Thank you for cheering me on last week as I took time off to do a personal retreat. It was nice to return to the office on Monday to find your encouraging notes in my inbox.
As I mentioned in last week’s video, I decided to keep my retreat open-ended, and resist my usual habit of parceling out my time and activities. I decided to let intuition be my guide.
I’d like to report that I spent hour after unbound hour being deeply mindful and rather elegant, even.
Want to know what really happened on my personal retreat?
My adventure was scheduled to start on Monday morning. My family didn’t leave the house until mid-day Monday though, and because their trip prep took longer than expected over the weekend, I lost three hours of work time I had set aside to wrap up work tasks. Not only did my retreat start late – my retreat started with a to-do list! I wasn’t thrilled about that.
Around 2pm, I watched my husband pull out of the driveway with our daughter. I teared up as I watched them drive off, and then I worked out to shift my mood. After the workout, I napped. By the time I woke up again, it was too late to work! (I’m a morning person.) I had to postpone freedom once again.
My response to all this schedule shifting was to spend some creative time with bobby pins. (Can you relate?)
Here’s my weird hair experiment:
I’d imagined that Tuesday morning, the second day of my retreat, would feel downright sumptuous. I’d be relaxed by now, I thought. I’d have adjusted to the rhythm and the freedom.
Instead, I worked.
I went to a local café and got more focused work done than I have in a long time. How did I “crush it” in three hours? I had a hard stop — a finite task list, with the promise of guaranteed, ample free time to follow. I walked out of the coffee shop at 1pm feeling optimistic, at peace with all the delays. (Once I stopped fighting what was, I could relax in the present and do what needed to be done.) I also felt damn pleased with the work I’d accomplished.
I think it was that day that I resumed my formal sitting meditation practice. (In recent years, my daily meditation practice has been Qigong, a form of meditative movement.) I’d recently heard myself tell friends that resuming my formal sitting practice would probably be of great benefit to me. I was right. As I practiced, a great river of silence and calm began to stir within me.
This newfound steadiness certainly came in handy when Wednesday rolled around.
Wednesday arrived with a bang. The day brought me a broken alternator, a cab ride, an hour-and-a-half spent waiting for a tow truck in a nearby McDonald’s, and the uniquely Californian experience of exchanging green smoothie recipes with my tow truck driver, while riding shotgun in the front cab.
Did I mention that my car broke down at 5:10am, as I’d woken up early to go meditate with friends? Did I mention that before I’d even walked out the door that day, a full-grown, actual raccoon was in the kitchen when I left, standing hungrily beside the cat food cabinet?
Did mention that I happened to have a gratitude journal and a personal writing project with me in the car when it broke down? I hung out with the old folks in McDonald’s that morning, feeling rather happy. I was busy writing.
While I love waking up in the mornings, I did not like waking up to the mess I woke up to on Thursday morning.
I thought I’d outsmarted the raccoon. I secured the sliding glass door so only the cat could get in. I thought the newly, smartly twist-tied-shut cabinet doors would deter any ringed-eyed intruder who dared to squeeze through that tiny crack of a glass door.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!
Footprints everywhere. The situation in the kitchen was gross and very inconvenient. Despite the raccoon invasion, after I got over the shock, my mind felt relaxed and clear. After all, what else did I have to do that day? Absolutely nothing.
I spent a few hours that morning doing the next simple task at hand: scrub the counters. Wash the dishes. Clean the stovetop. Clean the kitchen floor, down on my hands and knees. At last, I scrubbed every last vestige of the ringed visitor from the house. I got in return a sparkling, clean kitchen.
I’ve been staying in a rented house seven miles from town, so without a working car, I was officially grounded for the day. This turned out to be the perfect thing for me. I took a long, relaxing nap. I took a wooded walk. A friend from town stopped in for a cup of tea. As I was preparing to walk down the hill to the bus stop, my friend called back to offer me a ride, and we talked as we rode the ten miles into town to the mechanic.
That night I went to bed with a newly working car in the driveway. I also went to bed with a sliding glass door that remained firmly, completely shut.
I didn’t anticipate being kept up for many hours by the raucous sounds of a raccoon denied access to free cat food. That plastic watering can he kicked around half the night? Geez, it made a lot of noise.
Friday was luxurious, and the day felt like everything I imagined a retreat day would be. I spent hours and hours alone. I meditated. I worked out. I napped twice. I fixed delicious food. I watched “Frankie and Grace.”
I probably could have been nicer to my husband, though. He called to say he’d be leaving Lake Tahoe and heading home bright and early the next morning.
“Oh, don’t!” I said abruptly
“What?” he said.
“There’s just been so much going on. Please, take your time –” I said.
He told me they could leave later that morning, if that would work better for me.
“It does,” I replied.
Do you think I also breathed a thick and selfish sigh of relief into the receiver? I did.
Saturday morning was filled with warmth and good company. I returned home ready to savor the remaining few hours of my not-exactly-what-I-expected personal retreat.
I ate simply. I cleaned the dishes and straightened the house. I rested and meditated and stretched out on the couch, finally practicing something I rarely practice: the fine art of taking a break and doing nothing.
Several hours later, my family came home.
I ran outside to greet them and felt truly happy to see them. But to be honest, I felt like I could certainly have used another week alone. Perhaps even two.
With love from your coach,