Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Many of you might have spent part of the New Year holiday at yoga retreats, special workshops, or at home on your own, journaling about how to move into 2020 with intention. And now you might be wondering how the hell you’re going to sustain those positive vibes and new inspiration as you re-enter a world full of career, kids, errands, and bills. If that’s the case, this article is intended to help you merge your transformational experience with your daily existence.
Below, you’ll find tips for how to maintain that deep connection to yourself, your inner truth, and others, when faced with some of the more mundane but necessary tasks of modern life.
Maintaining Your Retreat Mindset
Integration, the process of embodying fresh insights and living your newfound truth, is a personal passion of mine. As a meditation mentor, Kundalini Yoga teacher, and personal coach, I meet with many people who attend spiritual retreats and have a hard time translating the experience into the “real” world and their day-to-day life. Work, parenting, household chores, relationships, old habits and patterns of being all have a way of distracting us from our intentions. As a result, at the end of the day, our commitment to our transformation and growth wanes and becomes an extra added stress—something that we don’t quite have time for.
I’ve heard this refrain so often that I actually wrote a book about it, called Integration Alchemy: Rekindle Your Transformational Retreat and Shine, to help my friends and fellow travelers through this process. I work with people one-on-one and in group settings to help them integrate and bring the teachings home for good.
Remember How You Felt
Here’s the key: You don’t want to define and limit your retreat experiences; you want to let them flow and embody them. Don’t think of it as what you “got” out of your yoga retreat, but rather how you felt emotionally, how you felt in your body, what you experienced in yourself that you want to carry forward into your life. Maybe it was a more open and heartfelt connection to yourself, maybe it was self-acceptance or forgiveness, maybe it was feeling strong and capable. Whatever it was, it’s that experience of you that I want you to really explore.
Integration happens naturally as you live your life. If you try to define it and understand integration by thinking about it, then you are transferring your experience from your heart to your mind—which then creates a stumbling block to your transformational experience.
Remember that actual healing comes through feeling. So, if you are uncovering old wounds and feeling difficult emotions such as anger or sadness, feel these feelings without judgment. See if you can see what is underneath the surface, the wounds that are being activated. Practice patience with yourself and have compassion with your process. You are exactly where you need to be doing exactly the work that needs to be done for your own inner growth. If at all possible, spend time in nature and allow Mother Earth to support and teach you.
Make Space for Reflection
On a more practical level, integration takes space. Try to find time to just be every day, whether it’s in meditation, a yoga practice, a walk, journaling, or whatever allows you to experience quiet within you. Use discernment and don’t place yourself in stressful situations. Avoid difficult people and disturbing input, such as news, violent shows, social media, and more. Be mindful and contain your process.
Keep it to Yourself
After a retreat experience, we want to share and shine our light, but it’s important to remember that our friends, families, and coworkers might not be receptive and or supportive of our insights and growth. Exercise discernment about who you share your experience with.
Integration 101: Your Roadmap to Wholeness
My first big retreat experience was a group process called the Path of Love. I came home from this experience feeling like a “new” me and soon realized how difficult it was going to be to keep that fire burning. More than a decade later, after many retreats and integration experiences, I created what I call an integration alchemy process as a way to embody new insights and understanding and assimilate my inspired, open self in the practical world.
Here are the seven steps to integration:
- A: Action – take steps to ensure you are grounded in the practical world.
- L: Listen to your own inner wisdom
- C: Consider what serves you
- H: Home in on your intentions
- E: Elevate yourself through commitment
- M: Make trust your ally
- Y: You are love
Act to make sure you are taking care of your practical world. Ground yourself in the day-to-day actions that stabilize and sustain your “real world” life. This might include housecleaning, paying bills, or going to the doctor. Make a list of things that need to be taken care of and get started. I call this chopping wood and carrying water. Do this with awareness and intention, and, if things come up around these issues, pay attention to what lies beneath.
Once you have some traction and a realistic plan for your everyday responsibilities you can now spend some time looking at who you are right now in your life. A simple way to do this is to spend some time journaling about who you are.
Here’s a journaling prompt for you to try: Open your journal and write “Tell me who you are.” Spend about 30 minutes writing about it.
What are the “labels” you use to describe who you are. Ask yourself, “Are they actually true?” For instance, if you identify as a kind person, can you also be cruel? If you identify as quiet, is there a part of you that wants to shout out and be heard? By understanding our “labels,” we can detach from them and realize we are so much more.
With this understanding, consider what serves that bigger, multifaceted you. Write in your journal about what would help sustain and nurture that experience of you. Be specific with this exercise. Is it a daily practice of yoga or meditation, being in nature, spending more time with certain, setting boundaries, breaking disruptive habits?
Now that you have looked at what serves that bigger you, set your intention going forward. Make an intention in the form of a simple motto or mantra that feels good intuitively. This could be: Live your truth, be authentic, open your heart to others. Write it down, and, when you have a decision to make, ask yourself what best supports this intention.
For instance, I recently completed a seven-month Kundalini Yoga teacher training. The entire process felt like a long and very intense retreat experience, and, as a part of my own integration process, I created a new motto for me going forward: Live in divinity. I use it whenever I am in doubt or need encouragement.
Once you have set your intention, elevate yourself by committing to a daily practice that supports this intention. It might be a daily yoga practice, a morning meditation, a daily walk in nature, journaling, or something else. Choose a practice that takes you inward and serves your intention every day. Revisit the writing that you did in exercise C above and really look at what you want to commit to and implement in your life now. Write it down. This might look like “I will do my home yoga practice every morning at 6:00 a.m.” or “I will take a walk in nature at lunch.”
Make Trust Your Ally
Trust that the universe will support your commitment to your intention. Trust that your process is unfolding and you are doing the work that needs to be done. If you get off track, don’t judge yourself harshly. Simply start again with joyful intent.
You Are Love
As you continue honoring your intention with your comittment and trust in your process, understand that love will support and sustain these efforts. The love that flows from following through and living with intention will encourage and help you sustain the you that you experienced on retreat and bring her into your daily life. All it takes is a little effort—a daily commitment to connecting to your higher self every day.
Deva Arani is a Kundalini Yoga teacher, integration alchemist, meditation mentor, life strategist, and author of Integration Alchemy. She is a retired attorney who has spent more than a decade participating in, organizing, and leading transformational retreats all over the world. Learn more at www.devaarani.com.