Weekend retreat

We may still be in lockdown here in the UK, like much of the world, but we do have a four day weekend to enjoy. Without the ability to hang out with friends, go on holiday, or simply take a long walk followed by a pub lunch, however, you may well ask what to do with this time.

I don’t know about you, but the stress and anxiety of the current pandemic and other global crises have taken their toll on me. Without realising it, I’ve fallen into a bit of a phone addiction, compulsively checking the live news updates, which of course then increase the initial stress and anxiety. And the less said about my (lack of) exercise and snacking habits the better!

So, one thing I want to do over this weekend is create my own weekend retreat. In fact, I’m writing this on Thursday in advance of my usual Sunday posting, so that I can take a proper break this weekend.

In Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World, Deborah Blake writes about creating what she calls a “hibernation vacation”:

“A hibernation vacation is a way to give yourself the gift of time: recharge your internal battery and hit the reboot button on some of your daiy patterns that could use shaking up…Turn off your phone, stay off the internet, only watch fun things on the TV (no news, for Goddess’s sake!). Read a book. Make a list of the things you want to do for yourself that you never have time for, and then do them”.

Writing for Medium, Gesshin Claire Greenwood explores How to Create a DIY Wellness Weekend:

“I want to clarify that when I say “wellness,” I don’t mean losing weight. I do not believe “clean eating” leads to happiness. Feminists and other thinkers are finally onto the connection between wellness and weight loss. When I say “wellness,” I mean mental wellbeing; I mean vitality, joy, and presence. I mean, in the words of my psychology professor, “aliveness.””

So how do you create the space for a Wellness Weekend? The key, according to Greenwood, is intention, planning and scheduling:

“I recommend making an hourly schedule and sticking to it. Schedules are an integral part of monastic life, and by extension, in modern meditation retreats. “Just follow the schedule” is a common adage in Zen centers. Following a schedule takes the pressure off of deciding what to do when, and enables us to be fully immersed in the moment.”

A weekend with nothing to do, hours and whole days stretching out ahead of us, may seem like bliss in ordinary times, but for those of us starting to get cabin fever from social isolation, it can be a cause of genuine anxiety and is all too easy to whittle away scrolling Twitter and getting more stressed. Planning activities in advance helps by taking the cognitive load off in the moment, rather than coming up with spur of the moment ideas. It’s the same reason why I plan all my meals for the week on Sunday night instead of staring at the fridge wondering what to cook each day.

My weekend retreat involves pottering around in the garden, planting seeds for new veggies and wildlife-friendly flowers, reading books – I’m currently working through a book on mindfulness recommended by my therapist as well as reading The Salmon in the Spring: the Ecology of Celtic Sprituality by Jason Kirkey and, for good measure, relaxing with some Dan Brown thrillers (yes, they’re clunky and problematic, but they’re also great fun!), taking walks when I can and otherwise just resting.

The weekend retreat doesn’t have to be hard-core meditation, rituals and yoga the whole time. I don’t get on too well with formal meditation for example, but love observing nature. It can be as simple as just taking the time, actually blocking off the time, to relax, to take the pressure off doing and enjoy simply being. As Gesshin Claire Greenwood says:

“Be kind to yourself, and treat the weekend as an experiment in living fully and compassionately in the present moment.”

Have a restful weekend, and look after yourselves and each other!



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