How to Create Your Own Personal Reading Retreat

a-reading-retreatThis week Mike and I are in the Colorado Rockies getting a little R&R. We purposely set aside some time for a personal retreat where the focus would be solely on resting, reading, and writing.

Last summer we went to the beach for a week with no agenda in mind and by default it ended up being a week spent reading, writing and resting. We benefited from it so much that we planned another vacation for the winter specifically dubbing it our “Reading Retreat.”

I’m convinced that everyone can benefit from such a retreat. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be for a week in the mountains. Whether it is a week long, or just a day long, each of us needs time to recharge, refuel, and ruminate. We need restoration.

We need to get off the endless treadmill of life once in a while to catch our breath. This is where the resting comes in. We need to feed our minds as well as our souls. This is where the reading comes in. We need to process what we’re experiencing in life and ground ourselves. This is where the writing comes in.

How does one do this? Here are a few steps that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Determine how long you can be gone.
  2. Determine where you will go.
  3. Determine what needs to be done to make it a reality.

Length:

How long can you afford to be gone—both in terms of time and of finances?

  • Can you be gone for a whole week
  • A couple of days?
  • Overnight?
  • Or even just one day?

Location:

Where can you go?

  • A scenic spot out of town: the beach, the mountains, the lake?
  • Is there a friend’s house you could “borrow?”
  • Can you house-sit for someone who will be out of town?
  • Can you stay at a hotel in town?
  • Could you go to a local coffee shop or to the library?
  • How about going to a beautiful park and taking a picnic lunch?
  • Could you stay at your own house under the right circumstances?

It doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is getting out of your “normal” environment.

Logistics:

What logistics do you need to consider?

  • How much will it cost? Do you need to start saving your pennies so it can become a reality?
  • How will you get there? Will you fly, drive, or walk down the street?
  • What arrangements will need to be made for the kids, the dog, and the house?
  • What will you need to take with you—besides clothes, etc.

In order to answer this last question, you may first need to ask yourself why do you want to go? What areas in your life are being neglected? What needs to be nourished? Where do you want to grow? What do you want to learn more about? What decisions are facing you? These are just a few questions to help you get started planning for the time.

Once you’ve gotten an idea of where the focus will be, I recommend taking a stack of good books, a computer (or find access to one), a journal, a notebook, a sketch pad and pencils—or watercolors, your favorite pens, and music. Create your own soundtrack for the retreat to be played on an iPod, a portable CD player, etc.

When you begin your retreat you will have all these things, and your expectations, before you, but don’t feel bound to them. Keep your heart open. You may be surprised to find out that the “result” of the retreat will take you completely by surprise. God may take you in a direction that you could have never foreseen. Just be alert in the present moment.

So much of our lives is giving, giving, giving. We give our energy, our resources, our expertise. We give our time, our advice, and our shoulders to others. Now we must give ourselves permission to renew. If we want to have something to give—something worth giving—something we can keep on giving, we must keep our reservoirs full.

These retreats, whether major or mini, are what keep me “in the game.” I set aside days to spend at the library. I make a point to enjoy afternoons at Merridee’s Cafe, or a night at the Marriott, or even a week in the mountains. I schedule them on my calendar. This time of personal renewal is no longer optional for me. It is essential. It’s one of the many ways God speaks to me and assists me in becoming the person He has created me to be.

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20 Responses to “How to Create Your Own Personal Reading Retreat”

  1. Gail,
    This idea is one I cherish. When I’ve taken reading retreats, I came back to real life feeling nourished. I heartily concur!

  2. I was reading over this post again and thought I should add a #4 to the list below.

    How does one do this? Here are a few steps that I’ve found helpful:

    1. Determine how long you can be gone.
    2. Determine where you will go.
    3. Determine what needs to be done to make it a reality.

    #4 DETERMINE

  3. We did something like this at our church last fall. We called it our Quiet Retreat. It was a sweet, restful time, and we are definitely going to do it again!

  4. Thank you Gail. Good thoughts, coupled with doable actions. It’s good to get alone with our thoughts and commune with God. I would have to add time for “picture” breaks, as I adore taking nature pics. Have you read “The Shack?”
    Aloha from Hilo!
    Karen Welsh

  5. It is terrific, and thoughtful!

    Sometimes we catch patterns which lead to rejuvenation of mind and spirit.

    Many thanks as I ponder how, and where to accomplish a similar respite in my journey.

    Make it day a measure of gratitude for the blessings poured upon us.

