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Retreat from day-to-day life provides a sanctuary where we can immerse ourselves in silent reflection, regenerate and nourish the heart, mind and soul. For the past six years I have attended the retreats of Leonard Jacobson in California, and as far away as France and Australia. But no matter where I attend, the essential nature of my experience has been the same — an opportunity for healing and release of the past and a deepening into Presence.

Your retreat preparation begins in the days and weeks before you arrive for registration. Energetically, that intelligent dimension of you knows what’s required. Before each retreat, Leonard sends a reminder letter asking participants to deepen their experience of Presence in everyday life. For me, this is my cue to notice what has begun working its way to the surface, and to become more aware of hooks that pull me out of Presence and back into my thinking mind. Support your retreat by eating healthy light meals and resting in the days before, including an early arrival if you fly a great distance to avoid arriving drained and exhausted.

Surrender any expectations or hidden agendas you may have. A retreat is a cocoon where you are given space for the natural flow and unfolding of events without the need to control your surroundings — make the most of this opportunity and allow the grace and mystery of the divine to reveal what you need to know and how these lessons will manifest.

Make the commitment to limit your outside responsibilities. This is a time for nourishing self-care, to become more aware of your needs and how you can empower yourself by fulfilling these. Relinquishing attachments to devices, work and family can be a worthy challenge. During the retreat, keep your phone on silent in your room — the retreat experience can be diminished if the office is calling or you are furiously working during breaks to complete a deadline. When necessary, allocate a specific time to call home or attend to matters outside, while caring for yourself within the “retreat bubble.” The benefits of even temporarily “letting go” will support your re-entry into the world and provide a fresh perspective on where to focus your energy and attention.

While immersed in the retreat, honor your feelings and whatever is coming up for you. Your body and soul have a deep inner knowing — trust the process of unfolding, allow these feelings to arise with love and acceptance. In Leonard’s retreats, there is time to share and explore questions and feelings. Give it your all, relax and do not take it too seriously. Opening up and sharing in front of a group of 100 people can raise fear and anxiety, and it can take tremendous courage to remain authentic and vulnerable. When I have put myself out there, these moments have turned out to be the most deeply healing and transformative experiences of my life. I have been surprised by how much I have benefited from the questions and disclosures of others, which illuminate our humanness and the true purpose of our journey. When these experiences are revealed in Presence, there is a Oneness and a deep level of compassion that arises within the group.

A retreat can be a wonderful opportunity to meet others and develop dear friendships. It is also a safe, structured and intimate environment where we mirror each other in relationship. This can bring stronger awareness of the need for clear boundaries, and the way to avoid entanglement in the stories of others. These are key lessons that you can take home and apply in your daily life.

Allow for a period of integration once you return home. Be gentle and patient with yourself and use discretion in choosing with whom to share your experience. Each time I have left the retreat, feelings of gratitude have arisen for the opportunity to further awaken and become more deeply present in my day-to-day life.

Gradually, I have learned not to try to hold on to these beautiful experiences. Leonard has shown me that these openings into love and acceptance are my true nature. These qualities can never leave. They are accessible in any moment of true Presence.

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Jane Powell is a freelance writer and editor. Originally from Australia, she now lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., enjoying and exploring the natural beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline. If you would like further information about Leonard Jacobson’s teaching and events, please visit www.leonardjacobson.com.

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