Staying Sane with Meditative Archery
Meditative archery can help you connect mind, body, and spirit.
Angie Fadel, former pastor for The Bridge, an alternative Portland-based church, says “soul care” is her quest to help people find a spiritual practice. In her workshops, she provides spiritual explorations geared toward those for whom traditional meditative practices don’t seem to work.
“I help people connect to mind, body, spirit, or soul, not just through sitting down and talking but getting into the woods, and doing physical work like archery, hiking, and walking a labyrinth,” she says.
An avid archer, Fadel says that the sport requires her to be present and focused—meditative. “As you pull back the bow string, you have to focus your attention on where you want that arrow to go,” she says.
Fadel noticed that when she stopped to breathe before releasing her arrow, she was a better shooter. Like in life, where holding on to anything too tightly leads to less than desirable outcomes, Fadel realized that if she squeezes the bow too tightly, the arrow's path will be wobbly. But if she can hang on loosely and remember to breathe, then she will hit the intended target.
“That's when the magic happens,” she says. “And that's meditative and therapeutic.”
Initially, Fadel felt this experience was unique to her spiritual journey. But then she began to teach archery to a friend whose loved one had died by suicide. Her friend was angry, felt stuck, and didn’t know what to do. So Fadel suggested archery.
One day at the archery range, the death came up in conversation. Fadel’s friend said, “I'm just so angry,” right as she breathed and released the arrow from the bow. It hit the target and her friend looked up and said, “That felt so good.”
From that moment on, Fadel realized she was not the only person whom archery could heal. “I'm not the only one who picks up a bow and feels like I am in my breath and in my body,” she explains. “Others can step into their power and fully embody who they are through archery.”
Her meditative archery workshops begin with a Jungian journaling prompt that, Fadel says, “Not only helps us unlock those difficult emotions, but make peace with those emotions and see what the purpose of those emotions are.” This is not a normal freeform journaling process, but rather a means of asking specific questions that enable participants to create a safe container to hold these difficult emotions.
Once they get in touch with the emotions they wish to release through Jungian journaling, Fadel gives a brief lesson in how to shoot. Then she steps back and lets the arrows do the work. Fadel encourages the archers to stay present and to focus on their breath. While each will have their own reaction to this work, Fadel observes, “Nobody leaves without feeling stronger and more in tune with themselves.”
After the workshop, Fadel urges people to just sit with any emotions that come up. “I always recommend that they kind of just let it be for 24 to 48 hours and honor the work they did.” After any profound experience, people should feel free to process their feelings verbally with their therapist or safe friends; however, Fadel finds that talking too much can dilute the impact of the experience.
Moving forward, Fadel says her workshops will focus on connecting with radically inclusive communities. “Every single person deserves to feel free. They deserve to feel. They deserve to have connection to their whole selves,” she says.
Want more? Use a guided meditation to help release unwanted emotions.