A new year, a new resolution. I’m noticing lots of articles on making and keeping resolutions. Especially the latter. It seems that making the resolution is the easy part. Keeping it is another matter altogether.
So today I offer you a strategy for a self-care resolution that will keep itself: Put a mindfulness retreat on your calendar for 2019. Then all you have to do is show up. Spring break is a great time for a retreat, so consider signing up for the Koru spring break retreat, March 9-13, near Charlottesville, VA.
Why a Mindfulness Retreat?
The word “retreat” is often defined in relation to a war or battle, as a forced or strategic withdrawal. It can also be defined as “the act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.”
Life itself can be at times, difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable. Sometimes it can feel like you are at war with your life. Meditation and mindfulness retreats are an opportunity to strategically withdraw from the regular routine of your life, not with an eye to avoidance, but rather to prepare yourself to re-engage with your life in a different, more satisfying way.
What you are likely to discover on your mindfulness retreat, is that there is a way for you to engage with your life with much less difficulty and disagreeableness. There is a way to navigate your busy life that allows you to experience more tangibly the good moments and navigate with more ease the difficult ones.
What Happens on a Mindfulness Retreat?
Meditation and mindfulness retreats can last for just a few hours, or for days, weeks, or even months. These retreats are usually conducted mostly in silence, and with a combination of different kind of meditations, including moving meditations like yoga or Tai Chi.
When I first heard about mindfulness retreats, I thought they sounded terrible. And weird.
The thing that weirded me out the most, was the silence. It just seemed strange and awkward to hang out with a bunch of other people, but never talk to them. Like riding in the car with someone, and no one has anything to say, and there’s this awkward silence. A whole week of that? No thanks.
Turns out though, the silence is the best part, at least that’s what most of my students say after our ½ day silent, Koru mindfulness retreats.
What usually makes silence awkward, is the feeling that you should think of something clever and witty to say to fill the silence. If no one is supposed to talk, that whole dynamic shifts.
On mindfulness retreats, you don’t have to be friendly or outgoing. You don’t have to think about what to say to make yourself look smart or funny. You get to just be.
Plus, there are times set aside for discussion and learning, so you are not really silent the entire time.
During the course of a mindfulness retreat, you will learn to relax more deeply, understand yourself more fully, and make choices about your life path based on this calm, understanding.
At the end of one of the first mindfulness retreats I went on years ago, I was chatting with one of the other participants. We were sharing our delight in the retreat experience. I remember he told me that he had never meditated even a minute in his life before the retreat. In fact, he had been choosing between this retreat and a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon for his spring break. He said:
“I am so glad I chose this [meditation] retreat. There is no river trip that could have been as wild and rewarding as this was.”
A Spring Break Retreat. What a Great Idea!
The Koru spring break mindfulness retreat is being offered as an opportunity for young adults who are interested in mindfulness to have an opportunity to use their spring break to connect with others while they engage in the process of self-discovery. In my experience, students are often feeling embattled by mid-semester, making it a great time for a strategic mindfulness retreat.
We have partnered with iBme to offer this mindfulness retreat. The folks at iBme specialize in creating retreat experiences for teens and young adults. They are gifted teachers who know how to guide folks so that they get the most out of the experience.
You can learn more and register here for the mindfulness retreat. There are scholarships available so don’t let the cost deter you. Also, some universities have resources for sponsoring students to attend these types of events; if you’ve taken Koru at your college or university, reach out to your Koru teacher and see if they know of any local resources you can tap in to.
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Get Started with a Tiny New Year Retreat
Start the new year off right with a tiny retreat of your own. Even just a few hours of silent reflection can help reset your nervous system to “calm” and remind you about what is meaningful in your life.
Set aside a few hours this week for a tiny retreat. You can do it alone or ask a friend to join you.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure there is a place to sit in meditation, either a chair or cushions on the floor. And space to do some movement, like walking meditation or yoga. Make the space pleasant and relaxing by bringing in flowers or candles. If there’s a window for natural light, all the better.
Make a commitment to stay silent, not talking or texting with anyone for these few hours.
Create a schedule for yourself that includes some of the elements listed below. If you want guided versions of these meditations, you can find all of them along with a meditation timer in the Koru Mindfulness app. (Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, so you can use the app but not be constantly distracted by incoming messages.)
Choose a few or all of these meditations for your retreat. Depending on your level of experience, you could spend 10-45 minutes on each meditation. If you want your retreat to last longer, you can repeat some of the meditations. For example, you might do several repetitions alternating seated breath awareness meditation and walking meditation.
- Breath awareness meditation.
- Walking meditation.
- Listen to a talk or podcast on mindfulness, or read a few pages from a book on mindfulness. Then write down any reflections or insights that occur to you.
- Eat a snack mindfully. Pick something simple like an apple and a few chips or crackers.
- Loving Kindness meditation
Include a few minutes of stretching or yoga in between each of the meditations to keep your body supple and relaxed.
At the end of this tiny retreat, you may find yourself refreshed, ready to step into 2019 with interest and care for yourself and others.
Happy New Year from all of us at the Center for Koru Mindfulness!