Co-authored with Bipin Baloni, yoga teacher trainer of Rrishikul Yogshala
Wondering why go on a spiritual retreat or if it’s right for you?
Practitioners of yoga, meditation, and other healing arts all know the power of shutting out the world, however briefly, and focusing inward.
For the rest of us, however, we’ve likely heard the term spiritual retreat but may not know exactly what that is, why we would want to go on one, and what the benefits would be.
So I consulted an expert; Bipin Baloni who helps run the yoga teacher training center Rrishikul Yogshala in India. Here’s what I learned.
A spiritual retreat removes us from our everyday life, distractions, and noise that can otherwise cloud our mind and judgment from our connection to ourselves, our surroundings, and whatever higher power we follow. The benefits of a spiritual retreat help make us more present and mindful, connect us with other like-minded people, and can start us down a path of amazing personal growth and development.
But there’s much more to learn about spiritual retreats, so let’s keep learning from Bipin.
What is a spiritual retreat?
“A spiritual retreat is medicine for soul starvation. Through silence, solitary practice, and simple living, we begin to fill the empty reservoir. This lifts the veils, dissolves the masks, and creates space within for the feelings of forgiveness, compassion, and loving kindness that are so often blocked.”
These words by David A. Cooper describe the beauty of a spiritual retreat so aesthetically.
It is quite evident from the statement that there is a lot more in a Spiritual retreat than what a regular holiday boasts.
Spiritual retreats are about inner bliss, connection with God, and devotional erudition.
These kinds of retreats are not just meant for taking a break from regular lifestyle but also about indulging with the central universal power of Shiva and Buddha.
Who goes on spiritual retreats?
There are various types of retreaters in the world.
Some are interested in meditation while others are more comfortable with advanced asanas.
For many people, keeping their eyes closed for a long time is quite difficult and thus, they are more comfortable with breathing exercises.
The beauty of spiritual retreats lies in the power of soulful autonomy that the programs offer.
Since the spiritual way of holidaying is gaining more and more popularity, let’s talk about some of the finest benefits of going on a spiritual retreat.
What does it mean to go on a retreat?
When you go on a spiritual retreat you literally retreat from your normal world.
You unplug, go offline, and eliminate distractions. In a way, it’s like an extended meditation. Of course, like anything else, different places offering spiritual retreats may organize them differently.
That being said, there are some common themes in spiritual retreats, such as:
- A guide who helps organize the process
- Time set aside for solo work and/or meditation
- Spiritual readings from a teacher or guide
- Group sharing circles
While a spiritual retreat can literally be as long as you want, many people opt for a weekend retreat or an entire week.
One of the cornerstones of many spritual and healing practices is a focus on breathwork.
The great news about adding a breathing practice is you don’t need any special tools and can do it anywhere at any time. Learn more about the Benefits of Yoga Breathing and see if it doesn’t help you!
What is the purpose of a spiritual retreat?
Ultimately the purpose of a spiritual retreat is to help us clear out the noise in our heads that is a distraction from the things that reallly matter.
For many, but not all, it’s also a way to connect more closely with God or whatever higher power you believe in.
But across most types, styles, and faiths, there are some commonalities in terms of the purpose of a spiritual retreat:
- Pull back from ordinary life
- Become inspired (or re-invigorated)
- Improve your listening
- Mental detox
- Improving inner peace
- Reconnect to the “real” you
- Connect with other like-minded people
There’s a big difference in today’s electronic world between connection and connected.
While technology is a great tool (it’s bringing you this article), there’s real danger in its overuse. I highly recommend you take a moment and review How Technology Affects the Brain Negatively.
How do you go on a personal spiritual retreat?
First, decide if you want to join an organized spiritual retreat or just find solitude for yourself.
I (Jeff) once took a week and just went to Big Bend National Park by myself. It was a troubling time in my life. I was lost, directionless, confused, and at a crossroads in my relationships.
It was REALLY hard to disconnect fully and I was scared to be alone and confront all my feelings. In truth, I didn’t devote myself enough to the process, but even going only half in, I still found tremendous benefit.
Of course, there are tons of organizations and facilities that offer spiritual retreats, but to just take one on your own, follow these steps:
- Set aside a specific amount of time – weekend, a day, a week or more
- Have a specific goal for the retreat – After all, you’ll never achieve your goals if you aren’t clear about what they are
- Align yourself with nature – immerse yourself in your surroundings
- Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences
- Connect with your higher power – Whether God or something else, focus on whatever that is through thoughts, prayers, and reading the teachings that align with that
- Humble yourself – Acknowledge the things about yourself you wish to change. No need to beat yourself up over the past, but there’s also no need to carry baggage forward either
- Focus on your breath, your body, the awareness of your body and the release of tension – Every incident of pain, trauma, or hurt can become part of us an get stored in our tissue. When we focus heavily on our breath, awareness and the release of tension, we are starting the process of truly letting go
Is a spiritual retreat religious?
In short, yes. But they aren’t necessarily tied to a specific religion.
Thus, many people go on a retreat who aren’t officially affiliated with any one religion. Spiritual retreats are a huge part of many different religious practices including:
- Sufis (Islam)
While those different religions and belief systems can vary greatly, ultimately the goals of a spiritual retreat share a lot in common across them.
Hindus, Sufis, and Buddhists tend to focus more on meditation than Christians, but all are a way of silencing the noise, reconnecting to a higher power and purpose, and recentering ourselves.
