One drawback of intensive retreats is the lack of follow-through support between retreats.
Someone may do one intensive retreat, and then expect the special depth and clarity of retreat to continue forever. But away from the silence, leisure, and loving atmosphere of retreat, we cannot at first expect to access that same spaciousness. We need to experiment to find ways to "put into practice" and "realize" (make real) our insights. We need to find our own rhythm, our own path, our own language, and our own freedom.
One way to encourage continuity is to ask ourselves questions about life on and off retreat.
1) The first questionnaire, for right after retreat, may help you to clarify what, if anything, from the retreat was most or least helpful and challenging. Even if we would like to, we usually cannot copy the whole retreat schedule at home, unless we have a large bank account and our own team of cooks and secretaries and facilitators at home. It is important to draw out the most useful threads and then allow those to take over our lives.
2) The second set of questions, “Reflections for momentum”, are for checking in with yourself periodically after retreat—perhaps after two weeks, a month, three months, six months, and a year. You may only find certain questions relevant to your life now, while others may take on significance as your improvisation evolves.
~ Reflections for momentum
What were the most important elements or moments of retreat (or other teaching contexts) for you—meals in silence, yoga or chi gong, phrases, feelings, solitude, light in the trees...? Do you or could you integrate these into your daily life?
How often would you ideally love to do retreat? to receive “live” teachings? to be in silence? to be in a group of people focused on fulfilling life’s potential?
What have been other important teachings for you—whether formal or not?
What about regular, formal meditation?
Does it happen? When and how often? What helps you practice--a particular place, time, group of people, commitment, technique, posture?
Is your practice different from when you started?
Does your formal practice influence your daily life? In what ways?
Are there ways that you are getting too tight about formal practice? How could you challenge yourself to get back to the heart of your intention to go deeply?
Is there anything else you do regularly that helps you but that you may not call meditation?
What do you most love to “do”?
When do you “forget yourself” in a positive way, as when one loses track of time and persona when doing something one loves to do?
For 5 or 6 days, keep track of the moments of joy in each day. Is there a pattern? Perhaps a part of your spiritual calling is revealed through the pattern of joy.
What is most important in your life?
How often do you live according to what you know is important?
What seems to give you energy? What seems to drain your energy?
Where (or with whom, when, etc.) do you see yourself acting spontaneously in a creative way?
Do you see yourself more weighed down by beliefs/thoughts/expectations, or by emotions/moods, or by habits?
Do you find yourself putting heart/wisdom into practice in informal contexts?
At work, at home, with friends, with family, alone, in action, at rest....
Energy spots--Key places for attention
What do you think are your unseen gifts—things others appreciate about you that you may take for granted and/or areas of challenge that have encouraged you to?
Where would you most like to open up or grow? What would you most like to let go of?
What are your biggest challenges?
If you are or were suffering from mental, physical or emotional difficulty, how has meditation/spiritual practice affected you? (Sometimes tender areas of lots of energy can erupt for a while as we start to give them much-needed attention.)
If you drop a sense of pressure or living up to someone else’s expectations, what would you do differently in your life?
Currents of transformation
Since your last retreat and (if applicable) in the last 1 (and again 5 years) of your spiritual practice, have you seen any changes in your experience of:
1) silence and rest
2) nature and ecology
3) communication (how you communicate with whom about what)
4) creativity and work
5) money, time, and generosity
7) moving beyond fears, judgments, or other contracted mind-states
10) commitment and responsibility and spontaneity
11) the unknown
12) anything else