spiritual writings | retreat center directory

You're invited to visit our sister site DanJoseph.com, a resource site
featuring articles on spirituality, psychology, and A Course in Miracles.

Home | Writings | Relationships | Jennifer Louden | Retreat part 1 | next   

Excerpted from The Woman's Retreat Book by Jennifer Louden. Copyright 1997 by Jennifer Louden. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc..  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the Publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"I am more and more able to choose a self-referenced life: looking inside of myself to see what I think, feel, and need, then looking outside of myself to see what others think, feel, and need, and then bringing the two together."

Jennifer Louden, The Woman's Retreat Book, Part 1

"If we don't get there, the mind will take us there anyway. We must retreat to survive."

--Marcie Telandar, therapist, writer, and ritualist

My interest in solitude and retreat has been one of the main threads running through my life. It was the way I used to hide from being connected to others. It became the way I located my authentic self and, in doing that, true connection to others.

Thinking, writing, and teaching about women's and couples' self-care has consisted of years of diving deeper and deeper into the subject and into my own psyche, each time surfacing with another fragment of understanding. After years of doing this, I had to ask myself, "Why am I so obsessed with this subject?" The answer was that as much as I immersed myself in trying to understand and explain the importance of self-care, it remained a mystery. I could never lay my hands on exactly why self-care was so important.

Until I took a retreat.

And met my authentic self. Only then was I able to grasp that self-care helps me to make daily choices that affirm me, thus allowing me to contact, hear, and eventually live from my truest self, what Alice Walker calls "the natural self." I am more and more able to choose a self-referenced life: looking inside of myself to see what I think, feel, and need, then looking outside of myself to see what others think, feel, and need, and then bringing the two together. This may seem like common sense, but for millions of women, including myself, it is nothing short of a revolutionary act.

I have always been in love with solitude. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of riding my bike in the winter wind alone, playing on a huge sand pile in our backyard alone, exploring empty lots alone. I lived alone for seven of the ten years between my parents' house and the house I now share with my family. When I was twenty-seven, I read everything that poet and lover of solitude May Sarton wrote. I seriously considered emulating her lifestyle. I filled files with information about writers' colonies, wilderness trips, vision quests, and yoga retreats. And yet, as wonderful as solitude was, for me it was primarily an escape. Anthony Storr in Solitude: A Return to Self described me when he wrote, "Other individuals find it difficult to be authentically themselves even in the presence of their spouses, lovers, or closest friends and relatives. Such individuals, whilst not going so far as to construct a false self which entirely replaces the true self at a conscious level, have an especial need to be alone which goes beyond the occasional demand for solitude. . . ." I was running away from intimacy with others rather than toward knowing my authentic self, both alone and in the presence of others.

next ->