There’s something in us,
That knows how to celebrate
Far better than we do!
In fact, that may be Her very nature: delight!
Possibly, She is so wise, She only sees Beauty;
So interconnected, She only feels Love…
There might be a radiant relisher inside of us?!
How can we celebrate with Her?!
Your mind doesn’t like Her,
In fact, it spends all its time distracting you from Her;
With your attention of Her Joy, it has no power.
So…are you ready to step away from the chief?
Or what thinks it is the chief of all your forces?
Let’s notice what hides Her Bliss!
Let’s clear away…but not as a bulldozer,
No, no, this isn’t about demolishing nature,
For one, if you tried, you couldn’t,
And also, all that is has a purpose.
But what we will do, is begin to notice
What isn’t here to celebrate,
What is distracting from this Sacred Party,
You wish to feel insidenyour chest.
We can always ask it to come back later…it will
The first time you invite Her to the festival of your reality,
She may be quite shy.
Imagine having never been asked out before,
And then all the attention waiting on you to be awesome…
Would you bust a move?
So, you might have to practice that horrible thing called ‘patience’,
Because after a while, I promise She will dance;
Once She believes you really want to know her…
And it will be extraordinarily worth it.
A few times seeing after seeing Her brilliance,
You might even fall in Love
And want to dance
All the time
So…these days were about learning how to yield to That…that Force inside me that is, by nature: always content, trusting, curious, playful, wise, calm, hopeful, loving, joyful, supremely radiant…and there.
Now, this was no easy task. I know for myself and for many, yielding has never been a strength. I think one of the most reoccurring thoughts or subconscious patterns in my 23 years has been, “Oh…so and so of such and such authority says to do or not to do something…that’s funny, let me do my own thing!”. So, yielding to something so reputable that I couldn’t even see or hear…well…let’s see…
I’m going to cut this blog into 3 Parts (the first by far the longest), because if not, my enthusiasm to share all these processes that could, just maybe, relate to or interest or inspire someone, entails that I write obnoxiously long entries and that even in 3 Parts, they will all be unfortunately lengthy.
I started off pretty mystified that this opportunity for me to do this, to spend 30 days in solitude, even arose. I realized one of the first days that I had thought to myself last year that I would love to do a long retreat this May, I knew of the 30 Day Silent Retreat at The Hermitage and thought “I’d love to do that!”, but after I signed on with Integral Heart, I didn’t think there was any possibility. Somehow…because God is crazy amazing like that, I ended up here at The Hermitage for all of May. I felt much more called to solitude than the group 30 day retreat but questioned my readiness, I have after all only been on the spiritual path for a little less than a year and in Guatemala I felt I lost steam. But, when I talked to the leaders of the group retreat, Luna and Claud who I absolutely adore and respect, they encouraged me and felt I was ready. And somehow, last minute, The Hermitage’s most isolated cabin was available. And, they invited me to come to any of the lectures or sessions I might feel intrigued by, it was only a walk down the hill after all! What!! And check out this cabin…
Truly, the place (this cabin and the incredible energy of the lake), the timing (the chapter ending nicely in Guatemala, being here for my birthday and at the same time as the 30 day because I could participate in their orientation, opening and closing circles and come to their lectures, being able to do a work exchange to help make this experience affordable and to help with the integration process at the end, and then still having a week before needing to start my job in Mexico), and the content of the whole experience could not have been more perfect.
Somehow, despite this intrusive fear of being alone I had felt for years, I think the most consistent emotion I felt was…calm. Somehow, it all just felt so overwhelmingly natural.
Now of course, 30 days is quite a long time, and I definitely was not prepared or open to spending my days ,“dancing with Her” at the beginning…no, no, that poem came to me on the 27th day.
Coming into this I was under the impression that “Going deep will be so easy, instead of there being many people, tasks, ideas to pour my energy into…there will be only two: God and myself (one in the same, no? 😊)”. I wrote this! Ha! I never imagined how much energy ‘myself’ would lobby! Sure, we are one in the same…but like in the poem, the mind is a big-leaded chief fighting with all its might to distract from what is so much greater than it can fathom.
So I realized on Day One, after organizing all my things and arranging the furniture how I liked (photos). that a routine would be helpful for me. So, I created what’s called in the yogic tradition a “tapas”, a daily commitment for the purpose of furthering practice. Before doing so, I read about tapas in a book from Hridaya. Some of these ideas inspired me:
“The optimal state of inner experience is when there is order in consciousness-when attention is invested in realistic goals and when skills match opportunities for action…tapas is letting the ego die by intelligently frustrating its wrong wishes, bad habits and improper developments…spiritual discipline is necessary to bring stability and efficiency to practice”
“I kindle the flame within myself…my heart is the hearth, the flame is the taming of the self” -Buddha
“What would it take for me to develop the vigor and courage to feel I could maintain my spiritual ideals and beliefs in walking the path of the Heart even in the most adverse conditions?”
