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Last year, I went directly from a meditation retreat in Burma to selling at the New York Gift Show, jet lag, bronchitis and all. Talk about a rough re-entry!

This month history repeated itself, though not so intensely. I returned from a week at the Providence Zen Center and immediately had to set up for the Boston Gift Show. It’s hard to go from sitting in silence to high-energy selling, but in many ways a Zen retreat is great preparation for any demanding life situation.

Just do it!  A lot of Zen practice is about showing up, paying attention, meeting the unexpected, and doing what needs to be done. Lots of opportunity to do that at a show!

Don’t know mind. I packed for the show with no idea of how our booth was going to come together. The organizers had just informed us that the booth drapes were going to be black instead of white, and I feared it would be weird and Goth and definitely un-Summer-House-y. There was no time to arrange alternate drapes…what to do? No choice but to figure it out once I got there.

Don’t make good and bad. As it turned out, our colors just popped on the black background – especially the turquoise banners — and the yellow daffodils and summery linens looked elegant. I was quite surprised.

Follow your situation. I was also surprised to find myself with a 10 x 35 ft. space to fill instead of our usual 10 x 10 booth. (There were a number of no-shows among the vendors.) I wrangled some piping for extra lights and spread our stuff out  and it turned out great.

Everything is no problem! All in all, I appreciated my new-found ability to chill when tensions were high and curve balls were flying. And during the long stretches where nothing much was happening? No problem when you’ve just spent a week sitting and staring at the floor for eight hours a day!

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t recommend this schedule if you have an alternative. But if you don’t? Just do it!

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I’m off to a meditation retreat tomorrow…nine days at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.

On the one hand, I feel irresponsible taking off again so soon after returning from Ohio. I’ve been away three times this month already.

On the other hand, this retreat is paid for, non-refundable, and I REALLY NEED IT!  It will give me a chance to see how I’m digesting all the impermanence that’s showing up in my life right now. There’s been so much going on that it’s hard to know what I’m feeling other than exhaustion and a painful shoulder/neck spasm.

Of course, retreats are not all bliss and relaxation, notwithstanding all the ads showing serene women meditating in yoga togs in gorgeous locations. NO…when you actually quiet down enough to discover what’s actually going on inside your mind/body, you can find some unpleasant surprises.

Yes, of course, there’s the occasional bit of bliss, but more likely (especially in the beginning) you’ll discover restlessness, agitation, boredom, fear, and an unbelievable amount of thinking. Typically, by the second day, you’ll be thinking, GAHHH! How can I stand this for six more days???

This happens even if you’ve been attending retreats for decades. The difference is that you expect it. And you know it will eventually settle down. Maybe.

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