The Plateau

Reflections on a fall day

While a retirement routine is important and can help avoid boredom, it can also lead to a plateau of complacency. Recently, I felt like I plateaued. Settled into my routine of writing, art, classes, gardening and cooking, life has a certain comfortable rhythm. I’ve developed a retirement social network of friends with the same interests and my wonderful family has acclimated to my retirement routine as well. Yet, I felt restless like I needed to keep hammering on the universe to ensure I leave my dent.

Then a couple of days ago I spoke to a friend who just returned from a ten-day silent retreat. There are ten such retreats in the United States, with one located only an hour away in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. Though it sounds intriguing to leave behind all forms of technology, including hair dryers, I’m invoking a self-imposed limitation when I say I don’t think I could spend hours upon hours a day in meditation and silence.

My friend admits that day six was a challenge for her. Like the runner’s ‘wall’ she had to break through a roadblock to keep going. Eleven hours of meditation is daunting for anyone. Add to that no talking, eye contact or gestures with others as you perform chores around the retreat and it stretches the limits of restraint. Working in silence is known as working meditation. For an extravert, being in close proximity with others, but disallowed from any contact could possibly be maddening.

Listening to my friend’s adventure, the idea of turning inward for self-reflection took hold. Perhaps sitting on a plateau for a time is good for us, like stopping off at base camp before making the final climb to the mountain’s summit. This is my time to re-energize physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I could take it a step farther. Just one day of turning off the cell phone, computer, tv and all appliances may be adequate to quiet my soul enough to contemplate my next adventure. When I draw I enter what I call ‘the zone’. I’ve heard other artists refer to zoning out while engaged in whatever media they use to create. Though I experience a sense of peace as I garden, a type of one with nature, it is only through drawing where I enter both a physical and spiritual relaxation I have never encountered before taking up a pencil to draw. That is my means of meditation.

Life has its up and downs. There were times during my younger years when I felt as if I were on a runaway roller coaster ride. No breathing space seemed to be found as I rushed from one responsibility to another. As it was in those days, my retirement routine is of my own making. Before giving in to my restlessness, before seeking my next adventure, I think I will just sit here on the plateau for a while. I may even give up my hair dryer.

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14 comments on “The Plateau

  1. Yes! Silence is golden. I’ve always had 2 speeds…fast & stop….rewired living is just a variation …the past 2 weeks I nourished my soul with painting, sketching, reading, writing, walking & talking to Puck & horses in the pastures…less media noise and more silence…washes away whatever needs to go….
    Another thoughtful post Kathy.

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  2. Wonderful article, Kathy.
    As you have your art, my music has the same effect on me.
    I have learned not to rush to a ringing phone anymore as I don’t want to fall nor am I in a hurry to answer what is most likely a marketing call. My family knows if they call back I will answer it.
    Keep writing. I really enjoy your style.

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  3. HI Kathy! I am a 54 year old federal government employee who will retire on January 3rd, 2018. I will then be 55 years old and will have 37 years of service. I have been following you for several months and just wanted to let you know how I much I enjoy reading your perspectives on retired life. I am looking forward to this new life and when I’ve found myself questioning something, it seems like it’s no time until you write something about it. I want to say thank you for your guidance so far. It is truly appreciated.

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  4. I know a few others who have participated in ‘Silence Retreats’ and found them to be very beneficial. That being said, I can’t see myself being drawn to this form of meditation.However, I would be happy to meet you on the ‘plateau bench’ every once and a while!

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  5. I think I know how you feel. I seem to have hit a plateau, too. I try to experience many different things, but after a while my days get full of repeated activities. I see it as filling my day with things that I like to do. I can’t always be trying new experiences. I just do things that I like. I am however living a dichotomy. I am very active and very inactive. Almost every day I am very active for half of the day (gym, hiking, biking, running, working in the yard) and the other half of the day I am inactive (read, relax with a beer, sit by the backyard fire). I guess the plateau gives me a chance to enjoy my retirement. Occasionally, I do break out with new experiences to get off my plateau.

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  6. Kathy, I just finished an unplanned week of being unplugged, because of a big storm and state-wide electrical outage. Even though many of life’s ordinary activities (like preparing food, cleaning up, and getting water) were more arduous, I was amazed by the way time opened up and the opportunities for quiet and reflection. Today, when I was back online for the first time in a week, I found myself distracted, scattered, and much less productive. I’m going to try holding on to some of the gains of my unplugged week by not turning on my computer until later in the day.

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  7. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Even though I live alone and find retirement very full after almost two years, I find I still need to ‘get away’ to find a different kind of peace and quieting of my mind and heart. Every year I go for a weekend silent retreat to Gethsemani monastery in the hills of Kentucky…home of Thomas Merton. The peace of the guest house, simple food, acres and acres of knobs and lakes and fields to explore, the rhythm of the days attuned to the monks’ times of prayer, the community of other people sharing smiles and silence together and time with God…it’s wonderful. Takes about a day to settle down….and, then, at the end I don’t want to leave and re-enter the noise of the world. I always come away with insights and ideas to explore further when I get home. It’s become an important part of pre and post retirement life :).

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  8. Nice post! I love the idea of turning everything off and just embracing the quiet. It’s amazing what that does for your spirit. I don’t know if I could ever do the “no talking” thing. Wouldn’t probably last three hours! LOL! ~ Lynn

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  9. Thanks for your thoughtful & practical posts. I recently retired from a very demanding nursing career of 40+ years. This decision occurred 1 year earlier than planned, as my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and I wanted to be available to assist her during her treatments. Your blog has been helpful in this season of change. I’m definitely a work in progress and still struggle with those questions “What are you doing since you retired?” Isn’t it ok to just “Be” for a time. As women, we give so much to others that in times of quiet I question “Who am I as an individual person”
    Thanks again for guidance on this journey of the next season of life.

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  10. I have done 2 day silent retreats but don’t think I could manage a whole week or more! Many small mountain towns here in Az. to escape too– a nice airbnb room, silence, woods..sounds good to me! Maybe in January!

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