Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Refreshed and Renewed

In my last post, I announced that my wife and I were going on retreat, and we have now returned, renewed and refreshed after two weeks away. When we're able to afford to do so, we attend retreats, conferences or workshops several times each year---individually or as a couple---that serve our personal, emotional, spiritual or physical well-being.

You may have noticed that I did not mention professional growth in the preceding paragraph, and I want my readers to understand that that was indeed a mindful omission. Although we both also attend professional development workshops and conferences periodically, it's my belief that work- or career-related conferences generally do not offer the level of personal renewal that I seek, so they do not necessarily "count" in the way that other retreats do.

Our most recent sojourn was to the Pacific coast of Mexico for a weeklong couples' retreat geared towards deepening our emotional connection, examining our individual and collective values, rewriting our vows, and taking part in a re-commitment ceremony for our 23-year-old marriage. It was a rich, fun, and thoughtful time, and the renewal we were seeking as individuals and a couple was thoroughly accomplished with great pleasure and delight.

Although getting away to a tropical paradise is a wonderful way to reduce stress and seek personal renewal, it's not always practical nor affordable to do so. This level of retreat and travel was rare for us, and while it's not something we can do frequently, we are grateful that we had the wherewithal and priviledge to actually make it happen this year.

If flying to a remote location or going on an expensive retreat is not within your means, there are still ways to make sure that you get the rest and rejuvenation you need on a regular basis. All it takes is a commitment to carve out some time for self care, even if that simply means turning off the phone, disconnecting the internet, and pulling down the shades for a few hours of deep rest.

Beyond shutting out the world (not a bad idea from time to time!), other practices can also bring that feeling of renewal to your life with little investment of time or money. You can choose to set aside certain blocks of time where you are totally disconnected from the world and focused instead on creative or restful pursuits that feed your spirit (like drawing, writing, playing or listening to music). You can visit art galleries, take yourself to a museum, reserve a time each week for time in nature, or learn to meditate or pray and make that part of your daily routine.

For a period of about two years, my wife and I honored our mutual decision to devote every Friday to fun and pleasure. Known as "Fun Fridays", these sacrosanct days were almost entirely devoid of appointments, errands, internet and phone calls, and we spent them on local day trips, picnics, visits to museums and art galleries, and any number of other activities that we found pleasurable or nurturing. While our Fridays are now busier than they used to be, we still have certain hours of each week where we spend time together without the distractions of the telephone or the computer, and these times are sacred for us in terms of our relationship and our personal growth and well-being.

Whether you're a nurse, an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent or a person with full- or part-time employment, time for personal renewal and rejuvenation is paramount for your health on all levels. Dedication to your well-being is the best full-time job you'll ever have, and how you go about it is a very personal choice. Getting refreshed and renewed brings such a sense of wellness, whether it's a week out of town or a day in the park. Make self care a top priority, and the investment will only accrue healthy interest.

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