Thursday, 22 August 2019

Spriritual Retreats - Awakenings, Tantra, Goddesses and Other Stories


SPIRITUAL AWAKENINGS, TANTRA, GODDESSES AND OTHER STORIES

 

Dear Readers,

 

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at the Travel Trend of Spiritual Retreats and Holidays.  We’re going to look at both spectrums:  the really luxurious ones, the really serious ones and the really budget ones.

 

Today we’re starting with the really budget ones.

 

But first, what do we mean by Spiritual Retreats?  Is it just for people who like humming?  Or those who like to wear harem pants and bandannas (see previous Blog post on Australia – they are a species)?  Or is it more widespread and mainstream than we realise?  Where did it start?  And what does it offer us today?  Or is it just another package holiday packaged (lol) slightly differently? 

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Is “Retreat” the right word?  The idea of a Retreat began as far back as our documented history goes.  Retreats can mean different things to different communities.  They are often seen as integral (such as nuns at Roman Catholic convents frequently going on retreat – personal experience, don’t ask) to such communities as Islamic, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist.  Especially for Hindus and Buddhists, meditative retreats are considered as a way of deepening powers of concentration and insight.

 

For the Christian Church, retreats were established by St Ignatius of Loyola (what a name!) in his “Spiritual Exercises” and later Pop Pius XI made him patron saint of spiritual retreats.  Many Christians across the spectrum organise a retreat once a year.

 

For Buddhists retreats may be solitary or in a group, silent or full of conversation, often in remote or rural locations, some even in darkness!  For Christians the whole idea is to take time out of one’s daily life to specifically reconnect with God.  This can be for a few hours, up to a month.  The idea is a founding one in the Faith:  taking time out from daily life into the desert for instance, such as Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days.  Retreats nowadays can be individual or in groups, to churches or specific retreat centres with group activities and dormitories.

 

For Roman Catholics this is similar, and in addition they have another take on the idea called the “19th Observation” whereby you continue your daily life, setting aside a few hours each day to reconnect with God.  For Sufis (Islam) retreat can often mean complete seclusion, preferably for 40 days, constantly repeating God’s name.  This practice is known as Khalwa and is still practiced by authorised sheikhs…

 

So that’s the theory, but we want to know more about Retreats as a Travel Trend, not a religious one.  It turns out this is, of course, a massive Travel Trend.  Too enormous to separate, we are going to investigate the “Spiritual Retreat” as one, to take in mindfulness, yoga, spirituality et al because they tend to touch on one another anyway.  Dear Readers, whether it’s budget or luxury, the “Spiritual Retreat” touches on our own goal at the beginning of this Blog:  bringing you something a bit out of the ordinary, and taking you out of your hamster wheel of daily life, even if it’s just reading from your ipad on the sofa!



 Image result for spiritual retreat

The ultimate budget retreat is to do it yourself:  pick a destination which ticks the boxes but isn’t necessarily stupidly priced such as Nepal or Cambodia rather than Thailand or the Maldives, or Texas or Colorado rather than Hawaii or California.  Readers, you should look at where you are, because it should be about embracing the great outdoors, so make the most of the surroundings, look for remote places with cheap local transport such as Turkey.  The whole idea should be to travel and embrace the places you’re in.  Especially if it’s your first time, and the whole idea of a “Spiritual Retreat” intrigues you but sounds a bit intense at the same time, you can look at the option of “combos” such as yoga and surf holidays in Portugal or Bali.  It doesn’t have to be just one discipline and that way, you get to learn to surf/cook/write at the same time. 

 

Have a look at www.bookretreats.com as this is really your bible if you want to do find somewhere to stay retreat-wise on a budget.  What’s really interesting is that they offer budget retreats in places we have already covered in this Blog:  Byron Bay in Australia and Ubud in Bali.  You see, dear Readers, it’s not all as esoteric as you may think, and really, once you start to explore this topic, it really is open to all.  Because we know these places anyway, you and I, dear Readers, I thought, why not?!  Let’s have a little road trip to retreat in Byron Bay and Ubud:

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Byron Bay, Australia:

 

The first, rather obvious, snag is that you need to get there.  Now, let’s assume that you’re backpacking or travelling anyway…Basically Bookretreats is like Air B&B so you contact host etc in the normal way on the website.  We found this one (https://bookretreats.com/s/yoga-retreats/byron-bay) for 3 days and 2 nights at $574 (USD) so that’s about £468 which arguably could be considered quite expensive for someone who is already travelling on a budget.  Would I have spent that sort of money whilst backpacking?  Questionable…It’s for people who need time to themselves, to disconnect from everyday noise and reconnect with nature.  This, interestingly, is a women’s only retreat, so safe for lone female travellers.  Participants will enjoy walks through the rainforest, yoga, workshops, chats around the campfire (am I losing you?) to leave feeling relaxed and refreshed.  You stay in an eco-lodge and enjoy vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free food (have I lost you?).

