I’ve just wrapped up another meditation retreat, and I don’t want to become a broken record, so I won’t repeat all the reasons you absolutely must go on a meditation retreat as soon as possible. Instead, I want to share the life restructuring it catalyzed for me. In the space of retreat, the unhealthy aspects of normal life come into sharp focus. I am committing to let them go, finally, and step into a lifestyle that supports whole health: body, mind and spirit.
Between rounds of mediation, I posed and reposed the following questions to myself and then allowed the responses to flow freely from within, writing down whatever arose. If you’d like to try this for yourself, you can borrow or adapt these questions for yourself. Take a few moments to center yourself, allowing your mind to quiet, and then pose the question silently to yourself, placing it deep in the depths of your awareness, and then letting it go. Completely let it go, and only after you’ve done so and taken a few moments to sit in stillness, begin to write whatever comes to mind.
What is the current state of your lifestyle, on a day-to-day basis and overall? How does it compare with the vision you have for your life as a whole?
In what ways are you your own best friend and in what ways are you your own enemy? What obstacles and habits lie between you and the lifestyle you truly want for yourself?
For me, the answers came quickly and clearly. I already knew them, of course. I have let healthy practices go by the wayside this year as other priorities asserted themselves. No surprise, my health has also declined, as unhealthy habits replaced healthy ones. One clear example is the binge drinking I still tend towards in my social circles. The hangovers take me to dark places where I continue to binge other things (TV, food), neglecting all the things that bring me good, positive energy.
My vision for the life I want is equally clear. It’s almost the inverse of what I’ve been doing this year: health is instead the priority and unhealthy activities the exception. I still want to party, to stay up late, and be wild and spontaneous - but only in ways compatible with an overall healthy life. This means my practices come first, my health comes first. So I have to learn something I should have learned a long time ago: how to go out and have fun without drinking so much.
Perhaps that’s the easy part. The hard part is stepping into this lifestyle that I say I want, and I do truly want, and saying no to all the things that my old self couldn’t refuse. It means reflecting on each week as it passes and asking myself: did I really do what I wanted, and if not, what can I do differently next week? It means being strong - fiercely devoted even - to the foundations of the life I want: my practices, good food, rest, exercise, being of service and yes, a lot of (healthy) fun too.
I know how to create the powerful, positive creative energy I feel now - after a week on retreat - on a regular basis. It simply means saying no to other demands that compete for my time and prevent me from the self-nourishment that a strong foundation provides. And, in weeks where that’s simply not possible, it means making up for it in the next. The last thing I want is a rigid structure, where I just go through motions in a ritualistic, perfunctory way. I want a pergola-like structure that provides the support for the different streams of inspiration, service, play and community to interweave in organic and spontaneous ways.
Join me in reflecting on your life — using the questions above or your own — and creating a structure that supports your continual growth and fulfillment. Let go of the habit patterns that no longer serve you. Protect your foundation fiercely. Check in weekly to make needed adjustments. We are ready to step into our lives as directors and not just participants - to create the lifetsyles we know we need. Let’s start today.