Celebrating Solitide: 6 Benefits of Taking a Personal Retreat

Last week, I went away on a personal retreat at the Saltspring Centre of Yoga (SCY), located on one of BC’s beautiful gulf islands. Getting away like this, by yourself, is a wonderfully healing for the body and mind. People go on personal retreats for a wide variety of reasons. Here are some of the benefits you can gain from taking one:

1. Separation from Routine. By getting away from all your usual attachments and responsibilities, you can free your mind, open yourself to new ideas and get perspective on your life. On my recent retreat, I rode off on my scooter (which I rarely ride nowadays) and took a ferry to get to the sanctuary that is the SCY (below).
2. Physical Healing.If you are suffering from the physical effects of stress, have a physical condition you’re dealing with, or simply train a lot like I do, it’s nice to give the body a break from its usual rigors and treat it to different experiences. This can vary from doing yoga, going on walks or hikes, getting a massage, swimming in the ocean, going to a spa, etc. Below is a photo of one of the yoga classes at the SCY. The other photo is me at the peak of Mt. Erskine, which involved a rigorous 2-hour hike.

3. A Change in Diet. When travelling, you get the opportunity to eat the local foods of a different area, or sample cuisine different from your usual fare. This can serve to broaden your horizons when it comes to your usual diet. At the SCY, all my meals were included. They were all organic and catered to a lacto-vegetarian diet. While I normally eat meat, it was a nice change for me, and all the meals were delicious (one such meal is feature below), prepared with fresh produce that were locally grown, some from the centre’s own organic farm. It was lovely to wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread first thing in the morning.
4. Creative Inspiration. Removing yourself from your routine can serve to broaden your perspective and see ideas from different angles. This is great if you’re a writer, artist (martial or otherwise), or involved in some other creative field. It’s also great for coming up with new ideas/direction for your business if you’re an entrepreneur, or you can simply use a retreat as an opportunity to map out your life goals. The sky’s the limit! Gazing out on the wake of the ferry (see photo below) proved to be particularly inspirational for me (you can see my scooter right at the stern of the boat on the left).

5. Emotional Healing. If you have recently undergone a major change in your life, whether you have broken up with a long-term partner, been laid off, lost a loved one, etc, getting away from your everyday surroundings can help detach you from all the reminders and give you space to cope with difficult emotions. This wasn’t the purpose of my trip per se, but I can definitely see how a personal retreat can help in such contexts. At the SCY, there is a lovely meditation garden with a soothing fountain, which is a great place to ponder.

6. Self Love. When you’re on your own, you are completely in charge and can act on any and every whim. You can carve out your own experience without having to consider the feelings and opinions of others. People in western culture aren’t used to the idea of going on personal retreats, often thinking that it is a sign of some sort of problem. I was asked by a few different people if I was having any problems when I told them about my plan to go on one. I think of a personal retreat as a celebration of solitude. To feel comfortable on one, you have to be very comfortable with yourself. If you’re not, it gives you the opportunity to explore your relationship with yourself and consider ways you may have neglected it. You do have to be good at taking pics of yourself though. The photo below took me a few tries. Thank the tech gods for digital cameras. 😉

I had a fantastic experience at the SCY, with great classes, excellent food, a comfortable room, Ayurveda massage, a wood-fired sauna, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. But you don’t have to be into yoga to go on a personal retreat. There are many personal retreat centres all over North America that give people the opportunity to get away from it all, whether it’s in the context of yoga, meditation, spirituality, writing, nature, etc.
Now to you: What would your ideal personal retreat involve?

2 thoughts on “Celebrating Solitide: 6 Benefits of Taking a Personal Retreat

  1. It's nice to hear you had such a good time. For me the ideal retreat would be staying in a monastery I once visited: it's a very old catholic monastery located in rural territory, inhabited by a group of monks known for their prowess in gregorian chant. As with most religious orders they follow a strict regimen of prayer and work (ora et labora) and there's even a Zen-group that congregates regularly. I'd follow their routine (minus the prayer since I'm not religious), read a lot (one never finds enough time for that) and hike in the surrounding countryside and forests. Ideally I'd bring a friend to keep me company and share my experiences, in any case I'd keep up with my MA-related exercises since I believe it's important to keep one's skills sharp and one's body healthy. Especially if you are a teacher it's important to train daily, as an old master of kenjutsu once advised his pupil who'd succeed him: 'the art is not just in the secret techniques, if you decide to take on a pupil you must practice daily with the bamboo sword'. It's not necessary to train hard everytime (in fact I'd advise against that) as heavy physical training breaks down the body if its not given enough time to heal, but practicing by oneself the movements and techniques of the style isn't strenous and will serve to really burn the techniques into one's mind and body. In the end you want to be as good as possible as a martial artist and in a fight it's probably the more experienced fighter that will come out on top.

    Great pictures btw.


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