It’s common for people to spend a lot of effort planning a trip away. Even the shortest excursion can be smoother and safer given good foresight. But few give much thought, if any, to the difficulties they might encounter upon their return.

I recently came back from 2½ months away on a meditation retreat. There were little breaks here and there but I was mostly shrouded within a very focused and protective environment, letting the rest of the world whirl and change without me. These retreats are not new to me, but I usually go for only 10 days. While I knew coming home would include an adjustment period, there’s never really any way to know what you’ll get until you arrive.

The most interesting thing about this uncertainty is that it’s what my meditation practice is all about. That is, I meditate directly on acceptance of the changing reality underlying my experience in order to become more capable of dealing with its outcomes and effects, whatever they may be.

Still, I am no master. Some say the road to inner peace may lead through many future lives. Having no memory of past lives to use as a reference point, I can only compare my progress to where I was when I started meditating in this life.

The verdict? I’ve come so far… and have so much further to go. Though I feel I have a strong grasp of the theoretical foundation of the meditation technique, experience is all that counts. Learning how to take the attainment I reach in seclusion and integrate it with the rest of my life is a core part of the practice. It’s relatively easy to remain calm with my inner turmoil when in a supportive meditation environment. But given the strains and stresses of the remaining world, I’m still a highly distracted and reactive person.

And so I walk back into my life with some degree of naivety, thinking I’ll just be able to pick up the reins and lead off again. Reality, though, has a way of being real. It only lets you get away with whatever is ultimately possible. I think I’ll hit the ground running, but it’s more like falling into molasses. It’s frustrating because things look remarkably similar to how they were when I left. Even the noticeable changes don’t seem like they should be hard to adjust to.

But then the truth starts to come clear.

It’s one thing to notice the changes that have come to pass in the places we return to, quite another to reflect on the changes which have occurred within ourselves. At the surface I think of myself as the same person who left town 2½ months ago. But every thought and every day changes a person so thoroughly and at a very profound level. How can I even consider myself the same person from moment to moment?

I need to catch up to my world, the one I left behind, but I also need to let it catch up to me.

Coming home is the hardest thing.

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7 Responses to “Integration”

  1. Matt says:

    It’s pretty amazing that you had the patience and discipline to strengthen your meditation practice in these past few months. Reading about your journey thus far has been inspiring. Good luck with your practice!

  2. sean says:

    Thanks Matt, it’s certainly been a big challenge to keep working on both the inside and the out. Good to hear from you and I hope you’re practice has gone well also.

  3. Kstarr says:

    Beautiful, honest sharing. Lovely and real…thank you.

  4. Kstarr says:

    Connecting with these words again with my own integration process upon returning from my Vision Quest.
    “I need to catch up to my world, the one I left behind, but I also need to let it catch up to me.”
    So relating to this line right now!

  5. sean says:

    Thanks for reminding me about this post! I read recently that a huge percentage of blogs have essentially been abandoned, meaning they haven’t been updated in a long time. I think this one must qualify for that moniker… Not sure whether I need to catch up to it or it to me.

    Also resonating for me right now are words from a Chemical Brothers tune…

    Sunday morning I’m waking up,
    Can’t even focus on a coffee cup.
    Don’t even know who’s bed I’m in.
    Where do I start? Where do I begin?

    Not so much the 3rd line, but I do feel in a bit of a daze lately. Where exactly do I begin?

  6. Kstarr says:

    With your breath. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing those words from the song…really appreciate it today.
    Maybe this can be an inspiration for a new updated blog post! smile.

  7. Kstarr says:

    p.s. along with your breath…get out and smell some flowers today…go for a slow walk, taking in the scents and sensations…it’s summer solstice. I did this and it was peaceful…sometimes it is nature that knows and understands. wink wink. I collected some rose petals, lavender and yarrow…special herbs on a special day.

    I’m going to go get that coffee now!

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