Our fast-paced lives are filled with to-do lists, errands, meetings, and responsibilities that keep us moving forward. However, learning to alternate movement with stillness of mind is just as important as being active.
The most powerful strategies are often the simplest and easiest to implement. That is the case with this simple but effective strategy which involves the rotation of activity, awareness or presence of mind, and stillness. These three ingredients are a formula that will simultaneously increase your effectiveness and wellness.
Alternating movement with stillness, action, and rest helps to maintain balance in our lives. It requires us to consciously alternate our activities with moments of silence, creating a healthy rhythm for body, mind, and spirit. The key is remaining present. When we are present and aware, we engage the Observer or spirit instead of running on autopilot.
Most people live their entire lives on autopilot with the Ego in control. The spirit, soul, or Observer of our consciousness is offline, in the background. People who live on autopilot often lose track of time and feel numb and disconnected.
When we alternate movement with stillness of mind, we open the door to a new level of awareness and perception. It activates the powerful formula of stillness, movement, and awareness. When you learn to combine these three elements, you have a recipe for accelerating your personal development.
Alternate Action and Rest
But what exactly does it mean? Essentially, it’s balancing periods of focused work and productivity with periods of relaxation and rejuvenation. Instead of moving non-stop until you’re completely exhausted, you carve out time for yourself to recharge and refuel your energy levels. When you renew, you also provide time to integrate body, mind, and spirit—you feel grounded and prepared.
You’ll notice a huge improvement in your productivity and focus when you alternate action and rest. By taking frequent breaks throughout the day, you can maintain your attention span and stay engaged with your work. Additionally, you’re less likely to experience burnout or feel completely drained at the end of the day.
Also, alternating action and rest can positively impact your physical and mental health. By taking time to rest and relax, you’re reducing your stress levels and giving your body a chance to recover from the demands of daily life. This, in turn, can lead to better sleep quality, improved immune function, and increased overall well-being.
“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.” — Sakyong Mipham
You find the tactic of alternating movement with stillness in many ancient systems of consciousness exploration. Some call this series of rest and action a “round.” An example is to practice moving meditation alternating with seated meditation. Repeating this rotation several times a day deepens your familiarity with the moving method and the silence of your mind. It ensures you are grounded and centered for each successive session.
“Let exercise alternate with rest.” — Pythagoras
Also, this strategy provides the best learning outcome for more advanced techniques. It’s a simple but effective way to increase your success. And all you need to do is add short periods of rest or meditation throughout the day to refresh your mind. When you alternate action and rest results, you think more clearly and come more quickly.
The movement doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. It can be as simple as walking. The stillness or seated meditation can be in short increments of 2 minutes. This type of activity is a great stress reliever and a centering tool. It can help you think more clearly, and many business enterprises teach this exercise to their executive staff members. Everyone can benefit from this type of calmness and clarity of thought.
Alternate Movement with Stillness of Mind
Action and rest are a part of the blended learning experience as it benefits all learning styles and increases learning outcomes. Learning is reinforced by teaching others and receiving feedback. Then there is time for rest and reflection. By combining these ingredients, the learner gets the best learning outcomes. Here are the critical elements of this forum that make it an ideal learning environment:
- Learn and practice the strategy, “alternate movement with stillness of mind.”
- Build meaningful partnerships and a healthy community.
- Focus on adding tools to your spiritual tool belt.
- Schedule Time to normalize and practice new techniques.
- Develop your path and help others.
The best way to cement learning is by teaching it to someone. So, the opportunity to share and help others is a part of the process. It makes us all students and facilitators throughout the process. As we learn more, we can also help others learn. This process isn’t a new model. It follows an ancient pattern Joseph Campbell calls The Hero’s Journey. (1)
Stillness, Movement, and Awareness = The Hero’s Journey
The pattern of the Hero’s Journey is at the core of many traditions, but you’ll also find this pattern in many famous stories like Starwars and The Avatar. The core elements of the story remain the same; it just uses different characters. This story resonates with us deeply because it reflects our spiritual quest. You can see this formula reflected in our “blended learning process.”
A straightforward way to break down The Hero’s Journey pattern is to divide it into three phases “awakening, transforming, and inspiring.” These phases revolve, intertwine, and overlap. We’ll find this pattern in our own lives if we look closely. It’s not a one-time event but a pattern of cycles again and again.
