Five Ways Retreats Can Change Your Life

Five Ways Retreats Can Change Your Life

Dec 02 2019

How to experience more by doing less.

I recently attended an international women’s conference featuring personal development, leadership, life purpose and international women’s rights speakers from around the world. From authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Marianne Williamson to journalist activists Lisa Ling and Zainab Salbi (founder of Women for Women International)–everyone stressed the importance of regularly stepping back from your life to re-assess where you are, where you’re headed and if it’s time for a course-correction.

One of my favorite personal mantras is, “From stillness comes discernment.” If we don’t regularly take time to pause and ask the hard questions (i.e. what in my life is working for me and what’s not?), we find ourselves living a robotic life that is joyless and rote.

Hands down, I believe retreats are one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

Stephen Cope, MSW, author and director of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, says retreats don’t change our lives as much as they change where we stand in relationship to our lives—and our capacity to see the hidden possibilities there.

Whether it’s a one-day personal retreat at a nearby greenbelt or a weekend or week-long experience in the mountains or by the sea–retreats have become key to helping me map out my next steps. I consider them to be as essential to balanced living as oxygen. But they take planning, courage and a commitment to step off the hamster wheel, even if just for a bit. I take retreats because they help me:

Navigate career/life transitions

By gathering with others in a supportive, validating environment, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and everyone goes through periods of their life when they feel lost, uncertain and are having trouble finding their way back home. And this realization can make all the difference in how you experience the journey.

Gain a shift in perspective

This intentional time provides me with the “30,000 foot view” and reminds me that, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer.

Fill my well

Navigating our 24/7 modern lives and living in a culture that rarely “unplugs,” means we need to find ways to recalibrate our bodies, minds and spirits and return to our natural rhythms. Retreats offer the chance to experience a digital detox and deep “to-the-bones” replenishment, rest and renewal. This is key to sustainable living.

Hear what I most need to hear and gain clarity/focus around how and where to direct my energy, time and talents in the coming months or year

I believe we all inherently know what is best for us, we just rarely slow down or get quiet enough to hear this inner wisdom–often this comes right to the surface when we’re on a retreat.

Learn to ask for and receive support

Giving myself permission to drop my personae, “come as you are,” and receive help from like-minded people who see the highest and best in me is freeing, exhilarating and it reminds me of who I really am. We’re all one another’s teachers; often the biggest “pearls” from a retreat experience come from other retreat participants who are sitting just a few feet away.

I’m currently exploring how and where I am best meant to serve in the decades to come. As I sit with, “What is uniquely mine to do?” and examine various opportunities coming my way, I make it a point to take a one-day retreat every 90 days so I can sit thoughtfully with this question. Additionally, once or twice a year, I take a guided retreat and allow myself to be “held” in a healing space by others who are figuring out all the logistics! Retreats are powerful and life-changing and they’re one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

Written by Renee Peterson Trudeau for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to