With great excitement, I learned one of my spiritual brothers accepted my invitation to join us at our Joshua Tree Retreat with some of his students. Excitement shifted to curiosity, and then I realized I had no idea of what to expect, so I dropped all ideation and settled into the unknowing of what was going to happen. As I planned the final touches of the retreat, I made certain there were opportunities for him to bow out gracefully if things started going sideways between us or our students. While I love all of my spiritual brothers and sisters, sometimes when those of us who studied with Rama get together things can be weird, and not always the good kind of weird.
Since I began teaching, I’ve made it part of my practice and continuing education to visit other teachers of all traditions to learn how they offer teachings. However, I don’t know if others do this or if it’s just an outgrowth of my natural curiosity. I admit part of my motivation for making the invitation was in the hopes of being invited on one of his trips so I could see how he creates the desert experience for his students. It seemed only fair to show him how I do desert first.
For my students, I searched extensively and found an almost perfect retreat house for my group – the only downside being we could not entertain visitors. I recommended a hotel close by for his group so he could make their lodging arrangements. I confirmed all the reservations, and bought tickets for our sound bath at the Integratron for those who had registered. I sent out several emails in preparation for the trip, and coordinated with fellow Dharma Center teacher Teresa, who would give us a short presentation with the history of the Integratron and take us to a nearby place of power. Finally, I dug out my Joshua Tree maps and scoped out our route and planned the final details of our adventure using Google maps to ensure we had plenty of time to meet up with the other group and move from place to place.
The energy before the trip hit us hard in the form of various types of opposition. Most of my students were able to push through, but a few could not and had to drop out. Because of the opening in the retreat house, one student who had not planned to attend experienced a series of small miracles that allowed him to fly into town and join us at the last minute.
Two weeks before the trip, the physical therapist who had been helping my body gain strength moved away, and her replacement did not know the same technique. I let the new therapist work on me, but found myself physically exhausted and in severe pain from the treatment, and I was couch bound for the remainder of the week that I had planned to do all of my pre-packing.
As students continued to call me with their oppositional issues, I wondered if I needed to make some changes to our plans and decided to move up the meeting time of our night time outing so we would not be out as late as I originally thought.
Fortunately, my massage therapist had a cancellation and was able to fit me in and stabilize my body. This allowed me to keep my commitment to teach a workplace meditation class on Tuesday. It was a risk scheduling the workshop just two days before our trip because I knew driving in early morning rush hour traffic would wipe me out for the rest of the day, but I felt the call of Eternity to sit with this group. The class was powerful and fun; they even set up a beautiful meditation area for us in the hotel’s conference room with zafus and a Tibetan singing bowl! As expected, although happy and high from the meditation, I spent the remainder of the day resting and had to put off packing until Wednesday, just one day before the trip. I organized every detail on Wednesday so I could have a relaxing morning before making the long drive.
Early Thursday morning, I picked up my phone so my husband could show me a certain setting and noticed an email from the rental house company. Our retreat house had been cancelled due to a plumbing issue!
October is high season in Joshua Tree, so most rentals had been booked months in advance. I knew it would be a challenge, and immediately started to look for options. Then I caught myself and realized it would take some energy to pull off the near impossible task of finding 9 beds available in either a house or hotel the same day for the full weekend. I sent out a quick email to my students to let them know about the change in lodging, and that I would update them soon with our new destination. My first task was to have breakfast.
After fueling my body, I dove into the travel sites hunting for options. The only large houses available were two hours away from where we planned to be, making them unappealing options. The hotel our brother group was staying at was fully booked. Finally I found a hotel with rooms, but the area had a spacey, astral vibe. It definitely was not the environment I had meticulously planned for my group to have the highest brightest experience. However, I knew driving two extra hours each day would have a negative effect on the group, so I took the plunge and booked three hotel rooms, plus the “presidential suite” which offered a large living room area where we could gather for group meditation.
This change in lodging, of course, altered all the details I had planned for the trip. During my initial planning, I kept trying to find a way for us to see the park during the day, but the timing was not working out, so I had given up the idea. With our new location, however, the distance to Joshua Tree was too far for us to go out for lunch on Friday and return to rest before our evening adventure. Instead, we changed course and went to Joshua Tree during the day for a couple of hours before meeting with the other group. We found a wonderful trail that meandered between the rocks, allowing us to each walk and sit on our own, and embrace the energy of Joshua Tree. As I walked, I found an impression of a Buddha meditating in the rocks high above on a cliff!
We gathered back at the car and arrived at our meeting spot to find our brother group. The separation between the two groups was apparent. Since I had given a teaching to his students, they recognized me and made me feel welcome. I watched as the students from the two groups eyed each other from a distance and wondered if they would come together. Because I was the leader for the trip, I gave final instructions to all the students present before heading into the desert.
