It’s officially been just over a week since I came home from the Mindfulness in Nature retreat. There’s definitely been some ups and downs that I’m going to try and describe in this post. My latest post was brief, and I’d like to share more deeply on the integration process after a week of being disconnected and surrounded by nature.
What I Felt and Some Challenges:
Coming back from the retreat in itself was an obstacle, I missed the Greyhound bus, ultimately giving myself a day less to decompress before my next adventure: Otakuthon in Montreal. With having all of that happening in such a short period of time, (and don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic weekend) I felt so unstructured and lost. At the retreat, we had a solid morning schedule – something that I usually thrive on nowadays. But, the lack of structure and space to decompress further made me feel so out of place. I was anxious, irritable and I wanted to go home. Honestly, I was still at the retreat on the inside and that feeling did not match what I saw outside.
On top of that, I was tired! So emotionally drained from talking about our feelings all week. Every day at the retreat there was a check-in, to listen to everyone and also share what was on our minds. Towards the end, I got so tired from saying how I felt that it was hard to share. And upon returning, it was tiring not being heard or prompted in how I was feeling that I would just express it! Being out of my comfort zone emotionally in the end was exhausting, so I felt that way during my Montreal trip and throughout the week.
Upon entering the the city-scapes, I was also entering a city of strangers. The retreat helped us build a strong community that listened to each other and was mindful of each other’s presence. That sense of belonging disappeared for me entering Ottawa; you are just another person that someone passes by on their way to work. People in everyday life are afraid to become vulnerable and make themselves seen. It’s a little sad knowing that maybe they don’t feel seen or listened too either.
While I have written about mostly emotional and mental reactions after the retreat, I can definitely mention some physical reactions as well. First off, I’ve kept my body in pretty good shape and have minimilized the strain on it by commuting with my bike. However, my back tire got stolen and I had to walk to work. No big deal, right? Well, it turns out, walking on pavement is a very high-impact activity on the legs and hamstrings, and brought back a familiar aching. Walking barefoot in the woods, on the other hand, was pain-free. The Earth really held me on during my time at Sarana Springs. So much so that coming back to Ottawa was a shock on my body. Stepping on the soft Earth allowed the energy to be absorbed and my feet cushioned by the soil.
How I Over-Came these Challenges:
This week I’ve been trying to ground myself in things that I’ve learned from the retreat. Some of these activities are still a work in progress, but as we learned from our time at Sarana Springs, it takes time and it’s important to be gentle on ourselves in a time of vulnerability.
First, I am continuing a daily movement/meditation practice. It usually starts with some stretching or yoga after a big glass of water and then sitting down for maybe 15-25 mins. Sometimes I get in the zone, sometime I don’t. But it feels like I am showing up for myself and doing something that makes me feel better as I start my day. Luckily, I have mornings off so I am able to adjust to a schedule that better fits my needs. I’m definitely not waking up at 6:30 am anymore to practice at 7:00 am… but hey, it works out for me. I had a great routine previous to the retreat, however, things happen and you get lost. You can fall out of it. The retreat helped me get back into it, and inspired more dedication to my body. In The end, what’s important here is that I’m being committed, yet flexible with myself; and I’ve learned to not be so discouraging when I’m not doing it at the right time, or if I don’t have time at the moment. And I know others can do this too.
Eating regularly and listening to my body has carried through after the retreat. We ate such delicious and fresh food, that when I went to Montreal right after, I really had to dig around to find something that wouldn’t make me sick. Since Pat and I both have dietary restrictions, it was difficult and sometimes we resorted to take-out noodles. It wasn’t so bad, but at the same time, it was the worst. My body kind of rejected it. When we came home, it was a matter of making sure we had everything we needed to feel good, including having fresh veggies. We were on the right track previously, but being at the retreat really inspired me to go deeper into my relationship with food. Plus, I was able to talk with some of the faculty members about Pat, who as well use food for healing their ailments.
Pausing and being present not only with myself, but with others and the natural world around me has also come back with me to Ottawa. It’s so easy to be swept up in anxiety and what people think, or what you think of other people. And it’s also not easy to be present when the culture in the city is so individualized. But it’s a practice that I’m continuing and I can see the appreciation in other people when you are fully present in listening with your heart. At Starbucks, we get people who aren’t doing so well come in to just talk to us, because they don’t have anyone else to go to. A man came in an went on for a while about his niece and their troubles, and he just wanted someone to listen. Without really adding anything and just being there, he left with a smile on his face.
One last thing, and a big one, is that I have officially decided to continue and learn more about this path through yoga teacher training. I cam home feeling so good and refreshed, that I want to learn more and hopefully pass it on. The only issue is trying to decide where I want to go! Well-being has become a prominent aspect in my life, and the retreat was just a piece of that. I really want to continue practicing what’s best for my body, mind, and soul. And I hope the readers find their path to well-being too, whatever it may be.
So, what do you usually do after a retreat? How do you ground yourself? What do you take with you from a retreat? Let me know!