The more years I spend on this earth and the wiser I get, the more I understand how our own healing contributes to the healing of others and of the earth. Taking the time to heal is never selfish but always a worthy endeavor, based in service.
For me, healing often comes in the quiet time after changes in my life, be it subtle, personal and related to the ego (my insecure, wounded self), or after major events. I’ve also had the pleasure of healing in the support of a group, such as when I participated in a Rites of Passage journey during graduate school, featuring a 3 day and 3 night fasted solo, with my transpersonal wilderness therapy cohort. In addition, I listen to a lot of podcasters who have done vision quests, ayahuasca ceremonies, or week-long meditation retreats. The journeys are, almost always (if you choose ayahuasca, do your research), meaningful and healing. Yet, financially or time wise, these journeys remain inaccessible for many. Or, a long retreat may feel a little too scary or a person may feel unworthy of that kind of investment in themself (which is something to explore in itself, maybe during your at-home retreat).
While an at-home retreat may not replace a retreat with a group, or spiritual leader holding space and designing the schedule, I fully believe in its power. Intention is what is important.
Before I dig in, for any new reader, I have intentionally moved into a yurt, with my fur child, for 6 months to cocoon and aid in my own healing, which you can read about more here: https://adogandhergirl.com/2022/11/08/cocooning-yurt-life/ https://adogandhergirl.com/wanderings/
However, I’m still working and I still have wifi and cell reception. And whew, let me tell you…social media can be one of the best ways to throw you off your healing game (although there are a great deal of spiritual teachers the various platforms now)!
So, even despite the intention for half the year being peace and healing, I realized I needed more of a deep dive into the intention after a podiatrist recommended I wear a boot for a few weeks to help my Achilles heel, heal. Between that frustration (really, fear and sadness) and the frustration (again, fear and sadness) of not aligning with a friend, I knew I wasn’t in harmony with myself or my intention to heal and find peace. Then, my Reiki therapist*, perfectly scheduled for the next day, also had a vision of me in this quiet space. I’m not sure if I needed the extra vote or not, but I was certainly incentivized to get all my work done by Friday evening so I could detach from my cell phone, emails, and social media the next two days.
*A quick note on guides and mentors: I, personally, am not one to go out and ask someone to be a mentor, although I’ve heard many others speaking about having these types of guides in their life, free of charge. For me, I’ve come to see the monetary exchange between me and my mental health therapist, Reiki therapist, etc., as energy exchanges. “Energy exchange” is also a helpful term for me as I’m continually working through blocks around money.
I’m not going to go too deep into my experience here and instead give an outline of how to create your own healing retreat, but I do want to normalize that there is no normal experience. While I do recommend a certain order to the day, any stuck or cloudy emotions may remain throughout a 24hr period, and the path isn’t always linear. Whatever happens, happens, and it’s all okay.
1. Set an intention
I’ve been overall generalizing this post as a healing retreat, but what does that mean for you? What do you want to get out of your time? What themes do you want to explore? For instance, I was seeking healing around my Achilles tendon, but what I was really working through were my emotions and thoughts my Achilles injury was a manifestation of.
2. Clear your space (schedule and home)
I recommend at least two days, at least for the initial at-home retreat. 2.5-3 days is great, because honestly, sometimes you just need to spend extra time sleeping.
This is obviously easier to do if you don’t have a spouse and kids, but it is still doable! Or, if you’re like me and work from home, you may often work on the weekends, and it’s really important you get all that done beforehand. Then there’s the roommate situation. Don’t let these situations be blocks. Again, if you are holding the intention to create this time and healing space for yourself, that matters over anything being perfect.
A few suggestions: As a therapist, I’m a big proponent of parents having at least a little time for themselves each week, and a longer solo weekend each year, if that is at all a possibility. While if it is in your budget, you could get a hotel*, but mainly, I would recruit your spouse, friends, and family for help and have them hang out with the kids as long as possible. (Different cultures have known for a long time that parents are not meant to be sole caregivers, and communities used to have several adults help out for each one child. Unfortunately, communities are not currently set up that way, but it’s important to remember that taking time for yourself to heal and rejuvenate is beneficial for the whole family). If you’ve got roommates, maybe you know someone who is heading out for the weekend and you could house sit. Or, just tell your roommates (or your partner) your plan and let them know that you are choosing to remain silent or keeping conversations short for the weekend.
If possible, do some light cleaning ahead of time. Yet, if this turns into an activity for the next day (as it did for me), make it a mindful activity and listen to some high frequency beats rather than a podcast. Although podcasts can certainly play a role (see Step 2).
Oh, make sure to get your groceries ahead of time too! A go to meal for me is the Ayurvedic dish kitchari. I use a recipe from Minimalist Baker that I “mostly” follow.
*My goal here is to make this accessible as possible, in all seasons. For me, this retreat came in winter, when I was healing from an Achilles injury, and I didn’t want to have to drive or plan anything elaborate. But of course, heading out for a few nights of camping is a great option. The trick is, if you’re an athlete, is not to turn it into a big adventure weekend. (I love the healing aspects of movement, but there is so much healing in being still, or at least still-ish, especially if you are a “mover”.)
