Music, we are told, is only music because of the small gaps of silence between the notes. The pauses that are not sound, but punctuation. That differentiate one note from the other. That set the pace and the flow. That allow room for each note to both stand on its own AND flow into the other notes to create a melody.
The importance of these “white spaces” or pauses is also a critical ingredient in retreats. Retreats hold the potential to be so magical because we put people in a place where white spaces exist. Space between constantly doing and into a place of more being. The room to breathe, to pause, to reflect.
White spaces in retreats also are the thing that allows serendipity to surface — enabling the ability to relax into the conversations. Allowing space to listen more deeply. To let go of the hurry for the peace of the now.
With Zoom meetings and virtual work, we’ve lost much of the white spaces at work. One meeting ends at 9, just as another begins, only to blend into the 11:00 meeting and the noon meeting and the 1 pm meeting. And so it goes through the day — hurling ourselves from one meeting to the next without a break. There often is not even enough “white space” to tend to physical needs (stretching, water, food, bathroom). We are chained to our laptops and tethered by our calendars.
There are other things that suffer from a lack of white space. We lose the casual conversations, which are the fodder for relationship building and often spark new insights or ideas. We no longer have the luxury of lollygagging before and after meetings to scratch our human social itch.
At well-designed retreats, white space is planned for as an integral part of the experience. Breaks between sessions. Time to wander about (which tends to allow time to process information and to enable creativity to emerge). Time to break bread together and have conversations without an agenda. Hanging out time, over a campfire or a glass of wine or in soft, comfy chairs, where you can relax together and allow the conversation to unfold. This typically results in conversations of deep human connection: jokes, laughter, deeper sharing, and at times, tears. Intentional white space creates this container for both levity and seriousness, for connection and creativity, for a more natural flow in and out of the planned activities.
As I plan retreats with my clients, there is a constant tug as we wrestle with the agenda. As we list all that we want to get done in the time that we have, there is a strong pull to maximize this precious time together. To begin early in the morning and to work well into the night. To make lunch a working lunch and dinner a working dinner.
And my role when those inevitable conversations emerge is to take a firm stance and say no. To be a guardian of white spaces. To make this experience uniquely different from the normal day-to-day. To allow space for serendipity. To find the right pace — one that allows for spontaneous sparks and one that also sets the stage to achieve the goals of the gathering.
I have to say NO to cramming in one more session. NO to working over meals. NO to over-scheduling every moment, even if it is with leisure activities.
And then, as the retreat unfolds, I witness the magic that happens in the white spaces. The shedding of the weight of work. The trust being built when real conversations happen. The serendipitous sparks that happen with planned randomness. The creative ideas that emerge when we allow space for them to germinate. The insights and ahas that come when there is room to ruminate — even if it may be happening sub-consciously.
Two years into a pandemic, we’re craving what a retreat can offer. Connection with others in a physical setting. A break from screen time and a space to physically be together. Real conversations. Time to process what the past two years have meant and where the next two years might take us.
This takes space. The right physical space plays a part. The work agenda does as well. But equally important is the white space, for that, my friend is where the magic happens.
Would your team benefit from a retreat? We offer four different types for four different needs:
- Need to recharge and refocus? Our Reset Retreat is just the thing!
- Wanting to create unity around your 2022 strategic plan and goals? The Higher Purpose Retreat is designed just for that!
- Wanting to build higher levels of trust and teamwork? Check out our Harmonic Team Retreat.
- Need creative thinking or to tackle tough problems? Our Questions Only Retreat might be the answer.
If you want to learn more, schedule time to talk here.