Stepping Out to Go Inside: A Journey of Retreats in Isolation

Stepping Out to Go Inside: A Journey of Retreats in Isolation

5am: The sun has not yet risen, but in this place, also during the night, there is a thin blue light. My feet are digging footprints in the snow. I go down to the fountain to wash my body and my soul with its cool water. Today I will not meet anyone. All this month I will be alone in the caressing silence of nature and the mysterious depth of meditation and yoga. A month will pass, then a break, then another month, three years, ten years, thirty months of silence.

 When I was a child, I dreamt again and again that I would go to Antarctica alone and live in the snow on my own for a few months. Of course, as a child, I would also dream that I take the television and computer with me. This dream was forgotten with the years. But the thirst for the silence of the snowy mountains stayed with me.

When I arrived at the yoga school and I met the tranquility and the love of meditation, I knew inside that this was what I wanted more than anything else. Even if I would practice 4 or 5 hours every day, it was not enough for me. I had the appetite of a wolf. Even throughout the day, I would use every free moment and retire to my room to sit for a few more moments of contemplation. Even when I was with friends, at work, or while I was studying, I always wanted to return to the meditation, to return to the prayer and the depth of my heart. I wanted to practice all day, but the different commitments I had did not allow me. Two years passed like this.

I gathered my determination and decided to go and meet my spiritual guide to tell him that I could not hold my thirst anymore, that I had enough of evolving so slowly and that I wanted to make a breakthrough, and another breakthrough, and another breakthrough.

I went to meet him. I was waiting in line. There were 600 people coming to talk to him that day. He would sit patiently, quietly, with each one of us for as long as it took, answering all the relevant questions. Four days he was sitting there without sleep until he met each one of us. The waiting hall—even though it was full of hundreds of people—was very quiet. People were contemplating their questions. What do I really want to ask? What is really the issue, the core issue, that I’m confronted with now? We were alone in that waiting room, but also we were together.

Finally, after a long night of waiting, in the early morning, my turn came. I entered the room and he looked at me with such attentiveness, with such silence, with such neutrality, as if I was the first thing he ever, ever saw. I asked some practical questions and then I sat down, I looked in his eyes, and I told him all that was burning in my soul for all those years, all the pain and the longing; I felt he was there with me every step of the way. I told him I wanted to practice more, I wanted to rise, I wanted to be free of my limits, I wanted to retreat, many retreats. He suggested that I go to a special retreat resort in the mountains every three months for a monthly retreat (learn more about our retreats at Mahasiddha). He gave me a special mantra with a spiritual impulse to carry me through this challenge. I was walking on clouds for days after that. I felt my freedom was near.

A few months later, the day finally arrived. I could finally leave everything and go into isolation: to a house all alone in the snowy mountains that would become, in time, my second home. The location of the house was perfect. It was right in the middle of nature, half an hour walk from the closest road, ten minutes walk from the neighbors. Actually, I had a whole hill to myself. And in the few houses around, there lived 5-6 yogis who had been in a retreat partially or fully for the past ten years. The mountains there are about 1,000 meters high, and there’s about six months a year in the amazing snow. In the summer, everything is green, and you can see forests and flowers, deer, rabbits, eagles, and even bears and wolves which occasionally eat the neighbor’s dog or cows.

I remember the moment when I entered the house and laid down my bag. I was alone. I didn’t need to see anyone. I had no agenda for a whole month. I was 23 years old that day. In these 23 years, I was always bound to one timeframe or another. My schedule was always depending on others, and, now, suddenly there was a space of freedom that was stretching out to the horizon. Ahhh, what a relief, what happiness. So many meditation techniques I received, so many mantras and breathing exercises. Now I had the space to experiment and play with these methods.

Meditating in IsolationI would wake up at 5am like a spring and walk along the sunrise to bathe in the waterfall. The morning would last until about 11am with a few hours of meditation, 45 minutes of headstand, then a quick breakfast, some more yoga, another meal, a walk in nature, and practice until nighttime. The happiness of meditation overflowed me. I was lying in bed before going to sleep, and my whole body was vibrating in ecstasy. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t believe I could be so happy in this world (and while in such isolation).

The first retreat left me with a big appetite for the next retreats, but as I entered this cycle of periodic retreats, tests and trials started appearing. In the second retreat, suddenly everything became difficult. The enthusiasm and the freedom withered out for some reason. In their place, all I had left was self discipline. I wanted to triumph over my weakness, and I became a tyrant who ignores the basic needs of the body and of the soul. I built myself a daily program, which was too tight. I didn’t have enough time to sleep, to eat and to enjoy the retreat.

I came out of the pressure of the world only in order to stress myself in isolation. Instead of the spontaneity of the first retreat, I became a slave of my spiritual ego that got bloated. I was rushing to eat, rushing to shower, rushing to sleep. I was tired and nervous, and of course the meditations reflected my strange state. In these retreats I would count the days so that it would be finished already and I could say that I did it with success.

