the stillness of winter Deborah Burrow

Deborah Burrow

A spiritual retreat is needed for many people, who are fed up with the fast-paced modern life. But if you open a newspaper or magazine, often all you see is listings for super-expensive yoga retreats in Bali or whatever. In fact, some really good spiritual retreats are right on your doorstep, and often very affordable too. You can visit for a few hours or a few days, and usually you get an absolute bargain in return for helping say with washing-up and being open to living in a small single bedroom or even a dormitory. Just enter your postcode to find nearby retreats.

Many spiritual retreats are housed in lovely old buildings with labyrinths and beautiful gardens. Often they are run by Catholic nuns and priests, who live simply, and open up their homes and gardens, for the money to pay for upkeep. You don’t have to be religious to glean the benefits, and it’s a lovely opportunity to slow down and get some peace (most don’t have TVs!). You just ‘do nothing’ for a while, and then you’re reset with a different mindset on your return.

These retreats are not like prisons. You’re free to go as you please, so you could always take walks on your own to nearby forests or seasides etc. But overall it’s good to just enjoy the benefits for a few days, and perhaps have a little time in the company of those who have genuine inner peace, and so hopefully it rubs off on you! By getting away from the ‘outside world’ for a bit, you get to live more in line with your authentic self, and then it’s easier to feel better yourself, and do more good for others.

We find these retreats very interesting (more so than thousand-pound spa retreats). Let’s take a look at a few examples, to whet your retreat appetite of what to expect:

An Edwardian house in Northumberland (gifted by the church) offers a base to rest amid 26 acres of grounds. Within easy reach of northeastern cities, it’s a spiritual place for peace and quiet.

A retreat in Shopshire surrounded by sycamore trees, run by a former detective and his wife (a former hospice care nurse).

A bishop’s house (built in 1894) on the tiny Scottish island of Iona. Here you can enjoy 2 daily services, wholesome cooking and walk to a little beautiful beach, at the bottom of the garden.

completely free Buddhist spiritual retreats

Freely Given Retreats is everything a retreat should be. Not some swanky made-up ‘spiritual retreat’ where you have to pay £100 to get a massage, but truly ‘pay nothing’ retreats (obviously there are long waiting lists’) for people to attend a retreat to slow down, even if they don’t have a bean. Just imagine how much calmer England would be, if this idea was replicated nationwide?

Serving locally-sourced veggie food, these retreats were created due to being inspired by Buddhist monasteries in south Asia, which are open to all without fees or charges. Donations are optional (you send a cheque that is refunded if you don’t cancel), and used to help create more retreats for those who need them, regardless of faith or beliefs. Most retreats are held in silence, so you’re totally chilled by the time you leave!

‘Dana’ is the Buddhist economy of generosity and giving, a tradition that has been around for 2500 years, and the teachers of these retreats don’t receive a fee either, just donations for their time and energy.

spiritual retreats (in book form)

lift up your heart St Francis de Sales

Lift Up Your Heart is a 10-day retreat with St Francis of Sales, with 10 meditations for the modern reader, distilled into a mini-retreat that can be completed adid a busy life. Kick the habit of ‘floating along’ on your spiritual journey to actively pursue a holy life devoted to God. You’ll learn how to form a daily prayer routine, meditate on His love and maintain peace in the face of suffering.

A Retreat with St Anthony is a 7-day retreat with Anthony of Padua (one of the earliest followers of St Francis of Assisi). Beyond his reputation as finder of lost objects, this inspirational young man embarked on a life of preaching, learning and love. Read sermons to find your own inner peace.

The Retreat is an interesting and humorous anecdote from Kees Postma, a worn-out pastor who was shocked by all the good, bad and ugly he found in ministry. Having reached the point of utter exhausation, he decides to go on a 3-day retreat in Ireland along with some other Dutch shepherds. Even if you feel exhausted too, by the end you’ll be encouraged to find rest in the Lord and strength to keep going. In this English translation of a best-seller in Holland, the author offers observations on the absurd ways that we try to make ourselves look better than we are!

the poetic wisdom of Dodinsky

Dodinsky is another wonderful find. Searching for life’s meaning at an early age, this Russian man who eventually lived in the USA, came to view the world from a unique perspective. He recognises simplicity in complex situations and weaves words of power and emotion to inspire people’s spirits.

Some people will never ‘get you’. Do not spend eternity asking why. People will see you differently, just cherish those who lift your soul.

When faced with senseless drama, spiteful criticism and misguided opinions, walking away is the best way to stand up for yourself. To respond with anger, is an endorsement of their attitude.

People relying on others or someone to complete them, are delaying the opportunity to discover the person they are meant to be.

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