The Gifts of Retreat, the Comforts of Home

In my twenties and early thirties–my life Before Kids–I spent a lot of time in retreat. Three or four months of intensive, formal meditation retreats each year, where I sat in a little mud hut at a retreat center in India, or a meditation hall at a monastery in Nepal, and meditated in silence for fourteen hours or more each day.

I’d emerge from these retreats feeling deeply connected to my inner world. Peaceful, quiet, as still as a mountain. Unshakeable. Until I disembarked into the neon wild of JFK airport and my breath became ragged, my heartbeat uneven and jangled by the sight of security guards with guns, by the clamor of lights bouncing off shiny stainless steel surfaces.

I realized then that I needed to find a way to be present, open, loving and peaceful in my daily life.

Back home in Canada, I experimented with ways to keep the gifts of retreat alive in my everyday world of work, friends and play. Sundays were retreat days for me.

I’d follow the rhythm of a silent retreat. Up before dawn. Meditation. Yoga. A light breakfast. More meditation. One-hour sessions of sitting with my mind, with my breath. Followed by mindful walking in my back yard.

Sitting. Walking. Being. No phones, no reading or music, no distractions of any kind. Just me, my body, my mind, my breath. And the vast universe behind my closed eyes.

By the end of the day I’d feel restored to my self. Slip into bed feeling deeply rested. Sink into dreamless sleep. Wake the next morning, ready for my week. Which unfolded with a greater sense of calm well-being because I’d taken the time to return home to myself.

Once I had children, Sundays became family days. I still sat in meditation each morning for an hour or two, but anything more than that was an unimaginable luxury.

Now, my life has come full-circle. My children are grown and off living their lives. My time is my own. And technology has changed the face of retreats, as it has changed so much else.

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