A number of times in my life I have taken a few days, or even a week, to pray and reflect on my life. Before the birth of one of my children, I spent a weekend in a Catholic monastery. This revitalizing experience prepared me for tending to a new baby. After my divorce many years later, I heard of a sanctuary in another state, where Catholic nuns lived on the land. In the quiet and beauty of nature, people gathered to pray and meditate. I spent a week there in the solitude of a small cabin – taking walks to a nearby creek and enjoying Mother Nature surrounding me. It was an important time, and I returned to New Mexico energized with a number of ideas of how to make my life more internal and prayerful.
Subsequent to that retreat I traveled to South America, where I visited several places, including Machu Picchu. Even though the Shining Path—a group of Maoist guerrillas—was active in the area and had perpetrated assassinations, bombings, and beheadings, I still went. In fact, prior to going, travelers were told this would be the last trip the organization would schedule due to acceleration of Shining Path activity. To my surprise, I did not feel fear when I arrived in Machu Picchu; I was so taken by the beauty and spiritual nature of this remote sanctuary. Every day I walked on the trails.
Upon my return to the United Sates, I was contacted by a woman I had met in South America who lived in the Midwest. She informed me that a Medicine Woman would be coming to Santa Fe to hold a retreat. I met with the Medicine Woman in private, and she blew my first power animal into me—an initiation into my shamanic training and heritage, as she explained the animal was a teacher and would activate my teaching abilities. Even though I did not encounter the Medicine Woman again, I embarked on the shamanic path and attended trainings from the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Obviously, these travels and retreats eventually brought me to a deeper realization and experience of what I was meant to do with the rest of my life—including authoring books about spirituality and shamanism. It can be so important and transformative to carve out purposeful time away from our busy lives, for quiet space and reflection. Many others have gone on retreats and/or traveled to spiritual places and benefited greatly. If you are one of those individuals, it would be of help to others for you to share what occurred.
Can you also think of ways to bring the idea of “retreat” into your daily/weekly lives, when it may not be possible to get away? What are some of the signs in your life that it might be time to prioritize either an inner retreat space or attendance of an actual event?