Your guide to retreats
Retreats take many forms, but they have something in common with one another – a sense of temporary withdrawal from your normal day to day life. However, they differ from simply going on holiday or having a change of scene because there tends to be a particular focus that is associated with retreats. Sometimes, retreats are gone on in order to focus on a relationship, for example. Many retreats are run for spiritual reasons, such as seeking greater knowledge or enlightenment. However, some retreats are run to take part in an activity with like-minded people without the distractions of others. A yoga retreat would be a typical example, but there are many others. At the end of the retreat, normal life may start up once more but – if the retreat has been successful in any way – something that has been gained from the absence from everyday life will continue to have an ongoing effect.
What are retreats like to go on?
In some cases, retreats are highly informal affairs and don't differ that much from going on a vacation or an excursion with like-minded people and friends. However, they do mean shutting yourself off from others who are not on the retreat to some extent or other. In fact, some people find them to be too intense in this regard, especially when certain rules apply, such as remaining silent, foregoing modern technology or having a restricted diet, for example. That said, no one can force you to stay on a retreat if you discover it is not for you so they should be seen as a voyage of self-discovery rather than one of social isolation.
Where did retreats start?
Religious communities came up with the idea of retreating from normal society for spiritual reasons. Retreats have been run by Buddhist communities for centuries, for instance. However, they are not just a Buddhist phenomenon. Christians of many denominations go on them, too, as do many followers of Islam, notably in the Sufi tradition.
Can couples retreats work?
The idea of couples retreating together is a relatively modern one. Although going on a retreat with your partner necessarily means that part of your life is coming with you on retreat rather than leaving it at home, this is the very idea. Couples retreats are often combined with certain talking therapies to try and get couples to relate to one another better, crucially without the distractions of work and family life getting in the way. Some people find them to be highly effective at identifying issues that may be causing problems in personal relationships.
Why are spiritual retreats important?
Many spiritual people think that going on a retreat helps them to grow in a spiritual sense. With less going on, so more thought processes are given over to spiritual matters rather than earthly ones. Going on a retreat is often a way that religious people rediscover their faith, for example.