I have yet to meet a veteran retreat leader who hasn't grappled with the challenge of helping the participants -- who invariably have just experienced profound realizations about their lives -- take those realizations into their day-to-day lives.
Indeed, I have yet to meet a retreat participant who has not experienced some slipping away of the sweetness discovered while on retreat.
Whether the retreat takes place on literal a mountain top, such as Shalom Mountain, or merely on a metaphorical mountain top, the brilliant revelations realized over the weekend seem to dissipate as we drive down the mountain into the valleys of our lives.
Sometimes this happens quickly, sometimes over time. Our hearts -- blown open by love -- close. Worse yet, our egos, trying to reclaim control after having been dethroned for a few days, assert that the whole experience was simply a delusion, that a closed heart is the only way to live in the so-called "real world."
Thankfully, most of us are left with the distinct belief that there was something quite real about our experience, that we did find ourselves more loving, more compassionate, more open than we were before we walked in the door.
So how do we take that realization of Love with us as we drive down from the mountain top?
Because we are unique beings, there are at least as many answers to that as there are humans, and probably many more than that. So, I won't offer a formula for carrying the lessons of loving with you. What I will say is this:
You already know.
No matter your age, you know by now, at least in broad outlines, what works and what doesn't. You already know what practices help to open your heart, and which do not.
Now, do you know all you need to know? Of course not! But you know more than enough to get started.
Let's test out my theory: What life choices support your well-being, both individually and in relationship? Get real basic as you start to explore this. Think about things like sleep, food, work, social activities, TV-watching, exercise, reading, spiritual activities. As you weigh all the things you've tried in these realms and others, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this give me authentic, lasting pleasure?
- What's the aftertaste of this activity like?
- Does this activity bring me closer to people I care about or leave me farther away?
- Does this support my well-being?
My guess is this -- if you were to start to take a detailed inventory of your life choices, and ask yourselves probing questions like these, and then compile those activities that seem likely to support the opening of your heart, you'd have a pretty good start on a life practice that would help you take your love off the mountain and into your life.
Your Unique Practice can take your Love from the mountaintop and into your life.