Why Women Need Retreats
Recently I attended the Ninefold Festival, a women’s spiritual retreat, and as I was returning home, I reflected on how rejuvenated I felt. At one point, I texted my husband to thank him for being supportive of my desire to attend the retreat. I believe every woman needs to attend a women-only retreat at least once a year, whether it is spiritual, crafty, business, or even just a weekend away. Here’s why:
- Build connections and community
Women need connections with other women in order to thrive. We need to know that we’re the not the only ones who feed our kids cereal for dinner after a hectic day or who are dreaming of going — or are actually going — back to school. We need to share things with other women that only women will understand–everything from health concerns to how our mother-in-law is treating us to our teenaged daughter’s antics.* We need to build or renew friendships, because, let’s face it, it’s hard to have more than one or two friends that you see on a regular basis. Having a community of women to reach out to when life gets hard will sometimes be the difference between a mental breakdown and getting through a situation.
Retreats aren’t (usually) just about drinking wine and braiding each other’s hair. Frequently on a retreat, women find themselves. They do not have to be anything for anyone else except themselves. They can pinpoint the reasons behind their feelings and actions. Do not be surprised if you go on a retreat and make some life-altering decisions when you get home. Sometimes those decisions are small, such as being more aware where you are spending your time and energy, or just finally cleaning out that basement. Sometimes the decision is bigger, like starting a new business, starting or changing careers, or returning to school. Women give so much of themselves to others that having time for self-reflection allows them to clearly see what they want and need to be fulfilled.
- Spiritual and/or personal growth
Most retreats have a specific purpose, such as understanding more about your spiritual path or business. Personal development plays a huge role in any type of learning. At a retreat, you get immersed in spiritual or personal growth that is intertwined with learning the history of sacred places or networking strategies. You can learn all the networking strategies in the world but they won’t work for you if you aren’t working on becoming a better person. Stretching your soul may hurt a little, but it will feel amazing as you find your potential.
Regardless of the primary purpose of the retreat, a woman will return home feeling a little like she just spent a weekend at the spa, only without the glowing skin (unless it really was a spa retreat). Her soul will be revitalized. She will feel like she can be a better daughter/wife/mother/employee/business owner. Ideas will suddenly flow about solving issues that have been bothering her for months, and she will feel energetic about life in general. Attending a retreat is like drinking fresh cold water on a muggy day and having it infuse your body with vitality. Only it’s your soul that gets the drink.
Which of these reasons make you want to attend a retreat?
If the speakers at the retreat have recommended reading or resources, take note of them and begin to work through the list when you get home. Learning and growth do not stop at the end of the weekend unless you choose to ignore everything you just experienced. Make an effort to connect with the women you met on a regular basis to keep those relationships thriving.
Factors to consider when searching for a retreat include topics, location, cost, and timing. It can be a little daunting to attend a retreat if you do not know anyone there. Sometimes it is good to get a friend to go with you but plan on spending some time apart during the weekend as you both get to know new friends.
When looking for a retreat, start with those that are either of your faith or interests. Ask your religious organization if they have retreats or know of any in the area. Do you love yoga? Search for yoga retreats. I’ve seen retreats on scrapbooking, food preservation, quilting, nutrition, marriage, parenting… the list is limitless.
Your schedule will dictate if the dates of the retreat will work for you. It may not be feasible in three months to go to that quilting retreat because it’s also the weekend of your son’s graduation, but make a note of when registration opens for next year and then search for another retreat that you may be able to attend this year.
I can already hear some of you saying that a retreat is beyond your budget. Most retreats that I’ve attended are around $350, and that includes room and board. I know for some people that can still seem out of reach. Many organizations have scholarship programs available, and if they do not advertise that they have scholarships available, it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask if they have financial assistance. Finding a retreat close to home will also help with reducing travel costs.
Finally, do a little digging and make sure the organization putting on the retreat has a protocol in place for not allowing discrimination or judgment at the retreat. You need to feel safe to express your innermost thoughts and feelings with the other women and that can’t happen if there’s cattiness or criticism. Safe space should be a non-negotiable requirement. If you can, ask previous attendees what they experienced at the retreat.
Above all else, have fun and be open-minded when you attend a retreat. Know that these events usually draw women from all different backgrounds and their opinions and beliefs may not be the same as yours. Learn from them, take away things that you feel will help you, and share with them so they can do the same. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the experience and give yourself permission to relax. Your soul will thank you.
*This isn’t to say that men cannot understand what a woman is going through. There are a lot of fabulously empathic male partners out there. However, how a woman talks to another woman is not the same as how she talks to her partner regardless of how understanding he is.