I knew I needed fire, becoming too flowy or stagnant had been my challenges. So, I knew I needed to do some practices that would stimulate and challenge me on many levels, especially physically. So I created a tapas consisting of several hours of meditation minimum, several hours of physical yoga with some fiery parts required, some specific breathing (pranayama) techniques, some specific meditation techniques to conjure up things in my subconscious, waking up with the sunrise, fasting once a week, doing vamina dauhti 2-3 times a week, drinking my urine a few times a day, and sending someone love each day. When creating these, I realized that my mornings would definitely adhere to a nice structure and I wanted something to also propel me deeper throughout the day. So, I created this:
All of these little papers contained a different topic. 6 were books of the bible my grandmother had recommended I read (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 John and 1-3 Revelations); 5 were dedicated to the yamas and niyamas of yoga (the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras-there are 5 of each-I did one of each per one little paper)—ahimsa (non-violence & compassion), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-theft), brahmacharya (control of the senses), saucha (purity), aparigraha (non-possessiveness), svadhyahya (self-study), tapas (the practice of austerities), santosha (contentment), and ishvarapranidhana (devotion to God); 7 I dedicated to the 14 values of Hridaya yoga (pure intention, love, humbleness, courage, generosity, goodness (kindness, forgiveness), sincerity (honesty, truthfulness), patience (tolerance, forbearance), perseverance (diligence, discipline), aspiration, gratitude, enthusiasm (joy), wisdom and compassion; I also dedicated one of each of the seven chakras; several to contemplating various things like my relationships with my family, especially my dad, my relationships with friends, my experiences in Guatemala, death, my history of sexual abuse, etc.; I did some for books I’d been wanting to dive into (The Gospel of Ramakrishna, Be Here Now by Ram Dass, Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross, Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila, finishing My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas Gandhi, The Uncommon Path by my old boss Mick Quinn, The Holy Science by Sri Yukteswar Giri, the Supreme Gift by Pailo Coelho, the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita); I also did some nice random ones like “Meditate all day” or “Go into darkness” and for things like Yoga Nidra, Spanda, Abyhasa & Vairagya, the Witness Consciousness, the polarities of masculine and feminine energies, and several others.
When establishing this regiment for myself I was a little conflicted because I knew my mission was to mainly practice “just being” and I wasn’t sure if these topics and my hours a day of tapas would take away from this, but as I remembered that part of what made my ten day silent retreat so deep is that each day we were exposed to a new topic and that having a bare-boned daily structure was recommended by various teachers, so I decided I liked this system I’d created. Many of the topics were things to just be with and embrace, I knew I’d still have a lot of time each day for just being and praying and feeling. Plus, in making these, I got extremely excited for all the days to come, completely avoiding the phase of weariness!
As I started taking the topics each day, I realized how magical this system was. Every day, I was picking exactly what I needed. In picking at random, I was going past my mind and opening up to Divine wisdom…it was extremely beautiful. If anyone feels attracted to this idea, even if it’s not every day, I think creating little papers like this and picking at random is a really awesome way to explore God’s wisdom and love for you (or if “God” is too a polarizing term for you, you could call it fate or serendipity also) as well as topics that interest you, or in seeking help to make decisions! I also used “Yes” and “No” papers several times!
For the first eight days I was purifying. Before coming here I had learned the parasites I had been battling for months still weren’t defeated, after various antibiotics and treatments. So the doctors recommended I take the strongest antibiotic which is administered through three injections in the buttox-the first two the nurse was able to do, the last my amazing friend Susanna gave to me the morning before I bussed to the lake!! As all antibiotics, they are strong, taking a lot out of your literally and figuratively. I had two days at the lake to be with some friends (crazily, my best friend from Mexico, Rachelle met me here!!). In that time I went to see an Ayurvedic doctor (I won’t get into Ayurveda now, but it was an amazing consultation…I really resonate with this ancient medicine). It was such a blessing of timing to be able to speak with him before going into retreat, he gave me so many ways to help me come into balance.
One of the things we spoke of was detoxification, I really wanted to do whatever I could do get my stomach (and he recommended the kidney and liver) and mind in a clearer state. Amongst many herbs and diet recommendations, he recommended that I accompany this time of antibiotics with activated charcoal. I had never tried this before but had heard many great things about it. So for my first four days of retreat I was taking these tablets and eating just watery rice, on the fifth day I had lentils and recovered a little, and on the sixth day I attempted a light salt water cleanse to flush everything out. Either because I didn’t drink enough salt water or because my body was just too confused, instead of the salt water running through me as a flush, my body absorbed it. Thus, I felt pretty horrible for two more days, even though I had started to eat normally. During this time I alternated between diarrhea and constipation for days of each and felt extremely weak, shaky, achy and exhausted. I wanted to be waking up early to meditate and to pray and to practice yoga, but when I got out of bed I knew I couldn’t. Throughout the days I would try, sometimes feeling better than others, but found it hard to sit still without pain and becoming shaky and hard to move during yoga because of stomach weirds and achiness. Each day I tried, trying to stay true to my tapas, trying to convince myself I felt good enough to keep going, but ultimately I would end up doing my topics, which at the beginning were mostly to read various texts, and then go on to read more, so I was consumed by reading for most of the days.
