Get the Most Out of a Retreat

Retreats are a time for self-discovery. As an artist, you may go on creative retreats to learn more about making art. But you might also seek out personal retreats that feed your soul and, therefore, your art. This post is about those kinds of retreats.

As you may know, I just returned from Christine Kane’s Great Big Dreams retreat in the Smoky Mountains. While this is on my mind, I wanted to take time to write down some things I learned about getting the most out of a retreat–in hopes it will help you prepare for your next retreat.

The retreat is time for yourself. It is not social time. Resist the urge to go with a friend, especially if you don’t know the personal journey of that friend.

Carve out time before you go to think about why you are going
–even if it’s just an hour. What do you want from your time away? How do you want to feel during the retreat and after it? Write about it.

Get maps of everywhere you’re going to go. Know the lay of the land. Getting lost will make you frustrated and ruin some of the good work you’ve done. (This is from an avid map reader who got lost and frustrated in Asheville!)

Along similar lines, spend time on the Web site of wherever you’re going so you can become familiar with it. We were at a place with a long history and a lot of land that I really hadn’t explored until I arrived.

Set aside quiet time after the retreat. While I was anxious to get home, I kind of wish I had an extra day to be by myself and digest the experience. Even a half a day would have been nice.

Tell us about your favorite retreats and what you gained from them.

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8 thoughts on “Get the Most Out of a Retreat”

  1. Each winter, I spend about a month in Tucson. My husband is able to join me for a few days, but I mostly spend time alone and walk in the desert. I paint, read, write in my journal and visit a few friends. This experience completely renews me and helps me get a good perspective on where I want to go with my life and career. When I’m extremely busy, I think about things, but get interrupted by things I have to get done. It’s great to take a vacation by yourself

  2. This past spring I made a long weekend retreat at Holy Cross Monastery on the Hudson River. It has become my favorite so far. The woman who led the retreat, Carolyn Bluemle, is a superb yoga instructor; the retreat was titled The Body, The Feminine, Pentecost, and Mother’s Day, and open to men as well as women, but none came. Silence was encouraged throughout the weekend except for instruction and occasional shared times. I really love places where you can be silent at times. In advance I’d thought about how I hoped the weekend would be helpful – just the relaxation, recreation, exercise, nourishment, etc. – otherwise my expectations were loose, trying to be open to what might be waiting for me. I came away with renewed enthusiasm for my work, an expanded heart, wider horizons. AND a looser body!

  3. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Lori: That sounds lovely–a month in the desert. Becky: I’ve been wanting to do a silent retreat and appreciated hearing about your experience. Tammy: It may have been you who introduced me to Christine’s blog. It was one of my readers and I can’t recall who. But since then, I’ve sent hundreds of peeps her way. Thanks!

  4. This is pertinent since I am going on a three week retreat in November to I plan to do a drawing a day and write a lot. I’ll use your pointers to gain even more clarity on what I want to get from this treat to myself!

  5. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Cynthia: You’re the queen of retreats! You could have written this post and probably have done so already. I hope you have a wonderful retreat.

  6. Great advice. I got lost on my way to asheville for my first retreat with Christine last december. I kinda forgot to print maps – still managed to make it there – from charlotte. Going again in November – I can’t wait – she’s the best.

  7. Pingback: The Creative Person’s Guide to Focus, Part 2: Getting Unplugged « Creative Liberty

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