How I love the magical power of a Retreat

There are a few definitions of the word Retreat, which is my theme for this month.

The one that I’m on about is this:

Retreat: “A quiet or secluded place in which one can rest or relax”

It’s my chosen theme because, after a pandemic-caused hiatus, I’m producing actual retreats again.  Taking people away from the normal lives, to a lovely venue, to rest, relax, laugh and create.  Bliss!

There is nothing better in my working life than carefully curating and delivering a retreat.  It’s such a joy.

The connection between producing a retreat and making a piece of theatre is actually quite close, linking up the different stages of my career.  In both settings you are creating an atmosphere for people.  Heightening the normal to something a little more special and creating a temporary space where magic can happen.

Like the circus coming to town; one minute it’s there with all its colourful spectacle, and then on Monday morning there is nothing left except maybe a little flash of colour here or there, hinting at what once was.

I first started producing retreats when I was Artistic Director of Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre.  We had some truly special weekends away with noisy, energetic bunches of fabulous young people.  Special moments include a clear night in Loch Lomond when “binocular Bob” brought his telescope up to our youth hostel and we saw the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and it’s moons and our nearest galaxy.  Absolutely mind blowing.

Another was a moment when we had arrived on the island of Arran and we drove straight across to the west coast and got out for a walk on the pebbly beach.  A lovely 15 year old, I had been working with for a year, went very quiet but with a big smile on his face.  When I asked what he was thinking, he told me he had never been on a beach before.  I felt so very privileged that I was able to make that happen for him.  The sun shone all that weekend and we made theatre and art on the beach all day.  Magical!

It’s those moments where you have that opportunity to take people out of their ordinary lives and add a little bit of sparkle that I really love.  What a delight and an honour it is to be able to provide that for someone.

It is with that in mind that I approach all my retreats.  Just opening for booking is a luxury beadwork retreat.  I’ve been producing these since my 14 year old son was a bump in my tummy.  It’s brilliant fun to bring together a group of people who have such a shared and profound love for the same thing: tiny, sparkly beads that we weave together into gorgeous creations.

The other retreat currently in development is a bit different.  This one is for female entrepreneurs with the working title of Empower & Refresh.  Essentially, this is the retreat I want to go on for my business. I’m designing a weekend of inspiration, reflection, a chance to get away from it all and think deeply about the passion, purpose and future direction of travel for your business. 

It’s a total joy planning it as I feel I’m pulling together so many different areas of my knowledge and skills into one place.  A little scary too, of course, as it’s a new thing, but being a bit on the edge as an entrepreneur is the right place to be.

So those are the current actual retreats coming up this year for me.  Would love to hear what, if any, you’re planning to attend or to organise.

But what about the concept of retreat in everyday life?

How can we cultivate more quiet and secluded spaces where we can rest, relax, reduce those cortisol levels?

Actually, post 2020, I’ve cultivated quite a few already. 

Time on the yoga mat in the middle of the day is definitely a mini retreat for me.  Also when I crack open a new copy of the i newspaper on the puzzle pages (I know, I’m sad and old before my time, but I do love it and I don’t care!). 

I know I’d find moments of retreat if I spent more time gardening… but that is a sporadic activity which often comes about because I’ve got visitors coming and I’m embarrassed about it looking overgrown, rather than something I lean into for the joy.  Once I’m immersed it’s brilliant, but getting there is tricky.

As is crafting.  I can find myself totally immersed for a few days and then it falls off the radar.

Which is a shame because it definitely provides, momentarily, the positive benefits of retreat.

Of course, nothing as life changing as a revitalising, nourishing break away staying somewhere else.  Especially if it involves delicious food, good company and a hot tub. (Did I mention my wonderful new retreat venue has one of those?!).

But still, I have a desire to cultivate more moments of mini retreat in my day to day.  Perhaps you do to?

With that in mind, here are four key tips which I hope might shift things even more towards cultivating intentional retreat time:

  • Notice when you’re just wasting time. Especially when scrolling on the phone.  Lean into those moments and work out why you’re allowing myself to be distracted rather than intentionally choosing an activity you love.  Don’t focus on the distraction, but rather what are you avoiding?
  • Make a bargain with yourself – if you focus and get a particular thing done, what activity could you reward yourself with?
  • Plan ahead. Make a plan for a mini retreat you can achieve at home.  Maybe it’s just for an hour.  Maybe you can carve out a whole delicious day.  Working with what you’ve got because even a minute is better than none.  Then make a plan, write it down and get it in the diary. 
  • Tell other people about it, or better still involve others. Bringing in some accountability and support will make you far more likely to prioritise your mini retreat plans.

May 2022