What are the different ways to approach a retreat?
Taking time out:
- To reconnect
- To deepen your relationship with yourself
- To consider a new foundation of eating in more obedience to your own body
- To rebalance your sleep patterns.
Perhaps it is a treat:
- Not cooking your own food
- Not washing up
- Not staying in your own bed and home are also very much looked forward to.
The Universal Medicine Lennox Head Retreat offered all of that and more this year.
I had not been for a few years so I approached this year ready to fully embrace all that was on offer. The days started at 5.30am and finished at 6pm with space to take walks, head home if you were staying locally, rest, catch up with friends or do some work. It was an opportunity to make space for deepening the relationship with yourself, without leaving your life behind: your life was still being lived and therefore, this made the retreat very practical.
There was something worth noting from the outset that I didn’t really clock till the end and that is the ‘holding’ feeling, a ‘beholding’ of the space that started just before the retreat and began to lift on the last day, but I will come back to that.
The whole week consisted of short presentations and group work. There was no sitting back and letting the work be done for you. Well, there was if that was what you chose, but what a waste of time, money and energy! I suspect you would have had to work very hard to not want to get underneath the topics we covered because they were so applicable to everyday life and supporting us to make sense of the nonsensical in our lives. To deepen this experience and get a wide variety of reflections and discussion styles, you changed groups every time and therefore had an opportunity to meet many different people from many walks of life.
The topics are nothing fancy – they are unpacking our version of ‘normal’ so we can question whether they are contributing to the tension we feel or not and can decide if we still want that pattern of behaviour in our lives. It encourages curiosity and discernment. At every turn we are encouraged to consider the part energy plays in our movements, our choices and our behaviour.
No question there were challenges but everything felt possible, and as such, everything I had thought of as ‘normal’ needed to be on the table for consideration again. After all, that is what a retreat is about, isn’t it – re-connecting, re-considering and laying new foundations?
At the end of the retreat, as we were all saying goodbye, I happened to say to someone how easy it had been and how I could stay discussing this for longer. They casually said, “That is what life is for, isn’t it?!” Well, of course it is and as I shared at the start, there was no abdication of our responsibility for our own life and wellbeing on this retreat: but I had clearly considered it a cocoon from the pace of life I lived as my normal and had to recognise that I don’t have the same depth of discussion and conversation in my life as I had had that week, and clearly wanted. There was nothing to say I couldn’t take that back into my life if it was something I had found expanding and confirming and luckily for me, there was a common factor which would make it possible – me!!
I realised that you don’t just leave what we have connected to in a retreat and go back to an old way of living – that is like wearing the same clothes for years on end without washing! When you take an opportunity, invest time and money, create space to be curious and feel what life is like out of those clothes, then the thought of putting the old clothes on again elicits only one response… Uh, No!!!
So, what changed on the last day? Do you remember the ‘holding’ feeling I shared at the beginning? Well, that started to lift and there was a distinct feeling of realising it was time to take more ownership of the whole package and put it together, making it applicable to each of our lives. This was not for anyone to live for us, this was for us to bring into our movements, or not – no attachment or drama either way.
I watched as Serge Benhayon and Natalie Benhayon said goodbye to us, in full awareness of the challenges we would face but equally knowing they had not once held back in offering us everything they too had been offered, to understand why life presents the challenges it does and to show there is another way. That reflection in itself was a lesson in offering participants true freedom – it was all given and if you never went to anything by Universal Medicine again, you still had all you needed to understand how to live life with Love and vitality.
That afternoon I walked home and felt different. I could feel the energy that had held the retreat as a space for consideration had lifted. It hadn’t gone but there was now a realisation that it was for me to say yes to rather than for it to be there as part of the retreat. I wondered if this is what people who have always had a deep connection with God felt as their normal. It hadn’t been my normal for many years and yet, in that moment, there was NO question left for me that I was held by Love and that I was very much part of that Love.
As the days turned over and I went ‘back’ to my day-to-day life, each day was about re-imprinting the same routine to offer myself a deeper rhythm more in line with the rhythms I had felt when I had offered myself space during the retreat. The lack of space and the feeling of being sucked into time was palpable yet not a foregone conclusion. There was now no question I had a choice to build movements that did not lead me down an automatic set of behaviours to find myself back in my old unwashed clothes.
It felt like growing up and a stepping into responsibility, seeing how much more there is to life than what we see with our eyes. I felt like I was given a whole picture and from there had an opportunity to see as an adult what I knew as a child but had shut down because no one really spoke about such things as energy.
The greatest gift the retreat has given me – and it’s crazy that it is not basic 101 –is that it is always about energy before it is about anything else. The key is going back to the awareness we had as children and re-developing it so we become discerning and build a relationship with our body that will be the marker of all truth – our truth.
Or, of course, we can also go to a retreat, enjoy, rest, discover, rebuild and go back to the way we were living before till we get another holiday or retreat moment. No one says we can’t do that. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me anymore.
By Lucy Dahill, MPH, Youth Worker, Researcher, Presenter, Sydney