What is the purpose of a Catholic retreat?
All spiritual retreats focus on solitude, healing, and the elimination of distractions by literally and figuratively removing ourselves from our normal daily life.
Many spiritual retreats also focus on communication with a higher power. Catholic spiritual retreats focus heavily on a rekindling and deepening of one’s relationship with God.
The retreat provides plenty of opportunity for prayer and contemplation. That allows the practitioner the ability to clear their mind to more clearly hear God’s call. The origins of the retreat in Christian life come directly from the Bible, which has the following passages that pertain to retreats:
- “Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
- “He (Jesus) departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.”
- “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”
Retreats are different from other types of meetings and gatherings in that the primary goal is spiritual growth. That growth is obtained not from extended lectures or lessons but by quiet reflection and turning our thoughts inward.
Many spiritual retreats do feature an organized and/or presented component, but ultimately they are designed to help give the individual tools to use during the times of quiet contemplation.
But ultimately, Catholic spiritual retreats are a way to better hear an connect with God.
So now, let’s answer the question . . .
Why go on a spiritual retreat? Here are 5 amazing benefits:
1. Strengthen your internal awareness
According to a number of spiritual gurus, a deeper sense of connection with your soul is what you experience during a spiritual retreat.
The monotonous lifestyle of this workaholic environment has forced humans to live a life of detachment. There is no place for anything and anybody other than financial progress in one’s life.
Spiritual retreats are an opportunity to enjoy a deeper connection with your mind and soul. During this period of time, there are only two things in your life – you and your inner being.
A person is able to identify himself truly because he is engaged in a number of practices that take one in the zone of the complete mind-body-soul alliance.
The chanting of OM reflects the true potential of you as a human, yogi, and spiritualist.
2. Share a sense of bliss with like-minded people
In Acharya Prashant’s word, spirituality is not the renunciation of life; it is the art of living fully.
One of the finest definitions of spirituality, which is described in the above sentence, can be witnessed in a retreat program. Unlike what people think, spiritual retreats are about fun and recreation.
At the retreat center, you meet with people from all around the globe.
They belong to different cultures, locations, faiths, and identities. You make friends, broaden perspectives, and share amazing moments with them.
There is no better source of happiness than sharing good times with people. You will come together in amazing healing and a relaxing journey that may feature a number of different healing and massage therapies.
The lives of retreaters are filled with joy and euphoria when they meditate on the virgin beaches of Kerala, climb the spellbinding trails of the Himalayas, and in the lush and green vegetation of Portugal.
Of course, becoming a yoga teacher is also a great way to connect with other people on a similar spiritual path, so if that has ever been of interest, check out just how easy it is to get Certified in Yoga.
3. Increase your inner peace
The world is full of noises.
Almost all the bigger cities in India, the US, and the rest of the world are electrified, illuminated, and electronically connected 24/7.
That makes it very hard to shut the world out and clear our minds in a tranquil space.
If you wish to enjoy a relaxed and peaceful environment, head to a spiritual retreat. During the course of the retreat, you will be building or deepening a real spiritual lifestyle.
That sacred domain helps you come closer to the real meaning of inner peace.
Focus is the key when you talk about attaining mental calmness. Almost all poses and practices of Yoga are aimed at cultivating or improving mindfulness.
The exercises, along with multiple teachings assist a person in maintaining ultimate silence in life and the soul.
Many retreats are entirely based on stillness, which is again an awesome way to experience soulful tranquility.
4. Deepen your relationship with God
Gautam Buddha, the biggest yogi ever born on the planet, says, “just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life”.
There exists a central source of light in the universe who is known as God. During a spiritual retreat, one comes close, very close to the divine.
You learn a number of things about this path of life and the art of walking on the journey with patience.
According to Yoga, Lord Shiva is the sailor of the boat and we are just the mere journey-makers.
The retreat, through various yogic and devotional practices, brings you in the vicinity of the ultimate power so that you enjoy your life with extensive pleasure and gratification.
Closeness to God is an opportunity to look at the world and the inner you through a different lens, a positive one.
5. Amazing personal development
In the end, every practice that you enjoy in a spiritual retreat leads you to personal growth and development.
There is no doubt in that fact that you will improve as a person, citizen, and as a member of your family.
This improvement comes through your ability to flow around life’s challenges without giving up or getting angry or frustrated.
Your sense of peace and calm deepens and while we all recognize the value of technology, you may well find you use it far less after returning from a retreat.
This resistance teaches you to experience the world as it is, naturally. There are also family retreats, where you learn the art of creating a deeper bonding with family members.
In addition, this new and improved focus helps you in your work life, since you will be able to be more present to what you are doing and less distracted.
A positive life is what a retreater experiences while on a spiritual retreat. A spiritual retreat rejuvenates us to our core so that we are able to better live life to its fullest and deepen our connection with those we love and the world around us.
Did we cover all you wanted to know about why to go on a spiritual retreat?
In this post, we took an in-depth look into the world of spiritual retreats.
We explored what spiritual retreats are, how they help, the benefits of a spiritual retreat, and where to find one.
Specifically, though, we answered the question of why go on a spiritual retreat.
Have you been on one? If so, what was your experience?
About the co-author of this post:
Bipin Baloni is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveler in India. He provides Yoga Teacher Training In Rishikesh. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.
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