3. Design a ( flexible) schedule
Again, this is up to you and your intention, and there is no exact right way. Personally, I still wanted to get in my morning dog walk and cycling session on my indoor trainer, which others may not advise. Yet these activities were important to me, so I simply made them more intentional than usual. For example, in the morning dog walk, I was grounding in my intention for the day. During my cycling session, I stayed off my phone and listened to a podcast that also provided a “teaching” (or morning class) for the day. Truly, it wasn’t unlike a monk’s life (which I read about in Jay Shetty’s book Think Like a Monk) where the mornings are usually structured with a meditation, a class, and Yoga. Others may choose to truly meditate and be in silence throughout the day.
My suggestion, more than anything, is to create a flow to the day or weekend. For example, if you’re trying to work through a feeling of resistance, negative thoughts or emotions, grief, etc, I like to put journaling time or meditations where you go into the emotions earlier in the day, which may or may not be morning. Personally, on my first day I allowed myself to sleep until 8, did my morning Gabby Bernstein meditation (I’m part of her Miracle Membership), walked Pacer, cycled, ate breakfast, read a little bit from Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential by Caroline Myss, did some tidying up and then took a shower. By that time, it was well past 12.
Here’s some ideas:
-Morning “teaching” (book or podcast).
-Mindful movement (walk outside, Yoga, Qigong, dance, foam roll, stretch).
-Journal on the current on the challenge you are working to heal (optional: listen to bilateral stimulation music).
-Meditation, breathinging into the heavy emotions.
-Read a book (already picked out) that explores your challenge or is spiritual in nature, taking time to reflect and maybe journal so you read.
-Second meditation (Focusing on your breath and allowing for what comes in, or perhaps another guided meditation. I picked one specifically on healing.)
-Channeled journaling. As Lee Harris prompts, at the top of the page simply write (I’m paraphrasing a bit) “Spirit, what would you like me to know today?” and simply write in free flow for a few minutes. (You’re logical brain may try to stop you here, but even if you feel like it’s just your imagination writing, keep going.)
-Actually do the exercises from your self-help or spiritual book
-Breathwork (I like the simple box breathing practice of 4 second inhale, 4 second hold, 4 second exhale, 4 second hold.)
-Gratitude list: Either write down 3-5 things you are grateful for, or, let it turn into a 3 page journal gratitude flow. One of the keys is not just to write down your gratitude list, but to feel it as well.
*Flexible: Be mindful of distractions, but allow for some spontaneity.
4. Turn off or limit device use
The big one here is going to be a social media fast. I’d also try to stay aways from any internet searches, but notice the urge and allow it to pass. (This is a way to retrain your brain to be in charge of devices and not to have devices, apps, etc be in charge of you.). A big thing for me was not to use the intentional space to work on a book or write another blog post. While often therapeutic for me, I knew it could just be a distraction from looking into the thoughts and emotions I didn’t want to feel. I chose to turn my phone off, but check it twice a day for family emergencies. My sister, who lives 20 minutes away, also knew my plan. Obviously, I did use my computer, but I resisted temptation and only used it for podcasts (“teachings”), meditations, and healing frequency music.
When you decide to turn your phone back on and return texts, emails, etc., is up to you and your obligations. If it has to be Sunday (or whatever day you are ending on) night, that’s okay, but ease into it as much as possible.
Optional: Use candles, incense, crystals, etc.
I am not an expert in any of these and their healing uses. Once in a while I’ll use sage or palo santo to clear energy, and I have an Apache tear drops rock that I bought in Sedona, AZ that I like. Mainly, I like to use candles and incense to create a certain atmosphere that can help me get into a different state, a state that is outside of my normal human “do, think, and maybe ruminate too state”. Use what calls to you.
After you’re at home retreat, let your experience settle. If nothing felt “profound”, don’t judge the experience. What often happens is we peel back a layer and reset our baseline. After my recent “at-yurt retreat” experience, I emailed my Reiki therapist and wrote “…I’m finally, truly, understanding what it means to “trust the process”. In hindsight, I realize that without my Achilles injury, I probably wouldn’t have gone on such a deep, personal journey and I’m only beginning to experience all the interplays it has in my life. And, I fully believe I have and am doing everything I can to heal, and I really just trust my achilles will heal when it’s supposed to. ” I lost that feeling maybe a day later. Yet daily, I bounce back more quickly to the feeling of trusting the process. I think amnesia is simply part of the human condition, but the more we work through the fog, the easier it gets to remember and turn back to truth.
Bonus: Follow Ups
A few weeks later, I felt the urge for the quiet, solitude (plus Pacer) time again. However, there was no way I could get around the work that I still needed to do. So instead, I just put 8 hrs of no phone or social media time aside and was intentional with the time I did have. Because the timeframe was compact, I was just a little more focused with my time. This shortened retreat was healing too, and I think 4 hours could be as well. Again, it’s the intention that matters.
(This may seem like a lot of time for inner work, but again, this is part of the reason why I moved into a yurt with my dog for 6 months. I can’t say exactly why yet, but I know its an important part of my own journey.)
Interested in a little more? I created a Rites of Passage Ultra Plan for people also interested in running a 50 mile + race: https://higherrunning.com/training-plans/the-rites-of-passage-50-mile-to-100km-plan/