Alternate Between Stillness and Movement
Once you’re rested and relaxed, you’re ready to dive into the heart of your retreat. If you’re like most retreatants, your intention for the retreat is probably renewal, connection, awakening, or something in that ballpark.
I’ve found that it is very effective to alternate intensive spiritual focus with physical activity. Spend time sitting and meditating, praying, chanting or whatever helps you connect with God (or whatever name you use for Higher Power/Self ).
At home, perhaps all you can do is take 20 minutes to meditate before rushing off to work. But, on retreat, you have the great luxury of taking all the time you want to drink deeply of the nectar that always Present.
If you’re like me, after a while your body will let you know that it’s time to move. No need to be ascetic and power through your body’s messages, sitting until it screams at you in intense pain.
It’s natural and healthy to intersperse being still with hiking, swimming, yoga, biking, or other physical activity. By alternating the spiritual practice and exercise, you will ground whatever new energies and realizations you’ve received.
While hiking or engaging in other physical activity, practice being in the present moment. One simple way to do this is to notice your breath and to be grateful for the gift of life so freely given. If you’re hiking in a beautiful spot like Mount Shasta, you might also want to play with shifting focus between different senses. First perhaps focus on the feeling of the Earth beneath your feet, then on listening to the sounds around you, and next on seeing the details of whatever setting you’re in.
Have fun playing with different mindfulness exercises and seeing what works best for you. When you notice your mind going to the past or future, simply be grateful for that awareness. Gratitude will bring you right back into the joy of the present.
When considering this alternation of stillness and movement, I like to use the analogy of pouring and drinking a cup of tea. When you meditate, you’re filling your cup. If you keep sitting for unnaturally long periods of time, it’s like trying to pour more tea into a full cup. But, if you take a break to exercise, you’re drinking the tea. Then, you can come back to sit with an empty cup and once again be filled with the gifts of Spirit.
Andrew Oser has been offering guided retreats and spiritual journeys on Mount Shasta since 1982. Through hikes to little-known sacred sites, guided meditations, spiritual life coaching, and time drinking in the silence of the mountain, he helps clients to deeply renew themselves in body, mind, and spirit and receive clear vision for their lives.