February 21, 2019

Create Your Own “Personal Pan Retreat!”

I’m calling it your “Personal Pan Retreat” in homage to those tasty little pizzas you get to design with your very own choice of toppings. Want extra cheese? You got it. Hold the anchovies? No problem. Extra sauce? Check!

Why a retreat?

Life on the proverbial hamster wheel has such momentum that it’s difficult to slow down and find the time to reconnect with our deeper self. When we do get a break, we may be on a whirlwind family vacation, fixing up the house, hosting company – or all of the above. A retreat can certainly be a vacation, but it has a specific focus.

I’m planning a one-day Personal Pan Retreat at the end of the month to do some visioning for my next 5 years. I’ve been wanting to make some changes for a while now, but gosh darn it, in order to figure out exactly what kind of changes, I need some devoted time and space. And I get nowhere thinking about it while carrying on with my day-to-day life. Can you relate?

Using a retreat to create a vision for your future is only one possible focus, below are some other options that exist:

Meditation and Mindfulness
Healing and Renewal
And yes, even Physician Burnout retreats!

You can find a retreat to join. However, you can also create your own retreat for free, right in your own home.

How to plan your Personal Pan Retreat

First, decide on the focus of your retreat. It could be like mine, for visioning and goal setting, but it could also be for reconnecting with yourself by doing art, yoga, writing, woodworking, meditation, prayer, gardening, singing, etc. It’s not so much about the “what” you are doing, but “how” you are doing it. Many retreats are done in silence, or partial silence, in order to create a space for being fully present and focusing on each moment, rather than being lost in thought or activity. From this space, ideas and inspiration may flow.

Second, figure out the length and location. You can plan your retreat for ½ a day, a full day, overnight, or longer. You will want to have undisturbed time, so whether this means clearing the decks at your own home, going to a cabin, a seaside hotel, or a local bed and breakfast, the choice is yours. Some retreat centers offer their facilities for individuals to come and do their own retreats on the premises. You may join in on a formal treat if you prefer, or plan a retreat with friends or family.

Just for fun, here are some tongue-in-cheek themes for Personal Pan Retreats!

#1 Burnt to A Crisp No More! – Are you burned out from practice? Take your white coat off for a day or two and create a recipe to end the burnout.

#2 Who Stole My Cheese? – Feel like something’s missing in your life? Get that cheese back and then some by channeling Sherlock and tracking down the likely suspects.

#3 The Picassoroni – Bring out your inner artist and creative spirit through painting, drawing, woodworking, or whatever medium beckons.

#4 The Greek Goddess – Ladies – leave work, the laundry, the cooking and kids for a spell and rediscover your identity apart from any role. Keep your location a secret.

#5 The Whopper – Want to have it all? Take the time to set some juicy goals for the next 5 -10 years and make a plan to make it happen.

#6 Olives N’ OM’s – Simple, yet not easy. All that is required is to breathe, meditate and be present.

#7 The Man Cave – The Man’s Man retreat. He-man stuff, you know. Not sure on the details here. Ask a man.

Once you have your theme and location, then you can make a schedule. Below is one example where I use the theme of Creativity. What your day looks like is of course entirely up to you!

7:00 AM Wake up
7:15 AM Exercise
8:00 AM Breakfast
8:30 AM Guided Meditation (can use an app*)
9:00 AM Creative Activity – Draw, paint, write, play music, do wood working, pottery, gardening, cooking, crafting, photography, etc.
10:30 AM Reading: preselected reading related to your creative activity or creativity in general
11:00 AM Creative Activity
12:30 PM Lunch
1:00 PM Walking Meditation or Mindfulness Exercise
1:30 PM Journaling: jot down some notes on your experience thus far
2:00 PM Creative Activity
4:00 PM Refreshment/Tea Break
4:30 PM Meditation or Mindfulness Exercise
5:00 PM Wrap up: how you would like to bring more creativity into your day-to-day life?

You don’t need to have your time this structured, but I would at least have a rough schedule and gather the supplies you want to have and plan your meals. Allow some time for a little journaling and self-reflection.

If you like the idea of a retreat yet would rather not have to create your own, click here for some options.

* A Meditation App is an optional resource for your retreat. I personally love Headspace but here are a number to choose from. Even if you are not doing a meditation-themed retreat, you can use the app for 10-minute meditations throughout the day to help stay focused and grounded.

If you decide to do a retreat – homemade, frozen, or at a retreateria, I would love to hear about it!

Til next time,

Buon Appetito!


  1. Sue Zimmermann says:

    Great post, Heather! I really liked the step-by-step instructions – very helpful to visualize how one can start tapping into the creative process. But reading it made me hungry – I’m going to get a snack now…..


