Retreat (spiritual)

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The term retreat has several related meanings, all of which have in common the notion of safety or temporarily removing oneself from one's usual environment in order to become immersed in a particular subject matter. A retreat can be taken for reasons related to spirituality, stress, health, lifestyle, or social or ecological concerns. Increasingly, organizations hold retreats to focus board and staff members on key issues such as strategic planning, enhancing communication and collaboration, problem-solving and creative thinking.

A retreat can either be a time of solitude or a community experience. Some retreats are held in silence, and on others there may be a great deal of conversation, depending on the understanding and accepted practices of the host facility and/or the participant(s). Retreats are often conducted at rural or remote locations, either privately, or at a retreat centre such as a monastery. Some retreats for advanced practitioners may be undertaken in darkness, a form of retreat that is common as an advanced Dzogchen practice in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Spiritual retreats allow time for reflection, prayer, or meditation. They are considered essential in Buddhism[1], having been a common practice since the Vassa, or rainy season retreat, was established by the founder of Buddhism, Gotama Buddha. In Zen Buddhism retreats are known as sesshin. Meditative retreats are an important practice in Sufism, the mystical path of Islam. The Sufi teacher Ibn Arabi's book Journey to the Lord of Power (Risālat al-Anwār)[2] is a guide to the inner journey that was published over 700 years ago. Retreats are also popular in many Christian churches, where they are seen as mirroring Christ's forty days in the desert,[3] including evangelical Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism.


Sufi Retreats or Spiritual Khalwa

The literal meaning of khalwa is seclusion or retreat, but it has a different connotation in Sufi terminology: It is the act of total self-abondonment in desire for the Divine Presence. In complete seclusion, the Sufi continously repeats the name of God as a highest form of dthikr (meditation). In his book, Journey to the Lord of Power, Muhiyid-Did ibn Arabi (1165-1240 A.D.) discussed the stages through which the Sufi passes in his khalwa.

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