In the early winter of ‘96 I enjoyed a solo retreat at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan. It was glorious. An ideal idyll; remote, quiet, in a beautiful wilderness setting. The lake froze over while I was there. I watched the first ice fishers of the season.
I retreated in order to finally finish the first draft of a book (actually a teacher’s lesson plan resource) which I’d been working on for the previous two years. It was wonderful to have all day (dawn until 3:00 AM) to work uninterrupted. I slept when I got tired. No phone, no TV, no undesired distractions. Luxury!
I’m cock proud to report that I returned home with a the book draft completed. (note — that “book” was not launched until June 2014, in video format. 18yrs later)
I was happy with my diet there. Most healthful. Fortunately there were no food reserves in the cabin; no tantalizing cookie jars. I sipped unending decaf and Earl Grey tea.
I loved it and now advocate that everyone should plan a solo retreat. Spend some quality time with yourself at least once each year. What would you do? Exercise? I ran every day down deserted forest paths, rural roadways, and on the lake. Nice. Swim? Cross-country ski? Stretch several times every day? (I’ll bring dumbbells next time, I think.)
Consider your inner life; meditate, or simply contemplate the sunset. Do some goal-setting. You’ll have enough time to read, finally, dammit, to get into those books you’ve been intending. Write letters. What else would you do with oodles of free time?
I listened to CBC AM radio most of the day, but I also took a whack of cassettes, CDs, and books on tape. You can play your favourite song over and over again at high volume while (hypothetically) dancing around nude, like a poet on payday.
I like a Spartan, minimalist experience (with no real discomfort, understand) … but you may want enough toys to really indulge.
Retreat solo. That’s solo, by the way. Any retreat with kids, family, or friends is some sort of holiday, and doesn’t count. (I’ll let you take your cat, that’s it.)
Solitude is the difference. Can you handle solitary confinement? Would you feel interred?