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    Need a Stress Break? Consider a Retreat

    cc1Does the idea of a vacation simply cause you more stress? Do you think about all the extra hours you have to work to finish deadlines before you go? Then there are the tourist crowds, airport lines, a crazy busy activity list, and the expense of hotel stays. Maybe you need a real getaway from the hassle of traditional “vacation” stress, by taking a short retreat instead.

    What makes a retreat different from simply getting away? The first thing that comes to mind is the quiet. A good retreat center offers you a place where you don’t need to do anything, you can simply be. No to do list, no barrage of noise, and depending on how removed from the world you want to be, sometimes no Wi-Fi or cell phone coverage. You can’t bring your job with you to a retreat. That’s part of the idea.

    A retreat can last a day, a weekend, or longer. First time retreat goers are sometimes surprised at how refreshed they feel in a short time. One good day of quiet in a lovely environment can relieve weeks of stress…even the fun-stress of a week at a theme park or on the road with your kids.

    Finding your best get-away

    To get the most from your experience, retreats come in a variety of styles. Look for a retreat where you would be most comfortable, and which is best apt to help you relieve whatever stress you have. Here are a few options:

    Faith based retreats can be either guided retreats with a simple structure of prayer or meditation times, or totally independent. Some centers offer the help of a spiritual adviser to get you started and help you along, or they can simply provide a spiritual atmosphere where you can participate as you please. Many centers offer all these choices, so every visitor’s experience may be uniquely their own.

    Yoga retreats usually incorporate group sessions of physical yoga exercise with periods of guided meditation. In between sessions, attendees can spend time walking, meditating on their own, or simply enjoying the stillness.

    Seminar style retreats are the least independent, and least quiet. Usually led by a speaker or spiritual leader, they tend to focus on opening up new ways of thinking for participants. They often involve a number of presentations, followed by group activities for listeners to try out some of the new tools they have learned.

    Totally self-styled quiet retreats are offered by a number of retreat houses which are not affiliated with any outside organizations. They offer no programs or guidance, but a lot of peace and quiet, in a more rustic and removed atmosphere than a standard hotel. The simple rooms and food, limited amenities and no maid service, also tend to make them less expensive than hotels.

    How do you find a retreat center?

    If you belong to a faith tradition, checking within your local organization is an excellent place to start. Most religious retreat centers can be found in lists by faith. It is important to remember, though, that you do not need to be a member of any organized religion to attend most of their retreat centers. You just need to be comfortable being in that particular environment, and respectful of where you are.

    Check near your home. If you don’t have much time, you might do well to look for a retreat center within easy driving distance. Some centers offer “quiet days,” where all you have to do is register, attend, and absorb the silence. And they might only be minutes away.

    Find a beautiful spot you feel will refresh you. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona. Or some mountain top hide-out with a 360 degree view. My favorite retreat house is on the coast of Maine. Wherever it is, spending time in nature (without the discomfort of tents, or fellow campers who brought their TVs), is good for your stress levels and your soul.

    Try the internet. The web is full of listings for retreat centers, by location, by faith or activity style, and other choices. Look carefully over their offerings. If a center defines itself as a “corporate retreat center and resort,” it is probably not geared for a lot of spiritual contemplation. Then check out any references or recommendations from people on the web, and from people you know.

    See if the retreat center has a purpose. To get the most out of your retreat, look for a center that shares the worldview or spiritual atmosphere you want to experience. As an example, here is what the website for the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center says they endeavor to provide:

    Vision Statement

    “A Sacred Space” for persons seeking to encounter God in solitude, in stillness, in the beauty of nature, in the healing rhythm of the ocean and in the presence of a praying Community.”

    (From http://mariejosephspiritual.org/ )

    When you need to relieve your stress, a day spent in any such healing environment might do you a world of good.

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