At the start of 2014, I set the intention to take a week-long personal retreat every three months amongst other ones made.
I realised it was not a good-to-have, but a must-have rest so as to remain the best I can be for my clients. I am taking the fourth of four week-long retreats this week (Sept 24 to Oct 1, 2014).
To date, these are/ were the retreat dates:
- 30 Dec 2013 – 7 Jan
- 31 Mar – 8 April (You may wish to view the three videos I made during my second retreat here.)
- 30 June – 8 July
- 24 Sept – 1 Oct
As you probably have managed to calculate (perhaps with your fingers), these retreats usually lasted more than seven days, more like nine. That’s because I try to include my usual two off-days a week.
In Singapore, where leave from work for salaried employees start from seven days, week-long retreats are unheard of. In fact, I am the only Singaporean I know who is doing this.
Why A Retreat?
How does one take so many days a year off work, and still remain financially viable? She must be rich/ doing well/ lazy/ crazy, you might be thinking. For me, it boils down to chicken-and-egg. What comes first? Work or play? Do we work to live, or live to work? Is work a passion, pleasure, or a pain?
For me, my work is my passion – it is absoluely all consuming. I give so much to my clients, and give so little to myself that it was only a matter of time before it took a psychological toil on me. Last year, I had an outbreak of shingles at the peak of the haze. I had originally assumed it was due to the stress of the haze (not being able to get masks; worrying about my parents; and just having low immunity), but when I was urged to meditate on it – and did – the answer came.
As a highly sensitive person and an introvert at heart (yes, believe it!), I was so drained from seeing people all the time that my inner dialogue begun to sound like this: “I wish I didn’t have to see anyone.” Unsurprisingly, my shingles, though minor, appeared near my left eye (a.k.a. don’t want to see anyone)!
My body was sending me a message – loudly, and I could ignore her no longer. A physically tired, emotionally depleted, and psychological frayed Martha is no fun, and not good for anybody including herself. Because, and preciously because, I am so committed, so in love, so passionate about my work that I must rest so that I can be the best version of me for my clients, for the important work that I do, for my soul’s calling to serve humanity.
What comes first?
Work or play? For me, I am taking the time to slow down and smell the roses. For without slowing and enjoying the process – what is it really about? It’s a matter of work and enforced play. When work is passion, pleasure and also pain (at times!) all-in-one, one needs to be even more mindful of when the lines blur into the unhealthy.
With such clarity, money or the lack of it is secondary. I make my week-long retreat happen because I have to. There is no two ways about it. This week, I am in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I am fortunate in being able to retreat in a beautiful space in exchange for cat-sitting service. I am still seeing clients on a limited basis via skype.
As a sexologist, I learned about, coach on, and model boundaries for others – including between personal and public spaces and times. Therefore, I enforce it for myself: I rest. I meditate. I fast. I plan. I study. I write. I rethink. I regroup.
On the way up to Kuala Lumpur, I watched the movie Jobs on the bus. Now, why bus when I could have flown? I love travelling – the mystery of the yet-to-come, the whisper of an adventure, the space between leaving and arriving – and prolonging what’s delicious has become my natural preference.
I was struck by this quote by Steve Jobs:
I take the time to go within. I will emerge and continue on my journey.
Sooner than you realise.
Once again, I’d like to invite you to view the three videos I made during my second retreat here. Read about why I cried on the bus going up to KL. Also, check out how you can run a self-retreat here! More posts on this retreat coming up. Follow this blog!
Dr. Martha Tara Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.ErosCoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.