“Dates with the soul: Without taking breaks, I start to feel like I don’t have a grasp of all the balls in the air and what my priorities are for each day and even my life overall. I feel like I’m behind on stuff, but I don’t know what.” — Michael Simmons
I was generally forced to go on retreats earlier in life, not really knowing what they could be. A spiritual retreat generally meant a group trip to a temple or ashram, or a religious youth camp. I had good experiences and learned a lot, but things never happened on my terms.
Going on retreat means something much different to me now. I sometimes find that I am overwhelmed by life. I have too much to do. Social media feels like way too much information to take in at once. I lose track of my boundaries and do too much for others, while doing too little for myself. I feel untethered from my goals, and smothered by some vague, ever-present force. I hate myself and feel like a burden on others.
Retreat, to me, is a time where I refocus on my own needs. It’s selfish, and that is great for my mind and soul. I implement practices that are meaningful to me, that are spiritually recharging, but by no means will work for everyone. I make a schedule and stick to it, which helps me keep the time I take as intentional as possible. It can be as short as a day, or as long as a month. I can be on retreat even while going to work, though I usually will block off at least my weekends for myself.
Below, I’ve decided to share some practices that work for me. I’ve provided an explanation of why I’ve chosen to incorporate each part, with some examples interspersed where I saw fit. I highly recommend reading Woman’s Retreat Book by Jennifer Louden for more information. You can also feel free to comment on this post if you have any questions! I think incorporating even one of these practices for a week could produce change.
One of the most well-known parts of the medical doctors’ Hippocratic Oath includes a commitment to treating disease wherever it exists, and in whomever it exists. On a daily basis, physicians treat medical conditions for people who may have very different values than they might have, such as people who physically abuse their children, or people who may be racist. Thankfully, I am not a physician.
Psychologists have a bit more leeway in who they choose to see. If you have such significant bias against a person that it would compromise the quality of care that they would receive, it is ethical to refer them to another provider. That isn’t to say that you can refer someone out every time you disagree with them over something. You generally have to have a strong ethical case for refusing to treat someone (i.e., seeing them for treatment would cause more harm than good).
When talking about patients which I may have radical value differences with, one of my patients, Tom*, comes to mind. I enjoy working with Tom, for the most part. For someone who has endured severe chronic illness since childhood, he is a positive, upbeat, and compassionate individual. Most people in his situation would probably be severely depressed. On the other hand, Tom frequently shares beliefs with me that, unbeknownst to him, I am completely against. His views are often quite bizarre, and are generally a part of persecutory delusions stemming from trauma earlier in life.