Alternating movement with stillness is a fundamental principle of spiritual exploration that will increase your success in all areas of life. See how you incorporate this tactic into your daily routine.
The most powerful tools are often the simplest. Creating a routine with periods of rest and activity will accelerate your progress. You can alternate action and rest with almost any spiritual practice. It doesn’t matter the subject.
This tactic will increase your success in learning a new skill or honing an existing ability. Stillness helps the mind solidify or normalize our practice. This tactic doesn’t just apply to the body. It also deals with the activity of the mind. It’s a valuable tactic for grounding and centering. It helps us normalize growth and accelerate our development.
Alternating Movement with Stillness
We don’t think about “thinking as a movement,” but thoughts are “movements” to the mind. If you have a job where you sit and work on a computer all day, you’ll be just as tired as the person who works at a physically demanding job.
“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.” — Sakyong Mipham
This tactic is a critical element of many systems of consciousness exploration. We know this type of practice as a “round.” An example is to practice moving meditation alternating with seated meditation. Then repeat it several times a day. Rotating these two elements deepens the level of familiarity with whatever you are working on, ensuring the student is both grounded and centered.
“Let exercise alternate with rest.” —Pythagoras
Also, this provides the best learning outcome for more advanced techniques. It’s a simple but effective way to increase your success without adding anything new to your routine. When you alternate action and rest results, you think more clearly and come more quickly.
Moving 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 type of exercise to their executive staff members. Everyone can benefit from this type of calmness and clarity of thought.
It is a strategy we use in our blended learning process. This strategy enables us to deliver several spiritual technologies in the shortest time with the best learning outcomes.
Alternate Action and Rest
Our “blended learning process” is a strategy that combines several practical teaching tactics that includes instruction, theories, reinforcement of learning via participant feedback, and peer to peer teach-back components. That’s why we refer to it as a blended learning process. It blends all learning styles. Periods of rest and activity are proven to increase learning. It makes sure the learner is getting the best learning outcomes.
Are the critical elements of this forum that make it an ideal learning environment:
You can see that the tactic of movement alternating with periods of rest or stillness is a primary building block of the learning process.
The overall strategy of blending the learning styles with rest and reflection lets us combine the preparatory exercises for multiple spiritual technologies. We need to keep the integrity of each of the separate traditions. We build readiness assessment checks throughout the learning process to make sure people are “ready to learn” the next step, eliminating many of the common issues with learning. This blended process is proven to provide the best learning outcomes.
We all know the best way to ensure you know something is to teach it. So, we’ve built the opportunity to share and help others in 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 called The Hero’s Journey.
The Hero’s Journey and the blended learning process
“The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, ‘Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched. So you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you there.’ And so it starts.” ― Joseph Campbell
The typology of the Hero’s Journey (1) is the centerpiece of many spiritual philosophies and religions. You’ll also find this pattern in many famous stories like Starwars and The Avatar. Although the theme takes shape using different characters, the story’s core elements remain the same. 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 pattern of The Hero’s Journey is to divide it into three phases “awakening, transforming, and inspiring.” These phases revolve, intertwine, and overlap at times. We’ll find this pattern in our own lives if we look closely. It’s not a one-time event but a pattern of the cycles again and again.
As you may suspect alternating movement with stillness is a common theme throughout these stories.
Phase One ― Awakening
In the first phase (Awakening), people meet in small groups (weekly or semi-weekly) (and now virtually) to build a foundation of basic terminology, knowledge, experience, and meditative practices.
We teach the benefits of using a journal to track our journey and experience, provide opportunities to learn different forms of meditation, and participate in other small group learning exercises. In this phase, we begin to explore the subconscious mind, identifying our strengths and opportunities for growth. The awaking phase is also a preparation phase that ensures participants are “ready” to learn more profound practices.
Alternating movement with stillness is an integral component of the journey. Once you build the habit you will alternate action and rest with every component of your life.
Phase Two ― Transforming
The second phase (Transforming) is a weekend retreat. After we have a common foundation, we invite everyone to co-facilitate a weekend retreat. Meeting for a weekend is vital for several reasons.
First, we have found that learning several techniques built sequentially is the best way to ensure learning. Logistically, it takes a weekend to learn and practice this set of methods that incorporate moving and sitting meditation.
The model is to Learn techniques in the morning. Then rest and reflect. In the afternoon we practice the new procedures. Then we 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 is a time for the emersion in more profound practice, which we rarely do in our modern lifestyles—alternating movement with stillness throughout the day.
Participants describe the weekend experience as “an oasis” from our hectic lives. A time to share our personal “stories,” re-charge our spiritual and physical bodies, encourage and be encouraged, be energized and healed. The weekend goes by fast. 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.
Phase Three ― Inspiring
The third phase (Inspiring) is the continued meeting of those who have been on the weekend. It is a time for deeper community building and problem-solving. The opportunity to share and receive help encourages us to face and overcome any personal roadblocks.
Examples of How to Alternate Action and Rest
Alternating movement with stillness is a tactic you can build into your daily routine. It’s not only for spiritual practice.
For example, we do a lot of work on computers. Using a computer screen for long periods 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, when we stop for a break, we also stop the music. Silence for just a few minutes makes the music all the more enjoyable when we turn it back on.
So, the above pattern creates an environment of action followed by silence.
In our virtual learning sessions or weekend retreats, we alternate teaching progressions of seated and moving meditation. It “normalizes” and solidifies understanding. This same idea is also a part of the healing modalities.
We also use this strategy with healing modalities. Before the healing process begins, the practitioner always takes time to prepare. This preparation takes the form of both seated meditation followed by moving energy collection. So, this is another practical example of alternating movement with stillness.
Additionally, the Enneagram studies movement and the use of mudras. So, it isn’t exclusively an intellectual process. Lastly, you can see the pattern of alternating activity with stillness in the use of the Shamanic journey. The preparatory stage almost always has a moving ritual. Perhaps the only technology this is not in use here is logical reasoning.
Alternating movement with stillness is a strategy you can incorporate into your spiritual practice.
“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.” — Tim Ferriss
“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
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia