How to run away: using a personal retreat for gaining power over your reality
A confession: I’m a bit of a flake, at least concerning my relationship to life and the world.
Sometimes, we get along. Life seems…
- Overwhelmingly beautiful, enchanting, and lucid
- Like something I can savor and enjoy as it unfurls
- Like something that I can control, shape, and create, where I’m limited only by the confines of my imagination, focus, and energy
Other times, we don’t. Then, life’s more like…
- Impossibly confusing with no hope of ever being controlled or harnessed, at least not by me
- Moving wayyy too fast to enjoy or process (technology, and relationships, and change, and work, and family, and, and, and — everything all at once, always)
- Slipping through my fingers as I stand by watching, quietly wishing it were different
- A chaotic force that I have nearly no influence over, where I’m stuck reacting instead controlling and creating
As far as I can tell, this is normal. Most of us feel powerful at times; powerless at others, but the question logically follows: how do I maximize the sensations of power while minimizing the sensations of powerlessness?
But for me, even when I do all of those things, my grip on reality can still slip away.
Paradoxically, to really connect to myself and my power to shape my world, I find that I need to take a personal retreat and run away every now and then.
I know of no stronger tools or behaviors for tapping into your power, vision, and creativity than periodically disconnecting from your normal life in order to reconnect to your personal life and examine your behaviors absent life’s daily distractions.
How to run away from the world and create a personal retreat that will refresh you and reconnect you with your power as a creator:
1) Set aside good time for yourself. This can be as little as a day, or as long as several weeks. For me, the sweet spot is about 4-5 days once or twice a year.
2) Pick a location where you’ll be hard to reach and distraction-free in order to train your energy and attention on yourself. My favorite place to run away to is a small cabin in the woods with no Internet or cell phone service. Being in nature is inspiring and calming, and being unreachable allows me to be completely vulnerable and present.
Other places that work well: a quiet seaside town where you’ve rented a room, your own home if you can eliminate the distractions and make it feel special (candles and different foods help), a campsite, a lake, and in some cases, retreat centers.
Note: I’m a bit reluctant to recommend retreat centers because they all seem plagued by new-age weirdos who insist on showing you their magic crystals and explaining their preferred past-life-regression techniques. I wish I were joking…
3) Once you arrive, eliminate as many stimuli as you possibly can:
- Keep your phone and computer off
- Do not check your voicemail or email
- Avoid talking to other people
- Don’t watch TV or listen to podcasts
- If you do listen to music, listen to classical music or familiar songs that you find inspiring
- If you choose to read, select deep non-fiction (philosophy, spirituality/religion, meditation, etc), or literary fiction
4) Optimize your behaviors for creating deep connections with yourself and your reality. Once you’ve escaped the normal world, your goal is to spend as much time as possible focusing deeply on yourself, your life, and your reality. Some activities are particularly effective for this, including:
- Light to moderate exercise (jogging, calisthenics, yoga, etc)
- Long walks in nature
- Lots and lots of sleep
- Hanging out near a body of water or a river
- Preparing and eating healthy food
- Sitting and slowly enjoying a coffee or tea
- Talking to yourself (yes, I meant to write that)
Note: many people advocate smoking weed, having a drink, or experimenting with hallucinogens to help connect to their power. This works for some people, but it’s never worked for me. I find more clarity in staying sober. If you’re inclined to experiment, make sure you do it safely and that you’ve given yourself at least twice as much time to reflect while you’re sober as you have time under the influence.
5) Let your intuition guide how you spend your time. Once you’ve escaped and turned down the stimuli, you’ll be better attuned to yourself. This is where the magic happens.
Something inside of you already knows what you need to focus on and how to find it. Your job is to trust the little part of you that will guide you towards personal revelation.
As long as your whims do not include infusing your mind with junk or abandoning your planned escape from the world, allow them to direct you.
One way I allow my intuition to guide me during this process is by writing a list of stream of consciousness questions that I want to ask myself and then answering them either in my journal or out loud. (It’s not as crazy as I make it sound.)
When you get a big idea or an epiphany, write it down so that you can come back to it once you’ve returned to “normal life.”
6) If you choose to add a bit of entertainment, ensure that it will enrich the experience. A few forms of productive entertainment (some of which, as I’ve noted above, can help you connect with yourself in a deeper way – bonus!):
- Surfing, sailing, or snorkeling if you’re near the water
- Literary fiction (check out A Prayer For Owen Meany, or Walden, especially if you’re in the woods)
- Talking on the phone with a close friend or family member
- Cooking a delicious meal
- Watching an acclaimed film
7) Finally, as you wind down your escape from the world, take inventory. During your escape, you’ll gain clarity about yourself, where you are in life, and how to improve upon your current situation. Commit to doubling down on the stuff that’s going well and working to reduce the stuff that doesn’t serve you.
At the end of a retreat, I comb through my journal and notes. This helps me make sense of the patterns of unconscious behavior in my life and also crystallizes the exact changes I want to make when I return.
In fact – nerdy as this may sound – I make a “life to do” list and a “remember these big epiphanies” list at the end of the retreat so that when I return to my normal life, I can harness the energy and clarity of my escape.
By integrating what you learned about yourself during your escape from the world, you’ll gain significant power and perspective that you can use to control your life and create your reality.
Photo credit: “Little Cabin in the Woods” by Julie