In just a few precious moments, it will be the year 2020. As with all milestones and check-in points, many of us take time to reflect on the past and anticipate or plan for the future. What happened and how can we do better? How can we be happier?
When I talk to my students, clients, and friends about what happiness actually is for them, I'm often met with vague descriptions of things they'd like to do in their off-time:
Spend time with family and friends.
Go out more.
Spend time in nature.
Cook at home.
Make a difference at my job.
It makes sense that these statements are somewhat generalizations versus direct examples of contentment. The common thread I find in their words is that happiness is a deep sense of belonging and fulfillment.
They want to feel like they matter and they want to feel like what they do matters.
When I ask what's keeping them from doing these things already (i.e. - What's keeping them from happiness), the general responses are:
I'm too tired.
Work is just really busy right now.
I couldn't stop if I tried.
I don't know how make space.
When I have down time, I just want to sleep.
Every person I talk to, without exception, gives an example with this flavor. We're over burdened by the demands of the world around us. We're supposed to be rockstars at our jobs, doting spouses and parents, attentive and supportive friends, and also be constantly working on ourselves. It's too much. Some people (myself included) have even said that they'd rather just run away from it all.
Run away from it all. Honestly, that's what I'm suggesting.
Not permanently, of course, and definitely not to distract yourself from your life, but actual true time away from your life. Not a vacation, which can often mean traveling somewhere, staying busy the entire time, managing lodging, food, kids, spouses, and friends, and sometimes returning home more exhausted than when you left. I'm talking about taking a Retreat. A true get-away where you can spend time away from your triggers, your to-dos, and your obligations and restore vital energy.
Taking a Retreat can take many forms, from a day spent in nature without your phone to two weeks at a lodge with yogis in the Andes (and the thousands of other ways in between). How you retreat is your business, but they tend to have certain characteristics that help you to restore your energy.
1. Media Cleanse - turn the phone, laptop, tablet, tv, and Apple Watch off. Disconnect completely to the extent that you can. This can happen even in the comfort of your own home. Taking time away from technology will help you ground into your surroundings and be more present with yourself.
2. Relaxation - stop doing. Allow yourself to be immersed in practices, exercises, and intentions that focus on your own restoration. This could be a bath with aroma therapy and calm music, a massage, a day at a spa, attending a meditation class, and practicing deep breathing. Many yoga retreats, mine included, feature moments of deep intentional rest.
3. Reflection - attend to what's there for you. The difference between Retreat and Vacation, is that during a retreat you take time to take stock and perspective of your life. How far you go is up to you, but this could range from light journaling to attending a week-long retreat on psycho-spiritual dynamics. This is a great opportunity to simply ask "Where am I at?" and "Is this where I want to be?"
4. Self-care - attend to your entire system. "Self-care" has become a broad buzz term that's sometimes associated with the "Treat yo-self" movement. While retail therapy and face peels have a place in maintaining our lives, true self-care is identifying how you can actively aid in your own healing and restoration process, versus simply seeking catharsis. Eating healthier, exercising, seeing a therapist/counselor, meditation, spending time alone or with trusting close friends, and retreats are all great forms of active and healing self-care.
While there is plenty more I could add to this list, you get the gist of what I'm saying. Retreating is about YOU. As you're contemplating your upcoming days, months, years or decades, I ask you the title question to this article:
"When will YOU retreat in 2020?"
When will you carve out intentional time to return and connect with your best Self? From the small moments of your day carved out for YOU to the week-long excursions to ashrams, centers, and temples near and far. When will you make time for YOU to take a break?
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that how, when, and where you retreat has a lot to do with individual privilege, which is why I acknowledge the many ways someone could take time for themselves. The truth is that at the end of the day you can't pour from an empty cup. You have to make time to restore.
In 2020, I'll be leading two retreats in Northern California, deep in the Redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The first opportunity to join me is May 15-17th for the Return to YourSelf weekend getaway at Land of Medicine Buddha, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation center, in Soquel, CA. Registration has just opened and there is an early-bird discount between now and February 29th.
However you retreat in 2020, it's my hope that you'll give yourself some of your own energy to find, connect to, and be present with the best version of yourSelf this new year.