Tomorrow will mark three weeks that I’ve been back home after my four-week retreat stay at Deer Park Monastery. The transition from monastery living to my daily life has been easier this time around, compared to what I’ve experienced in the past. Maybe it’s because I’m getting more seasoned at going on these longer retreats. Or maybe it’s because before I left Deer Park I spent a few days with little practice schedule, due to the lunar new year festivities, which served as a sort of natural transition time out of the concentrated quietude I had been cultivating there. Or maybe it’s because I was feeling more home sick this time around and felt ready to come home. And, of course, it’s probably a culmination of all three reasons.
Although my husband Mike had left Deer Park two weeks before I did, to return home and back to work, he and I have our rather set roles in the household. For the most part I take care of all of the matters concerning the home front – while I do have a part-time job, I consider myself a full-time homemaker, and proud of it! :) And Mike works hard for us in his skilled labor job. This equates to my having returned home to a whole lot of laundry, cleaning, mail, bills to pay, and a variety of other things to tend to. I had anticipated this and was able to simply flow into what needed to be done in the order of importance. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or stressed out, as I have in the past. I also didn’t experience a deflation in my own practice energy upon leaving the retreat and returning back home, at least not in a way that I found challenging or disheartening. Although I was determined to enter back into my daily life slowly, not taking on too much all at once, I found that I was able to move more swiftly into my routine and the list of things to do than I had planned. From taking care of the house to shopping for groceries to tending to sangha related tasks needing attention, I was surprisingly able to embark upon it all relatively soon after getting back home.
Turns out when you eat only two meals a day, nix snacking, and do a lot more walking up and down hills for four weeks you lose weight. Without trying, I came home almost 10 pounds lighter than when I left. I didn’t even notice until I put my regular clothes back on, after having spent four weeks in the same temple clothes (pictured above). Suddenly the clothes that once fit well, and sometimes were even a little tight, were baggy in places they weren’t before. I had weighed myself before going, so I knew where I had started. Sure enough when I hopped on the scale, after discovering the baggy clothes, I had dropped 9 pounds.
I remember when I first started attending retreats, around 2005, I would leave feeling saddened and a bit tentative to return back to my everyday routine. I would experience a retreat high and then get home and have a sinking of energy, disappointed that I was unable to maintain the same heightened sensibilities I felt while retreating. Over time, the retreat high became more subdued and made way for a lovely, steady flow of energy that was much more grounded and stable. And now, attending retreats is less about stepping out of my everyday normal life and into another world and more about maintaining my practice wherever I roam. Going on retreat is not some separate, foreign land somehow better than “real” life but is an extension of my roaming territory, a part of everything else.
One present moment at a time I breathe in and out with the fluidity of a mountain stream and flow where the earth guides my way. And only when I let go, becoming one with my surroundings, do I submerge myself in the rapture of the here and now.