You’ll probably think what I’m about to tell you sounds like a fairy tale. It’s not. In fact, it happened exactly one week ago.
As I was walking through a forest, a light shined toward me. The beacon led me to a clearing. A beautiful meadow. My heart beamed. I recalled a pleasant memory of picking flowers in a similarly magnificent setting when I was six. Stepping into the meadow, looking at the blooms and the butterflies, I felt playful, free-spirited, joyous.
“Excuse me! You’re not allowed here. I’m calling the police on you!” a biker screamed at me from the other side of the clearing. Jolted out of my happy moment, I retreated back into the forest—and back into myself. I shrunk with shame, as if my mother had caught my six-year-old self being naughty. But only for a few minutes. Then I paused, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and re-centered myself. I was at peace again.
That’s not the end of the story. And before I tell you the rest, you need to know this: I was halfway through a one-day nature meditation retreat. We had spent the morning meditating. After lunch and a short nap on the grass under the sun, the instructors had asked us to spend a quiet hour alone, connecting to nature (or to God). “Go into the woods, let go of control, and follow your feet,” they said.
By the time I walked back into the forest, it was time to return to the meeting point. I had followed the instructions, released control and hadn’t planned my way back. I walked right into unfamiliar territory. A dead end. I was shocked. Somehow, in a forest that really wasn’t very big, I had lost my way.
At first, I panicked. I rehearsed tragedy in my head. What would become of me? My heart was going a mile a minute. I collected myself once more, paused, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. I asked for guidance and felt compelled to walk in the opposite direction. Ten minutes later, I was back at the meeting point, where everybody was sitting quietly, ready to resume meditation.
I reflected on the experience later. Within the space of an hour, I had gone from inner peace, to fear, and back to being grounded. I asked myself…why?
The answer is simple. I retreat regularly through a practice of pausing and connecting with the present moment.
For more than 25 years, I have started and ended each day with a practice of self-Reiki and meditation. I put my phone on airplane mode and set the alarm. I place my hands on my heart, align with the universal energy, and allow it to flow through me while I meditate. This simple 15-minute routine is my daily practice of retreat. By the way, if you are curious why I am so devoted to Reiki, read one of my previous blogs, “How to Practice Mindfulness and Live an Intentional Life.”
Let’s explore a little bit more why retreating is so essential to our wellbeing.
Our lives are overstimulating.
One of my goals in creating the Thriving Empath Facebook Group for Women was to offer a space for women to reconnect fully with their gifts. I am moved by the deep conversation that happens in the group. Much of the discussion centers around finding balance. Balancing giving and receiving. Doing and being. Taking care of others and caring for ourselves. Through these meaningful conversations, I’ve noticed that even when women take time to retreat, even when they step away from the busy-ness of life, they return feeling no better or more energized than before.
What does “retreating” look like for you? You might think that the only way to retreat is to go away for a week. If planning the ultimate vacation is not realistic for you right now, maybe you’ve given up on the idea of taking time off to recharge. You plow through each day. Maybe you take breaks to leave your desk, sit somewhere else, and scroll through Facebook or make a quick connection on Instagram.
Newsflash: You might be taking a break from what you were doing before, but you are not really retreating.
Retreating intentionally is different from taking a smartphone break.
Searching the Internet or taking a Facebook or an Instagram pause may clear your head from work. But it won’t clear your energy and emotions. When you are emotionally charged, escaping the feelings does not lead to recharging your emotional batteries.
Deliberately shift your focus away from external stimuli and connect within.
“My body is busy. Inside, I am still.” —Deepak Chopra
Taking a vacation is a fun way to recharge. But even a vacation can get busy and overstimulating, making you feel like you need “a vacation from your vacation.” I love vacations. And I also try to plan full days and even a full week of self-retreat. But the key to living a balanced life is to retreat regularly.
Creating daily practices, rituals, and moments of stillness is the foundation of retreating successfully.
“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.” —Marcus Aurelius
Years ago, I studied meditation with a Zen monk. He always said that he didn’t need to go away on vacation. He had his own little vacation every day during his sitting meditation practice. I remember thinking that the idea was too extreme. How can you compare a vacation in Thailand to sitting in your own house with your eyes closed?
But practicing meditation and self-Reiki every day for 25 years taught me that while a vacation in Thailand is awesome, it cannot replace a daily habit of recharging yourself.
Your Inner Goddess wants you to carve time out of every day for her to retreat.
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” —Elizabeth Gilbert
What practice do you currently maintain to deliberately and intentionally retreat?
What do you do every day that trains your brain to pause and recenter?
Being screamed at and losing my way in the woods was a good metaphor. We all face unexpected stress daily. And when we’re triggered, our “fight or flight” response automatically kicks in. But when we practice regular retreating, instead of fighting or escaping, we remember to decenter ourselves and even receive higher guidance.
I would love to teach you how to retreat daily with Reiki. This link will tell you everything you need to know about daily retreat with Reiki. Join me for my next virtual class?