Post-Retreat: Reentering Life’s Freeway

Imagine laying in a forest, bathed by the fourth-dimensional serenity of nature and sunlight playing across the landscape.  And, suddenly, a wormhole opens and you are thrust onto the middle of a freeway junction with cars zigzagging in every direction.  Oh, and you are driving.  At 70 mph.  And you need to merge across four lanes of traffic right now.

That’s what my transition from a meditation retreat to life feels like.

When I came back from the last retreat, I was steeped in tranquility, protected by its invisible cloak and I had a new intention to add more tranquility to the recipe of my life.

I was determined not to get hooked again by the fragmented nature of life.  I spent most of my first evening back sitting and allowing thoughts and feelings to just come up.  I did not check my email.  I did not check my phone.

My first day back, I felt calm right in the middle of life’s freeway.  Being mindful and present came effortlessly and so elegantly.  I set aside thoughts and plans about all my aspirations and desires, thoughts that normally occupy my consciousness on a permanent basis.  I just was.  And I was determined to hold on to my inner calm.  And I held on, determined not to let it slip through my fingers.  I had a good grip.  I was doing great.  And yet, I was beginning to feel somewhat unsettled, listless and anxious.  In my newfound benevolence toward myself, I welcomed these feelings – with just a pinch of resentment.

It wasn’t until perhaps the third day that I noticed that I was not tranquil at all.  In fact, I was tense, tight and nervous.  No, no, no, wrong, all wrong, I’m to be tranquil, not tense, I’m doing it all wrong.  I found myself pining for the protective oasis of calm and I suddenly noticed that my tranquility had morphed into judgmental policing false tranquility.  I was wielding a club to beat back life trying to take my tranquility away.

I relaxed my grip and I let my false tranquility go.  I smiled at my misguided nature.  I was back in life.

It’s not about holding on to the old tranquility.  It’s about finding a new tranquility in the now.  It’s also about practicing tranquility and – for me – about developing new habits.  I’m starting by learning not to fill up every inch of in-between time with distractions – the odd three or six minutes here and there, the waiting time.  A few weeks ago, I would have seen that time as a perfect space for texting, writing something down, checking my wallet for quarters, reading half a page or checking how many more pages till the end of the chapter, running through one of the myriad checklists in my head or just impatiently pacing back and forth.  Now, I try to remember, this is a perfect little easy window for a bit of tranquility practice.  A few breaths, opening to the moment, a bit of metta, just a little tranquility exercise.  With no grand expectations and no need to get my fingers ready to grip.

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3 comments on “Post-Retreat: Reentering Life’s Freeway
  1. John Russell says:

    Marvelous!! The re-entry, the transition to our non-retreat lives can be confusing. This explains it so well. Be nice….to yourself.
    Thanks Marta,

  2. Stef says:

    Marta, here is one my of my transition experiences from a solo (hermitage) retreat I did last year:

    “Transitions are difficult for me (as I imagine they are for many people); I enjoy the predictability, comfort, perceived “safety” of routines, of thinking I know what will come next.  But really, I know that I can never truly know what will come next; life can change in any instant – which is actually very comforting, much more so than a routine: If a situation is in some way disliked, just wait – it will change.

    OR – in the midst of waiting for a change, I can practice accepting it as it is, exactly as it is.  Acceptance doesn’t mean “liking” or even “tolerating” a situation that is truly harmful; it means working with reality to live skillfully (i.e., employing actions based in love and compassion, versus fear, anger, greed).

    Yes, transitions are hard.  Hard, but healthy.  Hard, but worthwhile.  As difficult as it was for me to transition into (and now out of) this retreat experience, it really was so good for me.  These past days have been a period of restoration: of physical rest, of emotional healing, and of spiritual soothing.  This experience was difficult at times (certainly this retreat was not a “vacation” in the everyday sense), but it was also very joyous at times; and it was always “worth” the effort and exertion.  I imagine the same can be said of life: difficult at times, joyous at times, and always worth it.”

    If you’d like to read more, you are welcome to visit my meditation blog:


    But in fact, life doesn’t have to be difficult.  Again, acceptance (radical acceptance) can be the answer to making my experience of life easy (if not always all-out “pleasurable”).

  3. Blog Editor says:

    Thanks for sharing Stef!

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