The Necessity of Hope or How Pandora Screwed with Us
No Silly Fears

The Cheap Retreat, or how to chill out without breaking the bank

My husband and I are going on a retreat. We both need a break from the demands of a busy life, he working as a Certified Personal Trainer and Livestrong facilitator at the Y , and I as a writer, writing novels and poetry books; launching memoirs and online courses; attending events and book groups. The holidays are coming. It is only going to get – more. I was going to say ‘ worse’ but there is nothing worse about our lives, it’s just that they are so full. Our cups are literally overflowing. We need to sit back, take a sip, and bring the levels down. So, we are going on retreat.

The deal is, though, we don’t have a lot to spend. We have allocated funds elsewhere, on trips abroad and to the Southwest, and until another ship comes in, well let’s just say our lifebelts are about as tight as they can be. But is that going to stop us? No, why should it? Serenity and peace of mind are not for sale. With a little creativity you can have a Canyon Ranch Spa experience right in your own home, without the hassle of travel or the stress of so much money spent. Here is how we plan to do it:

  1. Block out a number of days on our calendars when we will schedule no outside visits, calls, or appointments. This is our sacred time. We picked four days. November 10-13. That seemed like it would be just enough without getting to be too much.
  2. Tell our friends and family that we are going to be off the grid for those days. Leave one option for emergencies only. ( You can even go so far as to stop the mail for a week if you choose to.)
  3. The day or two before beginning the retreat, we will do all the laundry in the house and straighten up so there are no chores waiting to be done. Just act as if we are going out of the country. Create a clean, tidy environment.
  4. Plan our meals ahead and do all the shopping we need for the duration. Make packages in the freezer that we can pull out when we need them. If you don’t want to cook over the retreat, prepare several meals ahead. I am going to make a giant pot of white bean and chicken chili that we can eat with salad from a bag. Cheap. Satisfying. Delicious. Above all, easy. If you enjoy cooking, let that be a part of your retreat experience.
  5. If it is seasonal, bring in firewood and prepare a fire to be lit at a later time. No fireplace? Bring on the pillar candles and votives. Create atmosphere. We happen to have both a hearth and a plethora of candles. The key will be not to burn the house down!
  6. On the day the retreat starts, turn off our cell phones. Period. Leave them off for the duration of the retreat. Once the momentary panic over missing something has left, I imagine that a delicious sense of freedom will descend. I can feel it already. My senses perk up. We will find yourself interested in new things. Or, if you can’t bear the thought of that long without your phone, turn it on for one hour during the day, to check all those vital messages you have missed.
  7. Ditto laptops or tablet.
  8. As you float through the day, allow yourself to listen to calming music, read an engaging book, knit, nap, make love with your partner. The idea is to not force yourself to do anything. Just float. If it is hot and you have access to water, literally float on the pool. If you desire to be outside, sit or walk, but gently, without purpose. Simply be walking, not exercising. These are days of rest. Another soothing activity is taking photographs. The action of photographing keeps you in the moment and can be very relaxing. One thing I intend to do is to straighten my son’s room. At the moment, it is not tidy. That disturbs my serenity. As an exercise in meditation, I will straighten his room. I can only imagine how good that will feel when I am done! And then I will take a bubble bath, the perfect end to a perfect day.
  9. Above all else, let this be a time when the ‘shoulds’ are muted and you listen only to your inner voice guiding you. Be mindful. Stay in touch with the way your body feels, the way your mind is going. No judgement, just observation. Be gentle with yourself, and kind.
  10. I, personally, am going to journal during my retreat, not as work but as a way to be present in what I am doing. I’m sure that my husband won’t, and you might elect not to do so either. I am just saying, for me, journaling is a way take photographs with words, to notice my inner and outer landscape. Above all, journaling will give me something to look back on and reflect where I have been for four days, like a travel log.

I have no expectations for this retreat, but I am looking forward to some smooth, uninterrupted time, some quiet days to simply breathe and be. So, friends, please consider us checked out from November 10-13. We haven’t gone to Disney. We didn’t hop a plane to St. John’s. We aren’t on the slopes in Austria enjoying early snow, though it sounds like snow here with the quiet simply sifting down. We are in our living room, sitting in front of the fire, reading books and dozing as the dogs snore at our feet. We are gathering stamina for the holidays ahead and for the new year that, by all rights, promises to be a very full.

So, I'll let you know how it went when we "get back."  Happy peace and serenity to you!

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