Meditation retreat journal: Peace starts here

Going into retreat, we lean into the unknown. And if we trust and allow it, come out nourished and transformed.
I had been wanting to go on meditation retreat at Plum Village, established by Zen master teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, yet I had no way of knowing if I would like the practice, the space, the community.
During the New Year’s retreat, nuns and monks and lay friends have let me understand a bit about interbeing.
Interbeing means mutual interconnectedness of all living things, that Thich Nhat Hanh teaches about. Thay, as he is called by his beloved Sangha or community of practitioners, has applied Buddhist insights to every aspect of life, including education, business, technology, and the environmental crisis. His quotes, that are gentle reminders of mindfulness in our every action, are displayed as beautiful calligraphies all across the monastery.
In this space, I was encouraged to stay fully with my slow steps; with every breath; to close my eyes while I bite into an extremely delicious steamed carrot and enjoy the simplicity of it; to fall into the starry sky while walking to the meditation hall at 5:30 a.m.

A Plum Village practice that has deeply touched me is that of the bells. Every 15 minutes, a bell sounds and everyone stops mid-movement or mid-speech. We pause, take three deep breaths and come back to ourselves. Hereby, we allow ourselves to be free, disengaging from thoughts and thought patterns and relaxing into the now.

The New Year Eve celebration was out of this world, in its solemnity; hilarious performances; gorgeous food consumed in community, sitting on the floor; and resolutions burnt in miraculous bonfire.
Since leaving the meditation retreat, I have been with Plum Village energy, with songs that we sung still softly sounding in my ears. Aiming to be with it all and listen.
Getting up to speed after so much stillness feels challenging. Emails, scheduling, letting people know that yoga classes are back, and at the same time keeping up my practice is daunting.
I am feeling the divide between retreat pace and that of “real life.”
I am constantly distracted and even the simple practice of eating super slowly and fully present takes effort.