Recovering a Sense of Balance in Retreat

Beverly Nelson, Ph.D.

In Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Maya Angelou says, “If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably perform our duties and discharge our obligations.”

Many others have written about the importance of retreat and solitude. But in our busy world today, to take a retreat to restore and rejuvenate seems unlikely, if not impossible.

Being busy is a given for many working people. And, we’re probably not going to get any less busy. What we often fail to understand, however, is that we can be busy and still lead a balanced life. In recent years, busy people have often been labeled as unbalanced workaholics. This may be taking it a little too far. Yes, some busy people may be unbalanced and overwhelmed but, interestingly, other busy people may not be. What’s the difference?

Perhaps the answer lies in the distinction between outer and inner balance. Outer balance varies with the demands of the day, and how best to maintain the many structures in our life we have worked so hard to put in place. But within each day, regardless of its mix of tasks and pleasures, we can maintain an inner balance. Inner balance can be described as having a sense of connection with yourself; of looking inside yourself to see what you think, feel, and need, then looking outside of yourself to see what others think, feel, and need, and then bringing the two together. Some describe it as being capable of living in the moment free from the tyranny of “shoulds.”

There are many ways to reach a more comfortable inner balance. However, most of us need practice and guidance. This is the how and why of retreats. One very powerful way to begin to learn about inner balance is to take a formal retreat with a group facilitated by trained leaders. At LifePath, we offer guided retreats in a small-group setting. While on retreat, you can learn how to spend time with yourself and learn that retreating, or the going within cycle, is just as valuable as the accomplishing, out in the world cycle. You can also learn many techniques that you can take back home to integrate into your busy life to help you stay “connected.”

But if you’re not quite ready to do that, or you can’t take the time now, arranging your own retreat at home might be the next best thing. Obviously, having a weekend or one day retreat at home will be easier if you’re single or if your spouse and/or children are away for the weekend. Suggestions include:

  • Arrange to start your time alone by dinner on Friday evening and continue it through Sunday evening. If this is impossible, arrange for one full day of retreat.

  • Unplug the phone, and tell your family and friends that you won’t be available.

  • Plan not to watch TV or listen to your radio. Have uplifting music available. Put newspapers and magazines away and replace them with nourishing literature.

  • Take your watch off so you are not concerned with time.

  • Avoid alcohol, unhealthy food, or other substances that will lower your energy.

  • Do whatever you need to do to your space to make it as pleasant as possible.

  • Sit quietly, not thinking, just being with the moment.

  • Spend your time in silent reflection.

  • Do yoga, exercise, or gentle stretching.

  • Practice deep breathing.

  • Write, paint, or draw.

  • Watch the sunrise and sunset.

  • Spend time in nature.

  • Go to bed early and awaken early.

  • Prepare your favorite meals. Eat in silence without reading or watching TV.

  • Think only positive thoughts and refrain from worry or negative thinking.

If you don’t have time for a full day or weekend retreat, there are many other options for achieving inner balance. Examples include:

  • a lunch hour retreat

  • a half-day creative retreat

  • a one hour “getting clarity” retreat

  • a one-day retreat with a friend

  • a two-minute retreat.

By taking time to retreat, time seems to expand, and we can approach our tasks with a more peaceful heart, open mind, and relaxed attitude. The gift of inner balance that this brings helps us to appreciate our busy lives on a moment-by-moment basis and opens us to the intuitive, creative wisdom within.

Self-Defeating Behaviors in Your Professional Life

by Beverly Nelson, Ph.D.

During our LifePath retreats, participants often describe a tendency to “get in my own way” by not overcoming self-defeating behaviors. These behaviors can sabotage our best plans, our most inspired ideas, and our relationships with others. Wouldn’t you want to avoid a big professional calamity if you could?

Listed below are some suggestions for you to consider. It will take an open mind and willingness on your part to look at these behaviors. We often try to rationalize or defend ourselves. Don’t. It could cost you a successful professional future.

If you’re always putting off your agreements, making phone calls, etc., people stop relying on you and pretty soon they start overlooking you. Trust is one of the most important components to a successful relationship with anyone and to a successful professional LifePath. You can build trust by not procrastinating. Henry Ford has said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re GOING to do.”

Not Following Through
You know where “good intentions” lead? Follow through requires follow up. If you don’t have a follow up plan set up ahead of time, you won’t follow through. And, if you get into the habit of promising something and then not delivering what you have promised, you will lose respect. The best plan is to be realistic about what you can accomplish, state this, and then delight yourself with results. Sometimes you can even surprise everyone by following through earlier than promised.

Not Preparing Well Enough
If you don’t take time to prepare, instead of shooting from your head, you’ll shoot from your hip. Then more often then not, you’ll proceed to shoot yourself in the foot. When you feel confident about what you are presenting, others will feel confident about you. Confidence is another key component to a successful professional LifePath.

Getting Involved with People Who Drain your Energy
Yes, there are people in the world who will consume your time, energy, and effort if you let them. If you keep giving these people the benefit of the doubt, it’ll backfire and you’ll be the one who has to clean up the mess. It is in your best interest to “hang out” with positive people who bring out the best in you.

Always Having to be Right
There are those people who act as if they know-it-all but who are uninformed and those who do know what they’re talking about, but act as if they are always right. Are you one of these? Always having to be right can create so much resentment, that you’d better always be right; because you’re building up a large contingency of people who can’t wait to see you fall on your face.

Taking Things too Personally
When people take criticism too personally, instead of seeing that it is about fixing a problem, the problem becomes bigger and it takes longer to fix. Take problems seriously, not personally. Then, quickly seek a solution. The longer one stays attached to the problem, the more unmanageable it becomes.

Having Unrealistic Expectations
When you confuse what is reasonable (i.e., what sounds sensible) with what is realistic (i.e., what is likely to happen), you set yourself up to fail. This applies to you being unrealistic about what you can deliver (as mentioned earlier), as well as expecting others to deliver what is unrealistic and then judging them.

Quitting too Soon
You have more control over trying and quitting than you do over succeeding or failing. If you always quit, you’ll never succeed; if you always try, you’ll eventually succeed.

Not Learning from your Mistakes
Successful people don’t make fewer mistakes than unsuccessful people. They just don’t keep repeating the same mistakes. It’s important to remember that if you can’t admit you’ve made a mistake, you can’t learn from it.

Playing it too Safe
As you know, the world is in such a rapid state of change. Doing the same thing over and over expecting it to be safe, may turn out not to be so safe. It is important to be willing to take risks and be open to new ideas.

Good luck on forging a new attitude and new routes to a successful professional

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