Contemplative Life

The Recipe for True Retreat

In May 2021, we were thrilled to help Kayla Allen and MaryJo Peak host “The Retreat at Swift Run Farm,” which started with a desire to create a beautiful experience around the table that would nourish women through storytelling and delicious food.  After the retreat, we asked them to reflect on their experience and offer what they would see as the key elements of a great spiritual retreat.  They wrote something we think is very helpful– whether you’re planning an individual or group retreat. We hope their thoughts are a blessing to you!

The Recipe for True Retreat

by Kayla Allen and MaryJo Peak

So often what leads us to a retreat is the urgency to get away from it all.  Finding the chance to escape the challenges of our daily routines and responsibilities can provide a much-needed time of rest and reconnection.  But how do we “get away” in a way that actually restores us?

A change of scenery does not guarantee the renewal our soul is longing for.  A retreat starts with the question of desire– what am I truly longing for?  For many women at The Retreat at Swift Run Farm, that question brought up several themes: 

  • “I’m lonely and in need of spiritual friendship”
  • “I’m grieving and want to hear from God”
  • “I’m in transition and afraid of what’s next”

A spiritual retreat of any kind provides the space to free ourselves from the distractions of daily life and turn our attention to listen to God from a posture of curiosity.  The grace in creating an extended time of listening is that God has already moved first and is eager to meet with you.  That may come in unexpected ways as we saw on the weekend of our retreat:

  • A walk with a new friend who shares your story of loss and disappointment
  • A friend that sees and names your growing trust in the good God has for you
  • Answered prayers of a distraction-free environment, clear weather, safe travel and deep belly laughter
  • A beautiful table with the 11 women God invited to share stories of doubt, hope, grief, gratitude, and how Jesus changes everything

This summer if you’d like to craft a retreat, not just plan a getaway, consider these questions as a starting place to create a space to hear God.

  • PREPARE.  What do I need to let go of so that I can be present to God, myself, and others?  Are there responsibilities in my home, job, or family that need to be taken care of so I am able to disconnect?  If so, what are they?
  • PLACE.  Take a moment and reflect on a place where you feel most at home and free to be yourself.  Where is that?  What do you like to do there?
  • PRACTICE.  Has there been a practice that has helped you experience the presence of God before?  Set aside some time to take up that practice again during your retreat.  If you need a suggestion, you can start with this practice we offered at The Retreat. 

A retreat can provide the unique opportunity to be present to ourselves, mind, body, and spirit as we surrender our false sense of control and receive the true rest of God with us.

Wherever you go and however you choose to spend your time, the ultimate goal of a retreat is to create space to be present. Present to ourselves– mind, body, and spirit– so that we might receive the true rest of God with us.



Looking for a space for a Spiritual Retreat?  If you live in the Mid-Atlantic, perhaps you’ll consider Corhaven, which has hosted individuals and small groups for retreats for over ten years!

EXPLORE Spiritual Retreats at Corhaven


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