Kalime’ra! I send greetings from the island of Corfu in Greece. I’m retreating first and then working a bit. So, this week I wanted to remind everyone not only of the value of retreating, but the necessity of it. As the Europeans say: you must go on holiday.
In Corfu, I’m spending most of my days with friends at a music and meditation festival on the azure coast of the Mediterranean Ocean amongst the olive trees and the oleander flowers. Things naturally happen very slowly in Greece. Any attempt to rush is futile. Arillas beach is quiet compared to others. The restaurants, shops and pensions are run by local families. Most people get around by walking or scooter, but donkeys are still used. A drive through the countryside goes equally slowly as you stop at 7-minute red lights so traffic can move from one side of town to the other, through narrow winding streets barely wide enough for one compact car. The fish is fresh, the tomatoes ripe from the sun and the olive oil and ouzo are flowing.
Last night I was invited to a wonderful cocktail party hosted by a Swedish woman who lives in London. Following the invitation, she brought me a map and directions to find her flat. Although not far away, it was at the top of a very steep hill. She said, “It’s only a 20-minute walk, but you’ll need a shower by the time you reach my place. Let me find a ride for you.” She quickly put me in contact with another festival participant who had a scooter. She would graciously be making several runs from town to the top of the hill to provide transport for several of the pedestrian party guests. Upon introduction to the scooter driver, we looked at the map together and she said, “I’ll meet you by the sunflower garden.”
This type of retreating is, of course, magical and divine. Anytime one can travel to a new place, set a new pace, and enjoy an adventure or two is fantastic. However, it’s very easy for us to get caught up in the notion that this is the only way to retreat. It is a wonderful way to retreat, but there are many others. And, we should not forego retreats simply because they are not grand travel extravaganzas.
Retreating, big and small, should be engaged in regularly to reintegrate our body, mind and spirit. It can be done alone or with others. It can be done for a long time or a short time. It can be done in your own home, your backyard, your favorite local nature spot or another country. It can be as simple as carving out an afternoon for yourself, lighting candles, playing your favorite music and writing in your journal.
When you retreat, you literally restore and rejuvenate. Like ceremony and ritual, your retreat provides spiritual reflection and insight. The benefits are felt by the people around you. Retreating allows you to return to the deep, authentic you. It is in this fertile place that real creation can occur. The noise of everyone and everything is turned off. There’s no other needs to attend to and nobody to impress. Just you. When you return you are able to live from the freshly grounded intention of your dreams and with the compass set to navigate you to your next destination.
I hope you will find a time to retreat soon. If you can, meet someone by the sunflower garden or the most beautiful spot in your neighborhood.
μπορεί να είστε καλά (May you be well)