In these eight days I was also cleansing emotionally. I think feeling physically weak and in turmoil is a pretty big trigger for emotions. I felt extremely discouraged. I had come for all these intentions but couldn’t summon the strength to even spend much time in prayer, I had created this amazing tapas but I felt couldn’t do it even a quarter or half as well as I’d hoped, instead of going into the darkness I was feeling, I was reading…I felt completely unworthy of this experience and of God. I was gloomy, sad and hurting. I had a nice breakdown on day 4, I realized “this might be how I am when I’m alone. When I don’t have people to ‘be’ for, am I this blue? Sure, I know I’m an extrovert and receive a lot of energy externally and that’s a factor…but have I been running desperately into social isolation because this is my real state inside? How long have I been avoiding my internal misery and covering it up with external life? Is my well of happiness really so superficial?” It was nice to cry. And scary as hell.
The next day, I noticed myself trying to convince myself that I was okay. I was trying lie to myself about my experience the day before, trying to twist the truths in it so I could feel superior and independent to that darkness. Yet, those stupid arguments were convincing and I couldn’t decide what state I was in. So, I decided to use the “choosing-papers-at-random” method, creating one with “I’m okay” and one with “I’m not okay”…the truth hit me as I chose “I’m not okay”. Bam…another blow to the illusory stability I’d created for myself…“what do I do?”
Of course, the topic of the day was perfect. It was “Experiences in Guatemala”. When I picked it I thought, “no, universe, I am not ready for that,” but actually, it was exactly what I needed to do. I needed to spend time understanding my last chapter in order to move forward. In doing so, I realized how mixed up my priorities had gotten. I first was putting my jobs above my spiritual practice and when I started to face challenges at work (which I analyzed and the processes they evoked), instead of turning to God, I turned to social isolation, not spending hardly any time alone to process things. I realized a huge thought loop I was in was “I’m unable…I’m unable..” The methods I chose to potentially resolve issues were not working, thus “I’m unable…I can’t,” which in turn meant that things did not get much better and ended on a slightly strange note, while perfect in its own way. But I did end my job at IHF with this huge feeling of, “I failed.”
At that time, just like in the moment I was processing it, I was not okay. I realized after a little while…
“Of course I’m not okay…I’m trying to do this all on my own. I can’t. God can.”
This realization, the realization of the infinite grace eager to hold me if I sought it, changed me.
Sure, the past few months have had quite a bit of heavy stuff. It makes sense why I was struggling so much to carry it all…I was trying to do it all on my own! I was trusting in the flow of life and that is why my head was staying above water for the most part, but I wasn’t really acting on that trust. Which was a cool realization as well, that surrender needs to be the effect of trust. I realized that I could maybe actually do that thing called “letting go”. That I could stop carrying these weights, that even if I wasn’t looking at them dead in the face, they were there weighing on me, and that I could release them. So in all this…I cried, I cried and cried and I prayed for help in letting go of all this mess.
And grace held me. There I was light.
This was my first big lesson in the retreat, learning I need to learn to catch myself doing things by myself or for myself, because I will fail, miss the bigger points, or be unsatisfied every time. After this, while I would still (and unfortunately may for a while, I don’t think surrendering is such an easy habit to acquire), battle for control and do things purely for the purpose of fulfilling my own desires (eeep, I realize that even right now, writing this, is probably purely serving the mind who wants to avoid just resting in stillness, but I also feel this passion and excitement to share…so wah, I guess I’m letting the mind win this battle) there have been times that I could let go. That I could just stop and realize how trivial all the little things I was thinking of or thinking to do were, and that I could actually just rest in something greater than myself.
On Day 9 I woke up and actually felt pretty good!! Physically and emotionally things were being worked through and liberated me from their grasps and also, the topics (ishvarapranidhana, Ephesians, brahmacharya, aparigraha, spanda, pure intention, aspiration, the witness consciousness, and Gandhi’s autobiography) I had been reading were really inspiring me. I realized a pretty awesome thing in my first nice, long juicy meditation that morning:
“The best way I can serve God, the most I can do to show my adoration, dedication and surrender, is to go deeper, get closer to that force through meditation, breaking through the veils of illusion of the mind”
Later that day I read that “if your intention is to give the best help to humanity for greater enlightenment…there is no better help than that of an awakened person.” Thus, I went deeper, knowing that for my two greatest passions in life…God and humanity’s more conscious progressions, sitting and meditating was the best thing I could do.
So I began to attempt this…