Quiet, cared for, and free

I’m on my way out for a solo retreat this weekend. I’ve been going to the same place every year since I turned 40. It’s a perfect setting because there are hardly any other guests around, and I get to enjoy delicious homemade meals without having to cook.

When I was younger and lived alone with much more time to myself, I still went on my own retreats. Back then, I would instill the self-discipline of fasting, meditation, prayer, yoga, and so on. This stage in my life is different though, with three kids, teaching, and a private practice. More than spiritual discipline, my soul longs for a respite from routine, responsibility, and technology. My solo weekend is about unwinding and re-wilding now, following natural impulses to do whatever I feel like doing in the moment. Usually, that means I spend a lot of time sleeping. Last year, I counted and actually napped five times in a day, while still going to bed early. I also wander the hills, read a lot, and write in my journal on and off all day. Then take another nap.

Have you noticed how restorative it feels to turn off devices, schedule nothing, see no one, and go nowhere? If you haven’t had a day like this in a while, I highly recommend it. These open-ended solo retreats with all my needs taken care of and no striving for anything have been just as profoundly healing as the time I’ve spent in spiritual intensives with masterful teachers. Living in a city in this busy middle phase of life, what brings me back to who I really am is… a whole lot of nothing at all. 

Solitude isn’t all blissful refuge though. All kinds of feelings arise in spaces without distraction. For me, the quiet usually brings deep emotional release and a reckoning with any uncomfortable truths that currently need facing. Next weekend, I’ll be hosting sixty friends and family for my son’s coming of age ceremony, so some centering beforehand seems like good timing.

Silence, nature, nourishment, freedom. It’s a simple recipe, but it takes some prioritizing and commitment to gather the ingredients. It requires turning away from a culture that says, “Keep going! There’s more to do! People need you!” All that is never going to stop. So I have to. 

I know this kind of quiet retreat isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope you too gift yourself lavishly with whatever fills you up and speaks to your soul. The more people taking care of themselves on this planet, the better off we’ll all be when we get back together! 

Hope you have a lovely weekend wherever you are,

Julia

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