As an addendum to Monday’s post on my mini-retreat, I thought I’d post a more nuts-and-bolts one. I’ve been on legit retreats before: meditation ones, writing ones, ones involving saunas and massages, Californian ones, upstate New York ones, remote New England ones, island ones, beach ones, day-long ones, weekend-long ones. I haven’t yet done a silent retreat, but I’d like to one day. But the idea is simply to opt out of the daily hullabaloo for a brief yet restorative period of time in order to devote your divine concentration to something — and that’s something you can easily create for yourself.
Your objective, to boil it down, is an uninterrupted oasis of time to think, focus, dream, meditate, fantasize and otherwise indulge in all kinds of beautiful reverie. Doing smaller ones along the way is good for making sure you stay on track, make any corrections and realign or re-adjust yourself or your plans. So you need to carve out some time to do this. Beautiful, uninterrupted time: to me, that’s the key ingredient. How much time do you need? Depends, of course. If you’re just looking to get some clarity, an afternoon is nice, but sometimes bigger quests need more time for your mind to settle, meander, circle and simmer.
The “where” isn’t that important. You can be all inspirational and find a gorgeous, out-of-the-way place in nature, which I did, or maybe spend a day at a grand museum, wandering from gallery to gallery, which I did often when I lived in NYC. Any place that inspires you and allows you to loaf for awhile is great. But honestly, I’ve done this little process at the freaking food court in the mall and it’s just as fine. (My secret vice is a mall food court, if only because there’s something oddly comforting about the scent of Cinnamon and that weird blanket of white noise you hear in a mall.) The most important place you need to be is in your heart and mind, right? A bed works, too! Any place you can hole up with some snacks, notebooks, journals, lots of pens, some reading and some fun distractions like magazines, games or whatever — that should work for you. Any place that isn’t where you usually work is good.
Of course, for a lot of people, the “what do I think/write about” is a stumbling block. The future, goals, projects, intentions: it can get so huge to mull over, and really overwhelming as a result. That’s why I was a big nerd and made myself a worksheet of questions. Because filling out goofy little worksheets is fun and kidlike, and somehow feeling like you’re a child again is very freeing. If you want to take a peek at mine, you can download it:
You don’t have to “fill it in” with paragraphs of insight — sometimes I’ll just draw a little, or do a weird little mind-map, or just scrawl out a quick list.
Of course you don’t really have to fill it out…you can just journal on the questions or whatever. Or just write in general. But I do like having something a bit loose and separate from my usual work and personal notebooks, with lots of pretty fonts and such. It’s kind of keeping in spirit with the idea of a little thoughtful idyll you carve out from the thrum of your regular life. And when you come out of it, you’re inspired and feeling full of purpose and action once again, sure of where you want to go and how it fits into the larger narrative of your life.