Should I rent a car or carpool to a silent retreat?
December 27, 2018 6:46 PM   Subscribe

So I know that plenty of people here have attended a silent meditation retreat, please help me figure this out and sort out reality from my anxiety about being away from my family. I booked myself for my first five day retreat in Western Mass and struggling to figure out the logistics.

It's located about an hour and a half drive from my house, and also in the middle of the woods about forty minute drive from the nearest city. I cannot take my car with me. The center recommends carpooling, which I would be fine with if I did not have small kids. What if there is an emergency? Thinking about being in the middle of nowhere with no transportation of my own and unable to reach them makes me feel very vulnerable. On the other hand, the likelihood that there is an emergency in the middle of the night is pretty small, my husband travels across the ocean on his own regularly, etc. Have you carpooled, did you wish you had your own car? I also keep thinking about Homecoming for some reason, which is a silly mindset to go to a meditation retreat with but maybe it'll make the experience more exciting. Any other suggestions for what to bring, which voluntary daily service to select (if you can select), etc. are welcome!
posted by Shusha to Grab Bag (13 answers total)
Can you clarify if you're not allowed to have your car on the silent retreat campus or you can't take your car with you for other reasons?
posted by raccoon409 at 6:59 PM on December 27, 2018

My husband will be using our only car when I'm away. I could rent a car, but it's a lot of money to spend on a vehicle that I will drive for 3 hours total, to the retreat and back.
posted by Shusha at 7:05 PM on December 27, 2018

Is there a close friend or relative that you could deputize that in case of (extremely rare and severe) family emergency they can either a) help your husband to deal with it while you get on your way back, or b) be responsible for coming out to get you and drive you back? Then you can just carpool. I don’t think that having a rental car there will really give you peace of mind.
posted by permiechickie at 7:30 PM on December 27, 2018 [12 favorites]

I think part of going on these retreats is having your husband (or deputy) agreeing to handle any emergencies that may arise. Like, are you going to be allowed to have your cellphone on?
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:35 PM on December 27, 2018 [16 favorites]

Is it Kripalu? They have various shuttle services to bus and train stations. There's also Uber, even in the woods of Western MA. Or you could call the destination and ask them if they can recommend a driving service to get you from home or another drop-off point to the site. YOu won't be the first person that needed it and htey probably have recommendations.

At these kinds of things, the staff knows how to be intermediaries. Give your husband the staff number and ask them to get you if he calls. And instruct him not to call unless serious emergency.

Part of the usefulness of the retreat is you doing just this - figuring out how to unplug and trust others to take care of things so you can focus on what you need.
posted by Miko at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2018 [16 favorites]

I have never been to one of these things. But I suspect, if you are at a retreat without your car, and there is a serious emergency that requires you to go home immediately, that the folks at the retreat will help you figure out transportation -- it seems unlikely to me that they'd just shrug and say, "sucks to be you." (For example, I imagine they have a hook-up for a local cab service that could come and get you, if Uber isn't available where you are going.) I understand your anxiety, as I would share it but truly I cannot imagine that if something goes so wrong that you need to get home ASAP, the retreat leaders will just make you swing in the wind.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2018 [11 favorites]

I think it's very valid to want to/insist on taking a car with you--yes, retreats are about unplugging and trusting others, but it doesn't happen instantly when you arrive. And if you've got a nagging anxiety in the background, it can detract from your overall experience. It's not worth it. Save the car-free retreat for some time in the future when you're a more advanced practitioner.

The place where I attend retreats is about an hour away from my house, and I always carpool with other retreatants--but only if I'm driving*. Even though I've been to a good handful of retreats and I generally feel safe, I want an escape hatch in case something terrible happens. It's unlikely to happen! But the existence of my own vehicle there helps me to be more present, and less likely to spend the whole time stewing and catastrophizing (I am not yet an advanced practitioner).

