Here is your guide and inspiration for a weekend retreat to inspire renewal. Whether you sneak away with some friends or just turn off your devices and hide the to do list at home, Long Weekend is full of ideas to spend a creative, artistic, technology-free weekend filled with exercises and resources that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Includes basic itineraries for how to shape the time in addition to rituals of renewal provided by experienced retreat leaders Richelle Donigan and Rachel Neumann. Beautiful photographs by lifestyle photographer Ericka McConnell will transport you, so that reading the book feels like a retreat in itself. Great for armchair travelers as well as those looking for help planning a weekend away.
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About the Author
Ericka McConnell, a bicoastal Californian who has worked in New York for more than 20 years, has photographed retreat centers in India, Mexico, and Santa Barbara and Santa Fe in the US. Her images have graced the covers of Travel&Leisure, Conde Naste Traveler, Woman Magazine, Fitness, and Yoga Journal. Instagram @Erickamccfoto
Read an Excerpt
Getting to Know Yourself Outside of the Day-to-Day
Your first day really starts when you leave your day-to-day life and travel to your long weekend. Perhaps you are just going across town to a friend's house, or perhaps you are traveling hours or a day away by bus, train, car, or plane. Maybe you are staying at home, and just walking back into your house is your journey. Either way, mark that the time is different. Your Long Weekend begins now.
You may be tempted, as you pull away from your daily routine, to get a few more things done — a few last phone calls or texts or to-dos. You may experience a pull toward doing, to being on a schedule of some kind, to reading the news, or talking about or listening to things that cause the body to contract, or to things that just plain stress you out. You may find yourself thinking more about what you are not doing and missing out on while you are "away" from your daily life rather than experiencing that you are already in a different moment. But your long weekend has begun with the journey to where you will have your retreat.
It may be easier to catch your wandering thoughts if you have already imagined the night before how your day will be and have slept with your intention in mind. Then you can more easily redirect your thoughts and actions. The journey is the time to begin to unravel the pull to the familiar.
Your long weekend is a space to practice shifting ingrained habits. What is your body asking for? Day One is the time to listen to it.
Take time to arrive before unpacking or settling in.
Take your shoes off.
Say hello to your home for this long weekend.
Close your eyes.
You made it.
You have arrived.
As soon as you arrive, before you have even unpacked, take a moment to settle in.
Standing or seated, feel your feet on the floor. Take three deep breaths, breathing in long and breathing out slow. With each exhale, feel yourself more present in the space. Connect with what supports you, the structure that surrounds you, the earth beneath you.
With each inhale expand, take up more space; with each exhale root, drop down deeper. Not replacing one with the other. Do both, equally. Expand and root. Find yourself here. Grounded and expansive. Bring to your mind and heart your intention for your long weekend. Remember who you are being. There is a difference between getting rest and being rested. Bring to mind your intention. Embody it by taking another deep breath, expanding your intention from the center of your being outward until it fills the whole space and beyond.
Remember some of the words and the feelings of your intention and imagine playfully dropping them onto the floor. See the words written on the glass window pane: rest, fun, ease, play. See them written across the the ceiling, floating in the sky above. Now your intention for your weekend is woven into and through everything. If you begin to forget or move away from your intention, you'll be reminded, you'll see it in the window or as a cloud floats by, or you'll see it as the words scattered on the floor.
Gathering and Sitting Meditation
Meditation is simply the practice of focused paying attention, uniting breath and awareness. There are as many ways to meditate as there are waves in the ocean. It does not require any specific set of skills, beliefs, or body type. Meditation can be done while sitting or walking, chanting or in silence. There is even cooking, dancing, and eating meditation. Meditation is the training, the practice, of mindfulness, so that you can bring that mindful awareness into everything you do.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh defines mindfulness as "the practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united. Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment." Like most things, it gets easier with practice.
A sitting meditation can help ensure that your retreat starts off right. You may feel at first that you're not "doing" anything, especially when there is unpacking to be done and socializing and retreating to happen. Within minutes of arriving, you are grounding yourself in your body and breath and returning to your intention.
It is very common to feel with meditation that you are not doing it right or that it's "wasting your time." We can stare at a screen for hours but as soon as we choose five or ten minutes to meditate or pay attention, we can feel anxious or that we can't possibly wait for those few minutes to be over. Don't worry about doing it right. The doing, the sitting, is enough. At every moment in meditation, you can choose to return to your breath. The choice to return to center over and over again — that is meditation. You can have thoughts without thoughts having you.
For arrival, we suggest a short sitting meditation. Here are two choices of meditations to try. One is Thich Nhat Hanh's instructions for how to sit. The other is a ten-minute guided meditation. If you do the guided meditation, consider reading it before you sit or, if you are in a group, having one person read it as the others sit.
