GOING ON ‘RETREAT’: A MALE PERSPECTIVE
Going on ‘retreat’ tends to conjure up images of bunking down, going deep and attending to your ‘spiritual side’, whatever that means….for a male of the species, it isn’t the normal place that ones goes to spend their precious days away from the office, let alone whatever is the chosen passion – football, sailing, spending time with the mates at the pub, or whatever activity is associated with the stereotypical alpha male.
For me, I am the first to admit I am not the stereotypical male. I tend to find refuge in places like yoga retreats and blend in quite well with the (often women) company and the beautiful surroundings. That said, I believe going on retreat offers something for everyone, and its how you find that right balance between what you seek and what you find….
I’ve been on a few yoga retreats now. Each one has been different but there is a recurring theme in all of them. A theme of which, given the short duration of the retreat, is actually quite remarkable – Something happens, something clicks and a new feeling of openness and compassion pervades amongst everyone. Even more remarkable that at the end of the retreat, you may never see these people again, yet in between you have shared something so deep. I sometimes ask myself, what was that all about? But as time marches on, that is life in its purest – in the moment and onto the next.
I guess then that on one level, going on retreat is like “retreating” into one’s own self but at the same time providing for a very psychotherapeutic setting – one where problems, issues, dilemmas or whatever in one’s life can be openly revealed and discussed amongst complete strangers, or acquaintenances who you have had only the pleasure of their company for perhaps mere moments, in the grand scheme of things. I’ve even seen ‘quantum healing’ sessions being given, offers to do astrology sessions and things so deep, that I have to ask myself, is everyone carrying around baggage, just waiting to be unloaded? Such is the suffering of life, as Buddha once said.
Alas, not all is not lost for us males – I personally quite enjoy such interactions with my lady friends given my strong right brain, dominant tendency – but I appreciate that that may not be for everyone. A retreat on one level will offer at least one session of yoga (perhaps two), great food and then time to go and enjoy the local area of where the retreat is located. A traditional holiday in that sense, something for which us males really thrive – a strong sense of adventure and exploration.
I remember fondly my first retreat at Suryalila retreat centre, in southern Spain the opportunity to explore the local Andalucian area, including trips to a Hammam (arab baths) in Jerez and walks in the countryside. I spent Christmas day one year in a cafe with my fellow yogis in a remote, but beautiful white stoned village called ‘Prado del Ray’. In Mallorca, we drove to the Cap de Formentor and did yoga poses over looking the wonderful headland. To me, these experiences were priceless.
Going on retreat may not feel like the natural holiday for the typical male. However, one one level, it will offer us something (assuming you have a mild interest) in yoga. One another level, it can give us an opportunity to explore our more feminine side – something that requires nuturing from time to time. Of course, you can just simply listen and help other ‘damsels in distress’ as their life issues are dumped upon you. To this extent, one can really lend out a helping hand. Even if you never see that person again, you know that you’ve helped that person, simply by ‘being on retreat’, and letting that special concoction of emotions and energy feed into a really special setting – of loving kindness for all living beings.