S3E7 Retreats

In this episode Dr. Pete brings the trend of retreats to this episode as it comes into modern wellness, as well as the traditional practices of retreats which are ultimately meant to isolate and recharge our energy and spirits. Dr. Rubin reminds listeners to remain curious about these ideas and find what is helpful for each individual, because there is no one-size-fits all. Dr. Pete reminds us that wellness is a journey and to remain patient with the process of retreats, dabble with different kinds, and like Dr. Rubin said, stay curious. Tune in to learn more about the practice of retreats. 




Pete: So there are lots of fads in Eastern and Western worlds. Sometimes it's skinny jeans, sometimes it's belt bottoms. So one thing we'll talk about now is retreats, hey Nikki!


Nikki: I was not expecting that intro that was very snazzy.


Pete: You're welcome. 


Nikki: Yes.


Pete: I like to improv and you just bring out the best in me. So we joke, but we're going to talk about retreats because many people have done them. And, you know, they are like accustomed in the practice within many Eastern traditions, you know, so what's your understanding of retreats, Dr. Rubin?


Nikki: Very formal. I don't know actually a lot at all about sort of the origins of it, like you're saying. I know only through sort of like how it's made its way into, like modern wellness circles.


Pete: But you've been on really great and fancy retreats.


Nikki: Well yes, yoga retreats and they have been great. But I think there's a bit of attachment to a story around retreats these days in sort of, and again, like I was saying, modern Western wellness circles that they're sort of like the answer to things, you know? I mean, it's like, for me, they're vacations where I get to like, practice a lot of yoga, which is important to me. Which is great and we need those things.


Pete: Absolutely.


Nikki: But I think a lot of people sort of view them as this, you know, it's going to be this altering experience, which could be but …..I don't know it may not be. 


Pete: Well, that's why we're doing this episode, because there are a lot's of people that are going to go for retreats, especially as, I like how you said, that's often just wellness space. I found this place over here on the East coast that, and this is brilliant. You could go there and like stay for a week and work, and it's like all clean food and all like the yoga and like pools and just really wellness. And by the way, I can't wait to go.


Nikki: Yeah. It sounds lovely. 


Pete: Yeah. So, the Miriam Webster says that ‘it's a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director.’ So, we're giving that, because I'd love to do that too.


Nikki: Yes, you do. 


Pete: Yep. And it could be so many different things, retreats, like, to your point, there could be yoga retreats, it could be a wellness retreat. In Zen we do retreat often too, we call them sessions, which are just longer sitting periods. 


Nikki: Okay.


Pete: So when you're meditating, ideally you meditate in sunrise and sunset and ideally for whatever time period, you know, 30 minutes-ish would be nice. But then they often encourage us to at least once every x amount of time, have a longer sitting period. So I've done as much as I think 9 or 10 days but you can also just do 1 or 2 days. And so those days, usually you kind of start at 6, you end at like 8 at night and there's like different sitting, walking meditations and some breaks and meals in between. 


Nikki: Listeners should know this; Pete does a lot of silent retreats.


Pete: Well, that's why I talk so much when I'm on air.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: Just got to get it in.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: Thanks for interrupting me there.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: I did just do a 2 and a half day silent retreat maybe like a month ago and I missed you. I just had to get all that in there with what the different types of retreats.


Nikki: But I think that's like an important, I would say like next level. 


Pete: Oh, stop. No.


Nikki: I mean I think it's awesome that people do it, but I will share genuinely, I have absolutely zero interest in ever going on a silent retreat. 


Pete: And I can't wait to go on my next.


Nikki: Yeah. You love it. And I do like being quiet. It's not like I’m not like being quiet, but that to me sounds like anxiety inducing, like trapping. It doesn't seem like a place where I'm like going to feel like quiet and still, that’s just me.


Pete: Well, the meals should be that. Well no, I'm with you and I'm sure shout out to multiple listeners out there who probably feel the same exact way.


