There is a long tradition in the mindfulness community of “leaving one’s homeland” – traveling to a quiet, secluded place away from the distractions and attachments of daily life – in order to focus exclusively on practice and reflection. Retreats provide a unique opportunity to deepen concentration and cultivate insight. Most dedicated mindfulness practitioners include annual or bi-annual retreats as part of their training.
Going on retreat is a part of many spiritual paths including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism. Yoga teachers also often offer retreats as a method of total immersion in the eight-limbed path. Retreat accommodations are usually simple, providing basic meals and involving communal living. However, the natural environment in which a retreat is located is often quite peaceful and inspiring. Retreats are designed to allow participants to exist simply, relax and let go of the business of the conventional world.
How far away from home we wander and how long we stay is less important than how completely we release ourselves from worldly distractions. Are friends and family on board with our plans, honoring our intention to disconnect completely? Will we leave our devices behind and switch off our cell phones? Do we make arrangements for the tasks of everyday life to be outsourced or put on hold while we are away?
We are looking for happiness and running after it in such a way that creates anger, fear and discrimination. So when you attend a retreat, you have a chance to look at the deep roots of this pollution of the collective energy that is unwholesome. – Thich Nhat Hanh
The Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM) understands the importance of going on retreat to deepen a practice and we do our best to offer several opportunities each year. Although, there are a number of religiously based organizations here locally offering affordable retreats, MAM hopes to increasingly fill the gap for the secular community. Here is a partial list of some of the other local organizations offering retreat experiences for your consideration: