Commonweal, June 2007, part 9

The evening program, headed up by Michael and Lenore focused on preparing to go home. We looked at the question, “How do you build on whatever you’ve found here that’s useful?” All of us will be leaving on a psychobiological high—all the tissue in our body has had a chance at rejuvenation.

Michael warned us that the world may seem loud and clangy once we leave the womb of Commonweal, reminding us that it’s easy to underestimate how quiet and open we’ve become. “Prepare to protect yourself from those aspects of the world that can come crashing in.”

He advised that we create a cover story about our week away, something simple like, “It was very relaxing.” Or, “Believe it or not, I had fun at cancer camp,” so we have something easy to say in casual conversation.

I remember Natalie Goldberg’s invaluable advice when I was returning from my first silent meditation retreat: Don’t talk about your experience. Be your experience. Go home and listen deeply to your family. Use your quiet and peacefulness to be there for them. Let them see the changes in you. You don’t have to talk about them.

Michael talked about the inevitable crash that many people experience after a retreat like this. “All of this may seem like a dream,” he said. “Remember, your energy may crash, but the insights you had will not go away. But in order to make your expanded consciousness real, you need to bring in the will. Find a way to take a specific course of action that changes the insight into a new behavior. When you begin to manifest your consciousness, you create space for more insights to arise and you become more fluid in who you are.”

We did a go-round and everyone talked about the first step we hope to take when we get home. Then more, broadly, to talk about what we are bringing home from the week.

He suggested that we write down things that were important for us and that we write down our intentions. For it is through strengthening these intentions with action that we remain open to fresh cycles of intuition and emergence.

The end of the retreat

The last morning of the retreat, we met for our last time with Lenore. She had us do what she called, “A Visual Sandtray.” She pulled out a bag with more than a hundred postcards with a wide array of images on them. We spread them out throughout our meeting room. She had us silently walk around and look at them and then pick five or six that spoke to us. We arranged these in front of us in a visual collage. Then in turn we each spoke about the images we chose and what they meant to us.

After each of us spoke, Lenore had us close our eyes. She’d then review the images we each chose, mirroring our own words and ways of describing them. The she said, “Holding these images, I sound the bell for Laura.” Then we’d sit in silence and breathe. Then move on to the next person.

Afterwards, we joined hands in our circle and looked each member of our group in the eye. Then she did something wonderful that I’ve never seen a group leader do. She had us turn and face outwards, still holding hands. She said, “Feel the group at your back as you face back into your own lives.” The she helped us visualize the drive home, our homes, the people we love and all that we were returning to, while still feeling the support and steadiness of the group’s support. It was a beautiful ending.

At our last lunch together, I asked Claire, the cook, if I could bring four perfect peaches home. I thought that would be the best way to give Eli, Lizzy and Karyn a taste of my time away. (And I had to have one more for myself—so I could remember, too).

The night I got home, Eli and Lizzy were sleeping out at Annika and David’s house so Karyn and I had some leisurely time on the couch. I rubbed her feet and mostly listened. Then I said I wanted to give her a gift from the retreat. I blindfolded her, then went into the kitchen and peeled one of the perfect peaches. I cut it into slivers and brought it back into the living room with a damp warm washcloth. I had her open her mouth and fed the slivers to her one at a time, slowly. Then I gave her the washcloth to wash off her lips.

The next day, when the kids came home, I did the same thing with them. I had them sit side by side on our red kitchen chairs, blindfolded and they opened their mouths over and over, like little birds, waiting to be fed.

I’m sure they’ll never forget those peaches. What better way to share my week away?

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