Nikki: Yeah, yeah,


Pete: Yeah. And I think the majority of the world probably feels that way if we're being honest. I will say that I feel that way that trapped feeling initially with meals. So like with a silent retreat, you'll sit at a table with people and eat and not talk.


Nikki: Wow.  


Pete: And the first time I did it, I was like, what the?


Nikki: Right.


Pete: So really trippy, but now I get it and you understand, like anything else, it just takes time.


Nikki: Yeah, totally. I mean, I still think it's amazing people do that, including Pete and I just wanted to share that for people to know too. It's like, you know, it's okay to not want to do certain things or that not align with what works for you, right. So, again, if we sort of talk about retreats as opportunities for an individual to take care of themselves, there isn't like a right or wrong way to do it. And I do think that they're kind of, again, like human brains like attachment to stories and judgments that there can be these stories around like, like, well, you're only really doing it if you go on a silent retreat.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: Or you're only really doing it if you do this. And it's like, these are opportunities to take care of one’s self, but there's no one right way to do it. And they're also not, I feel like, I'm going to use this word wrong, but like panaceas right? I'm using it right? Okay. So they're not like magic all or nothing things. Like, it's just an opportunity to potentially like jumpstart something or give yourself extra space, but you can't do all the work on yourself just in a retreat,


Pete: Exactly. It's got to be a buildup too. So like one thing that's important, so we've referenced John Katzin and so, for our listeners he is one of the first kinds of author’s practitioners who brought mindfulness to the west. And he has developed a protocol called ‘Mindfulness-based Stress reduction’ or MBSR and on the sixth week of the eight week protocol is a full day retreat. And the protocol was developed for chronic pain and chronic illness and it's really shown to be effective. And I'll also judge it sometimes because it's like very strict and rigid, which many folks can't. So in particular, one of the things I work on in the world of sport is that athletes do not have an hour a day to do that. And so that's for 45 minutes is the expectation a day, 7 days a week, plus the group about 2 hours.


Nikki: Right. 


Pete: And what we know and we've talked about on air is that 5 minutes can help. Like there's no real measurement as to which number makes the difference.


Nikki: Yes. And you know, as for usual, you and I are on the same wavelength because you're trying to get at something I was just thinking of was like, I don't think we can talk about retreats without talking about issues of privilege.


Pete: Yes. 


Nikki: So, it's about, you know, this should be a privilege of like what you're talking, like, you have to not only have the time to leave your job. You know what I'm saying? Or your kids or whoever, right, to go have that time alone. But then the cost of these retreats is oftentimes exorbitant right? I mean I'm curious about like, you know, again, in the Zen community, if there are sort of retreats that are more cost effective, like not so prohibitive, but a lot of the retreats that are sort of advertised….


Pete: That's just the circles that you run in. No, I'm just kidding. 


Nikki: Well New York's got it too. 


Pete: But your retreat pictures look prettier because you got palm trees.


Nikki: Yeah, yeah. Fair, but I think there's like pieces that we want to acknowledge like around like whiteness and like appropriation of things, right? 


Pete: I appreciate you saying that. Yeah, because it's both time privilege, it's race privilege, it's you know, class privilege.


Nikki: It's class privilege and I think that in the current era, right, like obviously everything's like on the one hand it's, you know, in my opinion, like wonderful that mindfulness practices and these eastern practices are sort of more known, right? Like they're not sort of judged in the way they were even like 20 years ago, right, there's a lot more openness to it. However, there's also the sort of like capitalistic implication. And again, I'm not saying that that's bad necessarily, but it's like then it becomes like who gets to access these things? And it's sort of sold as like luxury and these kinds of things when it's like, that's not really what the initial intention was.


Pete: It's probably not the origin of it.


Nikki: Probably not.  And again, I want to be clear, like I'm not trying to also like judge luxury. I'm not saying like I've got them like very lovely retreats and I'm not saying there's anything bad or wrong about that. But I do want to think a lot about when we say things out in the culture of like, you know, Pete and I aren't saying this, but people go like, you should just go on a retreat. Like, get away. It's like, can you afford that?


