Monday, November 5, 2012

Reflections from a Retreat to Inner Silence!

Recently some thirty plus folks went on a silent meditation and yoga retreat at the Ananda Community in Lynnwood, WA.

On Saturday afternoon we conducted an inspiration-writing exercise and I am hoping others will share their experiences and let me share them sometime.

In these exercises, each person had a book of inspiration and most of those books were purposely made available to retreatants and consisted of one of the six books in the Wisdom of Yogananda series published by Crystal Clarity Publishers.

In the first exercise we each held our book with eyes closed in meditation. This was an effort to tune into the subtler vibrations of the book and to ask for a personal message for each of us. Then, when we were individually ready, we opened the book at random and read the first thing we saw. After we had absorbed its message we then were invited to write whatever thoughts came to us.

My experience, and I believe that of many others present that day, was very touching and validating. In my case, the night before, after the retreat orientation and meditation, I came back to my apartment in the Community and after some additional meditation was inspired to write a blog article on “How to Know God.”

And yes, sure enough, the next afternoon (still on retreat), when I opened my book at random my eyes fell upon the title of the next selection in my book which was, How to Know God! But there was a bonus in store because the message was essentially a point that I hadn’t included, at least not so directly, in my article the previous night. It was that God can be known by those whose hearts are pure, like that of a child. The theme of that message was importance of simplicity. The author (who is my teacher and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda) went on to write that to have the simplicity of a child one must not prejudge other people or life’s challenges and circumstances. We must approach life with the eyes of faith, hope, and charity! Not only was the message a valid contribution to the topic but, better still, a much valued message for me.

The next exercise was for each person to look through the book and select a segment that appealed or spoke to you. Then, after a brief meditation on what you had selected, we were encouraged to write whatever thoughts came. Not wanting to deplete the selection of books provided to other retreatants, I had brought from home Swami Kriyananda’s popular book, Living Wisely, Living Well. It has an inspirational and instructional thought for each day of the year. So, I simply turned to the days noted for our retreat: November 2 and 3rd. The topic for those two days were reflections upon the difference between “egoism” and “egotism.” The latter reflects pride but the former refers to ego itself: a much more subtle and (spiritually) insidious aspect of consciousness. As I began to write my thoughts what came to me is a definition of Kundalini that occurs in Kriyananda’s class text on Raja Yoga. In that book he describes the Kundalini life force as “the entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion.” This, I saw, is another way of viewing egoism: our commitment to our separateness. It empowers our life and with its innate power re-directed upward towards soul consciousness and freedom in God, it is our savior.

In my most recent Sunday Service talk, I spoke of how transcendence of ego(ism) implies no loss of anything but an expansion into everything. Thus, in Kriyananda’s thoughts for these two days from the book he notes that the cure for both egoism and egotism is an attitude of self-giving, or as I put it in my talk, self-expansion.

Again: a wonderful gift and a personally meaningful message.

The third exercise was to meditate and come up with some spiritual challenge or spiritual quality that is meaningful to you and hold the book and meditate asking that, through one’s book, some personal message on this challenge or quality be received. When each of us were ready, we individually opened our book at random to see what it had to say. Once more, we were invited to write at will those thoughts that came to us.

In this case, I hold my exercise and personal message to be a private one. But I will say that, at first, I was disappointed because it didn’t seem that the words that I read from the book addressed my spiritual challenge for which I sought inspiration. But, with faith that grace wouldn’t fail me, it only took a brief moment to look more deeply and I instantly saw that its message (which was that one should affirm inner peace when tempted or challenged and that one should live more from one’s own center) was, in fact, exactly perfect for my need.

At this point in the program, I realized we had moved more quickly through the allotted time than I had planned. So, “necessity being the mother of invention," there dawned upon me the idea to suggest a fourth and final exercise. I asked everyone to use this technique and the book in each of our hands to pray for inspiration to help each of us cope with our frustration over the world’s ills and problems. The question to ask of our “book” was, “What can I do to be an instrument of peace in this peaceless world of ours?

Once again I found delight and inspiration because when I opened the book at random there was a selection for one of the days of the year on the subject of the color WHITE! Hmmm, you might say, and???? Well, Kriyananda describes the positive and negative aspects of the color white: the positive aspect of white is a reference to a rising current of energy in the spine. Now for those who are yogis, you know exactly what this! In meditation and especially using advanced meditation techniques such as Kriya Yoga, one can experience a flow of energy rising in the subtle spine. (The negative aspect of the color white, Kriyananda wrote, is sinking into passivity.) But for me, as a Kriya Yoga and Raja Yoga teacher (one who has dedicated his life to teaching such techniques), what more perfect answer to my question! My way of serving God and humanity in challenging times is to share the deeper aspects of meditation! As most of my readers know all too well, I am a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda’, and his mission to the West was to bring the practice of kriya yoga into the world to help mankind cope with the challenges of a new and connected world—finding peace in a world turning faster and faster. All I can say is WOW!

Try these exercises yourself sometime on some quiet, personal retreat day of your own.

As a kind of postscript, one of the retreatants reported to me her zen koan “Aha” moment was related to raking of leaves. For an hour or so on Saturday, and in silence, we were invited to partake in some simple task like cleaning or raking leaves and doing so in a mindful manner. Imagine her delight when she later realized, after lunch and after the wind came up, that all the raking she had done had been erased as if it had never happened. Talk about non-attachment and living as if “writing on water!”

Ready for a retreat for your Self?

Nayaswami Hriman