What about the word ‘retreat?’


Are you one of those people who don’t like the word ‘retreat’?

Perhaps you don’t like that the concept suggests we must retreat from life in order to reconnect and replenish, to re-establish ourselves or recommit to how we want to live. Your ideal is that life is lived at a contented and sustainable pace, and you aim to live the ideal. Bravo!

It’s true. We can reconnect while we’re right in the middle of everyday life. Ultimately, this is what we must do in order to live our chosen life – conscious daily choices about how to fill the minutes and the hours. And not beating ourselves when we have a day of crazy, but starting again from that moment of realisation, to live your day of peace. (Or whatever feeling you’re aiming for.)

But it’s harder to crack the habits from inside those habits, which is why many people go on retreat.

Yet it takes some effort to transfer your learning from within a retreat to the outside world. After the post-retreat bliss, what next? A dreary mood can follow, when you don’t keep up with the writing, yoga, eating, meditation, reading, skipping, singing, dancing, nature, lack of children… or whatever combination made you feel at peace and alive during retreat.

That’s why a good retreat always allocates time and energy to establishing ways to transfer the learnt skills, knowledge and feelings into life. The only thing worse than a ‘bad’ retreat is a good retreat that doesn’t end well.

It’s a bit like a good book. The start is vital; otherwise you won’t keep reading. But don’t let the reader down at the end!

According to many dictionaries, the first listing for the word retreat has a military connotation – to retreat away from one’s enemy in order to survive. Perhaps this can serve as a dramatic metaphor for the fast lives many people live?

I like the idea that retreat can be broken down into two parts: ‘re’ and ‘treat’. It suggests to me that treats need to be repeated, again and again. And that if we get waylaid, we can always begin again. That we can always begin again is something I’ve learnt from my own writing coach Jennifer Louden, who I retreated with last month.


May your words pour onto the page,

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