My meditation center had a 1-day meditation retreat on Saturday. This is probably the most private thing I do, and in the past I’ve hesitated sharing about it. For instance, several acquaintances and colleagues asked me what I was doing this weekend, and I replied “not much” to most of them. I’m not sure where the urge to secrecy comes from. I suppose by many definitions, going into a quiet room and sitting still with several other folks for with the same intention might sound like “not much”, but I knew “not much” was such an understatement as to be an outright lie.
The day went 9AM to 7PM, and we had several sessions of meditation, interspersed with instruction, storytelling, sharing, meals, and moments to journal and review. I was “off the hook” in several ways – away from my husband, family, and day-to-day friends, away from my phone, email, and computer, away from what normally defines me. I was also “off the hook” there: even before I arrived a very soft, sleepy energy was on me, and once in the meditation hall, I was essentially “out cold” for most of the morning. I missed some stories, some instructions, but I think I got the point. When the first break came, I was speechless and huddled with my journal at a table, re-entering sociality (or perhaps re-entering inwardness).
As the day continued, I was more present for the stories and instruction and more able to interact with others in the breaks. In the last break, several of us told stories of how we’d come to the center, what we’d been looking for and how long it took us to resolve what we’d found. Yet, even in my moments of inwardness, I experienced a strong sense of homecoming, of opening up my journal and finding a friend in there, of opening my journal and writing to a friend. It was nice. I felt welcomed and restored.
A meditation retreat is a structured experience of pratyahara, or withdrawal from sense objects. When it ended I found I wanted to stay offline, I wanted to sit quietly near my husband as he made dinner that night, I didn’t want to break the spell.
Although my husband used to wonder, I’m not going to run off, renounce my worldly life, and join an ashram, but I do value a good retreat. I recall a yoga teacher saying that yoga is about gracefully stretching in two different directions at once. The challenge is to bring the quiet sureness and calm of this retreat into my busy workday. The challenge is to live the retreat outside of the retreat, maintaining an inner balance while participating wholeheartedly in the outward fling, lila.