The desert spreads out below me as I pick my way on the rocky trail. Yesterday’s deep purple of Chinese lantern flowers lining the path has changed to soft lavender phacelia and bright orange mallow.
Life at the speed of two miles an hour lets me retrieve the names of plants buried in the recesses of my brain since last summer’s hikes.
I stop and scan the valley below, check the flower app on my phone for a new name to add to my botanical vocabulary. I adjust my pack, sip water and move on. My eyes drink in the vistas. I inhale the perfumed air, smell the wind and taste my salty sweat.
My senses are alive; my receptors are working to keep me from tripping while filing new information.
Once a year I leave auto-pilot at home and go for the great re-boot. A vacation from screen time, from the comforts of furnishings. I take a long walk with my daily needs in my pack. I hike sections of the Pacific Crest trail, a well laid-out long distance trail, where nature is my friend and (sometimes) my foe. I pick my season avoiding extreme weather and hardship.
This year I have ventured into the desert in April, thick with blooms and with tolerable temperatures. I move my body all day. The natural cycle of light and dark dictates my actions. I fall asleep between eight and nine PM and wake at the crack of dawn, birdsong or coyotes in the distance telling me another day is here.
Two weeks of being outdoors, squatting, bending, reaching and walking eight hours a day is my retreat and re-set for my physical and spiritual well-being. I walk away from insecurities about what I still can and cannot do. Daily, I overcome the obstacles of living in the outdoors. I find peace in the routine the trail provides and asks of me. I come back stronger, empty of mind chatter and full of fresh ideas.
Walking is my spiritual and physical practice. The formula of walking/exercising one hour a day, one day a month, two weeks a year, keeps my life expanding as I age. At age 70, I am healthier and experience more harmony than I did at age 53.
However, walking isn’t for everyone and a retreat from daily living can take many forms.
To call a retreat a re-boot, a few elements are required to call it a retreat for spiritual and physical renewal.
Some form of movement to awaken and renew the body.
A focus to awaken the mind.
A daily routine or repetitive activity to allow the mind to experience spaciousness needed for renewed creativity.
Absence of screen time, work involvement and family and community involvement.
A yoga retreat, a painting retreat combined with daily exercise, a walking meditation retreat, a canoeing trip in nature; all are examples of potential re-boots.
For me, solo-hiking in nature is a sure-fire recipe for renewal. I experience enough routine, enough emptiness, enough movement to come back with improved health, confidence and presence of mind. Try it!
Have you experienced a retreat that meant a physical and spiritual re-boot? Do you have yearly rituals to reset your daily life? How do you create these opportunities for yourself? Please join the conversation.
Tags Reinventing Yourself