The Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) experience is built on three pillars: (1) a community of peers, (2) a cutting edge curriculum, and (3) reflection about what matters most.
We often talk about the importance of our shared community; and our curriculum is at the center of everything we do. Today, we’re focusing on that third pillar: reflection about what matters most.
In addition to facilitating retreats for alumnae of the WLF program, I am also very intentional about carving out time for my own retreats and reflection. In one particular personal retreat, I went to Boulder, Colorado, where I spent a day working one-on-one with a wonderful coach, Sara Avant Stover.
Sara asked me to answer a series of questions, from “What do I care most about?” to “Who do I want to become?” to “What is success on my own terms?”
It wasn’t that I couldn’t come up with these questions on my own. The true gift was the freedom I felt to contemplate the possible answers in this still, “unbusy,” and supportive environment.
Today, I invite you to create the time and space for reflection by arranging a “mini-retreat” for yourself or for a group of friends or peers.
When asked to describe a retreat, many people first think of a place and describe its environment (quiet, surrounded by nature). Others think of a scheduled, contained period of time (weekend retreat). These all paint part of the picture. But a retreat is not simply a time and place – it is an environment and mindset that encourages reflection and contemplation for a specific purpose. Above all, it is whatever, however, and whenever works for you.
Here are things to consider:
How To Create Time and Space for Reflection With a Mini-Retreat
Mini-retreats can be solitary or shared experiences – or any combination of the two. Perhaps you need time alone to reflect. Or perhaps you feel the need to reconnect with people who make you feel supported and loved. Consider who can both benefit from and contribute to a contemplative retreat experience.
Consider all of the elements that will contribute to creating a contemplative environment just for you. Is it nature – and if so, what kind (e.g., trees or water)? Is it a need to avoid literal noise (cityscape)? Or figurative noise (distractions)?
Do you need support from external experts (e.g., a yoga or art class, a masseuse, or a meditation coach)? What does an ideal experience look like? Do you REALLY need your laptop or tablet, or will a pen and notebook do?
While we may dream about that luxurious spa getaway on a tropical island or a log cabin in the woods, that may not always be feasible. The most important aspect of “away” is changing your routine and shutting off distractions to gain perspective. Your own guest room, a coffee shop, a park, a hotel, or even a local monastery are just some of the myriad choices available.
There is no set formula for the timing of a mini-retreat – it can last anywhere from a few hours to an entire weekend. Consider not only when you will have the time and the resources to schedule time away, but also when you most need it.
Is change on the horizon? Are you feeling frustrated, burned out, and exhausted? Or, conversely, are you feeling inspired, pulled in a new direction, or open to new opportunities? There are many times and multiple reasons our “true selves” call.
Set an agenda and a specific intention – i.e., something specific to contemplate and achieve clarity on. Otherwise you are planning a mini-vacation or a mini-escape; not a mini-retreat!
Begin the experience with a simple centering/presence exercise to prime yourself for the most conducive contemplative experience.
Recognize that less is often more. Think of interspersing enjoyable activities that encourage contemplation and reflection rather than trying to “force” deep thought during large chunks of time.
For some this may be journaling with words or images, interspersed with an enjoyable, healthy meal. For others it may be visualizing opportunities and outcomes interspersed with setting specific goals and action steps. It can even be stillness interspersed with movement (e.g., a peaceful walk). Use your agenda as a guide (again, to avoid slipping into that “mini-getaway” mindset). But DO include activities that you find enjoyable (e.g., reading, sketching, etc.).
Don’t be surprised if you are tired at the end of your mini-retreat. But hopefully you will also find yourself inspired, energized, and even just a little more self-aware.
Are you an alum of the Women’s Leadership Forum? We’d love to keep in touch with you! Request to join us in our private Facebook group here, or connect with Susan on LinkedIN here and send me a note that you’d like to be part of our exclusive LinkedIn group. Also follow us on Instagram for frequent reminders of WLF content!