HOW TO SIT by THICH N HAT HANH
Sitting meditation should be a joy. Sit in such a way that you feel happy and relaxed for the entire length of the sitting. Sitting is not hard labor. It's an opportunity to enjoy your own presence, the presence of others, the earth, the sky, and the cosmos. There's no effort.
If you sit on a cushion, be sure it's the right thickness to support you. You can sit in the full- or half-lotus position, in a simple cross-legged position, or however you feel most comfortable. Keep your back straight and your hands folded gently in your lap. If you sit in a chair, be sure your feet are flat on the floor or on a cushion.
If your legs or feet fall asleep or begin to hurt during the sitting, just adjust your position mindfully. You can maintain your concentration by following your breathing and slowly and attentively changing your posture.
Allow all the muscles in your body to relax. Don't fight or struggle.
While sitting, begin by following your in-breath and out-breath. Whenever a feeling comes up, recognize it. Whenever a thought arises, identify it and recognize it. You can learn a lot from observing what's going on in your body and mind during the sitting meditation.
Most of all, sitting is a chance for you to do nothing. You have nothing at all to do; just enjoy sitting and breathing in and out. You can say to yourself as you sit:
Breathing in, I know I'm alive.
Breathing out, I smile to life, in me and around me.
Since you're breathing in and out, you know that you're alive. That's something worth celebrating. Sitting meditation is a way to celebrate life with your in-breath and your out-breath.
You may also say:
Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I feel at home.
You don't need to run anymore. Your true home is in the here and the now. You are solid and free.
Enjoy the breathing in, the breathing out. Give up any struggle and enjoy sitting and smiling.
This is a privileged moment, having the opportunity to sit quietly like this. You are your own island. Nobody at this moment can ask you to do anything. Nobody will disturb you, no one has the right to ask you a question, or to ask you to go and wash the pots or clean the bathroom. This is your precious opportunity to relax and be yourself.
GUIDED SITTING MEDITATION
Find your way to your seat, noticing your steps along the way. Sit comfortably. As you sit, notice that you are supported. Notice there is that which is beneath you that is supporting you, whether it is a cushion, a chair, the floor, or a mat. There is support there.
You can close your eyes or just relax them by softening your gaze and letting it fall slightly downward.
Take a deep breath in and a long breath out. Do this a few times, just watching and experiencing your body as it expands and contracts with your breath. With each inhalation, allow for spaciousness and openness. With each exhalation, root down a little deeper into your foundation and what supports you. Just notice your breath. Again and again, bring your awareness back to your breath.
There will be thoughts that will come and go. Learn to let them go so the mind can be more spacious. So imagine that they are clouds, these thoughts. Imagine that there is a gentle wind that is moving them along. Keep gently bringing your attention back to your breath.
Bring full awareness to your breath, regarding it with curiosity. Noticing where it fills up first or where the last part of your exhaled breath comes from. Noticing its journey and pathway. The quality. The rhythm. The sound.
Your breath. Allow it to move throughout your body. You can begin to direct your out-breath to different parts of the body, to help release tension. You might start with your shoulders. If there is any tension there, allow that tension to drop down and be expelled with your breath.
If there is any tension in the neck or the legs or the feet, use your breath to bring relaxation to those places, focusing on one part of the body at a time. Use your breath to create spaciousness and ease. Each breath brings you deeper into yourself. Deeper into this moment. Let go of everything else.
Take a deep breath in. Breathe a long breath out. Deep breath in. Long breath out. Once again, inhale. And exhale. Gently bring your awareness back to your surroundings, very slowly opening and refocusing your eyes.
Setting up Your Space
Setting up your space may be as simple as putting on the teapot, some lovely music, your comfy clothes, and plopping in a chair with a book. Whatever it is, wherever it is, know that the retreat is happening now.
Do everything with ease, with awareness of your breath, and at your own pace. Place things where they are easy to see and access.
Set up the kitchen so food prep and meals are easy and fun.
Spritz one of your essential oils that you love and open the windows and let the air sweep out any stale energy.
Take up space. Reach your arms out, stand tall, and walk around your space, feeling your way to make it feel like home.
Savasana is Sanskrit for corpse pose, or the little death. It is a profound practice of letting go of all that has come before. The deepest version of this is to imagine letting go of your body and residing wholly in the light of your being. In yoga they say this is the hardest asana of all. So begin easy. Start with letting go of everything that came before the moment you are in. Listen to your breath, knowing that when you do so you are present. We cannot breathe in the past, nor can we take a breath in the future, so when we bring our awareness to our breath, we are in the present. We have truly arrived.
Practices for Groundin and Centering
Practices for Grounding and Centering Stretching and moving your body is key on this first day. As body and mind are two sides of the same phenomenon, when you move your body, you expand and shift your mindset.
EARTH AND SKY
You can do this practice standing or seated.
