Since I’m managing a property next to an Ashram, I see many people before, during and after they are at a retreat. There are a couple of things that I’ve noticed and I’d like to share them with you, just to make sure that you’d get the best out of your retreat. These things I’m going to tell you will make sure that you’ll get the most out of your inner journey. They are good things to be aware of and they’re going to deepen your practice as well.
Before you are going on a retreat you’ll already experience a couple of things. Don’t be worried about them, they happen to everyone, so you are not alone in this. Before the retreat you can’t do many things about them except being aware of them. Try to write everything down before the retreat starts and take these things with you in the retreat and try to talk about them. There is no shame in talking about pre-emotions you had before the retreat as well. They are a part of the whole process, so share them.
The first thing that you’ll have to go through is resistance. Your mind will be playing a lot of games with you to prevent you from digging deeper into your soul. Things that might come up are going from just having thoughts that you don’t want to go, all the way into getting sick (like a mild flu or something). You can’t do a lot about it, these things will just happen, but being aware of it is already a good start. And choosing to go anyway is the best thing you’ll ever do.
We all have them, of course. But your expectations are produced by the mind and they will prevent you from having the best retreat you can have. The moment you start to have these, you’ll start comparing during the retreat. My food home is better, or my yoga teachers at my studio are explaining more profoundly, etc. Be sure that you go into your retreat without having any expectations, or at least lower them down.
What I’ve seen a lot of well is that people go into excitement, and this has to do with their expectations at well. I’ve heard many people say: “This retreat will save me.” And when you start thinking that, that’s bad. There’s no-one or nothing that can save you. Just you can do this for yourself, by taming your mind. Of course, others are there to guide you and help you, but you have to do the work yourself. And implement the teachings into your life.
Don’t medicate yourself
I had a couple of retreats where I was going through a lot of pain. In one retreat I sprained a muscle in my back and I couldn’t even sit properly to do my meditations. Which is quite ironic as it was a meditation retreat. I asked the retreat leaders if I could take a pain killer, just to make sure that I could sit through a couple of meditations without any, or less, pain.
I was quite surprised that you said I couldn’t take anything, but now it all makes perfect sense. When you are going to a retreat, you will experience old pains, whether it’s physical or emotional, will come up. This is not sincerely a bad thing, it’s great that they are brought up again to handle them. It’s just not always the nicest experience. Just now that these things will go over the moment you tackle them.
So if you experience some physical pain, always try to talk to the organizers of the retreat first. They will give you advice on what to do.
Something you absolutely can’t do though is not taking your prescribed meds.
Another thing that I’ve seen a lot is people going off their medication that is treating some kind of ailment. Meditation is a powerful tool, but it’s not always the miracle potion that you want it to be.
It’s great to talk about the things you are experiencing with others. But there is nothing worse than having someone on a retreat that’s just babbling all the time. A retreat is a space to meet like-minded souls, but always be aware of your environment. There will be people that would like to be silent or at least more on their own. If that happens, respect that.
Also, be aware of what you are talking about. What I’ve noticed as well is that a lot of people are talking about others during a retreat, I’ve even seen it during my Teacher Training. It will happen, and it’s also ok. Just be aware of it and try to lower the gossiping. You are there to do some soul-searching, you’re not there to smack someone’s soul down.
The retreat continues
Even though you are leaving the retreat, the effects of the retreat will still go on for a while. Be aware of that, as emotions or body pains still might come up.
This is the reason why I’ve started writing this article.
A few weeks ago there was someone at our place after she has done a retreat. She was complaining about almost everything. The first night she wasn’t sleeping properly, so we changed everything to her liking, just to find out that she still wasn’t satisfied. When having a closer look, it was quite unreasonable. And the fact that she wasn’t sleeping properly still had to do with the fact that the retreat was energetically still doing things to her.
And besides that, because everyone was super sensitive, she was also affecting her fellow retreat-members who were staying at our property as well.
These things can happen and it’s good to be aware of it. They will pass, don’t worry about it. And if you are concerned about it, it’s always good to talk to the supervisor of the retreat. The best retreats should always offer after-care and they should be available for a talk with you, even after the retreat.
Somehow related to this thing is your afterglow. The peace and serenity that you accumulated during the retreat will fade at some point, but try to keep that afterglow for a while. This you can do by making sure that you stay for an extra couple of days at the center if you can. This will make sure that you have a soft landing when you go back to your daily schedule.
If that isn’t possible, try to make sure that your agenda isn’t fully planned right after you come back. Try to stay indoors as much as possible. And if you do have to leave the place, make sure that you go somewhere that is nourishing to you.
These tips will help you guide you through a retreat and they are quite important to be aware of. And best of all, your fellow retreaters will love you even more for following these.
Make sure that you pass these on to those who are going with you to make sure that they’re also aware of this advice.
I hope you’ll be having a great retreat and that you’ll enjoy digging deep into the bottom of your soul!