Written by Rhea Grogan
Upon beginning my two night stay in an Elk Lake cabin with 12 other women, I thought myself very clear on the benefits of retreats. This one was called Walking in Wisdom. I was ready to get wiser. I’d been to summer camps as a kid and love me some self-reflection. I looked forward to yoga, discussion, and nature. As a cofounder of Sacred Mothers Retreat, I was certain a retreat would be re-energizing. And Lord knows, I needed some sleeps away from my energetic toddlers who love to see Mama in the middle of the night.
I started the weekend thinking it possible I would rejuvenate as much as my previous mini vacays with girlfriends. There would be the usual insane dichotomy of my Mama heart: I’d get time for glorious zzzzzs but wouldn’t remember how to sleep. I’d thrive in connection with adults, but thoughts of my kids growing without me would tug and distract. It would feel incredible to finish a sentence, complete a thought, attend to my own needs, move my own body-- but I would miss the touch of my babes to make my hands, my lap, my lips feel at home. Even with the crazy internal Mama split, I knew I would return from two nights in the woods with new energy for my husband and children. It would be nice.
Upon ending my weekend in retreat, I was no longer split. Through deep inner reflection, authentic connection with self, nature, and incredible women, I experienced a rejoining of my body, mind, and spirit. “It would be nice” turned into “retreats must be prescribed by doctors and covered by health insurance.” Retreats* are not just mini vacations. Retreats* are vital to our health and balance. Saying vacations and retreats are similar ways to escape is like saying Folgers Instant Coffee and freshly ground Italian espresso are similar ways to get a morning buzz. Same idea, vastly different experience and effect.
Vacations are about fun and relaxation. There may be a list of sites to see and exciting new activities which often result in a packed schedule. Often vacations include rich and yummy foods, overeating, and an extra drink or three. Exercise may be postponed and self-care routines thrown out the window. Post-vacation rejuvenation feels more like post-vacation sludge-nation. Retreats* are about fun, relaxation, and HEALING. We slow down, we listen. We return to simple self-care. Planned activities have one goal: nourish and re-energize one important person. Hello sleep, nourishing food, exercise, nature. Hi there Self, what is it you need in order to shine and thrive?
Vacations are with people we know and love. These may be people with whom we share history (baggage?) and dynamics and roles. Whether we notice or not, our most intimate relationships likely hold a mirror that reflects only pieces of us: a role we play, a part we assume by habit. Retreats* are with people we DON’T know. Well, at the very least, they are with people who are like-minded in their intentions. In a retreat environment, there is a special opportunity to shed our masks and come closer to who we are authentically, in the present. The nurturing space of a retreat encourages unmuddied introspection as well as unbiased outer reflection. The bonds formed through this experience can be nourishing, truthful, and lasting.
Vacations are planned by us. Decisions are required for logistics, coordination, food and all the details of travel. Retreats* are planned FOR us. Show up, choose a bed, eat nourishing food, follow a loose schedule. Outside a small list of supplies, just bring a heart. Freedom from the details creates that magical space to answer “what do I desire in this moment?”
Vacations may have unexpected expenses. As much as we try to stick to a spending goal, restaurant meals, last minute souvenirs, and extra drinks often sneak up—and blow up—the budget. Retreats* INCLUDE all the expenses. Lodging, meals, and entertainment fall under one fixed price tag. Not hard to stick to the dollars we intended to spend. And talk about bang for your buck!
Vacations are for a shared experience. They’re for creating memories, sharing adventures, and deepening bonds with family or friends. We devote energy to fantastic photos for posting on social media. We see new places, learn new things, have great stories to tell. Retreats* are for YOU. The Walking in Wisdom retreat gave me the space (literal and figurative) to remember and reclaim, reconnect and reenergize the Self I so often neglect in the face of attending to my children, my family, and the outer world. It was exactly what I needed to come back inside myself. That reconnection has strengthened my dearest relationships. An experience intended for me had a noticeable reward for my family. And I don’t have one picture because I was living the moments instead of recording them.
I’m not the boss of you. I can’t tell you what to do. But, I’m a retreat believer. If you’re a mom, a woman—heck, if you’re a human functioning in the modern world, I know what you need. YOU MUST RETREAT. Moms have an intense urgency. Moms need retreats bad. The weight of fatigue, expectations, guilt, fogginess, overwhelmed-ness, not-enough-ness and all the other ‘nesses can begin to bog down our souls. Without noticing, our joy, compassion, self-acceptance, and faithful embrace of life can become dull and disconnected. It feels more like surviving than thriving. How do we bring the joy back? How do we step back into ourselves? How do we feel less alone? How do we thrive once again?
The prescription is retreat. The pill is You.
* When I talk about retreats, I am referring to Sacred Mothers Retreat. This retreat is intentional spaces for empowering women to reconnect with their highest Selves.