Maybe you never did a mindfulness day or retreat before, and you are asking yourself: “What exactly is a mindfulness retreat? What should I expect?”
In our retreats, there are always people who have never participated in a retreat before. Some people don’t even have much experience with mindfulness at all. Maybe they tried to practice a bit on their own, or they mainly practiced yoga with a short meditation at the end of a session.
Even though you may start with some nervousness, or even with some scepticism, it’s always wonderful to witness the transformation that happens. At the start of a retreat, you may feel how you still are very much in the “doing mode”. You might have driven to the retreat location after a busy week, and you can sense your mind still spinning and buzzing.
But little by little, you can feel how you let go of tensions, of the busyness, and how you sink in to a more relaxed, open state of mind. You can feel it in your face. From a serious and hardened face with lots of frowns, a gentle smile emerges and starts to radiate.
RECOVER AND RECHARGE
In the English language, the verb “to retreat” means “to go away from a place in order to escape from fighting or danger; to go to a quiet and safe place in order to avoid a difficult situation.” It is often used as a military term, when an army retreats away from the battlefield.
Maybe your life also feels like a battlefield from time to time? In the hectic lives we lead, we can easily get stuck in the “survival” mode, and lose fun and meaning. A mindfulness retreat is a chance to step away from that battlefield, and recover and recharge with a new, more gentle and centered energy.
The wonderful thing is that this new energy often lasts a long time after the retreat, even if you step back into the hurricane. That’s maybe a question you have: “But what when I get back to my normal life? It can all be very nice to wind down and relax, but then I have to get back anyway. Won’t I lose everything again quickly?”
A mindfulness retreat is much more than a short moment of wellness. The paradox of mindfulness is that you slow down and relax by becoming more aware of, and allowing all the busyness inside you. By practicing these attitudes in a retreat, you strengthen them so you can use them more easily in your daily life as well.
DEALING WITH DIFFICULTIES
It’s not because you’re at a mindfulness retreat that suddenly all the endless thinking, planning and worrying stops. On the contrary, it might even increase. So it’s certainly not all bliss in a mindfulness retreat. Sometimes, difficult stuff that has been around for a while might come to the surface.
Having participated in many retreats ourselves, we know that there are different difficulties you can encounter. So we build the retreat around them, and give instructions on how to deal with them. These common obstacles include sleepiness and tiredness, many distracting thoughts coming up, difficult emotions, or restlessness.
These are also common obstacles in daily life, and a retreat is the right place to finally deal with it in a more helpful way. By giving them more space and treating yourself in a kind and friendly way, the knots created by these difficulties can more easily untangle. After a retreat, you often go home with new insights and ways to be kinder to yourself so stress doesn’t build up so much anymore.
Every day, there are moments in which you can share your experience with the others. This sharing helps to realise that you’re not alone, which already has a very calming effect.
After the introductions, we invite everyone to remain silent during the retreat. However, there are still moments in which you can share about your experience, either in the bigger group or individually with the trainer.
The silence in a retreat is often perceived as the most beneficial factor, even if it seems a bit scary at the start. When you stop speaking, there is much more time and space to connect with yourself again. The social pressure falls away and you get real “me-time”. At the end of a retreat, people are often sad that the silence is broken.