Life has been so full and intense lately, and this week I hit the wall. Too many appointments, school events, and obligations, and not enough sleep and solitude. The combination of a full moon and St. Patrick’s day on Monday (when my kindergartners insisted there were leprechauns in our classroom) – after a busy, sleep-deprived weekend – was, in itself, enough to do me in energetically after barely leaving the starting gate for the week.
Needless to say, I learned a thing or two about my breaking point, and also about the necessity of self-care.
The first thing I did was take a day off in order to rest and recharge my depleted batteries because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d be absolutely no good to anyone in my orbit – and might also wear down my resistance to the point of being more vulnerable to all the viruses going around. I slept in, was able to schedule an appointment for that afternoon with my therapist, took a walk outdoors, and took it easy. The next day, I returned to work full of energy, enthusiasm, and presence. However, I realized that I still had a strong need for solitude and considered going on retreat for the weekend. But I didn’t feel that a proper retreat at a retreat center was feasible, so my husband and I came up with an affordable, convenient solution: I would have the house completely to myself for the weekend, to get the solitude and space I needed so desperately. He arranged to stay with his parents for the weekend. My ex-husband also was eager to help out by being our son’s home base and transportation for the weekend.
Friday afternoon arrived, and before doing anything else, I visited my parents since I wouldn’t be able to for the rest of the weekend. On the way home, I stopped for a take-out salad from the salad bar at the health food market. My son was still home when I returned. Nonetheless, it felt as if I had arrived at a private retreat cabin! There was something very special and different about the energy. Simply setting an intention and arranging to have space to myself made a difference! The space felt sacred and welcoming.
My son left, and I cleaned the kitchen to make it look more like a retreat environment. I started a fire in the wood stove just as I would have done on retreat, made a cup of lavender-mint tea, lit a stick of incense, and turned on a cascading water fountain. Aside from the soothing sound of the fountain and the crackling of the fire in the wood stove, all was quiet.
My soul was smiling like the breaching dolphins I had encountered in a recent dream. It felt so right to create this space for self-nurturing. I had no agenda other than to get to bed early as I always do when I go away on retreat, work with my dreams, write, meditate, and get some exercise. I also would unplug from technology for the weekend, except for using my laptop to write and to view or listen to content that supported this inward journey.
It was surprising how different my living space felt. This was now a dedicated space for going deeper within and hearing my soul speak, free from distractions. I knew exactly what to do – what felt right. Two things that were obviously different from a retreat center retreat (besides the familiarity of the space) were: 1) the clutter and dust, and 2) not having anyone to cook for me. But I realized that doing chores such as light dusting and cooking were part of this particular retreat process. I found, for example, that when I was dusting, a specific dream image from the previous night came to mind, allowing me to identify the core element of the dream that I needed to focus on.
While making tea, I had insights about the nature of fear and the role fear plays in my soul curriculum. While making the bed, I had an insight about synchronicity and noticing.
Normally, I might have similar insights but more distractions preventing them from penetrating so deeply. Instead, I was able to sit with them and allow them to take root.
I read a book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, stopping to reflect on the content and what arose in me as I interacted with the text. I wrote down the insights that came to me. The book, recommended to me two days prior, was mind-blowing and reinforced much of what I’ve been experiencing lately through dreams and images. I read it from cover to cover – something I haven’t done in as long as I can remember and wouldn’t do on a “proper” retreat, but which felt enormously important.
I watched a breathtaking video of flowers blooming. Made tea. Added another log to the wood stove. Made lunch. Took a walk in the woods. Meditated. Before falling asleep, I listened to a Ram Dass talk that a friend had suggested recently. There were no pressures whatsoever, despite report cards being due in less than a week. I knew that creating this space was more important than anything else. It was a necessity. And when it was over late Sunday morning, I would welcome my husband back home and return to my daily responsibilities with fresh energy and insight and restored balance.
I was pleasantly surprised that I could go so deep despite the clutter and routine familiarity of my retreat space. It was different than a “proper” retreat in a dedicated space where spiritual, healing energy had a chance to accumulate. But it was absolutely perfect given the constraints I needed to work with, and I am grateful to those who rearranged their schedules and whereabouts in order to make it possible.
What made this time different from other time alone at home is my commitment to putting the world on hold for a while by not thinking about or engaging in worldly concerns that diminish my energy. Report card deadlines, for instance. I did not have that gray cloud hovering over me during this time, encroaching on my peace of mind. Even at home.
I recommend the experience highly and intend to build more retreat space into my life on the weekend. I used to have a nice rhythm going, but then life got a little more “real” so to speak, and it became easy to overlook the need to slow down and create sacred, nurturing space. I learned this weekend that doing so is immensely rewarding and important – for myself and everyone around me.
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