“Action expresses priorities.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
To change anything takes practice. Addictions — they’re bad habits. Very bad. Beyond our reach, we say to ourselves. Beyond our will power. Breaking them takes more than wishful thinking, more than a few days of intentionality. If you’re hooked on addictive substances, you’re dug in deep; you need a 12-step or more. But if you’re in a self-destructive rut, retreat works.
One part of Summer Movement Monastery is training out of self-destructive habits. The body needs time and repetition — more than once or twice. Two weeks of preparing and eating cleansing food isn’t only a yearly retreat clean-out; it’s a springboard to taking care of oneself by preparing and eating good food daily throughout the year. Two weeks gives our bodies enough time to retain the new experience, to develop a comfort with it, and a preference for it.
Amazing to think that many of us live on crap, dead food, predominantly cooked by slave labor of others, but we’re so busy, etc., blah-blah-blah. At Summer Movement Monastery, we get rid of blah-blah-blah for two weeks. We prepare and eat good food, envision how we will implement this at home, then prioritize this action.
We also practice Dancemeditation. Why didn’t I say this first? Because its more obvious. We know we are in session 7 hours a day, and we can imagine, or know from experience in other retreats, that we retain a craving, at least for a while, to do practice at home.
The most important thing about the 7 hours of Dancemeditation daily in retreat is what I call the Operation. Our time in retreat makes a permanent spiritual change. After, we return to our world in a changed condition. Yes, it’s possible to forget that this happened, possible to bury the change under dark choices, but why? A Path has called us. All we have to do is open to it, spend time with the Guide and group, and then not forget. Retreat is a spiritual rip in time. We enter Timeless Time concerned with our spiritual evolution. Permanent change — the Operation — happens because our Deepest Being needs Communion with the Deep, All-Pervasive Subtle. We need what is beyond the daily world of cars and screens and din.
There is plenty of discourse about whether or not a Path should be socially useful. Should spirituality be politically active to be relevant? Are our choices to make a better world a result of how evolved we are? Is positive change possible, and can we even effect positive change without changing our condition? Or is the world a mirage and all that matters is the internal spiritual struggle? Does activism distract from spiritual path?
No matter how you consider your own role in the world, or the role of spiritual path in your life, retreat is where the most accelerated growth happens. Looking at retreat from the most mundane perspective regardless of your philosophical stance, cultivating positive habits is, at the very least, good for you and the world.