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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