    Jim

  6. I loved the idea of this when I saw it on your pre-retreat tweet. You’ve done a great job with very specific and helpful how-to’s.

    I’m checking my calendar now for a summer reading retreat. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    – will we get to hear about what you both read and any aha’s you had while you were away?

  7. Gail – you and your husband are an inspiration. I read both of your blogs (found you through his Twitter account) and am constantly amazed at the wisdom you both have to share. You both seem to embody much of what my husband and I (in our 20′s) aspire to be and become. Thank you for providing such an example for us, and know that we are grateful to God for making you both such great examples, even though we’ve never met (and probably never will). Just know God is using you in mighty ways.

  8. Im inspired, thanks!

  9. Love it Mrs. Hyatt. Have to say that I may have to schedule ours in 12 years…. or when we can train “The Tigers” to go with us. :) Great post and ideas. I do get a few hours here and there that feel golden. Sometimes it’s just me, my macbook and Panera writing a few posts. Nonetheless, this sounds lovely. Enjoy Colorado. (Mt. Man’s home. :)

  10. There comes a low ebb in all of us, when it seems our aims and dreams will never see fruition and we will die without having accomplished what we know we were meant to accomplish. There comes a time when living yet another day is hard. I think it is then we need to recharge more than ever before. In my case it is to my art studio where engrossed in making an image come alive I will be living in another dimension and yet it seems so hard to pull out all the plugs of everyday life and go on that journey… It just takes courage to take that decision as you, Gail, have done, leave everything and go!!!

  11. John:

    Those Kindles look pretty cool but they aren’t available in Canada so we will have to continue to read books by picking them up and handling them. I was using my Palm to read but the charge doesn’t last long enough.

  12. Gail & Patti,

    Yeah, I just did something similar. I called Dish and asked for just local channels. They said, for $5 more, we can give you like 40 channels extra! I bit on that, which isn’t too bad a thing. I’m so addicted, it might not be best to go cold turkey. Anyway, I’m already feeling the withdrawals of not having my choice of channels (over 200 before). I’m just not great at disciplining my day. But, that’s the only way this would work. I need to ration my TV and internet in advance or it all just takes over. I’d sure like one of those Kindles. I’d probably read a lot more then. Too pricey for us, however. :)

  13. You’re right on there Gail, media can be a blessing and a curse.

    Reducing your cable or satellite package to the bare bones is a way of reducing the addiction. I did so about a year ago as I found the wide variety of channels was too easily distracting me from projects. Now, it has become really easy to turn the TV off and focus on projects or just pick up a book and read cause ‘there’s nothing to watch’.

  14. John,

    I totally get the addiction to media. While here at the mountains, Mike and I have watched zero TV – for a whole week. I have had no Internet except on my phone. (Mike has a special device which enables him to get Internet anywhere.)

    I’ve found myself going through withdrawl at times, pacing back and forth like a bear in a cage, not knowing what to do with myself. I hardly know how to be still. It’s showing me a lot about myself. Media can be the great distraction keeping us from truly living.

    I say break out of the cage.

  15. You’re right! Does retreating at Mt Hermon count if I have to teach two workshops in five days? :-)

  16. Colleen,

    Put it on your calender. :-)

  17. Great idea, Gail. We can’t really leave town, but I need to get back to reading again. Since graduating from seminary, I’ve put off reading and have suffered for it. I’m addicted to media (internet, TV), and the day usually flies by and nothing gets read. I’m a better person when I read and need to find a way to discipline myself to do it daily. It’s been a while.

  18. Gail, this post just tickles me to my toenails! I can’t think of anything more exciting than getting away and doing my three favorite things in all the world–resting, reading, and writing.

    You organized your thoughts beautifully, and I’ll be referring to this post again.

    Bless you for taking the time to share!

  19. Gail:

    This absolutely is so vital. I’m a person who constantly pushes the envelope on agoraphobia. In order to keep myself from crashing and burning I grab every opportunity I can to do a ‘retreat’ but at home. A pot of soup goes on so I don’t have to cook, the phone gets unplugged and I settle in for a quiet day of reading or writing. Just me and my feline companions. Living alone helps. Reading rocks!

  20. Oh my gosh, I LOVE the idea of this! I need it too. I’ve had deadline after deadline for months with not much time to renew. I’ve managed to snatch reading time in the evenings but not much THINKING time. Thanks for laying it out in such an easily followed plan, Gail!

    I’m going to do it. as soon as I meet this next deadline. . .

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