Re-treat Yourself with a Personalized Retreat

Picture R-e-t-r-e-a-t.  These letters combine to make up a word with several meanings depending on what part of speech you want it to be and on what syllable you put the accent.  Generally it means to get away, usually away from something–a person, a situation, a belief.  As a verb, it means to withdraw, retire, often thought to be in haste.  As a noun, it means to go off somewhere often in seclusion to a place of refuge or privacy.  What if we instead started to look at it as moving away from, we started to look at it as toward something?  I went to to see the origin of the word “retreat” and found what I thought to be the best definition to be the first one on the page “to treat again.”  What if rather than thinking of a retreat as getting away from our every day hectic-filled, way-to-busy, fill-every-moment worrying, stressful lives run by deadlines, we look at those letters together as a way of re-treating ourselves to balancing our bodies, minds and spirits?   It seems to be a much healthier way of looking at those seven letters.

The reason I am looking at this is some of my friends have suggest that I need to get myself back into balance.  They have seen me dealing (poorly) to some things that are happening in my life.  They have seen me hiding behind the guides of helping others before and instead of doing what I need to do for myself.   When I was working at Blessed Trinity Church nearly 12 years ago), we had a staff retreat at the Siena Center; after the retreat, I stayed and walked the labyrinth that is on the grounds.  During that time, I wrote (well God had me write) my first song.  About five years ago I started going to retreats at the same center with my 12-step program.  It has become an annual event and very sacred time for me.  This year I did not go due some financial constraints, and I think not going stressed me out more than I expected.  To get to the location, I need to drive or have someone take me there, and right now that is not something I am inclined to do.  However, I am considering how I can find and create my own retreat.

This past Friday, I spent some time brainstorming with my coach Anne Wondra of WonderSpirit Coaching (  We talked about some possibilities for retreats that don’t cost a lot of money or don’t have to have a formal setting.  Since I am a list person, after that call, I decided to lay out what I would do to help create a retreat experience.  I’d like to share it with you.

Here are some how-tos: needed to have a successful personal retreat:

  • Clear your calendar of any other commitments for the period of time of your retreat.
  • Let whoever must know that you will be unavailable for whatever period of time you choose to do the retreat.  That means boss, friends, family (spouse/partner, parents, children).
  • Create an intention or a theme.
  • Decide how you want to do your retreat (structured with others or alone, speaking or silent, facilitated or non-facilitated).
  • Collect items you may want for your retreat: music, food, water, paper/pen, craft items, art supplies, medications, comfortable clothing, first aid kit, charged cell phone (for emergency only if you are off on your own), items appropriate to the environment (compass, firewood, bug repellent, sunscreen, hat, warm clothes, clothes with arm and leg covering, good and comfortable shoes, etc. )
  • Find a calm, peaceful space that has no interruptions and is comfortable for you to relax, meditate, focus on all of your senses and just being, listening and finding the “real” you.

I did an internet search for “ideas for free retreats” and found a wonderful site at  In it there are links to free guided mediations, a “Meditation Room” where is is a cool video showing to flute music that can be used as personal mediation time and many links to other free resources for creating your own retreat. Here are several other online resources for creating your own retreat:

  • The Community Tool Box for organizing a retreat (
  • Craft Ideas for a Retreat (
  • Activities to do at a women’s retreat (
  • has many more ideas at

Here are some of the location options Anne suggested to me and a few more I added afterward that may fit for you too:

  • Go to a nature preserve
  • Go to the zoo and walk around.  Laughing at animals (laughing in general) is very therapeutic.
  • Go on a nature walk and “get lost” in the woods.  That means losing track of time (but noticing the sun or setting an alarm to be sure to head out before dark) and just being with thoughts.
  • Go camping in a state forest which restricts noise and civilization amenities.  (Take your firewood, compass, emergency supplies with you.)
  • Find a place with a labyrinth that is accessible that can be walked.  Some churches have them set up somewhere on the grounds.
  • Hold a pajama day.  Prepare fun foods the day before that are comfort foods such as putting together a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup or your favorite dish or something that you really enjoy the day before so all you have to do is warm it when you are ready to eat.  Get your favorite book or rent your favorite movie from when you were a kid and cuddle up with your favorite blanket and away for a day.  Above all, turn off the phone, the computer the regular TV.
  • Create your own sacred space in your home with candles, mementoes, favorite pictures and just sit in that space for several hours, while writing, drawing, just being with yourself and letting your mind and spirit wonder and tell you whatever it needs to share.
  • Swap homes with a friend for a weekend so it seems like you are getting away.
  • Many ministers will let you sit in their church all or most of the day if you arrange it ahead of time and explain what you are trying to do.
  • Spend the day during your favorite creative activity with no interruptions (music, writing, painting, drawing, etc.)
  • Spend the weekend at a hotel or a bed and breakfast in your area where you can be pampered.  If it is at a hotel, rent a suite that has a hot tub and pool or other amenities that are relaxing (massage, spa, etc.) and order room service so you don’t have to be disturbed.
  • Spend the day at a spa or at a hotel with a spa.
  • I connected with an artist on Facebook named John Morris.  He paints beautiful scenery pictures.  If you like his art, you might be interested in buy a piece that resonates with you and will make you feel good every day you gaze at it.  His galleries are at

If you want a more structured location, go to a local retreat center and join in another organized retreat or create your own with the suggestions above.  I did an internet search for “Retreat Centers, Milwaukee” (you can do one for your area) and came up with the following for locations in and around Milwaukee:

  • Kindred Spirit Center for day individual or small group retreats (
  • Siena Center in Racine (
  • Kekoven Center in Racine (
  • Jesuit Retreat House, Oshkosh (
  • Bellarmine Hall, Barrington, Illinois (
  • Casa Romera Renewal Center, Milwaukee (
  • Redemporist Retreat Center, Oconomowoc (
  • Holy Women Monestary, Middleton (
  • St. Vincent Center, Elkhorn (

I found a few resources for structured retreats outside of Wisconsin:

  • To search for retreat houses around the United States., go to for a list of retreat locations by state.
  • Another general site to find retreats and retreat locations is Retreat Finder at
  • This link is for a retreat that sound of great interest to me as it is a creativity retreat.  Go to
  • How would you like to do a retreat in Hawaii with Shawn Galloway, that includes three dolphin excursions?  It is written up as “Take yourself on a multi-sensory journey and exploration into The Art of listening, seeing, feeling and communicating and the mind, body and Spirit connection,” More information is at
  • Another creative retreat called Create and Captivate is being held in New Mexico in March.  Info can be obtained at
  • Of course, Sedona, Arizona, and Stonehedg continues to be billed as two of the most sacred places in the world.  Many scheduled retreats happen in those areas and an internet search will link you to them.

Here is a list of a few retreat facilitators I know also: :

  • Anne Wondra, email:, phone: 262-544-4310
  • Rev. Julie Piek, on Facebook at Rei Essence LLC, phone: 414-248-0975.
  • Since I have done all of this research, am an ordained nondenominational minister and am going to create my own retreat, maybe you would like for me to create and/or facilitate one for you as well.

I think the main thing about a retreat is getting away, paying attention to all of your senses and listening to what your body and spirit are sharing.  I’m off to go plan my retreat now.

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