The term retreat has several related meanings, all of which have in common the notion of safety or temporarily removing oneself from one's usual environment in order to become immersed in a particular subject matter. A retreat can be taken for reasons related to spirituality, stress, health, lifestyle, or social or ecological concerns. Increasingly, organizations hold retreats to focus board and staff members on key issues such as strategic planning, enhancing communication and collaboration, problem-solving and creative thinking.
A retreat can either be a time of solitude or a community experience. Some retreats are held in silence, and on others there may be a great deal of conversation, depending on the understanding and accepted practices of the host facility and/or the participant(s). Retreats are often conducted at rural or remote locations, either privately, or at a retreat centre such as a monastery. Some retreats for advanced practitioners may be undertaken in darkness, a form of retreat that is common as an advanced Dzogchen practice in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Spiritual retreats allow time for reflection, prayer, or meditation. They are considered essential in Buddhism, having been a common practice since the Vassa, or rainy season retreat, was established by the founder of Buddhism, Gotama Buddha. Retreats are also popular in many Christian churches, where they are seen as mirroring Christ's forty days in the desert, including evangelical Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism.
- Merianne Liteman, Sheila Campbell, Jeffrey Liteman, Retreats that Work: Everything You Need to Know About Planning and Leading Great Offsites, Expanded Edition, ISBN 0-7879-8275-X
- Stafford Whiteaker, The Good Retreat Guide, ISBN 1-84413-228-5
- Zangpo, Ngawang (1994). Jamgon Kongtrul's Retreat Manual. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1559390293.