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Ubud, Bali:

 

Here, for 4 days and 3 nights you can go on a Healing Retreat (https://bookretreats.com/4-day-healing-yoga-holiday-in-ubud-bali) for $300 (more reasonable) and you will leave the stressors and habits of your daily life in order to focus on your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.  You have 3 nights’ accommodation, massage, meditation, breakfast and airport pickup.  Ubud, if you research it, or indeed, if you’ve been, is now a sort of backpacker/yoga/harem pants mecca…so you can’t really walk down the road without tripping over some sort of a retreat or another. 

 

Really, for beginners, people on a budget or people who just want an authentic experience, in our research, dear Readers, Bookretreats covers it all.  How about this one for size:  https://bookretreats.com/8-day-celebrating-the-goddess-tantra-meditation-retreat-greece/ I mean, seriously, if you’re going to do a retreat, Readers, go all out and do a tantric one…why not?!  For $261 you can accelerate your inner evolution…Tantra:  we’ve all heard of it (American Pie 2, anyone?!), but what does it mean?  It’s a direct way, apparently, to open your life to a deeper level whilst still carrying on your everyday routine.  This is a traditional tantric meditation retreat and is open for 12 days, although you can just do 8 if that’s more convenient for you.  The idea is to be on retreat but to enjoy Greece and the beaches etc in your free time.  The retreat, known as Tantric Sadhana, extolls the idea that the subtle energy, Kundalini Shakti (the energy of awakening) is gradually activated, leading to an expansion and awakening of the individual’s consciousness.

Image result for spiritual retreat goddess tantra greece

 

What about the Goddess?  I hear you cry:  we worship her, apparently.  Japa Yoga is practiced (repeating different mantras to induce a specific state of meditation leading to purification and awareness), Yantra is used which is a tantric diagram which increases the effect of your meditation and Yagna is practiced in parallel with Yantra which is the act of offering food as a sacrifice into the fire.  Serva is encouraged whereby guests help with the preparing of food and cleaning and Hatha Yoga is also offered.

 

You have 2 meals a day (vegetarian, nach) provided, and you can meditate for up to 6 hours a day.  Plus enjoy the beautiful Grecian scenery and daily life.  I am actually quite sold.  I mean, if you’re going to go on retreat, you might as well go all out and do something like this.

 

Have a look, there are lots of fabulous budget options to choose from, and they also do combos so you can learn to surf at the same time and there are thousands of different retreat options to choose from.

 

However, in the spirit of budget, you don’t have to travel abroad.  There are some fabulous retreats in the UK you can do.  Should you fancy one, have a look at https://helloamygarner.com/spiritual-retreat-in-the-uk/ she’s really inspiring and has some great options for UK retreats such as the Barn Rural Retreat Centre in Devon from £190 per week (https://www.sharphamtrust.org/mindfulness-retreats/the-barn-retreat) and Glastonbury Abbey House in Somerset from £48 per night (https://www.glastonburyabbey.com/abbey-house.php).  However, possibly even better, dear Readers, is the following:  FREE RETREATS!!  Yes, in the UK there are such things.  Have a look at this link and you’ll find a whole list of them:  https://www.prosperitykitchen.co.uk/main-posts/free-meditation-retreats/ which is amazing, but I think, thanks to our research into this area together now, you and I, we can see that the spirit of the retreat and indeed the whole idea behind most spiritual principles certainly isn’t money, it’s healing.

 

It even brings us on to the philosophical question that is this:  retreats, due to their very history, their very nature, should be free, or certainly not profit-making, just enough money to cover the basics, because they are about you as a person, your mind, spirit, body, and not about the money.  So they shouldn’t be tainted with excess and “luxury” because surely that dispels what a retreat is all about?

 

Yes, we’re going to look at the luxury end next, but I would put this to you, dear Readers, are the budget-end retreat go-ers actually getting a more authentic experience?  Are they getting to the grass roots, paying way less money, sometimes even nothing, but is the outcome in fact infinitely superior?

 

What are your thoughts, Readers?  We’d love to know.  Now, let’s go worship some Goddesses!!
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