Best Practices for Integrating after a Retreat: 5 Tips for a Soft Landing

GoodTherapy | Best Practices for Integrating after a Retreat: 5 Tips for a Soft Landing A quick internet search will reveal that there are hundreds of retreat options from yoga immersions to mindfulness retreats to sound healing trainings. If you have made the decision and investment to go on a retreat, congratulations for taking the time out of your life for this unique opportunity. Whether you are doing this for self-care, healing, to learn a new skill, or for professional continuing education, going on a retreat can be a rich and rewarding experiential learning opportunity. 

One of the most sensitive and important points of the retreat is not just the moment of peak insights, but the integration of these insights into daily life. This article offers suggestions about how to return home gently, create a soft landing, and begin to anchor the wisdom from your time away. The hope is that they will inspire even more ideas to create a soft landing for yourself and make the most of your time away. 

Tip 1: Communicating ahead of time with your partner  

If you are living with a partner, include them in your strategy for integrating. Think ahead about what you think you might like when you return home so this can be communicated and normalized. A cup of tea? A few hours to settle in before catching up? Do not feel pressured to tell your partner everything in the first hour you return. This may be challenging because there can be so much joy in reuniting and wanting to tell them all about your time away would be natural. Your partner may have had to juggle a lot while you were away such as extra chores, children’s bedtime meltdowns, and regular life stress. Offering appreciation for making it possible to go away on retreat as well as preparing you both for your arrival can go a long way in decreasing any friction. 

Tip 2: Respect your level of sensitivity 

No matter the type of retreat you may have recently enjoyed, it is likely that your sensitivity dial is tuned way up. Going to the grocery store or navigating traffic might feel like a deluge of stimulation. For example, if you are traveling by plane, just being in the airport surrounded by harried travelers can feel like an overload to your system. Also, catching up on the news before you are ready can quickly hijack your nervous system. Remind yourself to limit news exposure and that your inner state is the news of the day right now. Simply being aware that you might be more sensitive can be useful. Practicing self-compassion with yourself and compassion for others in the airport or on the road can go be helpful while making your way home. 

Tip 3: Titrate sharing your experience 

I remember a colleague asking me how my retreat went and excitedly I launched into a story about a realization during a moment in meditation and feeling embarrassed and frustrated when I realized my colleague was not interested in that level of detail. It does not feel good to share an important and tender moment while expecting the listener to hold space and understand the nuances of the experience when they cannot. This comes from a place of wanting to be understood and validated, but it can be very frustrating to not feel heard when you’ve had a life-changing experience. Instead, for most people who ask it can be helpful to say the experience was really big and you’re still processing it or that there was really good food and the weather was lovely (if that’s true). You can always check in with a close family member or friend to ask if they have the time to listen to a big experience you had on your retreat. You can always reach out to your therapist to process and be supported by someone trained for deep listening. 

Tip 4: Wait before making big changes 

Retreats can be a catalyst for change and we can feel very inspired at the close. It is natural to want to take action to change aspects of your lifestyle such as diet, communication strategies with your partner, leaving a career path, or reaching out to an estranged family member after a retreat. You may feel so much has changed inside you and it makes sense that you want your life to reflect that growth. You may feel like everyone could benefit from this style of meditation or the powerful journaling exercise you learned. You can honor this new fire and passion in your life without evangelizing and without making big changes too fast too soon. Advocate for going slowly and leading with curiosity. See what wants to unfold and how it wants to unfold naturally. Before you leave a job or move to another state, see if that desire is still alive for you after a few weeks. You will have time to think things through and may come up with other ways to honor the shifts inside you. 

Tip 5: Integrate the experience 

As you start back into your routine of dishes and emails, it would be natural to feel apprehension about forgetting the peak insights or losing that unshakeable feeling of wellness and bliss you so recently experienced. We can create more suffering by grasping at this state of being and believing that we are somehow supposed to maintain the bliss from the retreat. Know that it is possible and natural to feel a letdown when returning to routines of daily living. We are supposed to return to our lives and integrate wisdom. It is unrealistic to expect to stay in a glowy head space. However, eating fresh food, engaging in holistic supports of your choice, listening to music you heard on retreat, and taking time to journal and make art can support the process of integrating the parts of you that felt alive and engaged on retreat with the parts of you that manage the day to day of life. In the past, I have placed an object or picture from the retreat that has meaning for me on my desk or on a bedside table to remind me of the insights gained and the space I occupied while there. 

With some time spent planning ahead for your return, it is possible to create a supportive attitude and environment to come back to after a life-changing experience. Whether you are about to go on retreat or have already returned, the invitation is to treat yourself gently and build awareness about what you need for support.  

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