Updated: Mar 7
I recently returned from a silent retreat organised by Tergar Melbourne. Whilst there, I asked my teachers for some advice on how to return to the world following time spent in retreat.
Historically I have often struggled coming out of retreat, particularly following a silent retreat. I have found myself feeling overwhelmed, getting irritable & frustrated, and wanting to run back and retreat further - a little like this Leunig animation! (Thank you for introducing me to this animation Sue, it sums it up perfectly 😁.)
So, here are "5 top tips" from both my teachers and from my own experience, on how to return to the world following time in retreat. I hope it helps.
Tip #1 - Let The World Come To You, Rather Than You Rush Head First Back Into The World ~ Myoshin
Let the world come to you. Ease out of the retreat gently. Pre-book 'free space' daily, into your diary, for the week following. If you can, avoid scheduling social activities for that first week.
As you leave the retreat centre, unless there is truly urgent communication required (and usually there is not), you do not need to return all your missed phone calls, text messages, social media replies, and emails instantly. Allow yourself a few days to reply if you can.
Following my recent retreat, I had one hour's drive to return home. I turned my phone on before I set off, made sure there wasn't anything urgent to attend to, and then I drove home in silence. I even resisted the urge to check my son's soccer game score, instead, I waited until he shared it with me in person.
Tip #2 - Be Gentle With Yourself & Others
Gifting yourself time to go on retreat is an opportunity to develop and cultivate a deep unconditional friendship with yourself, and to be gentle with yourself. Can you find ways to continue this gentleness and compassion as you ease back into the world?
I returned home from retreat to find our youngest son had sustained a greenstick fracture over the weekend. My family waited until I had arrived home to let me know what had happened, as they respected my time on retreat. And the injury was managed just fine without me! 😁 X-rays were taken, advice from an orthopedic surgeon was obtained and suitable painkillers were sourced. Heartfelt hugs and stories were shared, and we decided an early night's sleep was a wise and gentle choice.
I decided to cancel my private sessions scheduled for the following morning, and not give myself a hard time about letting students down (as I would often do in the past). This allowed me to gently help our youngest without time restraints and pressure. I was able to help him get dressed and ready for school and I arranged an appointment with a hand specialist for him, to have a personalised splint made.
Tip #3 - Short Moments Many Times
Continue your practice. Can you make a morning practice a non-negotiable act of self-care?
"Find ways to continue carrying the thread outside of the retreat." ~ Edwin
During the retreat, I was reminded of the Traffic Light Practice - each time you arrive at a traffic light you gift yourself a short moment of practice, with your eyes open.
Here is my version -
As you stop at a red light, tune in and ask yourself - "What is my experience right now? in thoughts, in feelings, and in bodily sensations?" Acknowledge and register your experience even if it is unwanted. Then begin to gently direct your attention towards your breath. You can use your breath as an anchor, to help bring yourself into the present moment and to tune into a state of awareness and stillness. If you can, take some deep belly breaths and lengthen your exhalation, to help activate your parasympathetic nervous system into "rest, digest, heal & grow" mode...
Can you bring a gentle smile to your face and offer up some silent thanks for this traffic light pause? It has gifted you the time to reconnect and check-in with yourself. Getting frustrated and agitated by traffic lights, due to possibly arriving 3 minutes later to your destination, is not so helpful 😘
Tip #4 - Go For A Walk, Sit, Skip, or Run in Nature
Ah, the power of time spent in nature. When we spend time in nature we become happier and healthier. It is also very grounding. Do you have a favourite spot in nature where you like to go?
Nature recharge is the nickname I use for the positive mental, physical, and spiritual benefits accrued from time spent in nature. For the following week, when coming out of retreat, make sure you gift yourself a minimum of 5 minutes each day to submerge yourself in nature. I offer a guided "5 Minute Nature Reconnect Practice" on Insight Timer, which can be accessed here for free.
Tip #5 - Thanks
Make sure you genuinely thank and acknowledge all the people who made it possible for you to have time away on retreat. This might be work colleagues, family and/or friends... AND don't forget to thank yourself as well 😘.
I hope you have found these top tips helpful. I am hosting a Wonder Full Women's Weekend Retreat in Somers later this month, with some pockets of sacred silence, and I will share this blog with the attendees. You can find out more about the Somers retreat here -
Please leave any comments or questions below.