Have you ever given yourself a retreat — time out from obligations, time to be nurtured and to reconnect with yourself?

If so, you may imagine or hope that the retreat will be peaceful, with no disruptions. But this may not be the case.

I began writing this post to you from the wild west coast beach where I was taking a retreat.

To my surprise, I walked right into a storm. As you can see from the photo above, the storm robbed land and sky of all colour.

At night the sea rolled with a rumbly roar while the wind, at a higher pitch, whined like the scraping of silk or whirled like the breath of a giant blowing down a long tube. I could hear it tearing at the tree tops while rain and sometimes hail lashed the walls and windows of my chalet.

And yet . . . 

Yet, amidst all this fury from the elements, I felt still and at peace.
What a surprise!
Have you ever experienced this — peace in the eye of the storm, or exhilaration even?

How could this be?

Turbulence and mayhem raged around me, but were not of me.
I picked up my coloured pencils and began to draw a mandala.
Piha mandala 1


The witness

I had entered the witness state, recognised in many spiritual traditions: a state where you watch the drama rather than joining it.
Sometimes you have to work very consciously to release attachments or distractions and enter the witness state. At other times it arrives spontaneously as an unexpected gift.
This is where true retreat lies: in that space of infinite freedom within.

Drama wants you to join in


Drama loves to draw more and more actors on to its stage — especially you!
I often talk to people who feel bombarded by the dramas of others. Some of these people get caught up in trying to solve and fix. They charge in like fire-fighters trying to extinguish a fire that will quickly flare up again: here, there, everywhere.
Piha mandala 2



Retreat happens on the inside, and can take place at any moment when you are able to disengage from the drama, to stop still and focus on the breath.
Sometimes this feels too hard. Quite apart from your personal life, the world stage is full of drama and frightening events. When life has become too overwhelming, retreat may also need the support of physical removal, time in nature, or a change of surroundings.

We all need to find a place of safety, from which we can contact the still place inside. From this stillness you can come into a sense of being held by something greater. In such a place you can give over having to fix, control or even understand. You can let yourself be lovingly held as you return to equilibrium, groundedness and security.

Piha mandala 3


Return to wholeness

Then your own personal resources such as wisdom, strength, or resilience become available once more. These resources shine into the dark places like sunlight blessing the earth after a storm.
It is as if birdsong fills the air. Savagery settles, calm returns, and balance is restored as you access what is good, loving and trustworthy.
Holding the knowledge of both hate and love, danger and safety, grimness and laughter, you pick up a hoe and till the earth, preparing to sow a new crop for the coming season.

Retreat is a form of pause—it is a time apart in solitude, a precious space in which we can see our world in a different light.
—Joan Anderson 


Would you like to take a personal retreat in your own home?

It’s not too late for The Winter Attunement, a one-hour home ritual that will take you into a replenishing connection with your own self.
It can be profoundly satisfying to take a dive within, to align with the season and to discover the gift of awareness that awaits you at the end of winter.
To find out more, click here.