How to Host a Retreat successfully?

May 22, 2019


A retreat is a gathering of individuals with the intention to work, play, and strengthen relationships. They are often hosted in rural locations which provide an environment where the individuals can work and get inspired. They are isolated from the distracting noises of the large cities. It serves as an opportunity to step away from everyday life and focus on oneself and connect to spiritual life.  No amount of expertise is required for this. The willingness to re-focus one’s thoughts on the right itself will be rewarding.
The idea of hosting a retreat seems exciting but then the question ‘How to host a retreat?’ arises. By the end of this article, one would be sure of how to host a retreat. Few things to consider while hosting a retreat are as follow:

Plan much ahead of time – It is recommended to set a date for the retreat at least six months in advance. Planning helps the organizer to achieve the goals of the retreat. Planning helps to envision the results of the retreat and determine the steps necessary to achieve it.

Decide on the budget – Retreats can have a varying price range. The budget depends upon several factors such as the choice of location and houses to stay, the activities going to happen, the fees of the instructors/trainers (if any), the amount for meals, etc. If the cost is less of an issue, more exotic location is an option.

Set a time frame – It is important to plan the retreat for the right number of days. If it is not an international trip, a maximum of four to five days seems perfect for a good retreat. Anything more than this becomes hard for people (to take off one solid week is a difficult task these days).

Find the perfect location – The location can span from a small house/villa to more exotic locations, depending on the budget and the number of people attending the retreat.

Choose the perfect activities – Locations suitable for hiking, horseback riding, swimming, etc. involve mental as well as the physical self. This soothes your inner self and represses the stress level. The organizer always needs to prioritize inner peace. We are often worn down by stress at work and home. A retreat is an opportunity to learn from other people to work towards achieving peace. The retreat exposes oneself to their own thoughts and helps realign each thought in a positive and peaceful direction through prayer and meditation. Retreats provide an opportunity to connect with kindred spirits. It provides support to overcome the most challenging inner conflicts.  The instructors, practitioners, and fellow attendees connect with one another – the same wavelength is priceless.  There are plenty of things to converse – to discuss new ideas, to learn about the journey of others, and to exchange positive feedback. Overall, it’s about finding a peaceful living atmosphere and building relationships that last a lifetime.

Coordinate expenses and meals – It becomes mandatory to record the meal preferences because some are vegetarians, some are non-vegetarians, while some are willing to cook themselves. To makes this task easier, a group email or a shared calendar can be maintained. Various payment methods can be adopted for the participants to make their payment cycle easier. A deadline for receiving the payment can be set and refund policy can be introduced if the participant wishes to cancel the retreat before the actual start date.

Stay in touch with the participants – Emails, text threads or Facebook groups is a great way to organize and stay connected to the participants. In case the retreat turns out to be successful, the same group can plan for the next one. Also, they can share pictures and post videos in these groups created. It is essential to have fun through the course of the retreat. People who host and attend retreats come from a variety of backgrounds, locations, and life experiences. It is okay if one is having trouble getting into the meditative zone, not accustomed to talking about ones’ feelings or feels nervous about the retreat. They are not alone!  Some may be spiritual practitioners but for some, this is their first time. So, it becomes very important to enjoy and have fun with whatever one does at the retreat.

Now that we know how to host a retreat, let’s look at the important factors of a retreat. The main purpose of a retreat is to develop a strong connection with oneself. The everyday hustle leaves very little time to introspect, exercise, meditate, pray, relax, or anything else.  At a retreat, one is committing to concentrating solely on oneself – their thoughts and spiritual being. Nationally recognized speakers tend to create excitement among the attendees. Book in advance to avoid any last-minute confusion with the speaker. In addition to the main speaker, encourage the participants to share, narrate, and discuss their experiences by inviting them for learning sessions and workshops.
Another important aspect is the silent retreat. A silent prayer retreat creates a connection between the inner self and God. A lot happens in silence. In the first hour of silence, people become comfortable with the quietness and then it goes on. Yoga and meditation are vital parts of retreats. The relaxation techniques in yoga decrease chronic pain (such as lower back pain), arthritis, headache, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Aside from the physical benefits, it helps manage stress, which has devastating effects on the body and mind. Meditation helps reduce anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Some forms of meditation create a more positive outlook on life. Meditation increases memory and mental clarity which helps fight age-related memory loss and dementia. Meditation helps to avoid triggers for unwanted impulses and develops mental discipline. This helps to recover from any addiction and lose unwanted weight.

Trekking is another activity involved with retreats. It improves overall fitness. Spending several hours on the trail, climbing rocks, and ascending hills give the whole body a workout, improving the strength, agility and cardio fitness. Swimming provides a low-impact workout and is a good way to relax. Swimming keeps the heart rate up, builds muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness, helps maintain a healthy weight, and provides an all-over body workout. Dancing is a good way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. It improves the condition of the heart and the lungs, increases aerobic fitness, improves muscle tone and strength, improves self-confidence and self-esteem, improves mental functioning, and builds stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.

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