It has always been important for me to find time to be alone. I recently decided to spend a full day alone at a local retreat house. I would read, journal, pray, reflect, and end the retreat by meeting with my spiritual mentor.

It was perfect timing for me to reflect on all the inner changes I had been making. This personal growth, although very beneficial, had left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted! The original momentum and excitement of my personal and spiritual journey had ceased and turned into some sort of funk over the past weeks. This was causing some anxiety. I decided to begin the retreat by really focusing on a challenge that I was given by some friends: To be gentle with myself regarding the changes I was making and the transitions in my life. As I prayed, reflected, and wrote in my journal, I had some amazing insights throughout the day.

I realized that being gentle on myself means forgiving myself. We hear so much about forgiving others but forgiveness really begins within. I also became aware that by not forgiving myself, I project that onto others. I use behavior that is compulsive, controlling, judgmental, negative, "fixing", avoiding, and approval seeking. Pretty unhealthy stuff! In my case it all translates to "people-pleasing". Unfortunately, as we try to make healthy changes, some people try to keep us locked in the unhealthy patterns. That’s what I was feeling; and as I reflected on the issue it suddenly all made sense. The solution was just as my friends suggested – to be gentle on myself, make the changes I feel inspired to make, and continue with my journey of growth. My friends urged me to ignore what others think of my changes. It truly is none of my business what others think! I need to do what’s best for me – as do we all!

The thought of forgiving myself brought a sense of complete peace, a "letting go". I realized that self-forgiveness brings self-acceptance, which feels much better than seeking outside approval. It also means that I am more authentic. But it’s hard, isn’t it, to give up those familiar pieces of our personality? Even unhealthy behaviors can feel like a security blanket at times. I wondered what it would be like if everyone took the time to forgive themselves - or to even try to forgive themselves. I also imagined what it would be like if everyone made more time for themselves – time to reflect and grow.

I had many insights and answers on that day. Everything just kept flowing into my head and I felt sensations throughout my entire body. The more I prayed, reflected, and relaxed – the more answers I received. I browsed the bookshelves and sat down with 10 "randomly" (is anything really random!) chosen books to leaf through. Wow - every sentence my eyes fell upon had meaning: "Selfishness is NOT pleasing ourselves, it's expecting others to please us", "By achieving a deeper self awareness, we can become more honest with ourselves", "To grow spiritually is to become less self conscious and more simple". I felt very open to abundance, messages, and answers. I learned about the "mask" that I wear. We all wear a mask and part of life is to figure out what’s under it.
There were also several synchronicities that day. I ran across a quote that immediately resonated with me - so I wrote it down. Five minutes later I ran across the same quote in another book! It was: "The longest journey of any person is the journey inward". I wasn't reading these books cover to cover - I was just "randomly" browsing them.

I became aware that the old habits and beliefs I need to give up can be done in a peaceful way - I don't have to be anxious about it. It seems that whenever I ask God to help me with something, I ask with much anxiety. It doesn’t have to be that way. I can be at peace when I approach Him with my problems. I was so relieved to have that insight!

By the end of my day I felt refreshed, enlightened, renewed, less depressed, AND I checked out three of the books that had the most meaning to me. Generally, these retreats are very helpful to me. However, I have never had this profound an experience. It felt like a kind of spiritual awakening. I think we all owe ourselves some time away to pray, meditate, reflect, and relax. We spend a lot of time trying hard to find answers – why not stop looking and, instead, be receptive to what’s already there?

To participate in your own journey into spiritual consciousness, join me from March 14 – 21, 2004 on an Eastern Caribbean spiritual cruise. The theme of the cruise is Jazzing the Spirit and I will be the featured speaker during the 16 hour series of at sea workshops. For more information:

© 2003 Monique Rider

Author's Bio: 

Monique Rider is a life coach and fitness trainer. She specializes in holistic self care for individuals in transition, empowering them to build strength from the inside out. Monique is the founder of BodyLife Dynamics and a contributing author to Ophelia’s Mom. She can be contacted at or 480-699-0527