Why moms need a retreat:
Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves…I must try to be alone for part of each year, even a week or a few days; and for part of each day, even for an hour or a few minutes in order to keep my core, my center. -Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea
I’ll be honest, in the early years of motherhood I used to fantasize about going to a hotel for a weekend, or even a night. I longed for the opportunity to have a few hours to myself to just sit and rest. My friend and I (she has a daughter the same age as mine) still joke that we want to escape to a hotel for the weekend, this time with a printer, to print all of the great mama resources and e-courses we have been finding on the internet.
While we never did do the hotel thing, we discovered a great little cabin where we have been going on retreat, one weekend a year, for the last three years.
I can’t stress enough the importance of retreat. It is so hard to make the time, to push away the guilt of all the things you think you should be doing, but the benefits are priceless. Going on retreat creates space, a place to be breathe and just be. It is a chance to take a step back and view life through a different lens. A time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go. A time to recharge and replenish.
I was lucky enough to find out about Woodcliffe Cabin from a friend. The owner, Mike, is a professional cabinet and furniture maker. He built the entire cabin as if it were a cabinet and furnished the interior with his own work. His wife Nancy is a calligrapher and artist, and her work is found throughout the inside of the cabin. The tiny little house is perched on the edge of a mountain.
I can still remember our first year at the cabin. Meadow was only two, so the idea of a whole weekend of being able to do nothing was unfathomable. The luxury of being able to sit still! I brought frozen, processed foods (no judgement please!) and we reveled in only dirtying one cup, two mugs, and two forks, spoons, and knives the entire weekend. (I didn’t want to do ANYTHING, including dishes).
It was strange, not having a toddler to chase after. While I had longed for this opportunity, I realized I had forgotten how to be still. We brought some wool and learned the art of needlefelting to keep our fingers busy. It felt meditative in a way. And of course, there was lots of time for journaling.
Our second year at the cabin, inspired by Joan Solomon, we were delighted to discover tree spirits around the cabin. We brought our wool again. We mused over the struggles, challenges, and joys of motherhood, of relationships, and life in general, while our fingers were meditatively shaping the wool into tiny images. It felt good, it felt spacious, and I left feeling my inner well was filled.
We recently just had our third annual retreat at the cabin. As I sat on the deck and contemplated the past year, the moments of gratitude but also the losses, the changes, wondering what the next year will bring. Where will we be? Meadow will be in kindergarten. Impossible! What other changes will there be? Who will come and go in our lives? What dreams will be born or come to fruition? I asked my friend, “Do you think we will still be friends when are are old?” She laughed and replied, “Yes, we are almost old already!” She’s right. (While we may not truly be old yet, we’re definitely middle aged.) Time flies.
Some of the tree spirits we discovered last year were still there, others were not. Just like the people in our lives. We found a few new faces too, just like in life. We discovered this beautiful mother and child image in a knot of a tree, right off the deck of the cabin. The center is even slightly shaped like a heart. How perfect!
While the future is uncertain, and we can never be sure what the next year will bring, the one thing that has remained constant over the last three years that we’ve been coming here is this pine cone. Believe it or not, this exact same pine cone still remains on a branch near the cabin. Over three years, through storms, snow, wind, and rain, it still remains strong and intact, just like our friendship. Friendships are so important for your mama soul. They provide encouragement and keep you grounded and keep you real.
While not everyone may be able to go away for a whole weekend, let this post be your gentle nudge to make time, maybe a day, or even an hour, to step back from your life. Make time to retreat. It will help you find your center again.
I think Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes necessity of solitude and retreat best in her beloved book, A Gift From the Sea:
For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes.
How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives…Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim…woman must be still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of her activities; she must be the pioneer in achieving this stillness, not only for her own salvation, but for the salvation of family life, of society, perhaps even of our civilization.
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