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When You Finally Go on a Retreat ...

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What to keep in mind—and what to steer clear of when deciding on a retreat.

Retreats have been an honorable American tradition since Henry David Thoreau went off to Walden Pond. “I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him,” wrote Thoreau. By the time I was growing up in New England, it was well understood that poetry and art, as well as nature, were part of spiritual questing. I attended my first retreat as a preteen, along with my family, through our Unitarian church. Off we went for a weekend in the woods of Vermont, where my father would teach a jazz workshop and my mother a painting workshop. Retreat-goers of all ages enjoyed the fresh air and the camaraderie, shared values and the communal kitchen, and learned new ways to be and to see. A good retreat teaches (or refines) the skills you need to be a better person, to live a better life. A good retreat offers physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment in a safe environment with trusted teachers. It offers camaraderie or silence, depending on what you seek. It offers a chance to reconnect with nature or with yourself. Nowadays, a retreat can mean building a straw-bale house, a stone wall, or a …

About the Author

Mary Bemis is the editor in chief of Journey to Renewal and the founder of

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