Pride and Other Sins

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lesson and also the next retreats were tied up and egoistic. I was going full speed in the wrong direction. Instead of finding humility, lucidity, and depth, I found myself proud and boasting on the “special” efforts that I made. Pride was blinding my eyes and making my heart shallow.

Eventually I collapsed. I had enough. Fortunately, I didn’t break down completely, but I had to stop practicing and find out where my mistake was. After a few days of breakdown, I understood reluctantly that effort without heart doesn’t lead to anything valuable, and so I started searching for my heart.

For the next retreat (tantrayogathailand.com/retreats), I put away especially 40 days, which were entirely dedicated to search for the heart. Every four hours I would meditate with the mantra of the heart, day and night.

When I finally found my heart, it was like a bulldozer passed on it. I had been trying so hard to command it in the name of spiritual evolution. I found it and I brought it close to me. I accepted it as it was and took care of it. Slowly slowly my heart healed and in it, I found the loving peace I was searching for so much.

Spiritual HeartI remember walking at night through the snow and doing some breathing exercises outside. Suddenly, silence appeared, and from silence, tears, and with the tears, awakening. I fell on the snow and cried for the beauty of my heart, for the beauty of the world, for being so small in such an immensity, for being so wrong in such a perfection, and yet starting for a moment to feel right.

At this step, I stopped chasing the spirit and started paying attention to it in the small details. Slowly, slowly, the separation diminished between the sacredness of meditation and the world (which was then for me some kind of distraction). I found time to walk around in nature, and in every cloud and in every rock, I found the nature of the heart, when I was cooking or showering, when I would buy some milk from the peasants, I felt the entire environment inside of me.

The outer world became sacred for me, and the inner space became holy from containing the outer in it. From the heart, a wide range of spiritual experiences appeared. As many beginners on the path, the visual part of the meditation left me with a great impression. All sorts of images, fantastic views would appear in my mind’s eye when I would meditate. The image of a green forest having a flowing river inside of it would repeat and repeat. These images would come and go as they pleased. I didn’t have then (and I don’t even have today) any control over them. All I can do is deepen my meditation as much as I can. The rest is out of my hands.

In the following retreats, I would get up in the middle of the night to stand on my head and to meditate. When I would go back to sleep, lucid dreams would appear. I would see the first point of light of the dream and the scene of the dream created from it. In the beginning I was aware of the fact that I was dreaming for only a few seconds and then I would lose myself again in the dream.

With time, I learned a few methods by which we can stay aware longer in the dream. So I started playing with the dreams. I would fly, create objects with the power of the mind, meditate in the dream, the mantras would make the whole environment of the dreams vibrate. What I couldn’t succeed then but only partially succeeded later was to meet spiritual teachers in the dream. Only with great determination and a bit of luck did I succeed to do that.

Spiritual Orgasm

As time went by, an even more fascinating phenomenon started occurring and that was the expansion of consciousness. This phenomenon also appeared unintentionally in the beginning. I would peacefully focus in one point, usually in the center of the heart or in the center of the forehead, and after a certain threshold of concentration, it was as if this little point could not contain so much energy and it would start expanding. At times, I would lose the outline of my body, and I would feel the point expanding to a sphere of a few meters.

This experience did become systematic and it’s escorting me at times ever since. When the sensation of the sphere had gone deeper, there appeared in the meditation a new kind of sensation without a color, without a sound, without a specific location. It was similar to elevated emotions but with a strength and a refinement I never knew outside of meditation. At times, people call it ecstasy or spiritual orgasm. It feels like a vibration that turns into an emotion which is so breathtaking that the mind gets absorbed into it with amazement and awe. That vibration is so perfect that it stops any other movement. You can no longer lose your concentration, get confused with your past or your future. What is happening inside of you, here and now, is so exceptional, so elevated, until you don’t have a choice but to surrender, to melt into it, like salt pouring into and melting into the sea.

With time, I realized that even if those experiences are great and they create a great enthusiasm and passion to meditate more and more, they are not the prime goal of meditation. In fact, they are no more than encouraging and interesting sign posts. To my understanding, the goal of meditation is the transformation and purification it creates in the mind, in the heart, in the soul.

All-in-all, I have done about thirty retreats of one month. Some were successful, some less. If I would come back from a month of retreat in which I had all sorts of amazing states of consciousness but I would find myself with the same fights, with the same weaknesses, with the same selfishness, this would have been a clear warning that this time I had something wrong. But if in the end of the retreat I would meet people, and discover that I would care about them more, love them more, have more passion to help more, that I would have more peace and gentle joy even in stressful situations, then I would know that my time in the mountains was meaningful and that something moved in the right direction.

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