Going on Retreat

Fern Nibauer-Cohen
Fern Nibauer-Cohen

Thinking about a “retreat” probably conjures up images of an isolated spa setting, surrounded by palm trees, where you have the opportunity to relax and unwind for several days. While that is a wonderful goal, it is not all that practical in our everyday life, especially while being treated for cancer. So how does one go on a retreat without having to leave your everyday routine? Jennifer Schelter, Founder of Mindful Strategies for Living and the Radiant Retreat, has over 20 years of experience in helping people structure their own versions of a 15 minutes a day to 2 hour “stay at home” retreat and also leads an annual retreat in Tulum, Mexico for those who can take a full week and “check out.” What’s so intriguing is that Jennifer works with many people to reap the benefits of an “away retreat” while staying in the comfort of their own zip code. I asked Jennifer to share some of her insights about the benefits of retreating and how to access those benefits while undergoing cancer treatment.

How do you define “Retreat”?

A retreat is a time and place set aside for your own self. This is a time for self appreciation, self enjoyment and self respect. Retreating involves letting go of the daily grind and allows you to really step back and witness yourself and what matters most to you.  You can do this for 15-20 minutes in the morning as you are waking up. This orients you to a place within your own mind that excites and rejuvenates you vs. a reactive place. You can even put this practice into a framework of saying “I am so excited about…” or “I am really looking forward to…” This is a mindful practice. Journaling is also a great tool to help facilitate a daily retreat. A short retreat like this is what I call a “self-concordant inquiry.” A self-concordant inquiry means that you are spending time and energy focused on what is in accordance to your own interests, values, or well-being, regardless of what the general population or society thinks.

Describe how this practice of retreating impacts the life of a cancer patient.

I have witnessed a magnificent transformation of letting go with the cancer patients I have worked with. People let go of what they think they should be experiencing and let themselves experience what is really happening for them.  I see laughter, tears, anything goes. I have seen it is a great release followed by joy. Through the process, people really gain a total appreciation and respect for themselves. The most profound aspect of this is that the very simple aspects of life come into focus. Laughter. Joy. Self confidence and self respect. And living in the way that makes that individual happy.

What can someone do RIGHT NOW to access the benefits of a retreat?

Start with gratitude: When you wake up in the morning, take a few deep breaths and appreciate the beginning of the day. Have a journal nearby to write freely about the thoughts that are coming up for you. If you are stressed focus in what you are grateful you can learn from this day. Or if you are looking for inspiration, list five things you are grateful for. Focus on what you can learn or grow from.

Find some self-affirmation:  State something in the present tense that is positive, such as “I love (fill in the blank)” or “I can learn __________. Allow yourself to express self-affirming thoughts and phrases.

Declaration of the present moment:  Allow yourself to think about “I am” statements such as “I am willing to (fill in the blank) today, or this week…” in order to help to command and focus your energy in a positive direction.

The bottom line is that going on retreat means letting go of the daily grind of mental noise, or reactivity, and being open to new ways of thinking, if even for a few minutes each day.

Check in with yourself each morning and choose your mindset and focus. Being open to seeing perspectives, growth, connections and contributions adds to our life force and general wellbeing.

A retreat is a daily discipline and life giving opportunity to keep you balanced through even the most challenging of times.

jennifer schelter

For more information about Jennifer Schelter, visit her website at:

4 thoughts on “Going on Retreat

  1. Hi, I will be having a mandibulectomy with free flap reconstruction, is there a site or blog with people who went through this?

  2. well either way I just wanted to chat with those with similar procedures and how they were doing. Guess i’ll duke it out with SCC( squamous cell carcinoma) and place the transaction on myself. Good luck to everyone and place your bets on yourselves and those around you and remember there is always the song at the end of, life of brian.

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