A couple of days ago I listened enviously as a colleague shared his recent experience of sailing and resting on the sands of San Juan. We are in the midst of our hardest winter in recent decades, and the “Minnesota Slump” has become the standard posture for many of us. What can be done if we lack the freedom, finances, and flexibility to fly away for an extended retreat?
The value of self-care is one of life’s most underestimated and ignored concepts. If you find yourself at this moment reaching for your shoulder muscles and gently squeezing them, or you just finished a white-knuckle drive that has your neck screaming, read on. Help is on the way. Whether you have just a few hours, or a few days, you can find a place of solitude within or close to the Twin Cities. The suggestions here are certainly not all-inclusive, but simply provide a starting point.
Let’s begin with the “where.” If you have just a few hours and love the outdoors, try one of our great nature centers, parks, or lake trails. Dress warmly, bring along a warm beverage, and enjoy a nice walk. Within a few hours or less you will also find a variety of retreat centers, campgrounds, and cabins. Some are very basic; others may offer a daily basket of bread & fruit; while some provide an extensive list of amenities. There is something for every lifestyle and budget.
If this is new to you, you may wonder exactly what you DO while on retreat. My basic advice is to keep it simple. If possible turn off your cell phone and leave behind any electronics. Not possible? Consider silencing the device and only checking it every few hours. Some find it helpful to journal. Paper has given way to electronics, and my iPad links via Bluetooth to a stylus. You may also want to bring a book of meditations and/or music with reflective lyrics. The most important aspect is to simply shut off the external “noise” as much as possible. This is a time for you to reflect, relax, and recharge.
I can hear you saying “but what about my children, pets, [insert other obligations]?” You may have to be creative in order to make this happen. Perhaps you have a friend that would also enjoy a half day off with whom you can share childcare responsibilities. Silence the voices that say you cannot make this happen.
No healthy touch post would be complete without pointing to the most basic retreat — what we call our “oasis on Lake Street.” For the ultimate in self-care, upgrade that massage to a 90 minute session and let the therapist know that you would love nothing more than silence and a stress-relieving session. Use that time to congratulate yourself on taking the time to take care of yourself, and leave better equipped for your next rush-hour drive. You will be glad you did!