Summer holidays, heatwave, less to do at work, any of these situations can naturally lead us to slow down this time of year.
Starting a holiday, it may take a couple of days before our body and mind accept this new rhythm where we don’t have to act with a sense of urgency as the day unfolds. It can perhaps feel similar to the type of adaptation many of us need when coming home from work in the evening before engaging with what’s happening in the home?
A few years back I went on a weekend-long silent meditation retreat in Devon. It was my first retreat ever, and I didn’t know what to expect or how I would react to that type of environment. Can I just start by saying I found it super-hard? It wasn’t the silence, but the “no outlet space” for all my challenging thoughts at the time. We were kindly asked to follow the rules of the retreat. These were no writing, reading or speaking, no watching television, listening to the radio or checking our phone – at any time. Simply be. The weekend was about meditating, eating and sleeping. It was lucky I had arrived by train and taxi – had I come by car, I would have lasted 24 hours max! You see, I couldn’t escape without a car as I wasn’t supposed to say anything, no possibility to order a taxi to take me to the station 20 minutes away…
As it takes time for the mind to slow down and come to calmness, the meditation teacher explained to us how a weekend-long retreat could feel tougher than if we were to stay a few more days. He suggested we imagined a train reaching a station. The train slows down until it reaches the platform (that’s the build-up to the calmness of mind). Then, the train comes to a full stop, and usually stays on the platform for a few minutes before leaving again (peace of mind and calmness is supposed to be established here). Our teacher said it is the same thing with us. We take time to slow down before reaching a place where we can stop, fully arrive. As this was a new experience for many of us, it could in our case mean that our “train” first stopped completely on Sunday afternoon, when the retreat would be over! I am not sure if I reached a space of stillness before I had to return to London 48 hours later. It felt as my “train” just had a mini-second on that platform before it took off again.
In hindsight, I did feel calmer and more in tune with myself as I came home that Sunday evening. The next time I went back for a retreat, I stayed five days. Yes, it was easier with a few additional days to experience calmness in mind.
I am sharing this to tell you it is helpful to know it can take time to find your calmness during the first days of your holiday. It did for me this summer. There might be a sense of impatience and restlessness at the beginning of the holiday, or when things slow down around you. That’s okay. Accept that the feeling of calmness does not come immediately.
And then, once you get there… enjoy yourself! Wishing you well X