*because of my anxiety as a passenger on steep mountain roads. BUT (important point) the retreat center has many contingency options for people who need rides to town. Nobody would be stranded there on account of my hightailing home early.
posted by witchen at 7:56 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Some non car-related words of encouragement: I did a 10-day retreat at the Insight Meditation Center in Barre and it was a wonderful experience. It was my first retreat, and I had expected that the "being in silence" part would feel weird and hard, but actually it felt very useful and welcome to not have any expectation of having to make small talk with other people when I was in the middle of this intense internal experience. I also found the staff and teachers to be very thoughtful; they really paid attention to making sure everyone was doing okay and no one was freaking out or anything.

So to echo above advice, you could call them and ask what they recommend doing in case of emergencies at home. I'm sure they would be helpful if anything were to happen and you needed to get home, but it might help to hear from them ahead of time how they would handle it. I vote for carpooling and trusting that you'll be able to deal with an emergency if one happens.

Have a great time, whatever you decide!
posted by aka burlap at 8:04 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh also, three more thoughts:
- They will probably have a schedule for you to follow. You don't have to follow it, but I found it easier to go ahead and decide at the beginning that I would follow the schedule, instead of giving myself the option of deciding to sleep in instead of go to the early-morning meditation session or whatever. It really helped to take away the constant work and stress of having to decide whether to go to a given session--I knew that if it was on the schedule, I was doing it. Giving myself over to the schedule like that freed up a lot of mental space for the actual meditation experience.

- After a week of doing this, you'll probably be in a much more quiet and aware and sensitive state of mind than normal. Maybe try to plan the day or two after you return to be a little more on the quiet peaceful side if you can. Jumping right into something with a lot of busy-ness and stimuli and hectic-ness might feel overwhelming.

- As for which daily service to pick, I don't think it really matters much. Even if you end up with something you don't like doing, that will just be another opportunity to practice techniques like noticing and accepting. If you'll be doing a lot of sitting meditation, maybe try to pick a job that is more active so you'll have a chance to move around a bit?
posted by aka burlap at 8:11 PM on December 27, 2018

think of your retreat as flying to another city. What if there is an emergency? Your husband (and perhaps someone acting as their backup) will deal with the immediate crisis, and you will find a way home from your remote destination in the 0.001% of cases, while in the remaining 99.999% you will say "good job handling that thing, husband"

(in the case of carpooling, there will likely be n people willing to do you a solid and drive you to civilization where you can lyft home)
posted by zippy at 11:56 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mother went on one of these when she was pregnant and had two kids at home. The centre will absolutely help out in case of emergency. They made lots of arrangements so she could comfortably participate while pregnant. We didn't call her while she was away (we understood the purpose of the retreat, and, as to be expected, no emergency arose) but we had contact details if we needed. This was pre mobile phones too.
posted by kitten magic at 3:38 AM on December 28, 2018

I am so happy to hear that you're doing self care by heading to the retreat!

Car rental reservations with sufficient lead time and non-airport pickup can end up inexpensive. I'm seeing rentals in Boston for the 30$/day range a couple months out. 200$ for a week rental is a lot but perhaps that's your peace of mind tax for the retreat.

Idea: What if you took the family car to the retreat and your partner planned to rent a car for some or all of the duration? You're used to your car so the return drive won't be as jarring; and partner and kids get the "treat" of a New Car for 1-5 days as needed.

Similarly, if partner just needs car for shopping and emergencies, could local Lyft rides be a flexible substitute if you take the family car? Car seat needs might make this approach harder but not impossible...
posted by enfa at 5:12 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ha, well, my experience with these is feeling totally trapped and / or dreaming of escape, even when I brought my car. If it were otherwise, then meditation would be easy. Maybe you're a more enlightened person than I am. But there's a chance that this pattern of worrying about your kids will continue to plague you while you're there. I'd try to figure out a plan ahead of time that will give you maximum peace of mind so that it's a minor and not a major distraction.

How would the cost of an emergency uber ride differ from that of renting a car? Since the chances of having to leave seem low, I bet you could carpool and have a decent likelihood of saving yourself the money. Plus carpooling is a good way to start easing into your powerlessness in the face of the present moment!

(Sorry to be cynical! I think meditation retreats are awesome; I just won't sugarcoat them as painless.)
posted by salvia at 5:17 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

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