How to Enjoy Down Time During Retreats

By Tania Ho
December 12, 2016
A guest asked me recently, if we could provide more activities for guests to do during the day, so there would not be too much down time while waiting for the next class or spa treatment or meal.

She asked a question that I think a lot of guests would like to ask.

If there were something called “City People Syndrome”, I think this would be one of the symptoms.

I also grew up in a city. Every time when I go back home to Hong Kong, I would have back-to-back appointments to meet this friend and that friend, to run my errands, to visit the Chinese doctor, to get my nails done, to get a haircut, etc.

My so-called holiday back home is even busier than my daily life here in Chiang Rai.

Even for our honeymoon in Bali for five nights, I have booked a car for sightseeing for two full days, a full day spa package for one day, and another free day which I planned to go to Ubud for some shopping. I also scheduled two dinners with friends who lived in Bali.  I realized that our schedule would be quite full and would not even have time to set foot on a beach, even though we lived at a resort by the beach. So I squeezed in one hour on the full day sightseeing day to visit the beach.

So I get it. Been there, done that.

We are so used to planning and building structure within a free day, so there is order, and we feel that we have control over creating the day we want.

‘More more more’ is the norm.  In the five-star resort I stayed in Bali, they offered so many activities during the day, for both adults and children, many special events, many restaurant outlets, and even many pools to swim in.

But coming to a retreat is different.  Museflower is not a resort nor a recreational camp. We are a retreat center. Our philosophy here is ‘Simple is Bliss, Bliss is Simple.’

At a retreat, having free time and space is really a luxury that we do not get from a daily basis. What would you do with all the free time in the world – if you do not have Facebook or Youtube to distract you?

With all this free time, suddenly we get uncomfortable.

No wait, we should be DOING something, not wasting our time here.

We are not used to sitting around, doing nothing. For people who are so used to being busy in their lives. It reminded me of this article I read a while back. It wrote that when people greeted each other and asked how they have been, the standard answer has now become ‘busy’ instead of ‘good’.

We pride ourselves in being ‘busy’, because that’s when we feel our lives have meaning, and that we are doing something worthwhile.

Coming to a retreat is a chance to break away from this daily life habit.

What if – we do not have to DO anything? How about just BEING? The down time when we are not doing anything, is the time when we can reconnect with nature and ourselves, to really listen to our soul’s voice from deep inside our hearts.

The same guest then asked, “Can you give me some guidelines on how to do that? What does it mean to ‘’be’?”

Honestly, that is a really good question and I do not have one answer.

I believe it’s different for everyone.

Personally, I would find somewhere comfy to sit by nature and just stare around and observe. I may go to observe the flowers, as they have so much wisdom to share. I may write something down in my journal from what I observe, perhaps an insight or a realization may suddenly come to my mind. I may take my time to read a book, and occasionally I can put down the book and just stare out to the nature so I can have time to digest the messages from the book. I may (and I can) just look at my dogs playing all day long.

These examples are still ‘doing’ but I guess the point is to allow what comes to you at that moment in time, and to let your inner guru guide you.

When we allow space and open up to what may come, we allow the flow of life to flow through us.


Here are my suggestions on how to enjoy your down time during retreats:

1. Explore what it means to you by ‘BEING’ instead of  ‘DOING’?

2. Find out if you feel comfortable with all this free time or if you have the tendency to plan out your days. If you are not comfortable with down time, ask yourself why?

3. Observe nature and see what catches your eyes. Often there may be a message there.

4. Daydream, and see where your imagination takes you.

5. Close your eyes and get in tune with your body. Use your inner eye to scan your body from top to bottom. Is there any area that feels heavy, uncomfortable, tight, tense or painful? If so, imagine having a silent conversation with your cells, and ask your cells why they feel the way they are.

6. Reflect on your life journey. Are you where you want to be right now? Is there anything you want to do that you haven’t done yet? What do you like to focus on creating for the next month, year or five years?

7. Ask yourself the hard question, if you were to die tomorrow, do you have any regrets or still have things that you wish you could have done? Use the answer as a motivation to start creating the life you want to live.

8. Write down any thoughts or feelings in your journal. It helps you clarify your thought processes and record any reflections or insights.



What does it mean for you to just BE?

Feel free to hit reply to share your thoughts with me.

Happy Holidays!