It happens every year … after all the rush of Christmas, January is suddenly here. It’s a new year, and everything is about to start up again.

There is this brief pause before it all kicks into gear and I am yearning to get away and get perspective, to shut down the busyness and make sense of everything again.

Life has natural rhythms to it, patterns that help us keep track of where we are in time:

  • the sun marks the day and night
  • the moon counts out the months
  • the seasons give the larger rhythms of weather

But modern life and technology can insulate us from these rhythms —

  • artificial light keeps us ‘on’ long after the sun sets
  • do you even know where we are in the lunar month?
  • okay, so you can’t help but notice the seasons – but don’t they go by quickly? I was just getting used to the leaves being a beautiful colour when Christmas showed up. And now it’s New Years.

Stop the train! I need to get off and catch my breath.

I need the time and space to slow down and become more aware of these natural rhythms. In fact, living in sync with them brings perspective and health.

Psalm 90:12 instructs us:

Teach us to number our days,
     that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Numbering means knowing where we are in a sequence, becoming aware so we can gain perspective. I find the best way to do this is to get away.

The Value of Getting Away

The environment makes a difference in how well I can reflect. Trying to gain a fresh perspective in my regular workspace is not optimal. The same old triggers are there — unfinished to-do lists, same old interruptions, same old papers needing attention tend to generate the same old thinking in me.

So get away … to a nice place:

  • comfortable and warm (so I am not distracted by physical discomforts)
  • a place where I can sleep well (getting rest is important to think well)
  • a place where I can take walks (connecting with nature restores the soul)
  • away from people, so I can enter into silence and solitude (very different than loneliness, essential to listen to God and my heart}

How long?

Three options:

1 Week Model

One of our CREST facilitators takes a week every January. She and her husband book a nice place away for a comfortable retreat to plan their lives for the next year. It is a treat they look forward to every year.

They review things like…

Their relationship
Their family life
Their businesses
Their charity
Their health
Their fitness
Their friendships
Their habits

And they make a plan to grow. They don’t want to waste their years.

Their goal is to squeeze every ounce of joy and fulfillment out of the next 12 months.

3 Day Retreat Model

This is the model I’ve typically used, although I’m thinking I’d like to upgrade to the week model sometime. Here’s how I’ve found it works for me:

  • I try to keep my calendar free of major responsibilities after my retreat, or I end up preparing for the next thing.
  • I have found three days most effective if I add another retreat 6 months into the year.

I get to the retreat centre by noon. I feel my ‘engines’ slowing down as I drive for a couple of hours, looking forward to time away. The afternoon often includes a nap – I often come tired, and refreshment is an important element of the retreat.

The next day is my most productive day. I’m rested, and psychologically I know I am here all day. Focused thinking, praying, journaling and walking make for a good day. Things come clear here like nowhere else.

Then overnight again. The next morning I am winding things up, aware that I have to return to the ‘real world.’ I leave after lunch. As I drive home, I am prayerful and thankful for the clarity that has come for my next steps.

At Least A Day

Another CREST facilitator takes a day a month. That way he keeps ‘caught up’ on shorter intervals, and can make course adjustments as he goes along. If you don’t take a longer annual retreat, then you need more during the year.

What to bring
An important book, pertinent to major matters on your mind


So what do you do on a retreat like this?

That’s what I will cover in upcoming blogs. Stay tuned!

Question: What have you found helpful about taking a personal retreat?
Let me know in the comment area below!

Your comment here might be just what someone needs to hear …