Over the last couple of weeks, I've been telling you that I was going to be away on a meditation retreat for a few days in Joshua Tree, California. It's simplistic to say that I signed up for a program in January that delves deep into meditation, studying the texts of tantra and attending retreat. Along with meditation and study, we also practice Japa, pranayama, asana (asana or movement) and rituals. The attendees were kind, welcoming and attentive. It felt more like a family that shared a common thread for their love and deep respect of life and others.
The most wonderful thing is this practice emphasizes not only intellectual grasping, but also experiential integration. The group talks about how we should proceed in our study/practice with a gentle approach and with "effort and ease". For example, I learned one way to approach the teachings, is to sit down at the table of knowledge and take little bites to savor, taking time to digest the information and assimilate it into our lives. No need to study and cram it down, as if we're taking an exam the next day. An approach to my practices with "effort and ease" with not too much "dilly-dallying" is a nugget that is staying with me as I move forward.
Over the two-day retreat, we learned a practice that enhances our relationship with meditation. Because I value, respect and cherish the teachings and teacher, I won't be able to tell you the details, but I will say if you've gone to a few yoga classes, you've done what this practice involves. In the morning sessions, we were led by teachers through this practice. For the remainder of the day, we were free to nourish and take time for ourselves and decide when to do additional cycles of this new practice (to some of us). We had the option to practice being in silence if we put a sticker on our name badge. One day we ate in silence (mauna) for all our meals. It was a beautiful thing and felt quite natural and helped me appreciate my desert surroundings and savor the food more (and the food was outstanding!).
The evening sessions were with our meditation teacher. He talked, we chanted, we meditated, and participated in puja. We also went out a couple of times to soak in the glow of the full-moons light and energy. Our teacher has such an amazing ability to be himself and share his life's experiences with all of us. He's knowledgeable, humble, funny, and likes to "geek-out" on tantra. He says that he spends a lot of time studying, reading and immersing himself. We all get to benefit from his signature traits and warm character. He also has a charming and colorful vocabulary that accurately describes the beauty and wisdom of the tantra. I love hearing "nectarean" "extraordinary" etc.
If any of this seems somewhat odd to you, I invite you to ask yourself "why"? Just like many other spiritual traditions, tantra recognizes god consciousness in all things, but it is referred to as "Shiva" "the absolute" "supreme consciousness" "truth" and many other ways.
During the retreat, I usually felt energized immediately after meditation. However later in the day, I often felt exhausted and famished! It turns out, mediation is purifying and involves a certain amount of vulnerability. I experienced some scary thoughts during meditation, but through learned technique was able to settle and release them. The practices are easy and simple, however the dedication to the practices is not. The practice calls for daily devotion, participation and dedication.
I'm definitely looking forward to the next one!
Let me know if you have any questions and I'd love to discuss! Thanks for reading!
Maha (big, great) love ~ Desiree