My mother in law recently suggested I take a retreat to sort through inner dialogue and constant questions that rule my mind. Where is my career going? Am I doing what I should be? Is our family complete? Why is my mind filled with thoughts of wanting – things, just things – driven by constant consumerism? Why, with two young children and a full and happy life, do I always seek the next endeavor? Why can’t I just relax and….be?
A few weeks ago, my mother in law sent a letter: a retreat guide from her good friend, a minister named Lyn (who, incidentally, married me and Dave). This same friend had prompted her to take a couple retreats when she was a working mom navigating her path. She mailed these hand-written guidelines. Just reading them makes me feel a little calmer.
- Go away for a weekend to a quiet place without electronics.
- Expect to just rest and sleep the first day with some reading or journaling as ideas come to mind.
- On the second day, follow something along the lines of meditate, walk, eat lightly, rest, journal.
- Ask the questions:
- What would I do if there were no barriers?
- What are the perceived barriers?
- What are the actual barriers?
- What would it look like to take the first step?
- What would life look like if I succeeded in my quest?
- Is it worth it now? Ever?
- How will my decision impact my life? Impact my partner’s life? My children’s? Friendships? Family? Hobbies?
- Again, is it worth it now, or ever?
Write the free flow of thoughts. Be quiet. Walk again. Nap, eat, re-read the journal thoughts. Is there a pattern?
Free yourself from the tyranny of the urgent and take your time but also don’t be paralyzed by the thought of change and risk. (Me again: can roll this statement around for a bit? I love it.)
The recommendations are both incredibly luxurious and quite simple.
She also suggested two books aligned with this process of breaking down perceived barriers and accepting direction from something greater: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, and Miracles by Eric Metaxes.
After my conversation with my mother in law and the letter, I floated the idea by my husband. He kind of laughed it off, noting that he hadn’t been away solo in years, and if anyone was retreating, he was going first. And not some woo-woo retreat, more like a golf trip in South Carolina with his bestie.
Many of us have woven our lives so we’re the nucleus of families, jobs, school, and other myriad responsibilities. Retreating, as simple as outlined here, can present a real or perceived challenge – to temporarily escape, to justify the cost, to secure childcare, and so on. Maybe I don’t need a retreat. Maybe I could use some yoga or mindfulness workshops or less coffee. But I plan to walk away from Laundry Mountain and leave my kids in my husband’s good care for two days so I can dig around my mind with some level of concentration and minimal distraction.
Will I emerge from with clarity and purpose? Who knows, but it’s worth a try.