You will see the pattern of action and rest repeated repeatedly in these stories. When you alternate movement with stillness, you enter a sacred space, which is what the Hero’s journey is about.
Phase One ― Awakening
The goal of the first phase is to build a healthy learning community. We also want participants to become familiar with inner work tools.
- Readiness to learn assessment
- Enneagram Personality Profile
- Comparative Analysis (structured comparative religious study)
- The Repeating Question Exercise
- Beginning progressions of meditation
These tools provide the data we need to identify any roadblocks to learning. They help us learn about ourselves, our personalities, instincts, and cultural-level programming. We show how to use a spiritual journal to track our progress. It is also a tool for documenting other exercises.
We also provide opportunities to learn different meditation types and participate in other small-group learning exercises. Meditation is the platform of stillness. But even in this quietness, the mind is still active, not asleep. The use of a mantra or sutra is activity and movement. Exercise increases our awareness. It is how the formula of stillness, movement, and awareness works to speed up our development.
You can see why learning to “alternate movement with stillness of mind” is integral to the journey. Once you build the habit, you will alternate actions and rest with every component of your life.
Phase Two ― Transforming
The second phase works best on a weekend retreat. It separates people from their routine and allows them to focus all of their attention on learning and enjoying the company of others. The weekend experience enables us to teach several techniques in a progressive sequence. It takes a weekend to develop a routine incorporating these methods.
The model is to Learn techniques in the morning. Then rest and reflect. In the afternoon, we practice the new procedures. Then in the evening, we alternate with fun and relaxation. This multifaceted learning approach can accommodate everyone’s learning ability and style.
We have time to assimilate what we have learned, share, and celebrate in the evenings. The weekend provides the time to delve into more advanced practice. Find a way to alternate movement with stillness of mind as you do your daily tasks.
Participants describe the weekend experience as “an oasis” from our hectic lives. It’s a special time of rest and learning. We can share and recharge. People enjoy being able to experience new levels of positive energy. You can feel the community’s energy even when we conduct the weekend virtually. Our virtual events can connect people around the globe.
Consciousness and awareness have no boundaries except for those we impose on ourselves. Building a community is also a positive way to increase our awareness. Here it is again—the formula of stillness, movement, and awareness.
Phase Three ― Inspiring
The third phase is meetings after the weekend. It is a time for deeper community building and problem-solving. It provides the opportunity to share and receive help to face and overcome any roadblocks.
Examples of How to Alternate Action and Rest
For example, we do a lot of work on computers. If we use a computer screen for long periods, it is unhealthy. So, we schedule breaks every hour. At the end of the hour, we get up and walk around for 3 minutes, stretch, and rest.
Another example is the use of music. We like to work with music in the background. So, we also stop the music when we stop for a break. Silence for just a few minutes makes the music even more enjoyable when we turn it back on.
In Conclusion — Alternating Movement with Stillness
When we engage in an activity, we expend energy, build momentum, and generate intensity. However, we eventually run out of steam without a break and risk burnout. On the other hand, taking a break or finding stillness allows us to recharge, recover and prepare for the next wave of activity.
“There is a rhythm in life, a certain beauty which operates by a variation of lights and shadows. Happiness alternating with sorrow, content with discontent, distilling in this process of contrast a sense of satisfaction, of richness that can be captured and pinned down only by those who possess the gift of awareness.” — Louis Bromfield
Awareness plays a critical role in this practice. It helps us monitor our body’s needs and adjust our actions accordingly. When we are aware, we can recognize when we need to pause or change our efforts to alleviate tension and prevent injury.
We can learn to alternate action and rest throughout our day-to-day activities. For example, on a busy day at work, we can take breaks to stretch, walk, pause, and take a deep breath. Similarly, during a workout, we can include periods of rest between sets to reduce fatigue and enhance recovery.
“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance can wax and wane. Plan accordingly.” — Tim Ferriss
In short, alternating movement with stillness is vital to physical and spiritual health. It helps us maintain balance, prevent burnout, and improve our well-being. By bringing awareness to our actions, we can cultivate a healthy rhythm that supports us in achieving our goals and living a fulfilling life.