Friday, July 5, 2013

Recovering from Retreat

I've just returned from a week-long intensive retreat.  This retreat happened to be called California Withcamp, but I know that what I am about to express could be connected to any type of spiritual retreat intensive.  What I am referring to is what we at CAWC refer to as "the post-camp blues". 

There are some real, solid, every day, reasons for these blues.  During a retreat we don't have to worry about food, because someone else is taking care of it for us.  We don't have to worry about paying the bills, because in retreat we are "outside" of everyday concerns.  We don't have to worry about entertainment, because there is a schedule to follow and events planned. We don't have to worry about being alone, because we are surrounded by like-minded people.

During a spiritual retreat we have the opportunity to be fully in the present moment.  In the 'regular' world, there are very few opportunities for that.

This Witchcamp was particularily powerful for me.  It was my eighth Witchcamp intensive.  Some of my previous experiences left me forever shifted; like a veil had been removed and I was looking at the world for the first time.  (There is no going back to your previous ways once the veil has been lifted.)  Other camps have been full of challenges and opportunities for me to push my growth; like the years that I was blessed to teach.  And there have been camps where I simply had fun in the woods.  But this year was different.

For the first time in my life I feel like my heart is blown open.  I am experiencing emotions that I don't often allow myself to experience.  I healed some of my wounds.  I connected to people in ways that I didn't think were possible.  I feel totally different than the person I was before.

Camp ended less than a week ago, and yet, it feels like a distant memory.  Now I am left with the daunting task of trying to assimilate the emotional and spiritual processes I went through intellectually.  And yet, even as I write this I recognize that words still don't work.  Words are less than.  All that matters is how my heart feels; full and open.

So, how do I take these feelings, these changes, these experiences, and use them to fuel my regular, every day life.  (Because no matter how much I want it to be different, camp is only SEVEN days of the whole year.)  How do I move through my world with my heart open and keep the connections that were made at camp?  How do I remain open in the outside world, when it can be so harsh and difficult?  These questions are really what "the post-camp blues" are all about.

Yes, it is a bummer that delicious, nutritious, and magical food isn't just waiting for me at mealtimes.  Yes, it sucks that I have to clean the litterbox and dust the living room without a team to help me.  Yes, it is difficult to experience emotions without loved ones to hold witness.  Yes, it is hard to have great distances between myself and those I call beloved. 

Yes, all of these things create the post-camp blues, but more than these things; the ache, the discomfort, and the sadness of "after camp" is really about being different.

At camp, we learn to expand and transform.  This means that we can't always just slip back into the lives that we left seven days earlier.  Sometimes we have to find our new way in our new form.  This can be uncomfortable and difficult.  Sometimes we have to see that what we were no longer fits in the life that we want.  Sometimes this means making big changes and sometimes this means learning to adapt into the newness that is you now.  With big changes comes big adjustments, which can be painful, complicated, and confusing.  And outside of camp, we loose some of the support that was literally right at hand.  We have to learn to navigate the waters in a different way.

And this is hard.

Other people might not look at me and see that something is different, but I know it is, because I can feel it in every breath that I take.  For me, this year at least, recovering from retreat means stepping into myself.  Recovering from retreat means honoring my emotions.  Recovering from retreat means allowing myself to be vulnerable.  Recovering from retreat is a personal acknowledgment that I am not scared anymore.

My heart is full, my heart is open, and I am forever changed.


  1. One of the most powerful pieces of your writing I've ever read. Thank you for sharing. The change in you is evident and shining out from your words. Sending you love. <3

  2. "Sometimes we have to see that what we were no longer fits in the life that we want."

    Oh, yeah. This kind of thing is hard to accept no matter what beliefs one espouses. Very transferable. From the rest of your writing here, you sound to be well on your way to integrating what you learned and experienced at camp/retreat into your efforts to balance what you want for your life with the kind of person you'd like to be. Take heart... you're in good and ample company. [=

  3. As a fellow attendee who was witness to your change as you were witness to mine I fully relate to what is said here. The biggest blues for me is how to stay vulnerable when much of my life needles at me to shut down and close off. How to hold myself in compassion when I bump up against the cultural insistence on being "strong" as if closing off feeling were truly strong. I too am irrevocably changed and have no words to articulate it, I feel a shift, I am on a different trajectory, the vector has changed the whole flight path is different, and my life as I left it is an ill fitting shoe on a foot too big for the dimensions it is being forced into.

  4. Phoenix, as I said to you at camp- thank you for speaking my truth. It was my first witch camp and re entry has been as difficult as camp was beautiful. I've never felt this open and this vulnerable, and I've been so confused about how to reassemble my life. Its frightening trying to figure out what to keep and what to put back on the shelf, trying to hold my open heart while still functioning at work, at home, with friends. Reading your words brings me comfort and confidence to take in the greatest lesson I learned this week- that I'm not alone. Thank you for speaking my truth, thank you for sharing and thank you for being.