Considering a Retreat? Here are 3 Life-Changing Things I’ve Gotten Out of Them
I’ll be honest: I’m the target audience for retreats.
Why? Well, while I like going on trips, I wouldn’t say I’m a traveler. My fantasies don’t extend to trailing through Asia or climbing the Appalachian Trail or kiteboarding in the Dominican Republic.
I like to relax and, if I can, indulge. Let’s just say I like it when a massage is involved.
And yet I don’t like to relax too much. Because I also like to get things done. I like to learn stuff.
A retreat—which usually involves some indulgence, lessons that will enhance my life and an enhanced spiritual practice, sometimes all of the above—encompasses it all.
Here’s what I’ve gotten out of the retreats I’ve been on.
Retreat #1: I Got Out of My Comfort Zone
When my mom and I booked a silent retreat weekend at Spirit Rock led by author and mindfulness teacher Mark Coleman, I imagined it would be the sort of experience I’d heard about from people who’d been on silent retreats—realizing I actually didn’t need to talk and by not doing it, reaching a new level of serenity.
What I encountered instead was…major discomfort.
Turns out I really enjoy talking.
All silent retreats are different but on this one, we were told not to bring outside reading materials. To “relax,” we were just supposed to sit and stay with our thoughts.
Many of my thoughts focused on how much I hated this rule. I didn’t want to be with them at all, let alone “stay” with them.
One day, after a “mindful eating” lunch, my mom and I couldn’t take it. We snuck off into the woods, to get our fix…a conversation. We figured we couldn’t be the only ones who were cheating. Surely everyone else was as uncomfortable with sitting around in silence as we were?
We learned, once the retreat was officially over and we were allowed to chat with fellow attendees in the parking lot, that no…it didn’t seem that others had broken the rules. It seemed that the others had loved the opportunity to be silent.
It reminded me of when I tried the lemon cayenne pepper cleanse that everyone I knew was doing at one point. While others loved it and reached a new clarity (and weight), I only reached a point of discomfort, dizziness and misery. People would tell me after three days, it wouldn’t be uncomfortable at all. I’d get used to it.
Three days of massive discomfort didn’t seem worth the reward of getting used to it.
So, what did I get out of this retreat I’m complaining about?
I’ve learned that true growth happens outside of the comfort zone. For me, the reward of getting out of my comfort zone isn’t an A+B = C equation so much as an A+B = a push to keep sticking toes and fingers outside of that invisible web.
It happens to me in Flywheel spinning classes when I think I may pass out.
It occurs in webinars I host, which I hate doing because they terrify me but I’ve done three times nonetheless.
It’s good for me to experience this discomfort, in other words, because it reminds me to keep putting myself there.
Retreat #2: I Radically Transformed My Life Afterwards
My second retreat, which was at Esalan, was also led by Mark Coleman. (He’s brilliant and charming and British and if you went on a retreat with him, even one where you were forbidden from speaking, you’d probably sign up for a second one, too.)
This was a “Meditation in the Wild” retreat, which means exactly what it sounds like…we meditated outside and took walks through Esalan’s sumptuous forests. We also listened to Mark share about Buddhism in his oh so exquisite British accent.
I’m not sure what happened to me on this retreat but the three days changed me so much that by the last few hours of the experience, I was literally weeping over the beauty of a butterfly.
Then there was the after effect.
I’m used to coming home from healthy trips declaring that I’m going to hike every day, eat healthy from now on or do whatever it was I experienced during the trip that made me feel so good.
While I didn’t declare any of those things this time. when I returned home, two major things happened.
First off, I became a “walker.”
So few people walk in LA that there’s even a very-easy-to-get-stuck-in-your-head song about it. I’d never been particularly into walking places before; in fact, one of my biggest complaints when I lived in New York was about all the walking I was expected to do. And yet, after this retreat, I started doing it. All the time.
My office back then was a few miles from home and suddenly it seemed more appealing to walk there than to drive.
I started walking to my favorite recovery meeting, which was a couple miles as well. I even began walking to therapy, which was almost five miles, back and forth. Forget the 10,000 steps a day goal—I was logging double that!
Even more significantly, after taking an anti-anxiety medication for sleep, Trazodone, for over a decade, I realized after that trip that I could stop. Since it’s an SSRI—meaning it’s non-addictive and doesn’t change the way you feel so it doesn’t interfere with sobriety—I had been taking it since I got sober every night without thinking.
The man I was dating at the time had suggested to me that I should at least try sleeping without it.
I wasn’t willing. “I’m an insomniac,” I told him. “I’ve always been one.” (I had taken enough Ambien before I got sober to put an entire flight crew to sleep every night, which was one of the reasons I had convinced myself I couldn’t sleep without medication.)
For some reason I can’t quite explain, when I returned from that retreat, I was willing to try to sleep without anything.
It was a gradual process but I discovered through it that I’m not actually an insomniac. It, like many other things I’d always told myself and assumed were true, was a lie.
While this wasn’t a get-off-your-meds retreat, that’s what happened. In this case, A+B = a radical change I hadn’t even known I wanted to make.
Retreat #3: I Got to See My Mom in a New Light
A year after that retreat, my mom and I returned to Esalan…this time for a retreat that involved uncovering and changing ourselves, or something like that. I can’t quite remember the name, or what was supposed to happen there. I just remember that neither of us were that into it.
Here’s what I remember about the workshop: a guy in the group suddenly shared that although he’d always gone by a certain name, this retreat had inspired him to change it.
I remember a girl writing on a white board that she wanted to open a venue that was a combination of Esalan and Soho House.
While I don’t recall what else happened in the workshop rooms, I remember very clearly what happened during the down time.
At Esalan, it’s communal eating. You sit wherever you’d like with whomever you’d like—people from your workshop, people you met in the baths, strangers…whomever.
On our first retreat, Mom and I had pretty much kept to ourselves. This time, we were braver. We sat down with different people at every meal…and got to know them. Together.
My mom and I hadn’t socialized much together—if ever. So I got to see her in that light…as a woman who was charming with strangers, who made fast friends and who shared about her life.
All three retreats taught me something—all different things—and as a result, I vowed to go on a retreat every year. (On schedule this year: Mom and I will be going to a new-ish place I’ve heard great things about, 1440 University, in April.)
So, I Planned My Own
It was those experiences that made me want to plan a retreat of my own—one that included everything I’d ever want to do on a retreat. If I was making it up, I figured, why not host the retreat of my dreams—equal parts bonding, indulgence and education with a little woo woo thrown in?
And now, after much planning, it’s come to fruition.
Our retreat, Turning on Your Inner Hustle: The Light Switch Retreat, is designed to enhance people’s recovery. It will include workshops and panels and celebrity guests and meditation and Tarot card readings and reflexology treatments and more—all in a gorgeous wellness center smack in the middle of Hollywood.
In short, we made something that will be both fun and inspire change.
Enrollment opens today and until March 9th, people can take advantage of our EARLY BIRD SPECIAL pricing but you need a special code in order to purchase. If you want that code, please email email@example.com.
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