What is a mindfulness-based retreat and why do you need one?
It’ll come as no surprise to hear that we could all benefit from introducing a little mindfulness into our day-to-day lives. So much more than a passing fad or flash-in-the-pan buzzword, we’ve all grown to realise just how important mindfulness practices can be in nurturing, improving or maintaining our mental wellbeing.
The problem is, in our increasingly busy, always-on lives, it can be rather tricky to practice mindfulness in any meaningful way, and even with the best intentions, it very quickly slides down our ever-growing to-do lists.
That’s why mindfulness-based retreats can be so beneficial, fully immersing you in the teachings of mindful living and providing an intense crash-course into its skills and techniques.
But what exactly are mindfulness-based retreats, why do you need one and how exactly do we incorporate mindful living into all that we do here at New Life Portugal? Read on to find out.
What exactly is mindfulness?
According to Marina Neumann, Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Senior Instructor here at New Life Portugal, “Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to the present moment, aware of the full experience: sensations, thoughts, emotions and also our responses that emerges from that: feeling tone (pleasant or unpleasant), triggers and impulses.
She references the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and creator of MSBR (mindfulness based stress reduction), the first structured mindfulness program in the western world. He defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
One especially important piece of mindful practice is the set of attitudes. Kabat-Zinn explores 9 main attitudes: non-judging, acceptance, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, letting go, gratitude and generosity.
What is a mindfulness-based retreat?
A mindfulness-based retreat is, quite simply, a retreat that incorporates mindfulness teachings, techniques and activities into its programming. While many wellness retreats will have some form of mindfulness on the schedule, mindfulness-based retreats tend to lean on the practices of mindfulness in pretty much all that they offer.
It’s a foundational piece to the retreat offering here at New Life Portugal, Marina explains. “It’s like the glue that connects all parts of the program: meditation, yoga, silence, working meditation, meals, counselling, nature exploration, community relations.”
“The NLP pathways are a continuous invitation to living the present moment, what we call ‘mindful living’. The whole retreat experience is very therapeutic,” she continues. “Our counsellors are inspired by the applied mindfulness model which means we incorporate mindfulness in the therapy process, shaped by Sitting Together (Susan M. Pollak, Thomas Pedulla, and Ronald D. Siegel) and also third wave therapies, which also incorporate mindfulness.”
“Our therapists themselves practice mindfulness as a way to cultivate presence and the ability to “listen big” to our clients. We use insights derived from mindfulness and Buddhist psychology to shape our understanding of just what our clients are experiencing. What are the patterns and habits; how does suffering show up?”
As well as utilising mindfulness in this always-on manner, we teach our clients the skills they need to apply it to real life, once they’re out of the retreat setting. “This includes introducing or expanding tools and techniques that build resilience and shift energy.”
What are the benefits of a mindfulness-based retreat?
There’s no denying that mindfulness has become a key buzzword amongst the lexicon of modern day culture. As such, the booming wellness industry has wasted no time in developing a multitude of tools and products – from colouring books to meditation apps – that anyone can use to bring a bit of mindfulness to their day-to-day life. The only issue? “Usually at home, people can become very distracted with different demands and external stimuli that do not allow them to incorporate the practice into their days and routine,” Marina warns.
That’s where mindfulness-based wellness retreats come in, offering the opportunity to take an elongated break from normality in which you can properly immerse yourself within the teachings and rituals of mindfulness.
There are many benefits of a wellness retreat, but choosing one that focuses on mindfulness has particular advantages. “A mindfulness-based retreat will give an opportunity to deepen one’s personal practice, with support and guidance of very experienced teachers, counsellors, and practitioners,” Marina explains. “Participants also can learn and grow from sharing experiences with other people.”
Unlike self-administered wellness and mindfulness techniques, a retreat setting like New Life Portugal removes all the guesswork, combining complementary practices and skills together in an organised schedule tailored to you. “There is an enormous value for retreating participants from the rhythm of the NLP schedule of activities and also getting inspired by peers receiving the support of the group. Everything is carefully planned for them to have the most of the experience: meals, free time, self-care time,” Marina adds.
Who are mindfulness-based retreats best for?
While we could all benefit from introducing mindfulness practices into our daily lives, sometimes we require a longer, more sustained pause from our immediate situation. With such a vast set of benefits, mindfulness-based wellness retreats tend to have universal suitability.
“They’re best for anyone willing to have a deep practical experience living in a mindful community,” Marina recommends. “People who want to learn new ways for self-care or healing body, mind, and spirit, people looking for changes or repurpose in their lives or individuals who wish to change their relationship to their suffering,” she continues.
At New Life Portugal, although programs are tailored to each individual, we structure our retreat offering based on four different pathways: resilience, wellness, and rest and rejuvenate, each one interwoven with mindfulness teachings and methods. “We provide support for people looking to reduce stress, heal from burnout, or find help for anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, addiction aftercare and relapse prevention.”
What tools can you apply to daily life after a mindfulness retreat?
Though the wellness retreat setting may feel wildly different to your usual environment, here at New Life Portugal, we teach new resilience skills in a manner that makes them applicable to daily life back at home. “Therapy at New Life is short-term and resource-oriented, using the real-time experiences of life in community as a theatre in which to test out new skills and new ways of being as we explore together the realms of mindfulness, body awareness, interpersonal connection, meaning making, and spiritual practice with the goal of sustainable wellbeing,” Marina explains. “This will be teaching for life.”
You’ll gain stronger resilience, better self-knowledge and improved emotional intelligence and leave armed with plenty of practical mindfulness techniques and skills you can actually use throughout your regular day-to-day life. “It’s very practical information that will impact how you continue to practice at home, have healthier relationships and thrive and flourish in life,” Marina concludes.To find out more about New Life Portugal’s mindfulness-based wellness retreats, click here.