3 Places to Go When Your Soul Needs Spring Cleaning
As the cherry trees burst into bloom, and the first wildflowers turn green hills into oceans of yellow, there's no mistaking it: spring has come to the Bay Area. Everything in nature seems to be just bursting with energy and possibility - and that's contagious to this human being. Suddenly I find myself thinking about shedding stuff I don't need, updating my wardrobe, exercising and eating well - and just spending time soaking up the sunshine.
My soul is asking for a spring cleaning, too. Over the past several months, I've explored books and blogs galore; my mind and my soul are cluttered with ideas for self-improvement and awakening. I can sense that it's time to shed what I don't need, and move forward with just the essentials to support me on the next stage of my life-long journey. But how will I know what to keep, and what to leave behind?
It helps to stick with my daily practice of meditation, no question - but around this time of year, I like to up the ante a bit with a meditation retreat. Whether it's a day-long, a two-day, or more, getting away from it all helps me get clarity on what really matters.
Much as I would love to offer retreats to our students at WITHIN, they're beyond what we can host at our downtown SF location. Fortunately, there are many amazing places nearby where you can be still for awhile, without spending a lot of money, or even going very far.
Here are three of our favorite places within an easy drive of the Bay Area. Pick one, book your spot, and see what happens. There's nothing like a retreat to give your soul that deep spring cleaning it's longing for.
This beautiful center in Marin County is an ideal place to go deeper with your meditation practice, without going too far from home. Spirit Rock was founded by Jack Kornfield, one of the most revered and loved teachers of mindfulness meditation in the West; based on the ancient practice of Vipassana, Insight Meditation blends a Western sensibility with its Eastern roots. Try their Introduction to Insight Meditation on March 17 & 18 (sliding scale $150-400, does not include food/lodging).
Right over the Golden Gate Bridge, tucked into a lush valley, Green Gulch Farm is one of the San Francisco Zen Center's residential centers, where many Zen monks live and work full-time. The moment you step out of your car and into the first eucalyptus grove, you'll be inspired to let go. Get a taste of traditional Soto Zen practice by going to one of their half-day introductory sittings - the next one is on April 21st - or dive in with a full day of sitting and walking meditation. (Including meals, but not lodging: half-day: $40; full-day: $70.)
Ready to go a little farther afield? Sugar Plum Sangha holds retreats monthly at The Mariposa Institute in Ukiah, about a three-hour drive from the Bay Area. Treat yourself to a true retreat, nestled among peaceful hills and oak forests. You'll experience mindfulness meditation as taught in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition. Their spring retreats are March 16-18 and April 20-22 (sliding scale, $65-165, all-inclusive of meals & lodging).
Do you have other favorite places to go on retreat? Tell us in the comments below!