Home Retreat is the New Staycation!

 

Have a love-in with Yourself.  No fancy equipment necessary!


Amansala REtreat TulumI know what you are thinking… We don’t think about doing a home retreat during the summer when we are busy hiking in the nearby mountains, lying on the beach, and playing in rivers and lakes!  Well, simply put… I always talk about home retreating, no matter what the season.   It is the single most important aspect of my practice of yoga for over 10 years.  A home retreat is important to me because it strengthens the relationship I have with myself.  

I need to practice falling in love with myself regularly, which is the goal of my home retreat, in order to feel grounded and present.  

Sometimes home retreat is my favorite thing to do and sometimes the most difficult for me to accomplish.  I offer you in this post a little more about why we all should have a regular practice of home retreat, and tips on how to do a home retreat.

Where this Love Affair with Myself all Started…

I first heard these ideas 10 years ago in graduate school.  I was in a classroom with other do-gooders like myself sharing my feelings of being overwhelmed and burdened by my daily care-giving job as a social worker and student.  A colleague mentioned the term self-care, and suggested taking a home retreat – time each day to retreat into a quiet place at home and do something calming and healing for myself. Home retreat, I thought?  You mean care-giving for myself?  What a crazy idea!  This idea immediately triggered feelings of unworthiness in me, and I started to make up excuses why this was not possible for me.  However, the concept ignited within me a sense of awareness of how I cared for others so instinctually, but I had no tradition of caring for myself.  I slowly and with steadfast effort started cultivating self-care practices in my life that nurture, support, and ground me in the present.  At home I started doing yoga, prayer, chanting, and meditation.

Avoid Summer Burn-out!

yoga mat home retreat relaxThe heat and warmth of the summer months bring more fire energy to our lives, and we are more active and produce and create more.  Just think about how much you’ve been up to!  I’m sure you’ve been doing more yoga, hiking, gardening, swimming, not to mention graduation parties and weddings, than previously this year.  All this output is invigorating for our life-force and reminds us of the beauty and abundance of life.  However, if you are like me, you get caught up in the warmth and excitement and plan yourself activities to the point of craziness.  I have to remind myself that exhaustion is the near enemy of enthusiasm!

We see this happening on our mats in our yoga poses as well.  With longer days and more time off work, we practice more yoga in the summer.  Our postures are on fire after a week or two of daily classes and we can’t get enough.  We experience greater connection with the body, focus in the mind, and power behind our hearts greatest desires.  Out of this strength ensues a greater freedom, if we can know when it is time to pause and receive the exhalation.  It sometimes happens to me that on my second week straight of daily yoga classes I feel soreness in my joints, my muscles are stiff, and my energy is low.  My body, mind, and heart can easily turn the corner to rigid, bound-up and burnt-out if I don’t balance my energy output with energy input!  This is why I crave home retreats during the summer as much as during other times of the year.  I remember burn-out during graduate school, and I make sure my energy going out into the world of summer fun is equal to the nurturing energy that grounds me and brings me back to my highest sense of Self.  

What is a Home Retreat?

Energy input is a term I am using to explain the juice we feed back to our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits in order to find balance.  I also call this self-care, home retreat, and coming home to our highest sense of Self.

We are ready for a home retreat when we have been spending too much time doing things for others, scheduling things every hour of the week, over-working, and even over-playing!  

A home retreat is anything that encourages softening on all levels of your being – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Principles to follow for Home Retreating!

Principle #1: Start by scheduling time to be by yourself.  Do this with anticipation in order to prepare for the retreat (more details of what to prepare in next section).  Pick a day in advance where you plan to be by yourself.  With work and family and other life obligations, this day might take searching for!  If you have a whole day, great.  If you don’t, do a half-day.  Less then a half day is not ideal, for the body and mind need a sustained about of time to actually let go.  I like to schedule a weekly home retreat for myself so that I make sure to make time for myself – which when I am busy having fun with friends and family I tend to forget to do!  I have found it easier to do this during the winter months, when we tend to withdraw into ourselves more.  However, a little bit of self-care in the summer can go a long way.  Don’t feel pressure to do this once a week.  Once a month, or whenever you are feeling like your energy is depleted, or you start to notice your fuse is getting short, is the time to do it!

Principle #2: Take it easy!  Avoid over-planning your home retreat by just simply planning to do nothing with yourself and see what comes up.  I believe staying present with the self is the highest form of spiritual practice.  Below are some suggestions of how to do this.

Principle #3: Whatever comes up on retreat, allow it.  You might experience feelings of loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and an urge to be pulled into doing and interacting with the world.  This is totally normal.  Our senses naturally draw us out of ourselves and we must cultivate a steadfast effort to stay present and be with the Self.

Principle #4: The body will let go eventually of its holding and clinging to stuff, and you will experience a sense of ease and peace within yourself.  This feeling can be more profound than the most expensive or pampered vacation there is.

STEPHANIE’S EASY GUIDE TO HOME RETREATS:

creating sacred space altarHere is a  list of things that help us stay present on home retreat and reach our goal of softening on all levels.

Each item on the list is its own practice.  It might take weeks or months to get to the feelings I describe as the final goal of a home retreat.  That is ok.  I recommend starting with the first step, creating Sacred Space in your home, and taking your time setting this up.  Once you have step one, move on to the next step, and beyond.

