I have never been on a retreat. I still may, if the opportunity were to arise and feel right, but who knows. I am not partial to schedules - especially those that involve early mornings. I also don't like being expected to participate in things that I don't wish to. I was a stubborn child and strongly resented having to go to school and all it's brutish, senseless demands.
And yet, one day, I may get over it.
Or maybe never.
This is not what I was thinking, though. What I was thinking was about how to go on a retreat is considered a positive, nurturing, possibly life-expanding experience. But not everyone has the luxury to do that.
The other kind of retreat - and a more fundamental one - is the kind we do on our own. To retreat into ourselves.
It's a function that is a vital part of our mental and spiritual health, survival even.
Innately, we know when we need to pull back, hide away, spend time alone, gather our thoughts, sit with our feelings.
We can do it with nature, with a book, with a movie, on a walk, a run, with music, in a bar, a library, on the couch, in bed.... wherever.
Sometimes it is painful, sometimes with tears, sadness, hurt, sometimes confusion or anxiety.
But we go away, pull ourselves out... and somehow, with time and patience, come out the other end, ready again to face the world.
To retreat is important - a good thing. It is a mechanism for dealing with the 'too-much-nes' that comes along sometimes.
Is it not in the moments of retreat that we truly get to know ourselves?
We spend time, we contemplate, we mull things over, we let feelings wash over us, moods blow over, thoughts gather themselves and find some order.
In times of retreat, we are being brave. Brave in a quiet, necessary way. Brave in a very basic human way.
We know who we are, each of us. The world only knows a version. Everyone knows a different version, in fact, based upon their interpretation and connection.
But we know ourselves. We've been with us from the beginning! And all the way through. How lucky we are to have our higher selves watching over us and protecting our best interests. How lucky we are that we can retreat.
Cause inside us, inside each of us, that's where the real treasures are. When you can accept yourself, see yourself clearly and begin to inhabit your soulful side, beyond the pain and anguish, letting go of the bothersome, old beliefs from the past, when you can sit with yourself in surrender, well, that is something softly, subtly, rather splendid.