Pete: Can you afford it? Exactly.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: Well I find myself saying rather than going on a retreat, you should have an internal retreat often all the time.


Nikki: I love that. Yeah.


Pete: Because you don't need to go to Switzerland for 7 days to then have this thing to then rejuvenate. You need to have that in your every day.


Nikki: Yeah.


Pete: Yeah. And the other thought I'm having is 9 Perfect Strangers.


Nikki: Yes. Is that the title? I think that's what it is.


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: It is Okay with Nicole Kidman. It's a great show.


Pete: And so talk about privilege.


Nikki: Yeah, that's what it's about.


Pete: Yeah. That's exactly what it's about. And that there was that black couple there. So for those who have to watch it, maybe you watch it because you also look at sort of like it's a very rich series, no doubt.


Nikki: Yes, yes. And speaks to what Pete is getting at.


Pete: Yeah, actually, I think this is another fad of retreats because another fad that has been, it's like sort of Ayahuasca. I'm sure that our listener may think we're talking about that as well. So, two things that might be more of the genuine origin of retreats, frankly.


Nikki: Yes, except in that case, it's not just Ayahuasca, it's any of the psychedelics or [inaudible 11:43]. So like psilocybin, and again, I don't think I've said this two people, but I keep telling students like, you know the fourth wave of CBT is probably going to involve psychedelic, I think that's what it's going to be.


Pete: No doubt. 


Nikki: So, there's a lot of it.


Pete: Listeners, the research is fascinating.


Nikki: It's fascinating and really cool; we’ve got to do an episode about that.


Pete: Oh, that'd be good.


Nikki: Yes. So there's some really wonderful stuff coming up along those lines. 


Pete: Yes.


Nikki: Though, and again, my knowledge is limited, but it's like, I would say, even around using psychedelics. I've never actually heard of it being the origins being a retreat. It was more just used like medicinally, like in shamanic practice, you know what I'm saying? 


Pete: Well they had the shaman there to treat them and they would stay for period of time because based on the Maria Webster definition. I'm also thinking, because you said about privilege and you're like, I don't think that was the origin. But then my thought was maybe it was because maybe rich sort of clergy or like the royalty would have a retreat to get away from like the regular people, again, we don't know. 


Nikki: No, that's very interesting. 


Pete: Yeah. 


Nikki: And I think this is just where, you know, again, we want to just stay curious about like what these things mean.


Pete: I think we should bring it back to the Western behaviorism. Thank you.


Nikki: Slash Eastern practices too, right? 


Pete: Just to stay curious.


Nikki: Yeah. Stay curious. And I think like, you know, again, it's like retreats can be really wonderful and I think if that's something that you can do, right? Or that you want to do or it seems helpful. Absolutely, there's one day, there's half day, there's one's far away in other places that are like vacation, great. You know, but I really love what you said Pete, about, you know, we also need to be able to find that space and that retreat internally. 


Pete: Yes. 


Nikki: Because I think that's the thing that sticks for me is like, I've also worked with a lot of people where they'll go on some retreat and it's like, they'll sort of view it, again, it's like, that's going to fix everything. And I'll say like, that could be a really powerful experience and like, you living your own life like every day is in a retreat. 


Pete: That's right. 


Nikki: How are you going to keep that space? How are you going to maintain the space?


Pete: Yes. And that's the important message here. So retreats are helpful, they're not for everyone in every moment so fine. If you're curious about it, just stay curious, you know, consider if you want to take one, do your researches, find where they are, you know, maybe ask a friend for a referral. But the key is, understanding that any kind of wellness is a journey. It is not a sprint and so perhaps looking at it as the journey is the outcome.


Pete: This has been When East Meets West. I'm Dr. Pete Economou.


Nikki: And I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin. Be present, be brave.


Pete: This has been When East Meets West; all material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors Pete Economou and Nikki Rubin.


Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.