This is the third post in my blog series about recharging and resetting your life, what I call retreating.
Crouched on the grassy hill in the rolling countryside of Devon, England, I braced myself against the sharp wind and intermittent rain. Even though I was wearing two layers plus a rain shell, the blustery weather seeped through the zipper in my jacket and up under my back. I was shivering, damp, and loving it. Why? In my lap I cradled a deer’s head while she lay on the ground, pregnant with a difficult birth. The veterinarian was on his way to help. As an American volunteer at a private red deer park, I was experiencing the life of James Herriot, whose books about being an animal doctor in post-WWII England are among my all-time favorites. For me, this was the perfect retreat from college-student life for a semester. How did I get to do it? Find out in next week’s post.
Have you ever thought this: When I have the time to go away, I don’t have the money. When I have the money, I don’t have the time.
It’s a catch-22 but mostly of our own making. I’ll explain.
Time and money used to be my enemies because I falsely believed there wasn’t enough of either. That began to change when a friend introduced me to the concept that life is a result of our input. From our emotional state to our job, where we live, and whether we enjoy life is largely down to us as individuals. We co-create (with the higher power of our choice) our experiences based on our beliefs, attitudes, and especially our response to situations.
Yes, the hand we’re dealt at birth and growing up plays a huge role. Socio-economic status and physical and mental abilities can heavily influence our experience. Yet, there are countless stories of people who have beat all odds to live a fulfilling life or even become massive successes. But it is our response to and attitude about what life throws at us that can make or break us. Volumes have been written on this topic, so I won’t here.
As for my perceived enemies, time and money, gradually I changed my attitude about them. And guess what? I began finding the time and resources to do and have things that I thought were out of reach. The other result was that new fears popped up, mostly centered around guilt or obligation. They were like little devils trying to prevent me from enjoying life. The ego will do anything to keep us “in our (deprived) place.” Do yourself a life-changing favor and ignore the noise! Having the ability to experience shame when it’s appropriate and deserved is a good thing; guilt just beats you up for no reason. Fulfilling promises and commitments honestly and freely given is healthier than feeling obligated, especially when the obligation’s parents are pressure and guilt.
The benefits of my new outlook snowballed. Sure, dips happen, but my life’s trajectory keeps moving upward thanks to my attitude and my commitment to stay positive. Tenacity also helps. However, I don’t improve without support. Periodic retreats, long and short, have given me the breaks and personal tools I need to make big decisions, see things from another perspective, and grow as a person.
If you think that going on retreat is a luxury, I invite you to reconsider. Funds may be tight, but it’s all about priorities. Yes, retreating might be a luxury if you’re eyeballing two weeks at a health spa in Sedona. But you don’t have to go to exotic places for a five-star treatment to benefit from retreating. You have plenty of less expensive options for the same—or better—gains.
If you think you don’t have time for retreating, I say you can’t afford NOT to take time off from your daily life to care for yourself.
Do you know why flight attendants instruct us to secure our own oxygen mask first and then help others? Because we’re going to be pretty useless trying to help dependents with their needs then pass out from lack of oxygen ourselves—or from exhaustion or stress or some health issue that requires rest or worse, time in the hospital.
You are no good to your dependents if you don’t take care of yourself as well. (Search “caregiver stress syndrome” online. And it doesn’t just apply to people looking after the sick and elderly. You can suffer from the demands of raising a plain ‘ole family.)
Pro tip: Replace “I don’t have the time” with “I’ll try to make the time” and “I don’t have the money” with “How can I make this happen?” Then see what happens.
Unconscious beliefs are strong, even if false. That’s why you have to consciously replace self-defeating thoughts with ones that better serve you. You have to be vigilant to catch yourself from backsliding until your new, positive thought patterns become the norm.
Know this: Ain’t no one gonna care about you as much as you and your mamma. And there comes a time when there’s only so much your mamma can do. So it’s pretty much down to you to look after you.
So how do you afford a retreat with bills and jobs and families? Money-wise it’s easier than you think. You just have to be creative if your budget doesn’t include a Me Time bucket. Time-wise it’s about setting priorities. I’m not talking about months away at an ashram in India, unless you can do that. You can do a daylong, free, retreat in your own home town and benefit greatly.
You can finance retreats by various means using the following strategies:
- Regularly setting aside small amounts of money for when opportunities arise
- Volunteering to help behind the scenes while also participating or in exchange for room and board
- Asking about grants and other concessions
- Creating your own retreat for free or little cost
Caring for yourself is NOT a luxury. It’s not something you can wait to do after the kids leave home or after you retire or after the person you’re nursing dies. And one way to get that self-care is by retreating, even if just for a few hours a week.
Next week, I’ll dive deeper into some strategies for helping finance a retreat, including creating your own retreat for little or no money.
Read my memoir about a two-year retreat I took in Scotland.