Retreat and Return

As practitioners who live and work in the world, it is important for us to take time to retreat. This month a small group of eight made the journey to Lake Tahoe where we shared a retreat house. As the excitement from the day of travel through freezing rain and snow dissipated, we settled into our rooms before cooking dinner together. The outside world of our individual lives and cares were all left behind. After dinner, we entered into meditation and let the light do with us whatever it would. This is what retreat is all about: the letting go of the old so the new can blossom.

During times of retreat, a clearing away occurs. By stepping away from the worlds we have worked so hard to create, we free ourselves from the attachments that can bind us in misery. We step into retreat knowing we will eventually return, yet we do not know exactly who we will be when we get back. That is part of the mystery of self-discovery.

The first morning at the house brought with it snow, rain, and Stellar Jays enjoying the Jays20150515_083816peanuts on the deck offered by one of the members of the retreat house. The inclement weather caused our retreat leader to throw out the itinerary – morning yoga on the lawn didn’t sound inviting under the cold rainy skies – so we improvised by meditating in the warmth of the great room and watching the continuation of the Stellar Jay peanut competition. In the afternoon, we donned our warmest raincoats and headed out to see the majestic lake.

dirtpathP1030539We made a brief stop and map check at Bliss State Park before finding Inspiration Point. The beauty of the lake made us smile as the wind ripped through us. A dirt path across the street beckoned, so we wandered beneath the pines. Small, wet snowflakes fell and I felt a warm hug from the mountain earth. At one point we came to a cross-road with a sign: Desolation or Crystal Lake. Turing away from Desolation, we opted for Crystal Lake. The path became rocky and steep, so we stopped for one last picture before heading back to the warmth of the retreat house and another huge and delicious group meal.

The weather cleared the next day, allowing us to walk on a rocky beach along the gentle lapping shore of Lake Tahoe. Although an occasional car would speed by, there was an incredible stillness permeating the area. A pair of geese Geese20150516_135709swimming raced by us as we took pictures of the ever-changing clouds and ripples on the water. We were reminded of Rama’s talk on Magic that he recorded in Lake Tahoe and how he considered geese the symbol of the Seeker.

Although our activities were simple and ordinary on the surface and we ate a ton of food, throughout the retreat each one of us opened to the immensity of Eternity. I felt our bond as seekers within our Lineage grow deeper; a sense of support and community filled my heart with joy. I also felt great freedom and peace knowing all of my brothers and sisters on the path are moving towards Light at their own pace and in their own way.

On my return to the world, endless waves of gratitude pour through me. I am thankful for this body and the ability to practice meditation, for the teachers I have met along the way, and for the company of the holy who shared their weekend with me in retreat.

 

Need to Retreat? Dharma Center plans a variety of retreats for members. Group Retreats are a fun time of community and sharing, and an opportunity for powerful transformation. Please visit www.DharmaCenter.com to learn more about the benefits of Membership.

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Jenna

Iridescent Sand

Whether I am sitting on boulders overlooking the valley, on a cliff above the badlands, or JennaDesertViewTowerin a sandy wash, I love the desert. There is a certain type of power in the desert that cuts through the clutter of the mind and dissolves everything. Perhaps it is the harsh environment, where the sun can burn unprotected skin within minutes and the wind can dehydrate you before you realize you are thirsty, that keeps the human aura at bay. For most people, the desert is not the first choice of vacation destinations. But for those of us who seek silence and unity with God, the desert is the perfect place.

Before you run off to visit the cacti and sand, know the desert is a dangerous place. It’s very easy to get lost, as much of the terrain looks the same and each hill looks closer than it actually is. There are creatures out there who have made this challenging environment their home, and they will defend it if they feel threatened. And of course there are different types of energy found in this desolate place. Some areas will make you feel very open and empowered, while others will drain the life out of you. A journey to the desert is not to be taken as a causal romp. As with any adventure into Power, it is best to find a qualified guide who will take you to the places that will provide the most benefit for your current state.

Desert Road - IMG_1685A group of us from Dharma Center traveled to the desert this past weekend. We went out Friday evening before sunset and experienced a wonderful general cleansing while sitting above the badlands. As the light of the sun disappeared, a black void emerged at the edge of the cliff. Even with powerful flashlights, all light was swallowed up by the darkness. In silence we sat enveloped by the deep desert night. Stars dotted the sky, becoming thicker and thicker as the night progressed. Wind washed through us, clearing away all of the internal debris that comes from living in a city.

On Saturday night, we entered the sandy wash shortly after sunset. In our 4-wheel Jeeps, we drove a mile or two in, away from the road and from the last remnants of civilization. Then we walked until Lakshmi, our leader for the evening, found the just right spot for meditation. We sat in stillness as the sky grew completely dark. A bright planet danced for us while we watched the sky with silent minds. After meditation, we ate our sandwiches; food always seems to taste better in the middle of nowhere. We digested for a while, and then moved on to a new place to sit.

As we walked under the star-filled sky, I noticed how bright the sand was shining. It seemed strange; the only other time I had seen it this bright in the Gorge was during a full moon. Once we sat down again, I scanned the sky, searching for the moon that must be casting the light, but there was no moon that evening. The only source of light was the stars hanging in the sky. We dissolved into meditation once again. I watched as the others in our group seemed to disappear and meld with the desert landscape. A small shooting star raced by, followed by a brighter meteor that left a wide streak of silver.

When we began talking, I asked the others if they noticed how iridescent the sand was. They said it seemed bright, but didn’t think much about it, even though we didn’t need our flashlights to see our backpacks and the ground as we normally did on a moonless night. We spoke about our questions for Eternity, and some found answers. My question for Rama, my teacher, was: how could I see him or God? The quiet knowing in my mind reminded me I see the Divine in every set of eyes I encounter. I whined about how I still missed Rama’s physical form, while knowing at the same time how ridiculous my whining was because in truth we are united. How could I possibly miss something that is always here?

We entered into silent meditation once again, and once again the world around us dissolved. As I sat in the stillness with open eyes, a golden mist surrounded us. Immediately I recognized it. The same thick, golden light emanated from Rama each time we sat with him. Not only did it look the same, it felt the same. Instantly I was viscerally transported into the presence of the Divine. My wish fulfilled. The feeling remains with me even now.

Eventually, the meditation ended and the golden light dissipated. However, even when it was time to leave, we walked on iridescent sand, glowing with its own light.

 

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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 visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!