Many of us begin the new year with resolutions to lose weight or save more money or read more and watch less television, and there is certainly nothing wrong with any of those intentions, but I invite you to begin this new year with the gift of a retreat. A retreat to uncover your heart's desire and a direction for the new year, as well as time to understand the learnings, the losses, and the gifts of the past year.
Creating Your Own Retreat
The most important aspect of retreat time is carving out the time for retreat. Perhaps you will choose to go to an actual retreat center or a hotel room or someone's cabin in the woods, but your retreat can also be in your own home; a time when you can be alone or at least undisturbed in a room away from others. You may choose to retreat for a whole day or more or for a couple hours at a time over the course of the month. Look at your calendar now and decide on the time or times and fill in the square with red letters, "My Retreat."
Your retreat time is not to include any routine tasks like doing dishes or laundry or answering the phone (Turn off your phone!!!!!) or checking email or answering questions from your spouse. This is your time, and you need to guard it, even when it feels uncomfortable to do so.
"Packing" for Your Retreat
Here's a list of items you might want to have with you.
*Your journal and a pen.
* Basic drawing supplies and big paper.
* Music that inspires or relaxes you and a way to play that music.
* An inspirational book.
* Comfortable clothing (If you are home, you can stay in your pajamas all day, if you want, for you are NOT going to answer the door if anyone appears.) Consider clothing that feels nurturing or an item of clothing that represents your creative side--a colorful scarf, for example. Yes, you can wear the scarf with your pajamas.
* A touchstone or talisman other object--a stone, a cross or Buddha or shell--something that will help you focus on this time you have given yourself and remind you that you are not alone.
Beginning Your Retreat
I invite you to sit in a quiet place and close your eyes lightly, not tightly. Take a couple deep cleansing breaths and allow your body to relax into slow, even breathing.
Read the following poem slowly silently or aloud for your own ears.
The Map You Make Yourself
You have looked
at so many doors
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.
choose the door
to the inside.
Travel the most ancient way
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.
but the one
you make yourself.
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim's way.
Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.
Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
as doors deepen in.
Pray for protection.
Ask for the guidance you need;
for the gifts that come
let them go.
Do not expect
by the same road.
Home is always by another way
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you
but by the star
that blazes inside you
where you are
and you are welcome
Jan L. Richardson http://www.janrichardson.com
Being With Yourself
Here are some topics, prompts, questions to consider. Feel free to adapt or ignore or use these in anyway. Perhaps find one or two that resonate with you and explore them. See where they take you. Turn off your inner censor.
What arose for you during the beginning meditation time?
What did you bring with you today?
What did you leave at the door?
What questions are you carrying across the threshold?
What is quietly resting or hiding in your heart that needs new life?
What have you lost and what needs to be refound?
Reread the poem, "The Map You Make for Yourself."
What words or phrases resonate with you?
What comfort is there for you in this blessing?
What challenges or opportunities are there for stretching?
What would a map of yourself look like?
What might a map of your coming year look like?
My hopes for this retreat are…
When I think about the new year, I…
As I let go of 2013, I feel…
As I move into 2014, I…
Continuing Your Retreat
Allow yourself some rest time or perhaps take a walk between dedicated reflection and meditation times. Doing this will create a space for clarity to arise.
Once again begin with meditation time, closing your eyes lightly, not tightly and taking a couple deep cleaning breath, allowing your body to relax into slow, even breathing.
Consider these prompts and questions:
Topics, questions, ideas, thoughts and dreams I need to explore further:
Because of this retreat time, I…
What have you learned about yourself today?
Is there an intention, plan, or goal or dream becoming clearer to you? If so, what?
Brainstorm or imagine how to move forward.
Envision for yourself your life in 2014. Allow yourself to play with this.
What words of wisdom have appeared for you?
Ending the Retreat.
Of course, the ending is only the beginning, and only you will know what you are called to do as a result of this time. Perhaps you have not experienced any great illumination, and I encourage you to not let that upset you. You may still be percolating. Let the retreat time rest within and unfold with time.
It is important, however, to bring closure to the retreat time. Perhaps you will reread the poem once again. Or meditate again. Or take a walk and then re-enter your home. Make some sort of offering of gratitude for your retreat time by counting your blessings or gifting the retreat center in some way. Create a symbol of this retreat time that will be a visual reminder of your retreat. Whatever you do can be simple, but as you entered retreat time with intention, be intentional about ending the retreat time.
A Blessing For This Time
That you will see
the pieces of your life
That they will meet
in ways you hardly
That they will make
a way better still
then you ever dreamed
Jan L. Richardson
Obviously, this post is an invitation for you to create retreat time for yourself. I hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to hearing about your retreat time.
The Woman's Retreat Book, A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering, Reawakening Your True Self--in a Moment, an Hour, a Day, or a Weekend by Jennifer Louden http://jenniferlouden.com/products/books/