What if there were specific things you could do to benefit 100% more from a retreat experience than you would otherwise. That would be nice, right? Well there is.
It’s all about knowing what you want to get out of it. Your goals. Your specific goals! A focused objective when doing a retreat, or any new endeavor for that matter, will accomplish much more than just signing up and expecting generalized benefits. We want to be specific with our goals so that the rewards will be that much more tangible.
For a start, lets look at some of the common reasons why we attend yoga retreats. Then, we’ll dive in deeper and see how one might get organized to leverage these general reasons toward a fulfilling retreat.
First, Why We Retreat?
‘Retreat’ is a funny word. Ultimately it means to escape, but the “retreat industry” often uses it as a term that represents personal advancement, as something that moves us forward into a better state of mind and being.
In reality, what we’re really thinking about are the repercussions of escaping our responsibilities: time to recoup, clear the mind, and the gain perspective to better fight the undesirable in our normal daily lives.
Ok, so we retreat to escape. For good reason maybe, but ultimately to escape. So now the big question is HOW can we retreat while addressing this reason? How can we get the most of a retreat with regards to why we’re escaping?
There are many, many ways to retreat. You name it! There are retreats themed on health, meditation, pilates, spiritual guidance, financial guidance, art, writing, reading, drumming, cycling, fasting, wilderness, zen, tai chi, cooking, etc.
And for each of these different types of retreats, there’s a myriad of personal reasons to attend that doesn’t even include enjoying a hobby.
There are of course many personal reasons, but as mentioned in 10 Ways to Go On a Great Yoga Retreat, there are four, general, overarching goals for a ‘transformative’ retreat:
To gain perspective
Support a transition in your life
Health and physical transformation
Spiritual and mental transformation
No matter the person, one or more of these fundamental goals applies, even if that person just wants fun and relaxation (mental transformation). But knowing what your reason is for attending a retreat at this level isn’t good enough.
We need to be more thoughtful and more specific.
A teacher that organizes and produces a retreat will spend countless hours defining their own goals for the retreat, its theme, and a detailed program to provide a seemless experience for you.
Shouldn’t you put some effort in as well to not only aid yourself, but to really take advantage of all the work the teacher has put into it?
So now lets get specific.
Second, steps to reach your goals with a retreat
On Mindful Mini’s ‘57 reasons to go on a retreat‘, she tells this great story about going on a retreat and being provided with a card that reads ‘Silence’ before getting a massage.
This simple word, this message, was counter to what she would normally do, as she’s prone to ask lots of questions and be rather chatty. But she gave in, and it made all the difference. She gained a great deal from that single word, as its message helped to theme her time at that retreat, and she said she enjoyed it so much more that she would have otherwise.
She needed that little message of silence. She needed space and time for self reflection. We all do.
But she was lucky enough to get that message at the begining of her retreat so that she could focus on it and really reap the benefits of conscious manifestation of her goals.
Lets now get a bit more complicated and formalize some steps to ensure you reach your goals and really take advantage of the retreat.
1. Be specific with your goals in terms of events or behaviors
If you need a break from your routine and are especially prone to stretching yourself too thin, then you, like Mini did, need space and silence. Decide on a specific amount of alone time each day during your retreat, and maybe put quotas on how much you listen versus talk.
If you want to be able to do something specific physically, like an inversion, write that down and make sure to communicate that with the teacher at the beginning, or even before the retreat.
Developing your specific goals early is the most critical step. Spend some time assessing your desired outcomes from the retreat experience.
What do you want to take away from it?
How do you want to feel?
2. Pick a goal that you can control
You’re not going to fix all the problems in the world with a retreat. We have to be realistic and know what can be accomplished.
3. Make sure you can MEASURE the execution of your goal
Don’t be vague. If you’re able to express your goal in terms that can be measured, you’ll be able to judge your success in this goal.
I want to hold this inversion for at least 15 seconds.
I need 1 hour every day of complete silence by myself
4. Plan a strategy that will get you to your goal
Define your goal in terms of specific steps and then create a timeline to do it. The actionable, bite-sized steps make it more manageable and the timeline gives you a sense of urgency and purpose.
5. Be accountable
Don’t give yourself an opt-out. There are too many ‘buts’ and ‘only ifs’ in this world. This is when it’s handy to get together with a friend to scheme ways to hold each other accountable.
These steps are good to live by. With whatever new adventure you get yourself into, these steps will make the journey that much more effective.
You can implement this with intensive journal documentation, really geeking out on the process, or you can just keep it in the back of your mind as you move forward with the retreat. Ha!
Either way, these steps are good to know about and to learn from. They’ve helped me tremendously with achieving my goals. Hopefully they’ll help you reach all of yours!