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Creating a retreat-like home

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Many of us had some time to be home or be off the clock enough to know how much we enjoy having time to spare. Today kicked off the start of the work and school year for many, and already we may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and pressured for more time. How can you build more time into your schedule and homelife, even if you work from home? Here are five simple steps you can take to build a more retreat-like atmosphere into your home and daily schedule.

1. Create morning and nighttime rituals. Take time to create a new routine for both ends of the day. Wake up just 10-15 minutes earlier, but do not jump out of bed right away. Instead, start your day by doing something that helps you center and focus yourself. For some, that might mean a few minutes of prayer or meditation, or both. For others it might include writing in your journal, doing some gentle, awakening stretches or yoga poses, or it might mean reading some inspirational poetry, sacred scriptures, or literature. In the evening, set aside time right before going to sleep to create a ritual for transitioning from waking to sleeping. Consider making a list of chores or projects you want to do the next day (this alleviates taking the list in your head to bed with you). Have a cup of herbal tea, light a candle, and perhaps listen to some beautiful music, read a poem, or spend a few minutes in mediation and/or prayer. Go over the day's events, and anything that has caused you distress, think of some way that issue could be resolved or handled that would alleviate tension and creater greater harmony. Think about who or what might need to be forgiven, and/or what you may wish you had done differently. Then forgive yourself and others, and focus on what you have to be grateful for. One of my favorite nighttime rituals was having my Mother read to us each night. I did this with my Daughter and now with my Granddaughter. Spend some time just breathing gently, slowly, and deeply, feeling yourself relax, from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet.

2. Create space for sacred and inspirational practices. Set aside one area of your home to quiet, retreat-like activities and times. If you have a whole room, that's great, but it doesn't have to be an entire room. Dedicate a chair, a small table, a lamp, and a corner of a room to your Quiet Zone. Make it comfortable and attractive. Decorate it with a candle, special objects and books, a diary/journal, and maybe a few colored pens and a drawing tablet. Set aside time to sit in this space, and stop doing or thinking about anything else but what you want to focus on, or let go of. Use this space to doodle, draw, read, pray, meditate, ponder, contemplate, observe, or simple breathe. Leave your electronic devices out of this area, and turn off the ringers while you are in this space. If this is for you only, come to an agreement with those you live with to respect your space and the times you spend in the space. If you want to invite others in the home to use the space, create some guidelines for honoring each others time and the space itself. Then use the space for what it's meant for. This may take a while, but if you keep the space dedicated to a sacred space, soon you wil find this easy to do. In many homes, weather permitting, sacred spaces can be outside as well (in the garden, porch, patio, or backyard).

3. Treat Yourself Like a Guest.

Treat food, nutrition, and meals as sacred space and time. Set the table for meals, even if you are eating alone. Dress nicely and wash up before dinner. Start meals with a ritual of gratitude (grace) and treat eating even simple meals as if they were feasts. Eat slowly and use meal times to rest, reconnect, and relax in each other's company. Include everyone in on meal preparations, and clean up. Avoid arguing or debating at the dinner table. Especially for children, a hostile dinner environment can have long-lasting repurcussions. Create peace in the family at the table, treating each other as the guest. And if you have a family, dedicate one night a week to each member of the family. Let that person select the food, and come to the table with especially nice things to say or share with that person. For example, remebering something the person did to help you, or something you discovered they knew how to do. Make each person, including yourself, be the honored guest.

4. Set Clear Boundaries with your use of Space.

Especially with those of us who work at home, it is important to keep your home free of clutter. Also, it is important not to allow work and school projects to spill out all over the house. There are times when you may use the dining room or floor for a big project, but make sure it is cleared away and that the space becomes free and open once the project is completed. Avoid stacking your work on the dining room table or coffee table. Use your organization skills to have a place in your office/desk/studio for work.

5. Set boundaries on how you use your time.

You may be able to sit at your desk for 8 hours straight, but that does not mean that is a good, healthy, or even effective use of your time. Dedicate regular breaks for exercise, rehydration, food, and rest. Slow down a bit, and honor all your needs, not just your goals and expectations. Honor the needs of body, mind, and spirit. Take time to have fun, to take a walk, or go for a hike. Go swimming once or twice a week, or get in a round of golf or a set of tennis. See the need in every moment to slow down, be more mindful, and appreciate and experience the life you are gifted to have.

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