How to Prevent Post Retreat Blues
I sat on my yoga mat in the predawn darkness, the chill of winter coming to settle with me quietly, and I waited. There was no intoxicating swirl of incense floating in wispy tendrils around me, there was no sound of ceremonial bells, scooters, roosters or the gentle inhale and exhale of dozens of bodies sitting upright on yoga mats beside me. When I inhaled, there was a significant lack of aromas of any kind; gone was the sweet fragrant smell that captured Thailand more than any other of my senses. I was home, on my hard tiled floor, in the cool darkness, waiting for the magic that had come to me in meditation so swiftly the previous week whilst on retreat.
Returning home from a holiday or vacation always throws us into a head spin and often a rather gloomy state of melancholy. Returning home from a retreat is somewhat of a greater challenge. A retreat changes you, in moves you, it awakens you. Insight, revelation and transformation are at the core of a retreat. While the breakthroughs can be somewhat unnerving in their own right, one of the greatest challenges of a retreat is how to succinctly carry home all that you have gained, and ensure it isn’t all left behind the moment you pass through customs.
As humans, we all too easily slip into routines, habits and ways of life that are familiar to us. No matter how desperately we want to cut the cord with these ways of life, they can be deeply ingrained in us. We attach to things that don’t always serve our highest self. After a week of rising at dawn in a tropical haven, being led through inspiring daily yoga and meditation classes, feasting on exquisite healthy cuisine, enjoying the bombardment of new sensory pleasures, exploring a new culture and land, and enjoying an unprecedented journey through our own inner terrain- how on earth do we return to our everyday lives?
How do we bundle all of this new energy and enthusiasm into our carry-on luggage and weave it seamlessly into the world we momentarily left behind?
Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe you decide not to return home at all. Perhaps you quit that job you have been desperately aching to leave for years. Maybe you step out of a toxic relationship. Maybe, just maybe, you listen to that voice that was given space to speak freely and you walk with surety into the life you have until this moment ignored, suppressed, silenced and overruled. You wouldn’t be the first to overhaul your life after a yoga retreat!
For those who simply need to find a coherent way to knit these two worlds together- to transfer this newfound existence into a parallel one- that requires something more than just courage. It requires determination, commitment and patience.
We like quick fixes and answers that bubble to the surface without too great a tug of war. A retreat gifts us with both of these. We are transported out of our everyday life and dropped into a blissful state of being, free from hassles, commitments and the humdrum of normal existence. Of course, why wouldn’t we seek ways to prolong this state of being? We are nourished, heard, respected, pampered. We are invited to open up, we belong, we see reconnect with the version of ourselves that we wish was present all the time.
To successfully translate everything you have gained on your retreat into your day to day life, you need an action plan. Here is a few pointers to start with:
- While on retreat keep a journal. Try to write daily about your insights and revelations so you can go back and read this anytime once you are home if you need a reminder and refresher.
- Before leaving your retreat, make a list of all the things you have gained during your time away. Be specific and focus on the things that mean the most to you. Then look at how you can commit to these things once you return home.
- Make a list of the things you want to introduce (or reintroduce) into your life when you get home, perhaps that is a daily meditation, a weekly yoga class, an art class, more time in nature, less time online, more plant based meals – be specific and while being realistic, think big, utilize your inspired spirit and open mind to let your dreams flow onto paper.
- Find a totem that represents your time away that you can take home with you. I like to buy something special when I visit somewhere new and have a profound experience that I want to remember. Perhaps this is a mala, a scarf, a bracelet, a journal- something you can keep hold of that reminds you of not only your time away, but the insights and emotions of the experience too.
- Create a plan for a daily routine that can support you and help you to avoid falling back into habits that you want to say goodbye to for good. Taking a break allows you to come back into your daily life and look at it with fresh eyes and a new perspective. Let go of the things that don’t serve you and make way for new nourishing routines instead.
- Feel inspired, but not overwhelmed. There will be a period of adjustment and getting angry at yourself or impatient with yourself isn’t the answer. It’s not as easy to find joy in our day to day lives as it is in a new and inspiring place. It’s not as easy to commit to a daily practice when it’s not scheduled for you. It’s not as simple to mediate at home as it is in an open air yoga shala or temple. It’s not as common to have major insights daily when you’re at work. It’s not as easy to eat well when no one is serving you gourmet healthy meals three times a day. And that’s ok. The key is to find a balance. To stay committed to self development and transformation, while accepting that day to day life comes with commitments and responsibilities.
Committing to a yearly retreat can also be a powerful goal. Setting aside time each year to reflect, refresh and gain new perspective can be an incredibly powerful gift to give yourself. It also offers you a goal to work towards and to look forward to, offering a little reassurance and accountability when you need it!
About the Author
Kelly is a passionate writer and raw/vegan chef who combines her love of writing with her forays into health and wellness. Kelly has traveled and worked extensively across the world in health resorts, detox centers, raw food restaurants and wellness retreats, sharing ways to live simply, mindfully and sustainably.
Her work is regularly published in print media and online, as well as her own website, ‘Raw By Nature’ which offers vibrant nourishing recipes and information about plant-based living. A gypsy heart and lover of nature, Kelly finds inspiration in the world around her and translates her visions into whimsical stories and edible creations.