I heard recently we touch our mobile phones on average every six minutes (when we’re awake). We see about 5000 marketing messages each day. We have multiple channels of communication coming at us, all the time. We are living in an extremely busy time. Everyone’s busy. A retreat is a good solution to this mayhem.
One major aspect of traditional naturopathy was to retreat into “sanatoriums”. These places invited complete relaxation, focused patients’ intentions on vitality and healing, and shielded them from the detrimental habits of normal life. They were places of rest and recuperation, often set amid a forest with the natural surrounds pervading the rhythms of life, which is healing in and of itself, as anyone who’s taken a day out in nature can attest.
These retreats could include a range of modalities such as hydrotherapy, nutrition, physical movement, relaxation and mindset processes prescribed to restore the bodymind back to vital health, and could last from a week to months, depending on the individual presentations. People would attend sanatoriums generally when they were chronically unwell.
The contemporary sanatorium is a health retreat, focused on rejuvenation, optimising health and providing a reprieve from incessant demands. They offer a period of rest from the constant bombardment from texts, voicemails, emails, calls and meetings, a pause from deadlines, from eating “fast” food fast, from keeping up with the washing, travelling here and there, and all the other day-to-day menial tasks we are normally obliged to do.
Retreats range in expense from exclusive high-star-rated accommodation, complete with personalised programs and individual treatment sessions, to “hippie”-style hangouts with a more communal feel, to DIY retreats at home. I highly recommend regular retreats, whatever your style.
A primary reason for retreating is that you follow a process that will lead to a healthier you and that you can surrender into. Having an experienced guide in the form of retreat staff is golden, particularly when you might feel it’s all too hard. Following a structured program during a retreat period means you don’t need to make any decisions and just go with the flow of the retreat’s unfolding. There’s no need to think about what food to eat or what to do next. A retreat structure gives you the process to follow that works, and educates you about how to better care for yourself. An experienced guide (even from a book) is necessary for a safe and effective detox.
Another reason to retreat is to return to simplicity. Rather than dart from one attention-demanding distraction to the next, a retreat allows you just one thing to do at one time. Whether that is drinking coconut water, swinging in a hammock, focusing on your breath or dry skin brushing, focusing on one thing is deliciously liberating.
Reducing distractions, being in nature and practising yoga or other relaxation exercises while consuming calming and supportive foods and liquids help to still mental chatter. Turning down the volume of that incessant monkey mind can allow you to hear other aspects of your being, like your heart and intuition. Accessing these levels of yourself can help restore genuine clarity on what is really worthy of your precious time and life energy. It is phenomenal to access the grace of the present moment.
When your mind slows down you gain access to the spaciousness and intricacy in each moment. This is the environment that is conducive to deeper cleansing and toxin elimination. It’s also a space from which to plan new strategies and patterns to better respond to what “real” life throws at you.
Group retreats also provide a support from others who are following a mutual goal or intention. Support of other people is so valuable, even a silent presence. It can provide access to new understandings and gives an opportunity to empathise, connect or motivate. Retreating with a buddy helps keep you on track after the retreat, too.
Stresses of modern life increase oxidative stress on our bodyminds, causing ageing and depleting energy supplies. A time of liquid fasting can accelerate natural healing processes and allow deposits into accrued sleep debt. When a clear intention has been set and a nourishing detox plan prepared, even a short retreat can be revolutionary.
Perhaps we need to bring back sanatoriums into mainstream medicine? Maybe the epidemic of chronic diseases would benefit from this? Perhaps the commonly inane and destructive busy-ness of modern life will be changed to affect the trajectory of planetary upheaval somewhat? Or maybe we can simply bring mini retreats into our day-to-day lives? I suggest switching off your phone for a few hours, lying under a tree, sipping on a cold-pressed vegetable juice and leaning your mind toward the sweet moment of now, and see what happens.
Sally Mathrick is a practising naturopath. She has authored the Sparkle Wellness & Detox e-Guide, available at sparklewell.com.au