It’s already Thursday, February 15th, and our retreat begins on Sunday! Are you ready? Here are some ideas to inspire and prepare – and if you haven’t already – register now for our 5th annual Winter Retreat by clicking here!
Creating and maintaining a sacred space for your retreat is an essential element to successfully completing a retreat. We’ll consider three levels of sacred space: outer, inner, and secret.
“Outer” space refers to the boundaries of our retreat. For example, if we are entering into strict retreat, we might place the boundaries at the corners of our property line, or even just around the house. This means no one enters or exits these boundaries for the duration of a retreat. More practically, however, we might establish the physical boundaries around our meditation seat, home altar, or shrine. I find it helpful to literally draw the boundaries with cushions, rocks, or furniture. If you can, give yourself at least enough room to roll out your yoga mat with some room for a cushion, blanket, and small table. As a mom, I’ve learned there is no such thing as boundaries when your kids need you – and of course they need you most of all when you’re sitting alone, quietly. There are two approaches you may consider here: first, explain to your family your intention to have some “alone” time every day. Let them know this is very important for your spiritual health. For little ones, you may even explain that you are hibernating like a bear, for a small amount of time every day. Another way to approach this (depending on your family) is to invite your partner, dogs, children, or roommates to practice with you. Give them a tour of your sacred space, establish a few simple rules (like no phones or eating in this space), and let them know when you plan to use the space and how.
“Inner” space refers to our mental focus and personal priorities. To me it feels like our collective inner space is constantly bombarded by media, radio, gossip, phones, and countless other distractions. Make a commitment now to protect your inner space as much as possible, especially during the time of our retreat. What are your personal boundaries? Cutting off internet, e-mail, phone, and social contacts for seven days may seem impossible. What amazed me after my first 5 day strict retreat (back in 2005) was that the world really hadn’t changed much…and I didn’t miss it. I had a few more e-mails and phone calls to make, but nothing earth-shattering fell to pieces because I took that precious time for myself. If this is your first retreat, consider limiting your screen and social time to 1 hour every day.
“Secret” space is a space deep within your heart and mind that you create as a vessel for your practice. Within this deep space you commit to a special practice or prayer that you have received or wish to manifest. For example, in the Catholic Church there is a practice called “consecration” where one spends a set amount of time focussed on one aspect of Mary or Jesus, and bringing their special blessings into your being. If this is a difficult concept for you, consider the following scenario:
You are on your deathbed, surrounded by your loved ones. You see the shapes of their faces, but the details become blurry and begin to fade. You hear echoes like sweet music in your ears, but you cannot make out the words. Your body feels like it’s sinking, and the sense of touch and ability to control your muscles is diminishing. Your breath slows down, and each in-breath takes more effort than the last. Even your thinking becomes clouded and unclear, like falling asleep. When you breathe out for the last time, how is your mind? Do you know where you are going? Will you be at peace, can you let go? What sounds, images, or feelings will carry you over the threshold from this life to the next?
This contemplation is really the impetus for human spirituality – and for all our suffering, too. We are all going to die, but we don’t know when or how. How we live in the meantime is what really counts, but don’t put off looking at your own mortality until the last moment. Use this retreat to give yourself the gift of a peaceful passing, no matter the circumstances. We do this most effectively by holding our hopes and fears gently within the secret space of our spiritual practice.
Register today to receive the full preparatory teachings for our retreat together, and to make sure you don’t miss a day of sharing spiritual health with friends of the Homestead all over the world!