Search this blog

The Great Turning and Solitary Retreats

The Sheiling, Dhanakosa

Last year I spent, in total, about a month in retreat in an attempt to settle my mind, answer some painful questions about our Earth and decide whether the direction I was headed was the right one. The final week of this was in solitary retreat in a hut in the Scottish foothills of Balqhuidder.

One of the retreats I attended was based on the Great Turning using the Work that Reconnects - conceived by the incredible Joanna Macy.

"The Great Turning is a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization." Joanna Macy
Please use the links to Joanna Macy's website to learn more. She has some strong answers to help us deal with our pain in this time of the Great Turning and give us the strength and inspiration to keep going and understand our feelings.

In my playlist is a song called the Elm Dance. Please take some time to have a look at the details of this powerful song and dance.

My plan was to go through the Work that Reconnects retreat and then immediately spend a week in solitary retreat allowing myself to let what emerged settle and what couldn't emerge, emerge... all with no distractions.

There is no way I suspected what I was about to experience. Just one week in solitary retreat, doesn't sound very long I know, but believe me, it's not easy. One week set aside to be alone without any distractions has had one of the most profound effects on my life. Going on solitary retreat clarified the job of learning and living. It's effects still permeate my everyday life, even when I'm being a bit rubbish. I had never really met myself. Finally, there I was, all fragile and powerful. Quite frightening to behold but also in need of care, attention and protection. For the first time I was able to feel compassion toward Hen and understand just how deeply important it is to be compassionate to oneself.

A Hen head, 5th day of Solitary Retreat

A week isn't long enough. To begin with though I think it's sensible to give yourself a chance and ease yourself in by starting with one week and then building yourself up. As I said, it's not a simple task. If there is one gift you give yourself in this life, I would suggest going on a solitary retreat should be somewhere near the top of your list. This website is brilliant

View from the Sheiling

The solitary retreat photographs are fuzzy because I realised half way through the week I had a camera on my mobile phone. I hadn't thought of it before because there was no mobile reception up there! I'm happy I took the photo's!


  1. For awhile there was a trend amongst my spiritual friends of doing 40-day solo retreats. It was based on all the famous 40-day events: Jesus in the desert, Moses on Sinai, the flood, when it rained 40 days and 40 nights. It was thought that it takes 40 days for the mind and consciousness to experience a complete transformation. So I tried it. I found a hut on a mountain in Virginia, no water or power. I nearly went bonkers by about day 23 and almost quit, but managed to stick it out, and I did come out the other side in a very positive way. (I actually wrote a more detailed account of this experience in my book that came out recently, The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist's Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics and Other Consciousness-Raising Adventures. See .
    Anyway, I have friends who consider solitary retreat to be their primary spiritual practice, and do it on a regular basis to nourish and refuel.

    Thanks for your site. I've heard of Joanna Macy for years and years but have never read or met her.

    Eliezer Sobel

  2. A very thoughtful post. I love the idea of a solitary retreat (as long as I can take my knitting with me)but have never tried it. There always seems to be obstacles (usually animals to care for) but maybe they are excuses.

    I did a workshop with Joanna Macy about 20 years ago on Dispair and Empowerment in a Nuclear Age when I was heavily involved in Non Violent Direct Action against Cruise Missiles. She is very inspiring and it is wonderful to know she is still creating value through her workshops.


Thank you so much for leaving a comment. Remember...

'Is it kind, is it necessary'?

Related Posts with Thumbnails