How to let go on retreat

How to let go on a retreat 
A retreat is a chance to let go of things that aren’t serving you. Life coach, author and The Writing Room retreat leader Kate Emmerson explains how.

So you’ve taken the plunge, picked your ideal destination and decided you’re taking a retreat. Here are some ways to maximise your experience and take–home value with a little awareness and attention. Small tweaks for big leaps!

It’s useful to understand retreats aren’t just another holiday – they’re a purposeful journey. A time that you’re carving out of your busy schedule. It’s not about fixing things – it’s about slowing down through fully immersing; constricting external obligations to appreciate quiet time and surrender into expansion. A retreat isn’t about adding more to your schedule in a different country; it’s about softening into less. Letting go and surrendering.

You may take one retreat in your life to experience a profoundly transformational reset. Or you may book an annual refresh as your gift of self-reflection. No matter which, by engaging in mindful preparation and embracing the concept of letting go, you can approach your retreat as you would any precious celebration – intentionally!

That’s how intimate connection within yourself starts. Let go a little, disconnect from the world, travel inwards and reconnect to your breath, body, needs, feelings, fears, creativity, irritation, essence, ideas and possibility. Not a concept that’s always encouraged in today’s chaotic world, is it? Generally, every time we manage to ‘disconnect’ from external pressures, we simultaneously feel the internal demand to ‘connect’ to social media to tell everyone we are ‘disconnecting.’ The irony, huh?

Here’s how to approach your retreat with an intention to maximise your time:

  • Let go of plodding mindlessly along

How will you know you have spent your time, energy, and money in the best way possible? Do your best to “pre-pave” the way. It’s not ideal to move from your hectic work and life schedule slap-bang into the retreat. It takes a few days to catch your breath, especially if making a longer trip abroad. A week before you set off, sit down with your journal, and get uber clear about your intention. Why did you book this retreat at this time with this particular theme /facilitator? What’s your specific aim for your time away? Naturally, the theme of the retreat will inform your intention, but it’s even more powerful to get clear before you arrive.

  • Let go of saying yes to everything

If you say Yes to everything that comes your way, how will have the space to immerse in the retreat? When you’re crystal clear about your intention, decide how else you can support your retreat. What can you stop saying yes to? This is really about giving yourself permission to say no, daring to put yourself first, being willing to push back and letting go the habit of saying yes. Start saying “I’d love to do that, but now is not the right time. Or I’d love to go for dinner, but can we do it after the 25th. I need to pack and have a quiet night getting ready for my retreat.” What can you take off your obligation list? Ask for more help, say no, delegate, or press Control-Alt-Delete. Pay for outsourced support – whether to look after your animals or house, check in on your mother, or hire a VA (virtual assistant) to take extra responsibility for admin or work project.

  • Let go of taking control

If you’re always there to rush in, fix and take control, how can anyone else ever step up? When you’re super clear about needing time out, then by stepping away, you actually give others permission to step up. By handing over specific tasks or obligations, you might even empower them? By not being instantly available to pick up the pieces or be the sounding board, you may inadvertently help them find their own solution, stand on their own two feet, or generate creative ideas.

  • Let go of constant connectivity

If you do the same ol’ same ol’ and stay connected, how will you stop dispersing, reducing and fragmenting your power? Part of our modern stress is the 24/7 connectivity issue. Constantly checking our messages, mail, social media platforms, updating every minute of the day or….horror of horrors, what if our family needs us? Pre-empt your retreat by sharing with family, partner, colleagues, and clients that you’re disconnecting. By letting go and disconnecting, you simultaneously facilitate more profound connection with yourself – connection to your heart and soul.

  • Let go of what is no longer serving you

How can you relax when you have obligations and to-do lists that induce heaviness and guilt? Get your stuff in order! De-clutter your inbox, return all your messages and tick off your loooong to-do list. Leave with a clean slate and arrive at your retreat ‘closed out”, feeling complete with life handled. Physically clear out spaces – especially if you can link them to the retreat’s theme. Attending a mindfulness retreat? Shift anything pulling at your energy – desk, garage, the pile of books glaring at you. Clear the pantry to prep for a detox retreat. Sort clothes, shoes, or makeup for a self-esteem theme. For heart-based retreats – have courageous conversations, write a letter, clear up misconceptions, or saying sorry. Maybe you blitz your whole house to invite fresh, new and invigorating energy in? By clearing out stuck energy, you free up white space in your mind to download new ideas.

Once you’re on the retreat, go one step further and choose something specific that represents an aspect of life – work, career, heart, home, physical space, health, finances, that you are now ready to let go of. It can be a tangible item, a picture, a word, or a belief. When you’re away, make time to symbolically and practically let it go – perhaps burn a letter, bury a piece of jewellry from a past relationship, or dedicate a swim / hike to a person. Do what feels right in your heart.

More on Kate Emmerson

Kate Emmerson is a life coach, international speaker and best selling author who co-runs The Writing Room retreats and lives location free sharing her message of Live Light, Live Large. Check out her series on The Strategic Power of Disconnecting, follow her on Instagram or find out more at

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