Meditation retreats can be an amazing way to gain an introspective experience and learn about one’s self. I have had the opportunity to participate in several 10 day silent meditation retreats in the past years. (https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index) Each time I have come to the end of a silent retreat I found the reemerging process to be interesting and at times, quite challenging. I am observing a lot of parallels and similarities to the “stay at home” orders that the majority of countries around the world are now experiencing and the participation of sitting in silent meditation retreats. I have come up with 5 tips that I have implemented in past retreat experiences that you can apply to this unique experience of getting back out “into the world.”
- Take as long as you need as well as take as long as you can. Often after coming out of a silent retreat we don’t feel ready to face the busyness of the “real” world. It is common to feel that we may need a little time to return to our normal routines. It can be a good idea to keep a lighter than normal schedule once resuming your normal work and domestic duties. If you don’t have any tasks to return to that can often be just as much as a problem as coming back to “too much.” Start off with a steady but lighter pace and slowly ramp back up to where you were before. If you need more structure or motivation to get things going now is the perfect time to pursue your goals.
- If you’re inclined toward introversion – try to come out a bit. If you are inclined toward extroversion – try to stay in a bit. Some of us gravitate toward solitude. We feel much happier being by ourselves and would prefer to not interact much in society. Others of us are very social and can hardly stand being alone. If you lean heavy toward one side or the other try to implement strategies for engaging the side of yourself that is deficient. Healthy social relationships take time to cultivate and are worth the work and effort. Learning to be comfortable alone and in solitude brings peace of mind and can strengthen our appreciation for simplicity. A way to help ease this amplification of opposites can be to exercise our deficiencies.
- Appreciate that no two experiences are the same. Everybody has a very personal and unique experience during a retreat. Some good and others bad. I have noticed that sometimes at the end of retreat people are very eager to talk about their experience and sometimes I feel like I need a little more time to process my own challenges before taking on other’s. It is okay to let someone know respectfully that you are not ready to join in the conversation it that is the case. I mention this because if someone had or is having a really tough time they may be seeking your council. Often we feel its our responsibility to want to try to fix other people’s problems through offering advice. Be aware of this and tread lightly. This can be one of the more challenging areas to navigate. Time will heal this and being supportive yet protective can ease this difficult transition.
- Respect the time it may take others to emerge. Sometimes at the end of a retreat we may want to be social but other’s around us do not. It is important to not take this personal. Some people take longer than others to process and it can be a good idea to allow them the time they need and be aware that just because we may be ready doesn’t mean they should or will.
- Go on retreat as often as you like and are able. When you feel the need to reconnect take another retreat. Something miraculous happens during retreats. In the beginning it seems like the most horrible thing a person can do to one’s self. It is often painful to be sitting in quiet for so many days in a row. The lack of stimulation causes all the neurosis of the mind to become very apparent. Yet, something switches and by the end of the retreat it is possible to feel as if a major transformation has occurred. Upon reentering the world we can often become distracted again. You can always take retreat as many times as you need to help the digestion and assimilation process of the techniques learned in meditation become a part of your day to day existence. The benefits of meditation can help achieve a balanced approach to being active in the world and help when observing silence.
Due to the pandemic we have witnessed a radical shift in our society. We have all had to take “retreat” for quite some time now. As we reemerge, for better or for worse, we will begin to rebuild our societal structure. Utilize these tips as if you were coming out of a meditation retreat and let’s see if we can support and give space for one and another in this unique time.
Listen to 5 Tips for Reemerging from Retreat on Native Yoga Toddcast here.
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