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“Are you listening to your life–what is it trying to tell you?”  Renee Trudeau

Stephen Cope, MSW, author and director of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living says retreats don’t change our lives as much as they change where we stand in relationship to our lives—and our capacity to see the hidden possibilities there.

I grew up watching my parents take personal retreats–mostly meditation retreats–beginning in the early 1970s. I wasn’t really sure what they did or what happened during these periods when they were away, but I do remember how peaceful, grounded and loving they were when they returned from these respites.

Now retreats-whether it’s a one-day personal retreat at a nearby  greenbelt or a weekend or week-long experience out-of-state–have become essential to how I run my life. I think they’re one of the best investments I can make (in  myself!) and I consider them to be as essential to balanced living as oxygen.

I take retreats to support me in:

  • navigating career/life transitions: by gathering with others in a supportive, validating environment, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and everyone goes through periods of their life when they feel lost, uncertain and are having trouble finding their way back home. And this realization, can make all the difference in how you experience the journey.
  • gaining a shift in perspective: this intentional time provide me with the “30,000 foot view” and reminds me that, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer.
  • filling my well: navigating modern life and a culture that rarely “unplugs,” means we need to find ways to recalibrate our bodies, minds and spirits and return to our natural rhythms. Retreats offer the chance to experience deep “to-the-bones” replenishment, rest and renewal.
  • hearing what I most need to hear and gaining clarity/focus around how and where to direct my energy, time and talents in the coming months or year; I believe we all inherently know what is best for us, we just rarely slow down or get quiet enough to hear this inner wisdom–often this comes right to the surface when we’re on a retreat.
  • learning to “receive”: giving myself permission to drop my personae, “come as you are,” and receive support from like-minded people who see the highest and best in me is freeing, exhilarating and it reminds me of who I really am. We’re all one another’s teachers; often the biggest “pearls” from a retreat experience come from other retreat participants who are sitting just a few feet away.

Lately I’m constantly asking, What is uniquely mine to do?  as I examine various opportunities coming my way and I try to take a one-day retreat every 90 days (read tips here on planning a personal retreat) so I can sit with this question.

Also, usually once or sometimes twice a year, I take a guided retreat and allow myself to be “held” in a healing space by others who are figuring out all the logistics!

I feel honored and privileged to have been able to create and facilitate retreats for others for the last 20 years –read  why I lead retreats– but even if I didn’t do this as part of my work, I would still be committed to this practice and I know it’s a commitment I’ll be honoring for the next 40 years of my life. (Does the thought of taking a women’s retreat sound scary? Read about Nora’s story.)

P.S. TAKE A RETREAT: Here’s a peak at some of the 2013-2104 self-renewal retreats I have coming up over the next year (but plan ahead, most of these venues fill up very quickly). Some retreats can get pricey, but are worth it. Others can be very inexpensive or even free: find a facilitator, gather 5 friends and borrow a relative’s cabin for the weekend! I also design/offer custom retreats for teams, companies and organizations. You can also ask a yoga or qi gong teacher, professional coach or therapist or even your minister for suggestions for retreat venues and leaders they love. Retreats are also a beautiful gift to give yourself on a milestone birthday. I’d love to see you at my Sept. 22-26 Omega Retreat or my Oct. 24-26 or Jan. 23-25 Kripalu retreats!

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/speaker, author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Her newest release is Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 11 year-old son. More on her background here.

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