Have the itch to set out on a meaningful journey?
Sure, we’d all like to travel on pilgrimage to far-off places. After all, there’s a reason that some of the pilgrim archetypes include the Nomad, Seeker, and Sojourner. However, because of life’s limitations, this can’t always be a reality. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t follow the longing of your heart and set out on a “mini-pilgrimage” right at home or even next door.
To create a mini-pilgrimage right at home, you simply need to apply the 3 elements of pilgrimage: a journey (an intention or desire and time set apart), engagement with the True Self (connecting with you), and Sacred Encounter (connecting with God). Retreats are one of many types of pilgrimage and can serve as mini-pilgrimages during which we are invited to leave our everyday lives, if even for a moment, and learn from wise teachers, ask difficult questions, and try new things, all the while being reminded of what it means to take care of ourselves—mind, body, and soul.
Whether you have a week, a weekend, an hour, or simply a stolen moment after breakfast, here are 9 steps to creating a mini-pilgrimage right at home:
1. Make the time
In order to find the time for your mini-pilgrimage or retreat, it must be a priority. Consider the length of retreat you’d like to take and see where it might fit into your schedule. If you don’t have the opportunity to get away for a long period of time, make your retreat a weekend, a day, or even an hour. Although a multi-day retreat can often be nourishing, it doesn’t necessarily matter how much time you have. What matters most is that you make it happen.
2. Find the place
Now that you’ve made the time, you’ll need to find the place. The only requirements are that the place allows space for silence and solitude and stirs your soul. If you’re going on a week-long retreat, look for a retreat center or monastery in your area that welcomes visitors. You could also rent a nearby cabin through Airbnb. If you have a day, find a place nearby like a favorite café or park to help change your daily scene. Only have an hour? Find a corner in your house or backyard and claim it as yours.
3. Set your intention
What is the purpose of your retreat? What are you hoping to receive from this time? Maybe you want to feel rested, connect with nature, or gain clarity about something that’s happening in your life. Or perhaps there is a theme you’d like to explore, such as vocational calling. Setting your intention before your retreat helps put your desires first and set the tone for your time ahead.
4. Slow down
Once the time set aside for your retreat arrives it might be tempting to jump right in. However, if you move too fast, you might end up treating your time as something to be checked off a list rather than time to be savored. This is why it’s important to transition from your everyday life by consciously slowing the pace. To do this, begin your retreat with a practice that will help you settle into the present moment, such as taking a long walk or sitting in stillness as you sip a hot cup of tea and let the world pass you by.
5. Seek out inspiration
If this time is meant to be life-giving, then it should be filled with things that inspire you. After all, the word “inspire” comes from the phrase “in spirit,” which means that anything that inspires serves as a direct route to the soul. To infuse your retreat with a dose of inspiration bring some favorite poetry to read, listen to music that never fails to move you, or hike a trail leading to a mountaintop view that leaves you standing in awe.
6. Spend time in reflection
Reflection serves as a window to the soul, making it a valuable practice for a retreat. Spending time in reflection can help you process all that has been going on in your external world and allow you to reconnect with your True Self—a desire that is at the root of our yearning for time of retreat. Bring a journal with you on retreat and commit to writing in it each day. Or, if you’re not prone to journal, find a cozy spot and stay awhile, allowing your mind to wander. With enough time it will always find its way home.
7. Connect with God
As human beings made in the image of God, connecting with the soul and connecting with the Divine go hand in hand. Invite God into your process through the practice of prayer, allowing your prayers to flow freely throughout your retreat. These prayers don’t always have to be in words. A retreat is a great opportunity to experiment with different types of prayer, including traditional practices, such as centering prayer, or more unconventional methods, such as dance. Anything that serves as a vehicle for expressing your desires to God and resting in the Divine’s presence is considered prayer in my book!
8. Listen to what’s stirring
As your retreat continues, listen to what’s stirring within your soul. Pay attention to any insight you might receive that you can integrate into your everyday life, taking the gifts found on retreat with you wherever you go.
9. Trust the process
No spiritual practice is complete without an element of surrender. Trust that whatever happens during your time set apart is nourishing you in just the way you need to be fed, remembering to return often to fill the well.