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The Importance of Retreat

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.

-Hermann Hesse

So much of our lives is action-oriented that it can be difficult to remember that we have “stillness and sanctuary” within us. Even when we are not officially working, we are doing chores, running errands, answering e-mails, catching up on the news, helping out family and friends, monitoring our social media, etc. We rarely make time to connect with the quiet, still part of ourselves.

A retreat offers us the opportunity to withdraw from the demands and frustrations of everyday life: the broken garage door, the unanswered e-mails, the weedy, overgrown garden, the attic that needs insulating, the disgruntled teenager… Sorry, I think I just wandered into a little rant about what I personally need a break from, but we all have our things.

When we go on retreat, we step out of doing and into being. We step out of our roles. On retreat, we aren’t parents, spouses, siblings, sons/daughters or employees. We are just ourselves. We have the opportunity to touch and abide within the place of “stillness and sanctuary” within us. We remember that we are more than our roles, more than what we do.

I have to admit that the first time I went on retreat, I was disappointed upon returning home. The sense of calm and stillness I had cultivated seemed to disappear within a short time of returning home. I was quickly back to “doing”—running errands, answering calls, arguing with kids—and I was experiencing all of the attendant tension and frustration. Why didn’t the retreat fix me? Why had I not been magically transformed into the permanently serene person I aspired to be?

No, going on a retreat did not “fix” me. Rather, going on retreat eventually led me to recognize that I don’t need fixing. We don’t need to become different people. We already have a place of “stillness and sanctuary” within us. We just need to learn to connect with it more frequently. Connecting with this place is obviously much easier on retreat than in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. That is why retreats are important. Once we have had the experience of quiet, stillness and calm, it is part of us, and we know we can achieve it again.

The more we practice connecting with that place of “stillness and sanctuary” within us, the more skilled we become at doing so. We become more likely to take breaks from doing—to just sit rather than pulling out our phones when faced with a few minutes of waiting at the doctor’s office. We become more likely to pause and calm ourselves before acting—to resist firing off an angry e-mail and take the time to formulate a skillful response. We may not become permanently serene but perhaps more frequently so.

I hope many of you will join me Nov 4-6 for a weekend of stillness and quiet, beautiful scenery, delicious food, fun and good company.


Stretch and Stir Weekend Retreat, November 4-6, 2022

I am so pleased to be offering the Stretch and Stir Weekend Retreat at the Skyview Cottage, located in Gracefield, about a 90-minute drive from Ottawa. I have been going to the Skyview with friends and family for over a decade now, and it is a truly special place. Every time I arrive and look out the huge windows overlooking the lake (see pics below), I feel the weight of everyday life drop from my shoulders, and I am able to connect with the quiet, serene, non-doing part of myself.

I am looking forward to sharing this special place, some relaxing yoga practices and delicious food with all of those who attend this retreat. I am also looking forward to being led through a fun and educational vegetarian Indian cooking class by my good friend Reena—and then feasting on what we make.

Click below for further information or to register.

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