Create Sacred Space

This means clearing off a space on the floor in your home, either in your bedroom, living room, or office/studio, that is clean and free from distractions to make as your home base for your retreat.  The idea is to do most of your home retreat practice in this space.  The more you use this space to do yoga, meditate, create art, and contemplate, the stronger the healing energy will grow of that space.  This energy will stay present in that space and each time you take a seat there, the transition from caring for others to caring for yourself becomes more easeful, and your inner presence grows.

Cleanse the body

Ritual is important in your home retreat.  In India, seekers begin their spiritual retreats bathing in the Ganges River.  You can cleanse the body in several ways.  You can take a shower or bath, simply wash your feet, or if water is not available, blow smoke from a sage smudge stick across your body or massage yourself with therapeutic grade essential oils like Frankincense to cleanse the energy body.  While practicing any of these rituals, it is important to stay present.  Focus on the qualities of the water – its wetness and smoothness, or on the qualities of the smoke – light, spacious, vast.  Repeat to yourself, “may this water/smoke cleanse my body.”   Breath in deeply and exhale as the water or smoke wash over your body.  Imagine your resistance to surrendering on retreat washing away with the falling water or expanding smoke.

Do a mindfulness, movement-based practice

Mindful movement will awaken and move consciousness into matter in the body.  Practice gentle yoga, free-form dance, thai-chi,, qi-gong, or walking-meditation, for 10-20 minutes.  It is helpful to have soft, inspiring music to move along with.  The goal of this step is tuning into the body consciousness.  Breathe deeply and fully as the mindful movements draw your senses inward and your body is awakened to its natural resources for health and balance.

Practice mindful eating

Food is a symbol of abundance.  The incredible variety and richness available to us in the form of the food we eat every day is symbolic of the abundant life force that surrounds us and is always available to us when we are able to acknowledge it.   While on home retreat, prepare yourself a healthy organic meal, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy proteins.  Make it colorful and beautiful to look at!  Give thanks before you eat.  While you eat, pay attention to the act of eating.  Avoid reading or watching television while you eat.  Enjoy every bite.

Journaling and contemplation

Have a journal and write down your feelings throughout your home retreat.  Read a few pages in an inspiring book and when somethings hits home for you, write about how it makes you feel.  Do this several times with different books or poems.  Alternatively, answer some or all of the following questions: What does a home retreat mean to me?  What are my needs?  How do I want to feel today?  What do I love about myself?

Meditate

Practice sitting for meditation with the intention of retreating away from the business of life.  As you sit for meditation imagine taking your seat upon a holy throne.  This seat is a sacred place where you will slip, even if for just a second, into the calm and tranquil waters of pure Consciousness.  The goal of meditation on home retreat is to align with that part of the Self that is vast and expansive, beyond the individual self.  This is the part of you that has remained the same since you were a baby.  At the beginning of meditation, visualize yourself as a child, and connect to the part of you that is always present.  Pay attention to that experience of presence.  Rest there in quiet, joyous solitude.

Create

Allow for time to be creative and express yourself for only your enjoyment!  Focus on a project that expresses your power of love and your unique abilities.  Anything that you create from this place is a message of self-love.   Your project tools can be as diverse as a wrench, paint brush, musical instrument, scissors, or power tools.  You may want to make a picture collage, ferment vegetables, or design new curtains!  Cleaning and organizing, if done with mindfulness, can even be a creative endeavor.  Remember to create for your own benefit, not for the benefit of others.

Play!

Fun activities include, hoola-hoop, yoga, running, biking,  singing, dancing, juggling, twirling baton, and much much more.  Cultivate an attitude of playfulness, turn up the volume on the music, and let yourself go!

Above and Beyond Home Retreat

Home retreating made sense as a student because it was cheaper and easier than going to a day spa or taking a vacation, where sometimes the organizing of even the most basic trip takes away from the relaxing benefits.  Although I recommend at least a half day to a whole day for your home retreat, beyond this ideal is the truth that even a 5 minute break and retreat into the Self will help you ground and grow present.  Being by yourself, from 5 minutes to 1 hour, can be exactly what you need when you don’t have time, money, or energy to do more .  This type of home retreat is effective especially if you already have a place of Sacred Space set up in your home or office to do a quick fill-me-up-with-love session!  I recommend this practice for parents of young children, care-givers of elders, students, and people new to the  practice of retreat amansala tulum yogabeing by yourself.

In addition, there is another truth above and beyond the practice of home retreats that cannot be overlooked.  Going on retreat with a teacher, healer, or leader is giving a gift to yourself that you will never forget.  The greatest breakthroughs occur on retreat with a guide.  I strongly believe that going on retreat is investing money in yourself and is a good thing!  Paying for such retreat makes us stay accountable to our own needs because we are more invested in the return.  Nobody likes to waste that hard earned cash, so we pay more attention!

Last thoughts

Remember to be kind to yourself and always approach the practice of yoga with loving kindness and non-judgement.  Loving yourself is the easiest thing we can do because it requires no fancy equipment or expensive training.  However, we may resist the presence needed to love ourselves because of fears and insecurities.  Therefore, with steadfast effort and grace, be brave, bold, and love yourself unconditionally!

Warmly,

Stephanie

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