I want to run away.
I know a lot of adults say that when fully immersed in the responsibilities and obligations that come with adulthood. We joke about how we want to run away way more as adults than we ever did as children. We kid around with each other about running off to a beach somewhere and never coming back.
But, I’m not joking.
For more than a few years now, I have been craving a long-term retreat wherein I can re-evaluate my life. Just hit the pause button for a while, so I can mindfully and lovingly look at each piece of my life and see if it still fits me or not—and then, put the pieces back together and create the life I really want.
I see a lot of people in my extended circles doing this. One friend decided she wanted to travel more, so she refocused her coaching practice around adventures and now travels full-time. Another friend takes regular retreats to Bali. Regular retreats to Bali! Who are these people?!
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Even though I honestly have no desire to travel full-time, I do feel like a mindful, soul-focused retreat could be quite beneficial for where I am at this point in my life.
But the thing is, I have kids. And while I might be able to make an extended break work for me personally and professionally, I am not at all willing—or wanting—to take an extended break from them. From all of their activities and busyness, maybe—but not at all from them as people.
Don’t get me wrong…I could do it for a week or two, no problem. But that’s not what I envision when I think of my ideal retreat.
I know a lot of people have dreamed about their own personal Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage—indulging their every whim in far-off countries. But as much as I love Elizabeth Gilbert, my dream is based on another book. It’s called A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson.
It is the true story of the author who, as an empty-nester, is presented with her husband’s promotion and a cross-country move—and promptly tells her husband that she isn’t going with him. Instead, she plans to spend a year in a cottage on Cape Cod, attempting to remind herself of who she was before her 30-year marriage and a life focused on her children.
As much as I loved Eat, Pray, Love, this is the book that spoke to my soul. I could actually picture myself as Joan, living by myself in this seaside cottage, re-learning self-reliance, and thriving (or more often crying) in her independence.
I know I’m not alone in this longing for a self-reflective retreat. I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak a year and a half ago and she commented about how many people come up to her and ask her my exact question: “How can we have our own Eat, Pray, Love experience when we have children and obligations?”
Her answer? She insisted that people don’t have to do what she did to find their own answers. She asserted that you can look for the mini-retreats in your daily life, or simply just begin by answering some basic—but important and revealing—questions about what you want in your life.
And while I would relish the idea of escaping for a year by the sea in a cottage by myself, these are the things I do—that we can all do—to retreat now, today, and re-evaluate where we are in our lives:
This one, for me, is like a mini-retreat every time I do it. I can focus on something, like how my soul yearns for retreat, or how to discover what your soul work is, or even just process the rampant sexual harassment that has been happening in our society and only recently being made public. Every time I can escape onto the page with whatever I’m inspired to write about, it’s like a mini-retreat.
Even if you’re not a writer, you can simply start journaling about all these questions rattling around in your head. There is power in your words, and writing them down solidifies and strengthens the intention behind what you want to create even more.
2. Ask yourself what you really want.
When you daydream, how does your day look? And how does it measure up to the days you are experiencing in your day-to-day life? Actually sit down and close your eyes—envision the whole day from beginning to end, from what time you wake up, to where you are living, to who you are surrounding yourself with every day.
Even if you can’t fill in some of the bigger points, like what you might be doing for work, pay attention to the smaller details, like what you spend your time doing and how you feel.
3. What’s your purpose? What’s your why?
This one’s always a little daunting for people, so I recommend breaking it down into smaller bites, like, “What brings your soul to life?” You might have a good idea already, but then again you might not. Or, it might sound like too big of a dream, so you stop listening to that still, small voice and just need a reminder to listen.
The first and only tattoo I’ve ever gotten (so far) is a saying on the inside of my wrist that says, “Hear my soul speak.” It’s a saying I love, but also an important visual reminder to me to listen to that quiet voice that is whispering to me all day, every day…telling me what my soul wants.
I am still holding the vision of that “year by the sea” retreat in my head—even if I can’t do it right now. Even if I can only do it for a month or two instead of a whole year—it will happen at some point. It’s so easy for me to visualize it, when I know, for sure, it will happen someday.
Even if that day is not today.
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