Back From Retreat

Whew.

I just spent three days and nights off the grid, and coming back is a rush. I won’t go into too much about what the retreat was, except that it was all about being alone with me. No phone, no podcasts, no book, no music, certainly no computer. The idea was just to remove as many distractions as possible so I would be left only with the internal ones: my thoughts, in other words. And man, there’s a lot of thoughts. So it was about observing those as deeply as I could.

The other idea was to try to let myself settle into feelings, to feel the stuff I normally distract myself from. And to simply be quiet and slow. And to practice self-love and nurturing. To just be with me, in a supportive and observant way, without any judgment.

I was at the coast, in stormy weather, the only person staying in about 10 houses on the road, with the beach at the end, the wind howling, rain pelting … magnificent.

On the way back I was driving with such ease and quiet mind, until I got into Tillamook and realized I wanted coffee and something sweet. I hadn’t been eating sweets on retreat, other than fruit, but now I was in town and I wanted a cookie. Hmm. I was mindful that this was different, that I didn’t need a cookie, just wanted one … and then I decided to get one. I drove around town not finding a coffee shop, and slowly felt the tension rise. Had to go into a Safeway because there was a Starbucks there, and all the lights, the music, the people, kinda shocked me. Is this what our life looks like?

I got my sweet and coffee and hit the road, and as I drove through the mountains towards home, I realized the head chatter was coming back. Not negative, not stressed, just making plans and describing things to an audience not there. By the time I drove into Portland and got to mt place, then spent a half hour unloading and whatnot, I realized my head was humming. Was it the sugar? The city? The arrival? The chatter was definitely back, too.

Then it came time to check email and Facebook and all that, and pretty quickly I found myself cursing that I couldn’t remember a password, and getting uptight because my computer wasn’t going fast enough. Hmm. Is this how I live all the time? With multiple windows open at once? Eating while I surf? Tracking multiple projects at once, talking to myself (and imaginary others) about them all, planning the next several minutes all the time? Still not feeling negative, but it sure is loud in my head!

Is this what my life is always like?

Is it no wonder I get stressed out? That I don’t live from a calm, authentic center? That happiness seems to elusive, that I find it hard to genuinely connect with myself, much less others? I think so.

But what to do about it? What are the lessons from the retreat?

Slow down. Take time to connect. Eat well. Go for walks. Do things that are nurturing and connecting. And occasionally take time to just sit and be quiet with myself. To love myself. And if I have to make some changes structurally, so be it. Get the Internet out of my place. Meditate more often. Go for walks. Nurture that connection with my authentic, calm center. Live, and love, from there.

What could be more important in any moment? Sure, the mind needs to get things done, but when that’s finished, how about reconnecting with the simple, pure joy of being? I felt that on retreat, and realized that it doesn’t go away. I just disconnect from it.

Balance, simplicity, quiet, love, nurturing, connection.

 

Paul Gerald

I am the author of several books on hiking, camping, eating breakfast and chilling out. I am also a freelance travel writer, publisher, hiker, and inveterate traveler.

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