• Stephen Burke

A Man about Retreats

In its simplest form, retreat means to ‘withdraw’ or ‘draw back’. In our world of constant change and mental activity, this idea of withdrawing might seem very enticing for some and completely scary and non-sensical for others. Either way, I think there is value for us all to consider how we might benefit from taking time for retreat.

Firstly, I have to confess that I am an absolute fan of retreats! My first retreat was a one week vipassana retreat in Devon, UK in 2004. Since then I have made a regular habit of attending a variety of more structured, programmed retreats and less structured, person retreats around the world. I see them as an important part of my emotional, physical and spiritual development. But, what a minute: I am a family man, with a wife and two kids and have spent a great deal of my career either inside or working closely with large corporations – why and how do I find the time and justify taking time out for retreats? Surely that is an over indulgence? Absolutely not! Is my response. Let’s explore this a little.

All spiritual traditions have placed high value on the deliberate act of stepping aside from the ongoing pulls and pressures of our work, family and social lives and creating time for coming back to balance and tuning in to our own deeper wisdom, needs and intuitions. A time to witness and step away from unhealthy habits and re-orient to our highest callings and our connection to something bigger than ourselves. For me, retreat times have offered me:

1. Rest and rejuvenation in a healthy environment – I emerge refreshed and ready to pursue my goals with more focus, enjoyment and vigour.

2. An opportunity for supported solitude so that I can meditate, move my body, reflect and contemplate in a conscious and supportive environment with great food, conducive surroundings and mentor, teacher and / or Coach support.

3. Opportunities to take stock of my physical condition and commit to new exercise routines, address my diet and accelerate the adoption of more healthy habits around food and drink.

4. Good company – being in the company of other fellow retreaters offers powerful peer support and the opportunity to hear and witness different perspectives and world views. I have made deep and meaningful connections and friendships on retreat.

5. Accelerated personal development – definitely a case of stepping back to lea-p forward in my own personal development. Retreats have offered me the opportunity to check-in with myself, address dissonance in my emotional experiences and dissonance in who I am being and what I am doing in my life. Emerging with clarity, energy and direction.

6. Gratitude and appreciation – stepping back in the supportive environment of retreats has allowed me to experience and cultivate deep gratitude and appreciation for my life and my relationships. Coming back to my ‘normal’ life with a renewed vitality and commitment to those that are important to me.

In our world today, all time that we might have been able to devote to such pursuits has been squeezed out by more active, social pursuits and by our ‘holidays’ where we generally dead off to somewhere sunny, drink and eat too much and sedate ourselves with distractions to forget our daily responsibilities and escape. Returning after a week or two to resume life as it was before while the glow of the holidays quickly fades. A holiday is different from a retreat. Both can be great. I will always make time for both. We need both to enable us to truly live our most fulfilled, connect, and purposeful life. Why not consider making a retreat a part of your ongoing journey? You won’t regret it.

Our Reconnecting Ibizan Retreat is in July. Find out more here: www.finding-you.co.uk/retreat