Retreat and Renewal

The end of the year — a good time for conscious withdrawal and retreat. It is a time of transformational change. I dedicate the days between Christmas and the New Year for self-examination.  Sometimes alone, sometimes with others and sometimes in silence, but it is a time I always take for constant self-reflection.  I have been doing this, every year since the early 1990’s.  And still, each year I find there is plenty of fodder, readily available for the process.

I am traveling through life directed by the ties I have to my family, community, politics and spiritual beliefs. I am rooted in tradition or passionate beliefs or positions on what is right and wrong.  A powerful psychological structure is at play in my world, which is always shaping my thoughts and actions. I have however made the conscious choice not to end up being no more than a series of conditioned actions and reactions to the world.

Spending the last few days of the year, in peaceful circumspective introspection.   I have been looking at: simplifying my life by eliminating anything in it that is no longer relevant, ridding myself of anything that does not promote ease and wholeness and looking at the nuances of all my relationships and any unhealthy patterns of relating.

I begin this introspection ritual by breaking a coconut. I drink the water and taste some of the sweet white meat.  I place both halves of the coconut in glass bowls and fill the coconut with fresh water. I cut two golden roses and spread their petals and let them float inside.

I glance back at the flowers floating in the little coconut boats on my puja stand.  I glance at the flowers I have in the house and the blooming plants outside on the patio, which give me such joy.   What is it about flowers that I am finding so nourishing?  Perhaps it is just that I am so thankful that Nature readily gives us something so perfect and fragrant,  little powder puffs of shakti, if only for a few days.  And all I have to do is to water them and give them some sun.

I know these full golden roses will only be really beautiful today. There will be no freshness, no shakti in the blooms tomorrow, no fragrance.   In 24 hours they will wilt and the coconut will begin to mold.  But the freshness and joy they bring me today will not be obscured tomorrow.

Saint Thirumular writes we must “die to the world.”  He says that death and liberation is possible when we are not affected by the appearances of the world. But I find myself asking, “why do I need to be unaffected by the appearances of the world?”   I don’t choose to die to the world. I want to live joyously in the every moment. I love the rich tapestry of the world.  Babaji tells us to live courageously for the world and to do what we can to die to “time.” This, I can better understand that things come, they go, what is past is past.

The freshness and joys of today are generally obscured by thoughts arising from memories of past pleasures, aversions, frustrations and pain or of tomorrow’s hopes and fears. Each moment has a beginning and an end.  Creative change happens in those moments in which we are truly present to them.  Only that which truly ends can be created anew–the end of the day, the end of the year, the end of a cycle, the end of an argument or relationship or attitude, the end of a career, the end of stagnation, the end of a life.

Stagnation is what happens when a bad situation doesn’t end.   But stagnation can come to an end in a single moment.  And every moment ends, so why not let go of it and not carry it over into the next– into the future, into mind and heart and into the New Year.

The Siddhas tell us that to  live with a pure mind, one must experience the present and “die” to the past.  We can do this by giving up the memories that influence the present and by discontinuing hopes and mental habits that disturb life energy.   Struggle, aggression, defensiveness,  along with desires and daydreams become habitual and stimulate either excitement or inertia.   Stress is created in the mind and heart and subsequently balance is lost in the body.  Stress makes it more difficult to maintain life processes as it creates more demand on life energy.  Of course, as yogis we know we can both reduce stress and increase our capacity to absorb more the prana, by practicing the yoga postures, pranayama and mantras regularly.  But there is a law of supply and demand within each of us.  Any demand for more life energy than we are able to supply creates disorder and disharmony, which brings about disease, disintegration and death.

I make a list of resolutions.

#1 In this New Year, I will try again to dissolve past conditioning.   I make a list of old pains, aversions, preferences and fears.

#2 I will be spontaneously loving, kind and compassionate with everyone, including myself to bring order, harmony and abundant life energy to my physical body and life.

We have to participate in life; we are in the world.  We are not renunciants living in a monastery.   Yet like monks, we must practice inwardness and silence.  As Kriyayogis we practice pranayama, meditate and repeat mantra japa daily to connect with the best part of ourselves, the sweet, silent space with no sense of emotion, irritation or passion.  We are in a sense are learning to die to time.

# 3 I will consciously work to die to the past.  And I will continue the practice throughout the day, not through inattention to the minutes of the day, but by 1) becoming aware in the moment and 2) by ignoring the past and future.

It is only possible for us to live in the beauty of the moment, if we have an understanding of the whole workings of our mind in relation to the present. And being aware is being absorbed in the moments and feelings without losing ourself to them. It is like achieving a 360 degree view of each moment— knowing that you are absorbed in the moment, while aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions and at the same time, aware of what is going on around you.  This is practicing Nityananda Kriya.

#4 I resolve to practice renunciation by giving up mental chatter, memories, passions, agitations and daydreams. To do this I choose to regularly observe the contents of the conscious mind and all the reactions I have had to difficulty and challenge in the past year.  I must uncover the memories in the subconscious mind stuff, which still continues to haunt me and at times even determines the way I think or react.

As Kriya Yogis, we are taught to record daily everything that runs through the space of our mind without judgment, selection or rejection.  Even uninvited things will continue to pursue us until we consciously let go of the past and develop enough dispassion to counter the pull our desires have on us. 

#5 I will record all the subconscious tendencies that arise each day.   Recording allows me to be aware of all the crazy stuff that passes through my mind. Usually giving thoughts that little bit of detached attention is enough. Then, through sadhana, the day ends, and the mind is cleansed in a shower of calm and peace.

#6 In meditation I resolved to establish the equanimity that allows and wills whatever thought, feeling or emotion, which comes up in me, to  go, swiftly.  To be able to end something in a moment or two indicates self-mastery.  This is immensely empowering and allows for constant renewal.   I make an affirmation: I know  my own fears and samskaras and I am able to correct them.  Establishing  uninterrupted peace and equanimity is what I owe myself.

#7 I see also the most important thing is to concern myself solely with my response to all the moments of life, not yours.  I inquire into my own mind and heart so as not to assume or suppose, I know yours.

By coming to an understanding with the total workings of the mind and by giving up the past, we can come face to face with ourself.  We begin to experience the easy flow of insight and intuition.  It is really so simple that we can easily miss it.   The self, is there in each moment concentrating itself on seeking its infinity.  The self affects a quality of the mind that is not dependent on thought or memory, but which is instead pure perception and rich wide-angled awareness.

The pure essence of awareness is the only thing that remains consistent, which does not wilt or change its mind or become less than; it is the only thing that does not end or perish.  And, it is so simple; awareness has been there all the time.  

    • Mark
    • January 3rd, 2010

    Hi Durga,

    You are absolutely right. I thank Babaji’s ashram for giving me the chance to get into silence for the end of the year of 2009. I don’t know how and don’t know why but I feel the love to the Divine, especially in the morning. I am not sure if this is the aspiration of the soul which Satchitananda was speaking about, but it is something that I never experienced before.

    I thank you and Satchitananda for giving me this opportunity.

    You are right about forgetting the past actions, memories, etc.

    I can tell you that at the moment I am writing this all I feel is this great love and I don’t have any space left for any of those emotions, thoughts and memories right now, because the love is just penetrating all my body. I would like it to continue for a while so I can purify my soul and my mind, to become unity with this love.

    Om Kriya Babaji Namah Aum

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