I have just returned from a 5 day silent retreat in Scotland. The two weeks prior to going on the retreat I have to confess were full of unexpected difficulties. At times I wondered if I was doing the right thing, taking time out at a time when it seemed people were reliant on me. I wondered if I should cancel the retreat but as it is part of my accreditation as a mindfulness teacher, my wonderful family rallied round and made it possible for me to go.
Going on the retreat reinforced one of the lessons we teach on our mindfulness courses. Self care is extremely important. If we need to care for other people in our lives, we must make sure that we also take good care for ourselves. This helps use to give our very best to the people who need us most. Beyond this though, the retreat gave me an opportunity to slow down. In that slowing down I had space to recognise the underlying patterns in my life. I was able to review my priorities and intuitively recognise the things I may need to change to move forward mindfully with happiness, fulfilment and resilience.
The Idea of a Mindful Mini Home Retreat
This got me thinking that we should all have the opportunity to go on a regular retreat. How much would the world would benefit if this became a reality? I know that often in our lives it is difficult to go away like this for personal, family, work and financial reasons, but there are things we can all do in our lives to refresh and revive.
Whilst I was away I heard about a lady who decided to take a retreat at home. She simply told everyone she was going away, turned her phone off and spent her time running her own mini retreat quietly in her own home.
So how would it be if every month we all treated ourselves to a “mini home retreat”? Find a morning, afternoon or evening when you know that you won’t be disturbed. Turn off your phone and follow some of the ideas that I have listed for you below. Many of these ideas use tools you learn and develop on an 8 week mindfulness course, but feel free to have a go at some of these activities even if you haven’ tried them before and enjoy exploring which work for you.
Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation
Anyone who has attended an 8 week course will have got quite proficient at this simple meditation. It is enormously grounding and settling. Simply find a comfortable place to sit, ideally in an upright and alert position with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Close you eyes and allow your mind to follow your breath. The aim is not to change or control your breath at all, it is just to be interested in how your breath is in this moment. And then the next moment. Be still and watch how it changes breath by breath. If you get distracted by thoughts, that’s OK, it happens to everyone. As soon as you notice you have been distracted by thinking, see if you can let the thoughts go and settle your attention back on following your breath. If you have learnt other meditations on an 8 week course feel free to choose the mediation you think will support you best at this moment or practice a second meditation during your mini retreat.
Take yourself for a slow mindful walk around the house, around the garden or even a little further afield if the weather is pleasant. On my retreat I found a small lane with beautiful mountain views which I walked up and down every day and this became on of my favourite daily moments. Bring all your focus into your feet and notice the contact each foot makes with the ground. If you get distracted, that is OK just bring all your attention back to your feet and their contact with the ground every time you notice you are distracted.
Mindful Tea Drinking
Take time to mindfully prepare yourself a drink of tea, or any other drink you enjoy. Once the tea is ready, find a warm, comfortable place to sit. Now with the intention of keeping all your attention on your tea drinking, take your time to slowly drink and enjoy your tea. Remember to use all your senses to enjoy and appreciate your tea, watching the tea in the cup, feeling the warmth, smelling the aromas and tasting all the different flavours contained in the tea before sensing its warmth slipping down your throat.
If you have taken a mindfulness course you will have learnt a variety of mindful movements, so feel free to practice these during your “mini home retreat”. If you practice yoga or tai chi incorporate some of these movements. Listen deeply to your body and mind to see which movements will serve you best in this moment.
You may like to spend a little time reading from a favourite mindfulness book or reading some mindfulness poetry. If you have taken an 8 week course perhaps spend some time reviewing one of the chapters from the mindfulness book you used to support the course.
Take a little time to write in a journal. Reflect on your experience of taking some mindful time for yourself and what it has taught you. Keeping a journal and reflecting on your experiences day by day can be a very great support for anyone developing a mindfulness practice in their daily life.
If you have completed an 8 week course and learnt how to do a body scan, it is a lovely way to end your “mini home retreat” .
If time permits you may also like to incorporate some mindful eating of something lovely, healthy and light, maybe a warm, aromatic bath and depending on the time of day a nourishing early night.
Hopefully I have inspired you with some of these ideas to put together your own mini retreat. I hope you can make the time in your schedule to try out these ideas and I would love to hear from you how you get on.