Bring your awareness to your breath. Intentionally draw in a deeper breath and let it out really slow. As you exhale, draw your belly in slightly as you direct the breath all the way down your body through your feet into the earth.
Keeping that connection, inhale, and with your breath draw the energy up from the earth all the way up into your chest, expanding your heart space, and when you exhale, make it long and follow it as it moves all the way down your arms and out through your fingers.
Again, breathe in deeply, drawing the energy and breath up from the fingers, up the arms and arriving fully in your heart space, expansive and big. Now exhale and send your breath upward, passing through your upper chest area, your neck, your face, and all the way through the crown of your head into the sky as far as you can imagine it.
Keep the feeling of expansiveness, and on your next inhale draw your breath and your energy down from the sky to enter the crown of the head, as if filling your skull, then drawing down into your heart space. Now, breathe normally and feel yourself connected to the deepest part of the earth and the highest place in the sky that you can imagine and see yourself in the middle, vibrating with the energies of earth and sky meeting at your heart.
STANDING SIDE STRETCH
Stand with your feet hip distance apart and breathe deeply. As you inhale, stretch your arms straight overhead. As you exhale, bring them down by your side again. Inhale, reach up; and exhale, lowering your arms.
Then inhale your arms up and clasp your hands together with your fingers interlaced and index fingers extended. Relax your shoulders and then go down your back, releasing the tension as you keep breathing full and even. Breathe in and out two more times.
On your third exhalation, bend your upper body to the right. Take five slow breaths. Keep the left side steady, feeling that it's anchored down. Slowly return to the center. Repeat on the left side.
Return to center and exhale, lowering your hands down by your sides. Feel the connection between your lungs and your arms, your breath supporting your movement in every way.
CONNECT WITH NATURE
Another practice for grounding is to walk around outside or hike with the intention of touching and connecting with things on your way. If you are in nature, find a tree to hug and send your roots down to intermingle with its roots. If you are on a beach, lie down on the sand. Feel yourself being cradled by the earth. Send your breath to the length of your back and connect with your support. If you are indoors — in a home for example — touch the table, furniture, and walls, feeling the texture and the softness or hardness of things.
Connect with all that you can see. It all came from the earth. Take a moment to see and acknowledge this; our acknowledgment shifts our relationship to the things around us. It roots us in a sense of gratitude.
Food can be both celebration and nourishment. For many people food is associated with hunger, guilt, or worry. You can choose to eat with awareness for your whole retreat, and it will transform every aspect of your retreat and change the way you eat when you return. We offer some simple healthy recipes in the back of the book that can be made with little effort, feed one person or a large group, and be eaten throughout the day.
Start your meal with thanks
Whether you are alone or with others, start your meal by giving thanks. Say thank you in whatever version and tradition works for you. In our retreats, we say,
Thank you for this food, which is the gift of the earth and much hard work. May all people have enough to eat.
Eat in silence for the first ten minutes of your meal
When you eat in silence, you focus on the pleasure of eating. This means not talking to others or on the phone, not reading or listening to the radio while you eat. Just notice and enjoy your food.
Consider having your main meal in the middle of the day
Try eating your largest meal of the day at midday. This supports digestion and ease in the body. You may find you rest better if you don't have a big meal before going to bed. A large midday meal also helps your body process the food and nourishment that it receives.
Have a good time preparing your meal, eating your meal, and cleaning up. Do these things slowly, with gratitude and attention. They can be a joy.
Make each meal beautiful
Your meals don't have to be fancy. Sometimes the simplest food is the best. However, eating is a celebration. Add candles, flowers, good company, or, after your first ten minutes of silence, your favorite music.
Excerpted from "Long Weekend"
Copyright © 2018 Richelle Donigan and Rachel Neumann.
Excerpted by permission of Parallax Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: What Is a Long Weekend? 9
Deciding to Go on Retreat 19
Setting Your Intention 22
Who's In 24
Where Are You Going? 29
Preparing to Go 31
Day 1 Getting to Know Yourself Outside of the Day-to-Day 41
The Journey 43
Gathering and Sitting Meditation 48
Setting Up Your Space 55
Practices for Grounding and Centering 57
Eating Meditation 62
Ritual Bath 66
Deep Rest and Relaxation 70
Day 2 Reclaiming Your Volition 75
Waking Up to Gratitude 77
Good Morning Stretch 80
Writing Your Go-to Story 83
Hike or Walking Meditation 86
Self-care and Other-care 89
Storytelling and Sharing 100
Dance Party 103
Ritual Bath II 105
Day 3 Standing Your Ground, Opening Your Heart 111
Heart Openers 113
Vision Board 117
Hugging/Goodbye Meditation 123
Turning Toward Home 125
A Little Long Weekend Every Day 128
Recipes for Your Long Weekend 135
Richelle's Affirmations 150
Grocery Lists 158
Retreat Centers 162