From reader Karen:
Even the most well-adjusted person can feel exhausted at times. Our world can be overwhelming, both spiritually and emotionally as well as physically.
When the pressures and stresses of everyday life get to be too much for you, where do you go — literally or figuratively — for respite? Do you have a haven or a sanctuary that is a welcoming place, where you can escape and recharge your emotional batteries?
What is your retreat from the world, and how does it help you?
Related questions: Why do we put up with unhappiness? What is emotional well-being? How can we maintain wonder?
10 thoughts on “What Is Your Retreat From The World?”
I have two “retreats” that refresh me: gardening (not just visiting the garden, but working in the garden) and dog training. Both focus my attention and draw me into the moment, putting all else aside. At the end of a session, I notice that not once have I thought about the thing(s) that were bothering me at the start. It’s like pushing the Reset button.
Are you a dog trainer, Susan? I’d never thought of something like that serving as a Reset button. But, of course, now it makes complete sense.
Michael, I train my own dogs, at a dog training school. When I go in, it’s like putting all the rest of life in a bag and leaving it by the door to pick up on the way out.
As an introvert I need to recharge daily. As a person who suffers from Anxiety, the same is often true. And I realize that sometimes a more extended breakaway from the world is needed.
And so I have four major ways of retreating. First, I write — often not very well. Writing helps me process what’s going on in the world, how I’d like to optimize the roles I occupy in my life, and it helps me make sense of what’s going on in my brain and with my emotions. Second, my home in general is a place of retreat. My wife and I have set it up as such. When peace and quiet are what we need, we can simply turn off the TV (or not turn it on), and “Voila,” it is so. Third, as nearly everyone who knows me knows that I love to garden. Garden planning and planting give me hope. And the rote work of surveying, weeding, and harvesting help me calm my busy or anxious mind. For longer personal retreats, I breakaway to some small town (usually), rent a hotel room or B&B, and spend a few days reflecting on how I can be more effective at fulfilling the roles I’ve created for my life.
Michael, thanks for your thoughts on this. I too love to turn off the TV or computer and enjoy silence. I’m not a gardener, but my wife is. She likes to look out the window and plan her flower beds this time of year. I like your idea of going away to a small town for a few days. I hope to give it a try.
Due to my emotional and social make up, I must have places I go/things I do daily to retreat. All things garden related are my chief escapes. Working in my garden, perusing old seed catalogs, creating recipes that highlight what’s in season in the garden help calm my mind. If I’m out running errands and it gets to be too much, I stop at the nearest garden center to regroup.
Another retreat that is especially useful during the winter is reading. I am particularly fond of historical fiction and can travel to another time and place, emerging recharged and renewed.
Often, I must exhaust my body to prevent becoming overwhelmed by the physical aspects of anxiety. I
Find walking the trails at local and state parks soothes both my mind and body.
Finally, listening to music, particularly in the classical genre, helps to calm my often chaotic thoughts and tense muscles.
I certainly understand how helpful using physical exhaustion to preempt or beat back Anxiety can be. This is something I should do more of considering my current level of Anxiety. In fact, it makes me wonder how helpful it could be for society in general to use strenuous exercise to make people calmer overall. Make sense?
Well Michael, since exercise releases endorphins it makes complete sense that we’d all be calmer and happier if we all made it a bigger part of our daily routine
I like to build mini-retreats into my daily routine. I get up early and have about an hour to be still and listen to God. Mostly I use the daily scripture readings and see if anything leaps out at me. I have a journal which I call “Hello and Thank You” where I record my responses, if any.
Most days I take a twenty-minute nature walk. (Beautiful this time of year). I take my prayer list with me. This takes the focus off me and makes me count my many blessings.
Evenings are not so prayerful — tonight I’m watching the baseball game. “(Cuz I know my daughter’s family are big Cubs fans. ). Sports have always been part of my life. (Especially golf). It’s for me what gardening is for my wife and many others.
I hope to add prayer to my night-time routine — maybe just 10 minutes reviewing my day to see what worked and what didn’t. Saint Paul said to “pray without ceasing”. I’m working at it.
One of my favorite ways to “retreat from the world” is actually to engage it directly. Much of what exhausts me and depletes my batteries is worry, fear and “what-iffing”, all of which – interestingly – are not reality. I agree with Cecily that strenuous exercise is an excellent way to combat stress and anxiety. For me, it focuses both the mental and the physical entirely on the moment. I can’t spend my time fretting when I need everything I’ve got just to run that final mile.
Another pursuit, my favorite, is natural history and observation: going outside, identifying the plants and animals I see, and asking questions about them. Why do they do what they do? How do they interact? How do they change over time? The blend of scientific curiosity and wonder is a lasting source of joy for me. Long-distance hiking combines the last two very effectively. I see amazing new things, make demands on my body, and meet the challenges that inevitably come my way. I come back from these trips feeling like the very best version of myself.
Engaging on a creative plane, usually through creative writing or performing music, is another way I like to change focus. Instead of feeling mute and helpless, it helps me to find my own voice.