A cyclical experience involves the repetition of certain parts or actions within the experience itself. The cyclical nature of the activities may produce a change in the environment or it may produce a change in the participants.
Cyclical experience structures are good for skills acquisition in the participants. They are also good for creating awareness and intimacy with something through repetition.
The National Outdoor Leadership School’s trips are cyclical in structure. While each day of the trip may vary in terms of context and challenges, the same set of basic tasks are executed and shuffled among the group members.
“We set all courses [a.k.a. trips] up so that there are designated leadership roles that students can assume, and those roles vary from course to course depending on what’s going on,” says wilderness guide Leslie Appling. “We have opportunities for peer leadership day in and day out. We’ve done that since the beginning. It’s very consistent.” The cyclical nature of the days lulls participant into greater intimacy with the wild context (and each other), gradually giving them greater comfort with operating in the wild.
A meditation retreat can also be cyclical, in that every day, participants follow the same schedule of taking meals, engaging in lessons, and meditating that gradually builds up to an intimacy with their own thought patterns such that their awareness changes.