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Retreats Revive Mind, Body, and Spirit

From taking a spiritual retreat to unplugging at home, escaping from everyday distractions can help restore balance to your life.

Communing With Nature continued...

But one of the simplest, most effective, and free ways to revitalize mind and body is to rediscover the great outdoors.

Spending countless hours in our offices, cars, and houses, many of us have lost touch with nature, and consequently, ourselves. Simply being outside, inspired by the scenery, fosters contemplation and changes perspective. Fresh air, trees, and bird songs are all deeply restorative; no wonder retreat centers are situated in beautiful natural mountain, forest, or ocean settings. But it’s not always possible to get away from it all. Fortunately, most big cities have escapes -- botanical gardens, nature preserves, and parks -- that offer a respite from hectic lives. 

Parks is especially fond of the silent retreats she has taken at Kanuga, an Episcopal retreat center in North Carolina, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta. She also carves out regular time for mini-nature retreats at Stone Mountain Park and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, both in the metro-Atlanta area. The attraction? Reconnecting with nature.

“Whether I’m strolling the grounds at Kanuga or walking the trails at the Chattahoochee, communing with nature in silence and stillness is restorative. I live amidst this [environment] and it’s just as valid as going somewhere exotic. I give myself over to what’s exotic in my own neighborhood.”

DIY Retreats: Strategies for Taking Time Out at Home

Many people seek out mind-body retreats to jump-start a “personal retreat” program they can incorporate into their everyday lives at home. Do-it-yourself retreats range from self-care and yoga, to meditation and aromatherapy, breathwork, journaling, and mindful living.

For the time-pressed, learning to "unitask" vs. multitask might represent a retreat. For the uber-connected, unplugging electrical devices can provide renewal. For the office-bound, spending time outside is replenishing. For those who usually eat on the run, a meal prepared with fresh ingredients, served on beautiful china and consumed at leisure, could provide a much-needed respite. For harried office workers who sit in front of a computer all day, a cooling eye mask and headphones to listen to a favorite aria is a sensory vacation.

“Many people use a retreat as a springboard to make permanent changes in terms of getting balance back into their lives,” Shamir tells WebMD. “Part of going somewhere is going somewhere without distractions, to think, to focus on a goal, whether it is to make a big decision -- many people are at a crossroads -- or get some rest.”

But how can you sustain the wisdom gained at a retreat -- even after the day-to-day craziness of life has crept back in?

“When we get ahead of ourselves, we burn out and can’t sustain,” Shamir says. “We rush to yoga to relax! You have to decipher what is practical for you.”

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