Retreat Thyself! To Tend Your Inner Garden

Photo Courtesy of Jean DuSablon

To retreat is a radical act of self-love.

To retreat is an integral part of the herstory of women and the history of human culture.

To retreat is an archetype as old as human consciousness.

In The Woman’s Retreat Book, Jennifer Louden offers tips and inspiration to help women reclaim both our personal rhythms and our majestic herstory.

Woman’s Re·treat (rî-trêt¹) noun
1. Springs from and is guided by her inner knowing.
2. A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security. See synonyms at SHELTER.
3. a. A period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.
b. Running away from the external, the torrent of daily “have-to”s.
c. Running toward yourself: toward seclusion, privacy, and contemplation.
4. Setting aside time to tend the heart of your inner life, feed your muse, reclaim your dreams.

Things to consider:

What to bring:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Authentic self
  • Journal
  • Art supplies
  • Inspiring music
  • Talisman of love
  • Courage

What not to bring:

  • Work
  • Phone or beeper
  • Self-criticism
  • Noise
  • TV
  • Negative people
  • A watch

Take a retreat in a:

  • Bathtub
  • Teacup
  • Bicycle
  • Mountaintop
  • Lake
  • B & B
  • Retreat center
  • Library carrel
  • Backyard
  • Corner table in a café
  • Bed
  • Book

A retreat, like an act of self-love, is a radical act. You retreat because you are yearning for contact with something. That yearning may be ineffable, impossible to name, a whisper tickling your imagination. It might be a desire to know your true self, to be at peace, to celebrate your strengths, to connect with other women, to find an answer, to bask in self-kindness. ~ Jennifer Louden

Herstory of women is a history of retreat

To retreat is an archetype as old as human consciousness. The first retreats took place when menstruating women separated from the rest of the tribe. The Thesmophoira in ancient Greece was a group retreat, a descent into mother earth. The Desert Mothers and Christian saints like Julian of Norwich lived their lives on retreat.

When you ponder the literary and artistic accomplishments of George Sand, Emily Dickinson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Louisa May Alcott, Willa Cather, you understand they were made possible partly because they chose to go against the grain of society and often retreated, sometimes for months or years at a time. Solitude and retreat have always attracted women mightily, and for good reason. It is here that we find ourselves, our wholeness, and our primal interconnections with Source and Life again. It is here that we get back in touch with the majesty and beauty of our inner gardens through the act of inner empathy and tending with self-compassion.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

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