How I Cope With Normal Life After a Deep Retreat
I find the retreat experience to be very nourishing for my mind, body and spirit. It has also been a great catalyst for my personal evolution, when the teachings are of an authentic kind and designed to do just that.
Before I began attending retreats and making them a more regular part of my life, I didn’t realize to what extent modern life was my greatest distraction and deterrent away from deeper aspects of myself and my intended true nature.
This caused me to reevaluate my obligations and priorities and to make the necessary shifts in how I dispersed my time and energy, so that my spiritual aspiration always takes precedence. It was not an easy adjustment at first. I was very much an active and ambitious woman who made it a habit to stay incessantly busy, engaged and productive. However, this reprioritization was the BEST decision I have made and it has brought me great peace and fulfillment.
Is daily practice enough?
Early on in my spiritual journey I committed to a regular practice of Tantra Yoga and meditation. At first it was just a few days a week, but when I began to recognize and realize the fruits of my efforts my practice organically became more and more intertwined into my everyday life.
It became apparent that although my spiritual practice was impactful, it didn’t necessarily influence my level of consciousness or evolution in a profound way. It was as though it sustained and maintained the gains I made at previous intensive retreats and helped to manage the challenges of a conventional life. But it didn’t necessarily elevate and uplift me on the steep ladder of evolution.
Upon this discovery is when I knew that retreats needed to become a regular part of my life. The retreat experience brings irreplaceable gifts and blessings, along with expedited spiritual progress that simply cannot be simulated when you are by yourself.
The benefits of retreats
One of the most priceless and precious benefits of a retreat is to be in the presence of trusted and accomplished teachers for an extended period of time, while engrossed in deep spiritual practice. Every aspect of my being experiences a complete transformation that I wholly attribute to the proximity of my trusted teachers.
During the first few days of a retreat I experience a cleansing and purification on all aspects of my being. It’s as though the evidence of modern life diminishes layer by layer. I experience a detox from technology, busyness, task lists, checkboxes, deadlines, stress, commitments, responsibilities, overthinking and worry. I’m able to reconnect with my true essence and suddenly my doing-nature transfigures into a being-nature.
Life slows down to a surreal and dreamlike pace and my mental commotion reluctantly acquiesces in light of promised peace. It is in this space and place that the fruits of my practice unveil themselves, I transcend the illusory Maya and my consciousness no longer conforms but transforms.
Expect the unexpected
There was, and to some degree still is, a part of me that never expected the retreat experience to end. Naively, and perhaps idealistically, I believed the divine bubble I was engrossed in would accompany me back to “normal” life and shelter me from temptation and tribulation. Not surprising, this wasn’t the case.
If authentic and accomplished teachers are involved in a retreat they are able to invoke a special field of energy that envelops the group for the duration of the retreat, providing a supernatural force conducive to evolution of each individual. This unique level of support concludes at the end of a retreat.
It took me a few retreats before I finally understood that no one was going to carry me forward on this journey, and the retreat was only meant to take me so far. It was then up to me to conjure my own inner force, motivation and willpower to succeed on my chosen path.
5 helpful tools
Initially, I was confronted with loneliness, a feeling of vulnerability and immense uncertainty when emerging from the safety and security of the sacred retreat bubble. The spiritual world I never knew existed and the modern world I was accustomed to seemed universes apart. I needed to find a way to bridge this large divide and bring unity to this paradox.
Through trial and error I devised a spiritual tool box that not only helped me survive after a retreat, but thrive. I rely on these tools to cope with challenges I may face, and to remain inspired and resolute in achieving my evolutionary goals. I would like to share them with you in hopes that you too can find refuge and support should you need it.
1. Practice, practice, practice: I have found my biggest support mechanism along my spiritual path, and especially after a retreat, is my daily practice. I commit to at least 30 minutes a day, but most days I reserve 60-90 minutes for this. There are days that I am completely unmotivated to do my practice, whether it be due to low energy, emotions, feeling tired or just an incredibly busy day. On these days I play a little trick on my brain. I commit to doing only 5 minutes of a powerful asana such as Uddiyana Bandha, Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) or Sirshasana (headstand). Pranayama can also work well also. After 5 minutes I feel surprisingly lighter and more inspired to continue, so I do 5 more minutes. I do this as many times as needed to uplift my spirit and shift my resonance, and as a result I remain faithful to my daily spiritual practice.
2. Purify: Regular practice comes with many beneficial effects, one of which is purification. For me this usually comes in the form of physical, mental and emotional cleansing, and can manifest in a variety of ways. It is not always pleasant and can oftentimes make me feel heavy and not my optimal state of health or wellbeing. In fact, in the past, I viewed purification as a sign I was doing something wrong. Since, however, I have developed a healthy relationship with this spiritual byproduct and I welcome it as a sign that my personal practice is working. The good news is there are several things you can do to help expedite the purification process such as healthy eating, colon cleansing, fasting, detoxes, Kriya Yoga techniques if you are familiar with them, or other preferred methods.
3. Immerse yourself: Another helpful tool I use to support my assimilation into modern life after a retreat is I continue to immerse myself in spiritual knowledge. This helps me to stay connected to the beautiful feelings and state of mind I achieved at the retreat. A few resources I use are reading authentic spiritual literature in the form of books or poetry, watching vlogs or videos on spiritual topics, or I revert to my course notes from past retreats I attended. One of my most inspirational literary works is “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda. This was the very first book that lead me on this path so the nostalgia value is high and it reminds me of why I’m here and what I wish to accomplish. Even reading just a few paragraphs or one chapter can be just what you need to soothe doubts or discomfort.
4. Stay connected: I have found the retreat environment very conducive for establishing long-lasting and meaningful relationships with like-minded people. We can relate with one another very easily on the trials and tribulations of an authentic path, which can provide a source of comfort and confirmation. These days it is quite easy to form virtual communities via Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. Or if there is just one or two individuals you connected deeply with you could schedule regular check-ins with each other and be a source of support and encouragement for one another. This has been a resourceful tool for me to stay accountable with personal practice and spiritual progress.
5. Be calm and carry on: Pitfalls are inevitable on any genuine spiritual journey and I have come to realize what these challenges actually are. They are opportunities to learn, grow and evolve and are not evidence of failure or misguidance. In fact, most of my greatest personal and spiritual advancements have come from difficult situations that I have had to overcome – not the easy breezy periods. I’ve learned to embrace the comfort with the discomfort and the good with the seemingly bad. When I encounter bumps in the road I simply remind myself, I’ve been here before. Recognizing this calms my frantic ego and rationally I’m able to look at the situation with a bigger, broader perspective. I recall the steps I took to surpass it in the past and revert to tools 1 through 4 above.
Retreat and reemerge
I still occasionally face my challenges with reintegrating back into everyday life after a retreat experience. I’ve learned over time, however, that modern life can be quite useful in my evolution and serves a high purpose. I have found a level of sweet surrender, peace and gratitude for its mysteries and riddles. I can now harmoniously reconcile and balance retreat with reintegration and appreciate how one paradoxically and synchronously prepares me for the other.