Contemplations on Retreat

Updated: Feb 4

October 2017 Soul Notes




The seasons are changing and autumn has arrived with the crunch of leaves underfoot and the frantic schedule that seems typical of this time of year. Change, disturbance and disruption are an inevitable part of our lives but the world feels particularly disturbed right now.  Nature raging with perpetual storms. New scandals of old abuse breaking every week. Ancient land and cultural claims stirring. There is a wild energy at play. How does it affect each of us and how do we make sense of it all? 


Wendell Berry writes in his beautiful poem, of the peace he finds in wild things. His retreat into the natural world resonates with me as I contemplate what it means to retreat. My dreams have long been filled with images of retreat and I’ve been wondering what that means. Freud believed that dreams are “the royal road to the unconscious”, showing us parts of ourself and our psyche that are obscure during our waking hours. If we pay attention to these nighttime stories, then we can understand ourselves, our anxieties and our true desires more fully. I’ve been tuning into these messages with a morning journal to capture images, feelings, characters and stories. I have to be quick though. If I leave it too long after waking, the moment slips back into my unconscious for another night.


My dreams are accompanied by a daytime sense of wanting to slow the pace – to savour – to be in the moment – to be connected to myself and others rather than surfing my way through life and work. I find it a challenge. My driver self wants to have me up early and busy on a million different things requiring my attention. She’s at work now as I write this newsletter on a Sunday morning. I love this part of myself. She is a doer. She sets and achieves goals. She is relentless and hardworking. However, she doesn’t know how to enjoy life, how to pause and take in the goodness, how to relax, play or be creative, nor how to take care of herself. So to leave her in charge all of the time is madness. There needs to be space for me to do and be all of these other things.  Or else I will burn out. Life won’t be fun. Relationships will be challenging. I know this because I’ve been there and it is miserable.


So now I am more in tune with what it means to retreat and reconnect with the other parts of myself. For me, it’s switching the phone off (blasphemy, I know but it has to be done). It’ s walking in nature, pausing to marvel at the changing landscape and breathing in sunshine. It’s my yoga practice. It’s getting lost in a good book, curled up by the fire, or wrapped up warm, coffee in hand, perched on a park bench. It’s squirelling myself away to write, daydreaming, listening to a haunting piece of music. It’s coming home at the end of the day, drawing the curtains and snuggling down with my daughter to just be together. As I talk to others, they describe retreat as dance music, in a museum lost in a painting, in running, in drawing, in open water swimming, in photography, and more…... 


Retreat is any place where you can go to be at home in yourself, without the noise of the world. In that moment of being divorced from the outside world, we experience a delicious connection with our inner world. Integrating our inner and outer worlds is one of our greatest challenges. But when we visit ourselves, we remember what is important and can gather our resources to live in the world in a way that feels congruent. 


So what does retreat mean to you? How often do you come home to visit yourself? And how do you feel about that? 


If you would like to make more space to go inside but don’t quite know how to create it in your busy life, please give me a call or drop me a line. I would love to talk to you about what is right for you. 


And one immediate option is for you to come and join me on my Coming Home to Your Purpose retreat at Tilton House in January. I have taken my dreams to mean, not just that I should find more space for myself but also that it’s time to create a shared space for others. I’m very excited about what will emerge through this and warmly invite you to check out the details below and come along to start your new year from a peaceful, grounded, purposeful place. 


Enjoy the moment and do let me know what your favourite way to retreat is.

With love



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