Richard Harvey - Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
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Interview on Personal Retreats

Richard Harvey answers questions about his personal retreats.

Why do people need a personal retreat?

There are many reasons—health, relationships, career, personal development, a sense of meaninglessness, lack of purpose, challenges of aging, coping with emotions, anxiety, depression, crisis and spiritual enquiry. Ultimately, I think the retreat event is a sane response to modern existence.

Traditionally, there has been a monastic milieu for people to retire to away from the world and contemplate, relax, refresh and attempt to see the world in a new way. That self-regulatory part of us says sometimes: it’s enough, I need a break, I need time to catch up with myself or to let it all in and concentrate on the inner (and outer) changes that are taking place in my life.

Why not just take a holiday?

Holidays of course bring their own stress, from expectations as well as the projection of desire. In other words we look for amusement out there – the retreat is not about looking for amusement, for further distraction or adding stress. It is more about saying that’s enough, Stop! Letting things settle inside us, taking stock, finding peace or insight.

Is a retreat necessarily spiritual?

A retreat here is as spiritual as you are. From my point of view and the point of view of genuinely spiritual people spirituality is a description of the human core or higher faculties of human existence. It’s not something to swap or conjecture or figure out. In terms of practice it is a route to transcendence and the divine—it’s not optional you see; it is who you are ultimately.

It is not for me to foist that on you. If someone comes here for a retreat with an emotional or developmental issue, I will facilitate and encourage them to be with what‘s happening on their own terms. You don’t have to be a believer!

So an atheist could come on retreat with you?

Oh yes, of course. And you know some atheists are more sincere than believers or so-called spiritual people. It really is more a matter of authenticity and sincerity than believing or having faith in some spiritual way or other. The sincere atheist will do much better than the inauthentic spiritual seeker.

So what happens if I come on a retreat here? Do I just hang out?

No. We have a concentrated schedule of one-to-one therapy work with me, tasks given to deepen in insight and understanding throughout the day, walks, breathing exercises, active dreaming, meditation, physical-emotional exercises, some “just sitting” or being here, plus pleasurable human activities—eating, relaxing and communing with nature.

It sounds full-on!

Well, to regulate yourself and to ease yourself out of the outward orientation in the outer world you have to busy yourself in a disciplined way. Most of us would have a hard time suddenly being thrown back on inner resources for 24 hours a day. So this is a way of structuring the inner retreat and making it palatable and possible within a short space of time, say, a week. Ultimately everything you’re doing is referring you back to yourself, so it is replenishing.

Would I work on anything I want to in therapy with you or do you have a themes structure, a way of doing it?

Well, both actually! With the introduction of the new retreat accommodation, which is a beautiful self-contained eco-build, I have decided, in addition to the usual retreat where you bring your present, individual issues, to offer three new themed retreats.

What are the themes?

One is The Inner Journey, where you explore where you are in your inner exploration and where you’re going perhaps. You gain some clarity, insights and take another step or so along the way. For some, there may be a breakthrough, which is either a major change or even a transformative movement across the threshold.

Then there’s The Path of Love, a relationships-themed retreat where you explore the dynamics of your relationships, present and past, your emotional behavioral patterning and partnership and friendship dynamics. For some it is an exploration of the path of intimacy, the way of the heart, and its rewards and challenges.

Then there’s a spiritual retreat, Spiritual Life and Sacred Practice, in which we look at your “progress” along the spiritual path, your present spiritual lessons, the state of your spiritual practice, understanding and insight, and level of attainment. For those who have a consistent spiritual discipline, personal retreats are very important as a time of profound in-turning and replenishment.

Finally, I offer The Practitioner’s Retreat for practitioners: therapists, counselors and healers, to look at how they are working with others, what the issues are in their healing practice and strengthening and renewing themselves and giving care and attention to the carer!

How effective are personal retreats?

In ten years of personal retreats, very few have been less than 100% successful. When people leave a retreat here they are satisfied, inspired, refreshed and re-enthused through changes insights and understanding that have arisen in terms of breakthrough and deep process work. Objectively we can assess with clarity through reviewing the stated aims for the retreat and by far those aims and often more have been achieved.

These retreats are unique in my experience. The mix of relaxation and focus, the ambience of the Alpujarras, the quiet profound atmosphere and immersement in nature, reflection and guidance in therapy sessions, freedom and discipline make it a highly beneficial and extraordinary experience.

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