“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” Albert Camus
Our everyday lives encourage habits. We like to be efficient and it often feels that there is little time to spare. So we develop our routines, our schedules and our habits. Each day seems to involve some ritual – waking and preparing for the day, what we eat, how we get to work, when we exercise and how we wind down at the end of the day. Some of these routines may be healthy and others may be unhealthy. We can use mindfulness to step out of the routines in order to observe and notice which patterns are healthy, which habits we want to chose to nurture and which ones we want to retire.
The concept of retreat is to disconnect from your every day life in order to experience a unique perspective. Retreats can be formal and guided by a facilitator or simple excursions we take on our own. Regardless of the structure, retreats are a refuge or safe place to withdraw and replenish.
It can be incredibly rejuvenating and renewing to carve out time for a retreat. Typically, a retreat is out of our comfort zone. There are no cell phones to check the weather or the latest news. Often unnecessary conversation is discouraged and there is a focus on carving out time for listening and observing. The experience is often uncomfortable, fulfilling, exciting and replenishing all at the same time.
We can bring a sense of retreat on a daily basis by taking even a few moments to call upon the qualities of retreat:
- Find a quiet place you don’t normally go. Consider a space outside (even when it is cold). Feel your feet solidly planted in the ground and take a few deep breaths.
- Notice the new perspective. From where you stand observe a different perspective and notice the spaciousness or broader view. Maybe what seemed important moments ago, becomes a little less pressing.
- Go inward. For a few moments bring your attention to your experience in the moment. What are you feeling? How are you relating to the world around you? Don’t judge, but just notice where you are.
- Come back with a sense of renewal. Take note of what you experienced and prepare to come back to your day with a sense of renewal. Enjoy the mini break you just gave yourself.
See if you can practice this at least once a day for this week and notice what difference it makes in how you take care of yourself and others.
Mindful moments are short practices to be used throughout your week to relax, integrate and center yourself. Inspired by the wisdom traditions and science, mindful moments are meant to be accessible and simple enough for anyone to practice. Many teachers and leaders in integrative medicine have influenced our approach to mindful moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Pema Chodron would say it is “practicing in the gaps.” Look for the weekly mindful moment every Monday. May it support you in finding your center to live life to the fullest.