  2. Thanks so much Sue! You are most welcome. I had fun writing the blog and it made me hungry too! Let me know if you end up doing your own re-treat. Happy snacking.

  3. Very nice, Heather! I love it.

  4. So this is how I spent my Personal Pan Retreat yesterday. I was awakened at 0700 by my Sleep Analysis App which with a gently ping informed me that I had slept for 8 hours. Nice. I got out of bed, did my Yoga stretches to “un-stiffen” me and went to my comfy chair where I began my 10-min Headspace meditation. I’m in the middle of a 30-day pack and yesterday was Day 9 of FOCUS. Thanks to Dr. Heather for turning me on to Headspace which I have now been using for the past 3 months! I use the single guided meditation on sleep whenever my mind gets too busy at the time I want to go to bed to get my 8 hours, lol! Let me tell you, counting back from 1000 works! I think my brain just gets tired of thinking about the next number by the time I reach about 986. Okay, I digress. So after my FOCUS meditation, I dressed and went for a walk along the Columbia River near my home in Richland, WA. Oh, I did have a bran muffin and coffee before I left. As I walked the path I marveled at sights that I never noticed before. The sound of the river lapping against the shoreline, the geese and goslings diving for eats in the river, the amount of tumbleweeds that clogged the inlet where the yacht club is located. I smiled and said “Hi” to everyone along the way. I walked for 3.38 miles according to my Fitbit and then I turned around and came home. And there were NEW sights to behold! A crop-dusting plane which I don’t think I’d ever seen before. He swooped down and twisted and then soared up into the air. I marveled at the pilot’s ability. When I returned home, I had a snack and sat down to write. Ideas flowed effortlessly. I did this for about an hour and then spent several hours packing for my relocation from WA state to AZ. I was impressed with my ability to pack my boxes as if I were playing a game of Tetris! Everything fit snugly and I labeled each one using funny terminology such as “Doggie and Treats”. My porcelain dog was paired with a Costco box of mixed nuts and other items. Earlier in the week, I had taken 100 pounds of documents, mostly patient medical records from as far back as 2001, to a professional shredding company. I was now wishing that I had some of the “shred” to use to fill my boxes. But instead I canvassed my neighbors for old newspapers. All during my day I stopped many times to have a “mindful moment”, to be in the present and when I began to drift, I easily picked up on it and got myself back into the moment. I took a shorter walk to a friend’s condo and back and resume packing. I had a 70’s disco station playing on Pandora and decided that I had to dance to Brothers Johnson’s “Stomp”, along with Earth Wind and Fire and Sister Sledge. It felt good to dance with reckless abandonment. At around 5pm, I received a call from some friends who invited me out for Happy Hour drinks. I walked to and from the venue and toasted to good friends, good food and to living life to the fullest. Such a fun day! I slept well that night. No need for Headspace on sleep, although I love Andy’s voice! Rather a long post, but fun writing it.

    • Lynette!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your lovely personal pan retreat. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how you spent your day and how on your walk (you went far!) you saw new sights and took what was happening around you. With your packing, you also show that a retest can include any activity you want- the point is to bring mindfulness and presence to the proces. I’m ready glad you like Headspace and Andy Puddicombe. I have to credit a client of mine for inspiring me to try Headspace. He does a meditation every morning before his run.

      You sound happy with your day and I am most grateful that you picked up in the idea of a custom-designed retreat and gave us these delightful details. My 81 years young mother wants to do one to set some new goals for herself and discover her purpose at this stage of her life. I’m going to share your retreat with her. Thanks again for your positive energy and involvement.

  5. Heather, you are most welcomed! It is always a pleasure to read your blogs and to be coached by you. You are so insightful and have helped me transition almost seamlessly into my new life which continues to support my medical career while allowing me to “experiment” with other passions. Once I opened my MIND to meditation and mindfulness, I felt a calm come over me. I spend several “chunks” of meditation time each day to get in tune with myself. I don’t get stressed about the small things like packing away the remote to my DVD and being unable to watch a movie someone had given me. I just put it into my computer DVD player and enjoyed it without much fuss or muss. I’ve come to realize that mindfulness is motivating. It frees you to go after what matters in life and not dwell on the insignificant. It keeps you in the here and now. That’s why it’s called “the Present”. It’s a gift.

  6. Ha! You are so right Lynette. What a wonderful way to describe presence, as a gift. You are so right. And how great that you have found a new direction of speaking to others and sharing your story with inspiring messages – such as not letting others smash your dreams. Carry on and shout your message from the mountain tops!

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