of Peru, the lush landscapes of Ireland, or remote jungles and beaches of Cambodia. Meditation retreats combine an awe-inspiring vacation with conversations and new insights which lead to long-lasting profound benefits.
You explore cultures different from your own, yet at the same time recognize the commonalities among people from all cultures. Just like you, all the people you meet while on retreat have joys and fears.
2) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF AND FULLY RELAX
On a wellness vacation, you relax fully. Your health and well-being are the primary focus of your time away from home. You step out of your busy daily routines and into a slower pace of life, which encourages you to deepen your meditation practice, engage in daily physical activity, and modify your mindset. Taking time for yourself and with yourself is an essential part of the itinerary.
Often journaling while on retreat is a perfect way to spend quality time with yourself and at the same time record your emotions and thoughts to reflect back upon later. Mindful vacations help us dissolve chaos and clutter from our mind, allowing new ideas to bubble up to the surface. Frequently, fallow time, quietly gazing at a beautiful landscape is just what you need to spark meaningful life changes.
Embrace the opportunity to recharge, relax, and reflect. Enjoy learning new concepts or strengthening ones already familiar to you. Spend time daily entirely focused on your well-being, mindset, open-heartedness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.
3) DISCONNECT FROM TECHNOLOGY
One benefit of attending a retreat and stepping out of your daily routine may mean disconnecting from technology and perhaps even the news.
Though not a requirement, meditation retreats can double as a digital detox. Many of us are expected by jobs, friends, or family to be available 24/7. Attending a retreat may provide the welcome change of limited access. Creating this break helps you minimize distractions and settle fully into the present moment and place.
In fact, retreat settings often have limited connection to the internet and breaking news. Locations are chosen intentionally to help you relax into serene landscapes, harmonize with the physical world, focus on face-to-face social interaction, and spend time on inner reflection.
4) LEARN TO MEDITATE OR DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE
Regardless whether you have been practicing meditation for years or are brand new to it, retreats provide an undistracted opportunity to spend quiet time with yourself. Perhaps you'll learn new techniques or tips, or maybe time on retreat will allow you to deepen and strengthen your existing practice. Either way, stepping out of daily routines and into intentionally focused present-mindedness nourishes your body, heart, and mind.
You carry that calm, slower, peaceful way of being throughout each day and the entire retreat. You take time to let the past be in the past, the future be in the future, and intentionally focus on the present moment. You steep yourself in becoming a human-being rather than a human-doing.
Another reason to attend a retreat, especially if you are new to meditation, is access to one-on-one instruction. You'll have an opportunity to address meditation issues, perhaps including: "My right leg keeps falling asleep, what can I do?"; "Thoughts keep popping into my head; I am sure I'm doing this wrong."; "What do you mean when you say breathe into your belly?"
5) GAIN NEW PERSPECTIVE WHILE SURROUNDED BY POSITIVE ENERGY AND COMPELLING CONVERSATION
Time spent on a wellness vacation or meditation retreat pulls you out of life's quick pace and provides an opportunity for self-reflection and self-evaluation. Often answers to the challenges with which we struggle become more evident we apply time and distance. Creating space and time in our days to unwind often leads to a peaceful and profound sense of clarity. Perhaps you'll find it is time to do something different in your life, or you'll uncover a solution you've never thought of to a problem at hand.
Initially, meditation may be intimidating, as people often believe it requires having a silent mind. As humans, it is natural for our brains to process all the time. However, we do have a choice about what we think and how we go about it. Daily meditation helps us intentionally manage our minds. Choose to minimize chaotic over thinking and embrace intentional attention to the present moment.
Intentional thinking opens the doorway to a positive mindset. We choose to release negative thoughts and activate positive ones. Self-reflection is like a blossoming flower. It starts as a small seed, but when nurtured by time, space, and fresh air, it spreads its petals wide and transforms into something beautiful.
Embracing then releasing mental and emotional challenges or fears can be uncomfortable. In busy daily life, we may not want to acknowledge challenging issues. It is easier to push them aside or ignore them altogether. However, time spent on retreat creates an environment of safety, support, and thought-provoking conversation. We then begin to look more closely at our fears and challenges and have the courage, strength, and stamina to face them, embrace them and resolve them.
Mindful vacations not only help us learn about ourselves, but also provide an opportunity to learn about other cultures, both past, and present. Sometimes learning of someone else's way of life helps us see our personal circumstances in a different light.
6) CONNECT WITH NATURE
Connecting with nature is crucial to our health and longevity. Living in urban environments without access to the natural world increases our risk of depression, anxiety, and stress. In contrast, natural landscapes are profoundly healing and inspiring. All humans need to reconnect with forests, mountains, oceans, or deserts from time to time.
Retreats provide an opportunity to explore some of the world's most beautiful settings. They allow us to step out of busy, sometimes urban, life and into a slower way of being.
Connecting deeply with nature and the energy that flows through it is an integral part of these meditation and qigong retreats. Intentionally engaging with the life force found in natural settings helps us rejuvenate our internal energy or qi.
Recent research shows that immersing ourselves in natural environments positively affects our brains, bodies, emotions, thought processes, and social interactions. Basking in nature is shown to reduce the production of cortisol—our primary stress hormone. Nature often induces awe, wonder, and reverence, all emotions shown to produce benefits ranging from well-being and altruism to humility to health.
7) SPEND TIME WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE
Making new connections and friendships with like-minded people, whom often have similar concerns or interests, is an additional benefit of meditation retreats. These people become your support system as you work toward your goals and also provide a sounding board to help you identify and resolve personal challenges. Most importantly, they let you realize that you are not alone.
Uplifting and enriching conversations arise when like-minded people come together with a common purpose. Sharing stories of your personal experience and perspective may help others reach ah-ha moments they wouldn't have arrived at on their own.
As we practice meditation, qigong, and share conversations about self-acceptance, compassion, and joy, unique group energy arises, and thoughtful discussions and new friendships blossom quickly, often continuing long after everyone has returned home.
8) RETURN HOME REFRESHED
Have you ever come home from a vacation feeling like you need another one? A wellness vacation might have you booking your next one as soon as you're back home, but only because you're relaxed, refreshed, and open-hearted and can't wait to do it again!
Not only do meditation retreats provide time to relax and recharge, but they also are springboards for ongoing inspiration. While on retreat, make notes in your journal about the day's events. What were the day's conversation topics? Did those discussions lead to new perspectives? What did you learn about the local culture and environment that day? What feelings arose during meditation and qigong? Use these notes to keep the inspiration going when you go home!
All mindful vacations and meditation retreats share a common goal. They create and support a foundation of spiritual practice which can be carried forth into daily life. Long-lasting results arise as guests learn and practice tools and techniques which empower them to live a life filled with resilience and peace of mind.