As we sat under the stars, I felt the pressure of people expecting some kind of a performance. It would have been easy to cave in and start giving a long dharma talk. But that would not have been authentic. Since this way my turn to lead, I had no choice but to commit 100% to following my own practice. I go to the desert to feel the desert, and let her teach me. I bring others with me so they can also learn from the desert the way I do. So instead, I ate my sandwich and encouraged others to eat whenever they felt hungry. Most of the students did not eat, and instead waited expectantly. Remnants of self-consciousness dissolved with every bite I took on the imaginary stage.
After meditating in silence, a feeling of separation among the students remained. To alleviate this, I requested everyone share a moment of personal power. I began by sharing my experience meditating in front of them: My back radiated heat and out of the corners of my eyes I could see gold light, as if someone was shining a bright flashlight on the rock towering behind me. When I turned my head to see the light directly, it would disappear. Once I went back into silence, the light would grow brighter.
The outpouring of truth blew me away. In the dark, people were free to share openly experiences they would normally guard as precious memories. One person shared that they also saw the gold light on the rock behind me. Another talked about how she felt like she was waiting for the show to begin, only to realize she was seeing light radiating out in front of her, and that what she was waiting for was already happening. Some shared private, profound moments, and others told stories that caused us to burst into laughter. As each person shared their moment of power, I watched them unite with all the others who had told their stories. By the end, we all merged into one field of Light.
We sat again in silence, letting the desert wash through us as the stars danced. The temperature dropped drastically, and although my back was warm, my front was icy cold. I visualized the heat from my back wrapping around me like a blanket and I felt comfortably warm. The inner fire is like having a pot belly stove in the third chakra. If you can keep the hot coals inside the chakra, the heat naturally rises through the central channel and gently warms everything with a soft light.
As the night wore on, I could feel a dark heavy energy approaching. When I bring people to the desert, sometimes we sit through the heaviness and laugh, letting it purify any dark corners within our own being. Other times we get out of the way. Knowing we had more to experience together the next day, I signaled that it was time to go.
In our hotel suite, my group gathered for a morning meditation. Using the previous night’s energy as a springboard, we dove deep into the Light. My heart burst open wider than ever before, sending a ring of white light around group. It spun in a circle, joining us in our hearts.
At lunchtime, when we met with the others I felt the unity of our disparate groups. Although our main focus is on different outward forms of the practice, there was a deep respect and hunger to learn from each other. In the past, I’ve felt some teachers and students attempting to put forth their way and their structures as the best. This time there was only mutual respect. Teresa took us to a hill covered in quartz crystal and shared a sky and earth meditation that solidified our connection to the Path and each other.
During our informal discussions while waiting to attend the Integratron sound bath, I felt no competition. There was only a sense of discovery and mutual love of Light. We all wanted to spend more time with each other. Because the reservation for the retreat house was canceled and we wound up at the hotel suite, we could!
I invited everyone back to our hotel for a celebration of the magical blessing I felt reverberating throughout our entire Lineage at the meeting of our two sanghas as they merged into a maha-sangha.
During our evening group meditation in at the hotel suite, we felt the unification as one tribe, dissolving in Light. Once again my heart chakra exploded with light, and I felt the entire room shift. The love brought tears to my eyes as rings of light poured through my body. I’ve never felt so comfortable so quickly among a new group of people.
From behind the kitchen counter, Samvara and I watched as all the student intermingled in a natural and relaxed way. We were both delighted at the excitement in the room, and we could feel the significance of what we were witnessing. Since Rama left the body, we have been a fractured Lineage. It has been my wish since opening Dharma Center that we find a way to uplift and work with each other for the benefit of all beings. That night, watching the birth of new friendships, I saw the healing of our Lineage.
In the morning, our brother sangha had already begun their journey home when my group gathered for our final meditation. As we sat together in silence, my body dissolved into light. I felt it transform first into a crystal pyramid that grew to encompass the entire room, with an open top to the blue endless sky. Then it melted in rainbow light that pulsated from my heart and out into the world. The entire structure of my body dissolved in the rainbow. Tears of bliss filled my eyes and I felt completely renewed.
The experience of this weekend retreat at Joshua Tree has made me a more confident teacher, with deeper access to realms of light beyond description. It has also reaffirmed my trust in Eternity that my wish for all within the Rama Lineage to find their way home will be realized. I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to walk the Path with such wonderful friends, and I look forward to many more joint ventures among our Lineage into Light.
To be notified of new blog posts, please join my Happy News Mailing List.
My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please help pay for this website by contributing any amount through PayPal.me/jennasundell, or visit my Support page to learn more ways you can help keep the work going.