One of the most common fears for people who attend a retreat is not being able to keep up what they’ve started once they return home. Motivation is high when you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals, but what happens to your enthusiasm when you leave the group environment? Good intentions easily fade as the days and weeks go by. With such a big commitment in time and money, you want to be sure the investment in your retreat will pay off in the long run.
Although there are no guarantees, you’re setting yourself up for success just by stepping out of your day-to-day routine and attending a meditation retreat. The old saying goes, old habits die hard, but good habits are hard to break too, once they’ve been established. By immersing yourself in a new environment, where you practice meditation, yoga, and Ayurvedic eating, it’s much easier to keep that ball rolling once you’ve returned home.
It can be difficult for people to break away from their lives for more than a few days but the longer you can spend away at a retreat, the more likely you are to keep up your new practices when you get back. Chopra Center retreats such as Perfect Health and Seduction of Spirit run for six or seven days, giving attendees a better chance at creating new lifestyle practices that will become life-long habits.
Even if you can’t get away for a full week, there are things you can do to help ensure your continued success following the retreat.
Ease the Transition Back Home
The people who are still meditating, practicing yoga, or eating Ayurvedically four days after returning home are usually the same people who are still practicing their good habits six months later.
Re-entry into your old environment, after spending time away, is vitally important to your new lifestyle habits. Take advantage of all the energy and momentum that you’ve created at the retreat and, when you arrive home, take the time to make any necessary changes to your environment that will help you succeed. You might clean out your pantry and go shopping at the health food store. Also consider creating a new meditation space, buying a new yoga mat, or finding a local studio where you can practice.
These are all things that you should do right away as you ease the transition back to daily life. Resist the urge to catch up on work emails or share your experience with your friends until you’ve established the right environment and tools to continue your practice. Ultimately there’s nothing more important to your success than keeping up with your good habits as soon as you get back, and creating the right environment to help you succeed.
Create a Community That Supports You
It’s hard to leave the supportive environment of a retreat and return home to an empty house, or a house filled with people whose goals don’t align with your own. This is a lonely place to be. It feels especially lonely given all the support you received while away. It’s easy to lose momentum when the passion you felt at the retreat isn’t as intense when you return home.
If you’re the only person in your family, relationship, or group of friends who’s interested in making shifts in your daily routine, it’s even more important to find a community of people who are interested in doing the same.
You don’t have to leave your old friends behind or find a new relationship—in fact that’s not recommended—but take some time the week after your retreat to research local yoga studios, meditation centers, and healthy eating meet-up groups in your area. Yoga studios in particular are a great place to find other like-minded individuals who are also interested in meditation and healthy practices. Get to your yoga classes early or stay late in an effort to meet people in your community who are walking a similar path and can support you on the journey you’ve started.
Harness Group Energy at Weak Moments
There are certain pockets of time after you attend a retreat when you’re most susceptible to falling back into bad habits. Many people experience lulls at three, six, and nine months after an event. With each month that passes, your magical experience becomes more distant in the rear-view mirror. Although your weekly meditation meet-up group really helps, you might start letting your afternoon meditation slide or cutting your morning meditation down in time, spending 10 minutes rather than 30 in silence.
This is the perfect time to attend another immersive retreat. This doesn’t need to be at the same place you initially went, although it certainly can be, and it doesn’t have to be a full week. Pick a local place or somewhere you can unplug for a few days and spend some time remembering how important your practices really are.
Many people who are successful in maintaining their meditation, yoga, or general Ayurvedic practices are those who take the time to refresh their healthy habits every six months or year. Plan your year with an annual retreat or seminar—even if it’s only a day or weekend—to help support your journey in the years to come.
Practice Makes Perfect, But You Don’t Have to Be Perfect
The worst thing you can do after missing one meditation session is stop altogether. The great thing about meditation, yoga, and healthy eating is that the benefits add up slowly over time. They don’t come overnight and they don’t leave just because you missed a meditation or two. If you find yourself feeling guilty that you only meditated for 22 minutes in the morning instead of 30, or that you missed a few practices altogether, take a moment to remind yourself that it’s a practice. That’s why they call it a meditation or yoga “practice” and not a meditation or yoga “perfect.”
Your desire to do things perfectly can often stand in your way of doing something at all. If this happens to you after your retreat, take a deep breath. Instead of feeling guilty, take five minutes to just meditate.