Individual retreats can be very powerful.
While, the energy and shared intention of a focused group creates a strong foundation for a renewing, transforming retreat, having some amount of human interaction in alternation with alone time on your retreat makes it easier to re-integrate back into your daily life when you come home.
Many individual retreats are guided.
Having a skilled guide can be an enormous help, particularly for people who lack the experience to design and execute an effective retreat for themselves. This can be particularly true when the group is small enough so that the guide personal feedback and direction to each retreatant.
I’m a natural introvert, so I’ve chosen to do countless solo retreats over the years. I tend to be able to relax more fully and receive deeper inspiration and renewal when I’m on my own.
If, like me, you’ve had a lot of experience with solo retreats, you probably don’t need a guide. But, if you’re relatively new to retreats or have done only group retreats, you might it beneficial to have a guide if you opt for a solo retreat.
Find someone you trust who will tune into your needs, not try to run you through a cookie-cutter model. A sensitive retreat guide will know when to offer guided meditations and spiritual life coaching and when you are best served by silence and being in your own space.
Preparing for a Successful Retreat
First, spend some time reflecting on why you are taking the retreat. Ask yourself, “If I have a totally wonderful retreat, what gifts might I be bringing home with me?” Perhaps you want to deepen your connection with God or to find your true purpose. Maybe you want to make positive changes in your life
From this reflection, develop and write down some clear objectives for your retreat. Aim high! Magic can happen on a retreat; you can receive just about anything your heart truly yearns for.
Next, choose a location for the retreat which is in alignment with your objectives and your needs. I love being in solitude in the mountains and desert, so I often choose to spend my retreats camping in remote areas.
If you enjoy being in nature, but you’re not a camper, you might want to stay in a motel or vacation rental located in a beautiful setting away from the city. My favorite retreat spot for the past 35 years has been Mount Shasta, because the energy on this sacred mountain is so conducive to deep meditation.
Some people prefer to stay in a retreat center. Most major metropolitan areas have a number of retreat centers, often located on beautiful, large properties in quiet areas.
The quality of your retreat will be strongly impacted by how well you prepare yourself for this special time. One key is to take care of any potential loose ends which could distract you from being fully present. To the extent possible, complete projects, get current on communications, pay bills, etc. Leave messages on your e-mail and phones indicating the dates you will be unavailable.
Do whatever you can to ready yourself physically, as well as spiritually, for the retreat. If you plan to do some vigorous hiking on your retreat, you may want to amp up your exercise program to prepare your heart, lungs, and legs for this challenge.
If you’ll be doing lots of meditation or some other spiritual practice, it’s wise to do that practice regularly in the days leading up to the retreat. You will build momentum and strengthen your focus.
Andrew Oser has been offering guided retreats and spiritual journeys on Mount Shasta since 1982. Through hikes to little-known sacred sites, guided meditations, spiritual life coaching, and time drinking in the silence of the mountain, he helps clients to deeply renew themselves in body, mind, and spirit and receive clear vision for their lives.