Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
This is a story about a simple way to create a personal retreat to refresh the soul. It is, also, my story about bringing simplicity into the midst of grieving.
Three months after my husband’s death, I continued to be in the center of deep grief. It was no longer as in-my-face as in the very beginning, yet I was still feeling bruised and raw – bruised heart, raw nerves.
It was early summer, 2002. As I performed the daily tasks of life and the myriad paperwork tasks of a new widow, I engaged in these self-care practices:
- nature walks
- moving to music
- long talks with close friends and family
- sessions with my spiritual teacher
- semi-monthly bereavement support groups
I wondered what else I might do for myself. That is when I remembered a woman’s story I had seen on the Oprah Winfrey show years before. It was during one of the Spirit segments of the television program. I was touched by the sincerity and creativity the woman showed in customizing a spiritual retreat for herself, something she longed to have. She did not have funds to go anywhere and she had no leave time accrued from her job.
The woman decided to have a 9-day retreat, to begin on a Friday evening and end on the Sunday night a week later. She would have the four weekend days and all of the evenings of the days she worked. She called or emailed all of the people close to her and explained that she would not be seeing or talking with anyone during her retreat hours; she would take her phone off the hook and not turn on her computer. Because she wanted to have a different space than her bedroom for her retreat, she dragged the mattress into the center of the living room floor; I think it was in front of a fireplace. She bought healthy fruits and veggies and other good food supplies to have on hand. She placed in her living room a number of books she wanted to read, a plethora of art supplies, CD’s of meditative music, and her journal.
When Oprah interviewed her after the retreat and showed photos of the comfy environment she had arranged, the woman’s eyes glowed. She shared with the audience what a satisfying experience it had been. It had renewed her spirit.
I told friends and meditation students about what the woman had done. It was a story to be shared as inspiration. The memory of the woman’s actions inspired me to launch a weeklong retreat in my own home and yard. I let people know what I was doing, and some asked me to promise to call them if I needed emotional support at any time. Gratefully, I agreed.
Each day, I followed the rhythm of the moment: sleeping and waking when I wanted; eating what and when I wished; playing with my tabby cat friend, Poppy; writing when I felt like writing; making collages or painting when the spirit moved me; walking a labyrinth in my pine grove; dancing to music that had no words; walking into the woods at the edge of my property and hugging trees.
My grief came with me, of course, and I welcomed it. Grieving simply showed up as part of whatever actions I was taking. There was an ease of living in the Now that I had forgotten in the chaos of pushing through the tough tasks and decisions I had been facing. The retreat soothed some of the rawness out of my nerves.
Like the woman I saw on the television program, we do not have to be grieving in order to make a simple retreat that refreshes the soul. I invite you to consider creating your own retreats, whether for an afternoon, a day, or longer.
Dena’s book, Living Through Grief: Love Revealed is available today! From now through Sunday, June 23rd, you can pick up a copy for $0.99 from the Amazon Kindle Store, or purchase the bundle pack (which includes an ePub, Mobi, and PDF version) from Love Revealed Stories. As our gift to you, an audio Grief Support (.MP3) is available as well, free for a limited time.