Posted on March 1, 2017
Why do we preserve our wild, natural lands? Certainly for the earth’s own sake, but also because these places help us stay connected to our natural spirituality. Especially in a digital world, we need reminders of the beauty that exists without striving. When we’re with the ancient redwoods, the ocean’s mysteries, and even the living sky, we can connect with their divine essence and purpose—and be reminded of our own.
Retreats help to fill us with these reminders, and centers throughout Northern California are particularly inspiring because they rest in spaces undeveloped—allowed to thrive in harmony. You can find a diverse range of brilliant landscapes all readily accessible, from temperate forest to windy beach to sunny or snow-capped mountains. As you plan your event, let the natural setting be one of your retreat leaders. Here are some activity ideas to help your group connect with a few of Northern California’s most beautiful organic features.
Ideas for Bringing Your Spiritual Retreat Down to Earth
Retreating into the coastal redwoods immediately connects you to fresher air and higher perspective. For a group meditation activity, gather in a redwood grove and stand in a circle, mirroring the community of trees around you. Guide the group to:
Feel where your feet come in contact with the ground. Imagine that from this space, you have roots growing out from beneath you, stretching into the earth in all directions. With each inhale, imagine that you are pulling breath in through your roots. Then exhale out into the space around you, as if the air seeps from every surface of your body. Continue to breathe in through thirsty roots and out from your surface body. (Pause for a few minutes of silence.) Now, bring your awareness to your trunk, and notice how you get a bit taller with each breath in, then sink deeper with your roots on each breath out. Redwoods are immensely tall, but their roots are relatively shallow. In groves together, their roots are able to intertwine and share the burden of support and challenging conditions. Feel that connection with your retreat community now and as we move deeper into our intentional time together.
This would be a great exercise toward the beginning of the retreat when people are still getting to know each other or as you’re gearing up for a particularly challenging team activity.
If you have a chance to travel from your retreat site to the Pacific coast, have your group sit on the sand and gaze at the water. Invite everyone to contemplate our inherent connection to the ocean and feel inspired by its fluid nature.
Visualize a drop of water as it falls into the ocean, becoming one with and indistinguishable from its vastness. The ocean is to that drop what the universe is to our individual bodies and consciousness. Now, as you watch the water’s flowing movement, how does it inspire you to move? Let your body follow its lead, either from your seat or up on your feet. Remember that your body is composed primarily of water; tap into this element as you merge seamlessly with the space around you.
This activity works well when the retreat is in full effect and participants have already had a chance to practice vulnerability and open up to their subtler energy and growth potential.
The Northern California air and sky can be wonderful hosts for your opening and closing retreat ceremonies. When you send participants pre-retreat information, request that they bring a jar with a lid. Instruct them:
At home, sit down with your jar, a piece of paper, and a pencil. Open the jar, setting the lid aside. Now, think of your intention for this retreat experience to come, and write it down on the paper. As you hold the paper, take a few deep breaths of your home air and then drop the paper inside the jar, putting the lid back on as you seal some of that air along with it. Then pack the jar (carefully wrapping it in clothing so that it doesn’t break in transit).
When everyone gathers for the start of the retreat, have them bring their jars with them. As you all sit in the open air, let everyone take a turn opening their jar, releasing some breaths from home and sharing their intention for this experience. Choose a sacred, undisturbed place where the open jars can sit for the entirety of the retreat. Then, when it’s time to return home, have everyone gather their jars and take turns reflecting on the intentions they brought with them, how these played out in actuality, and perhaps how they changed along the way. Invite participants to take a few deep breaths of the clear air and then seal up their jars to take some sky and deep intention back home.
Retreating into the spectacular mountains of Northern California brings an innate wisdom and an elevated perspective. It is quiet enough to hear your deepest thoughts and feelings. Ask that everyone brings a journal and a pen with them for this activity. Begin with a seated meditation to align with the present source of inspiration:
As you sit here, as close to the earth as you can be, close your eyes and picture the mountain beneath you. It doesn’t just exist above the ground where you can see it; it extends deep underground, full of rocks and fossils and millions of years of knowing. Imagine your own body as the mountain that sits above ground. Now, direct your attention to what extends below you, full of understanding and hindsight and hope. What message does this deep part of yourself have for you? Be willing to open up and listen without questioning or doubting. Then open your eyes and record and reflect on this message in your journal.
This may be an opportunity for participants to share some of the wisdom they intuited with the group, or perhaps it feels more appropriate to let their messages be intimate, personal gifts to experience in silence. Either way, close this whole activity by asking everyone to place both hands on the ground in front of them and feel or express their gratitude for the ancient knowing it offers us unconditionally.
Set the Stage for Expansion and Enlightened Connections
The earth is generous with its understanding, but we can access it only with awareness and connectedness, which are often lacking in everyday existence. Your retreat offers individuals a break from their daily pace and routines. What’s left behind is spaciousness, the same Northern California spaciousness that houses the tallest trees, the sea, the endless sky, and the earth’s diversity. As you envision your retreat program, let the venue’s natural setting inform your activities and your group’s opportunities to connect with their inherent and eternal home.
If you’re interested in visiting our retreat center in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just give us a call. Here, you’ll find the whole range of inspired landscapes and comfortable all-inclusive accommodations to make your experience exceptional.