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5 Predictions for the Future of Retreats

Getty/Olga Strelnikova

The baths will be back! Retreat veteran Mary Bemis shares her predictions for the future of retreats.

I recently had an urge to retreat for a day or two to Stewart Mineral Springs in Weed, California, one of my favorite watering holes.

It’s only a couple of hours’ drive from my home in southern Oregon.

The rustic, historic property once offered hot mineral soaks in private rooms with big clawfoot tubs and one of the best and largest wood-burning saunas in the States. Days frolicking between the steaming hot mineral baths, a cold creek, and the sauna—and nights spent without phone or wifi in a simple cabin in the woods. Hot tea, a warm fire, and a cool stack of magazines: My kind of bliss.

Alas, my retreat was not to be. A quick visit to its website informed me in boldfaced capital letters that the “BATHHOUSE IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED. No sauna, no bathtubs, and no massages are available.”

Given the times we live in, the closure wasn’t a surprise. But the word “permanent” floored me. It turns out that the property, like so many other businesses, has changed direction. Overburdened by debt, the mineral springs property has partnered with Pneuma Institute to launch Pneuma Breathwork, “a new and beautiful activity.” And that brings me to my first prediction for the future of retreats.

1. THE BATHS WILL BE BACK

I have little doubt that Pneuma Breathing is a beautiful activity, but I know for sure that breathing goes in and out—and you can take it with you, anywhere. Meanwhile, those super-hot, slippery mineral springs have been flowing—and drawing people to this remote place—since the beginning of time. The baths will be back! More generally: Every retreat must have some sort of a people magnet. Desperate times may require desperate measures, but changing the markings on your compass does not change the magnet. It gets pilgrims lost.

2. RETREATS, LIKE NATURE, WILL GROW MORE EXTREME

For several years now, we’ve been reading about forest bathing. At first, I thought it odd and even a little sad that we needed a term like forest bathing to get us to take a walk in the woods. But the term (and practice) actually seems to help people immerse themselves in nature—and those immersions, like nature herself, are becoming more extreme. There is already an increased interest in cold-water practices and some retreats are offering cold water swims that are psychically and physiologically very powerful.

Look for growth in creative outdoor accommodations, from swinging pods in trees to lofty treehouses to hanging suspended from cliffs—with lots of space in between, of course.

3. TECH TAKES OUT TOUCH—OR NOT

Touchless therapies have been on the rise, on and off, since the early 2000s, with advancements in automatic massage chairs and tables as well as specialized rooms where one can experience sound therapy or “raindrop therapy” and pretty much anything you can imagine. The latest addition is something called “wellness biohacking,” provided by the Biohacking ORB, a “sexy, sleek and extremely comfortable sensory deprivation chamber” that’s controlled by an app, designed to enable you to “realize your personal development and wellness goals in minutes versus hours.”

Along the same lines is the Prism Light Pod, “the industry’s most-advanced full-body light therapy system ... using deep red light therapy that’s absorbed by your skin, muscles, deep tissues, joints, and body cells to accelerate healing and recovery by 4 to 10 times faster than your body’s restoration process.”

And no, I haven’t tried either of them yet. But just reading the descriptions reminds me of some great wisdom from the ’80s: “High tech/high touch.” Every advance into people-less therapies strengthens the demand for real massage therapists.

4. STAY-AT-HOME RETREATS

A room of one’s own will take on a different meaning altogether, as homes will come equipped with a retreat room, customized to your specific needs. You’ll meet your virtual teachers there, and

have the option to be transported to the virtual destination of your dreams. You’ll be able to purchase accessories and furnishings for your retreat room from mass marketers like Amazon. Customizable with your own soundtrack, your own scent, your own colors, your very own tactile and sensory experience.

5. PSILOCYBIN RETREATS FOR UNIVERSAL PTSD

For thousands of years, diverse peoples from all over the world have used psilocybin mushrooms for spiritual journeys and various kinds of healing.

The simple reason is that the mushroom is almost magical. It’s powerful but not addictive, and for the last 25 years, researchers in the U.S. have been scientifically proving that mushrooms can help dramatically with PTSD.

Just last year, the state of Oregon made the therapy legal. The details of the new law are still being worked out. In the meantime, pretty much the entire world is likely to self-diagnose with PTSD as a result of COVID and everything that came with it. So, an obvious prediction is that pretty much everyone will soon retreat to Oregon for a legal trip.