I am back from my second 3-day silent retreat, and all that was experienced is still processing.
|This year’s coordinators & teachers,
Barbara, Ma Radha, Subhadra & Mariella.
First off, you should know that because this year’s retreat was being lead by the lovely, Ma Radha, a student of Swami Veda Bharati since 1971 and disciple of Swami Rama of the Himalayas, I constantly had Jai Uttal’s Jaya Radha going on in my head. I’m not complaining because I love that bhajan! But seriously, it was in my head almost the whole time (besides while I was meditating and focused on a mantra). It’s only appropriate that you should listen to it while you read this, click here to play, and read on.
|It’s amazing how much contemplation
gazing out at this enormous abyss brings!
Once I checked back into the Stella Maris Retreat Center by the sea for the second time, I realized how influential my first experience with silence has been on my everyday life. The silence that I had cultivated during my first retreat last spring gave me the awareness so that I can tap into that silence whenever I need to, so it was easy to sink back into it.
To sum it up, my days were spent mostly looking out at the ocean with a cup of hot lemon water as you can see from the photo to the right. That, along with lots of meditation, slow meals, asana class, spiritual lectures, oodles of naps and lots of contemplative time. The soundtrack to my time there was the constant waves crashing at the shore wall and the occasional bird chirp. The weather was blue skies, a warm sun, fluffy clouds and a cool breeze by the sea. Nature surrounded us with lush, green grass, fragrant honey suckle bushes, seagulls cawing above us, rabbits that hopped on by in between chewing on the pretty flowers that decorated the center, porpoise’s frolicking through the current (when we were lucky!) and birds that would dance with each other in swirls along the grass. We had one day of light rain followed by a double rainbow that resided right over the water. I had never seen both sides of any rainbow before until this one. Slowing down and being able to take in all of the beauty was so blissful in and of itself. A perfect way to practice living in the moment.
|After a brief afternoon shower,
colors of light casted themselves over the sea.
One full day (12 hours), we practiced Akhanda Japa of the Gayatri mantra. Akhanda Japa (uninterrupted group meditation) is an ancient practice in the Himalayan tradition for creating a spiritually empowered collective consciousness. It engenders individual healing and transformation while exerting a strong positive influence on the entire web of life. This practice was mesmerizing! Gayatri Mantra (the Mother of the Vedas), the foremost mantra in hinduism and hindu beliefs, inspires wisdom. Its meaning is roughly translated by Swami Veda as “Om. In Earth, Sky and Heaven, I do meditate on, and sustain in myself, the beautiful brilliance of God who shines in the splendor of the sun.” The practice of this mantra calms mental noise, washes off karmic impurities, purifies the ego, sharpens the intellect and illuminates the inner being with the light which flows directly from the Source. The process of purification through this practice begins in the deep unconscious and gradually pervades all aspects of our personality. We become new and fully transformed, from inside out. The Gayatri Mantra:
Although I’m familiar with the Gayatri Mantra, this practice allowed me to experience it in a whole new light. Once I’d get into the groove of repeating it, it came with no effort allowing me to sink deeper into my meditation. Then sometimes I’d find myself tripping over words, forgetting certain parts and having to pause and start over. When I’d take breaks from the practice throughout the day, the mantra would continue to play in my mind. It was so beautiful. I napped that afternoon falling asleep to the vibrations of the mantra and awoke to the same blissful sounds. It was amazingly powerful!
|Gentle waves just rollin’ on by as the sun sets.|
During the many hours of contemplation, I found the waves of the sea to be very similar to that of my thoughts. At many times of the day the waves were slow and calm. They gently just rolled onto shore with no crash. During the early morning, the sun’s light would shimmer onto the tiny ripples in the water creating a sea of sparkly glitter. Such a treat to my eyes! My thoughts – calm, serene, and infrequent. Then at other times of the day the sea was rough. The waves were angry and those small ripples became huge and choppy. Every wave would crash abruptly at the shore wall creating a loud smack followed by an explosion of water shooting up into the air then raining down onto the ground. Those forceful waves could be felt wherever you were on the premises – vibrating the ground and giving the building a little shake. My thoughts – powerfully loud, negative, and judgmental.
There will always be that balance of calm and chaos within our minds and the world, it’s just life. In the meantime, I look forward to dwelling more in a meditative state, keeping my thoughts soft and quiet (like the gentle waves) as often as I can. I look forward to deepening my silent practice throughout my daily life.