This post is about what I have been up to for the past week.
I scheduled my trip to have a week of down time in quiet Pendleton Oregon. I did this for two reasons – one, to save money by avoiding a hostel or hotel somewhere else; and two, because I knew I would want some down time after a busy three weeks. Plus when I return to Virginia in two days, I will resume my fifty hour a week job. So this is the only free week I anticipate habing until February… Hence the title of the post.
Soft retreat? Why soft? Because I wanted some freedom to go out for lunch, to write some blog posts, to go one or two places with my step-mother, and to do a little work around her church. On top of this, she is not Buddhist, has never been around a full time retreatant and does not know any of the etiquette of a retreat or my reasons for doing one. That is why I did not lock myself in a room for a week with only Dharma texts as companions.
And for those of you with retreat experience, you might be wondering why I am saying any of this. Well, I think that could be a valid concern, but in my case, I did not make any progress from a Dharmic perspective, so I think it is okay to bring different options of “retreat” to light. Had I made any progress, I would definitely be keeping my cards closer to my chest.
So what did I do all week? In addition to what I mentioned above, from time to time, I was extremely hard on myself. I wanted to complete more prostrations than my body was able to, so I berated myself for that “disappointing” result. If not prostrations, then I wanted to accumulate numbers of other mantras. But I was even able to be hard on myself in that department.
How was my “retreat” successful? Well I rested down at least an additional hour per day. I have kidneys whose subtle energy is a bit depleted, so the rest was vital and refreshing for my renals and adrenals. In addition, and you might start to wonder here, I laughed a lot. I don’t have a TV at home, so I eventually started watching the tube. And for short periods of time, it was just what I needed. Watching a silly show like the Big Bang Theory, I’d be rolling. It was actually quite remarkable. In addition, I did some self care on myself every day -usually BodyTalk.
And each day, I did some Dharma prayers. Next time, I need to drop any expectations around accumulations. I also had a few conversations with the I Ching. They would typically go like this: “I want to go for a walk and then find a nice restaurant for lunch.”
Its answer: “No go. If you push now, you will fail. Stay in the nest.”
Thankfully I would listen, and after having a little snack, I would fall asleep for a few hours -nearly everyday! So most importantly, I listened. To my body, to my intuition, to outer guidance, and after listening I chose to practice kindness to self to the best of my ability. So now I can return to work well rested and replenished at least a touch more.
So in reality, I had a quiet week, barely a retreat at all. The only I might still call it a retreat, is that on the first day I had an auspicious dream indicating that I should continue as planned. And then, last night I had three dreams, all about my birth process. I see this as a success. If my subconscious is working through my birth trauma, and I am ready to track that process through dream symbols, then this was a most successful week indeed.
Just remember, I would recommend finding a qualified teacher before attempting any kind of retreat. Get solid advice, ask all questions to clarify any doubt, and do some practice for a while to make sure you know your mind and its patterns. Then, maybe a few years into the process, you can join a group retreat to learn more about your state of mind, within a contained setting. Later on, if and when your teachers recommend it, then do a solitary retreat.
Thanks for reading.