An honest observation will reveal that we tend to define ourselves in a large part through our relationships with others. Even our most intimate needs are often a result of certain influences from the people around us. From the moment we are born until the day we die, we spend most of our waking hours, and often our sleeping hours with other people. We are always defined by our relationships with others.
Throughout history, people who wished to remove themselves from this outer influence and to connect with their authentic self isolated themselves in silent retreat. There they directed their inner energies fully and with great enthusiasm to discover by direct experience who they were and what they truly wanted.
Have you ever thought about reaching the age of 65 only to discover that you did not accomplish with this life what you had wanted to? Who will return to you the years you have lost? What would happen if at such an age you discover that you are not happy, that you were not at all happy in this life, that you lived a life that was not yours, that you lived a life built upon what others expected of you, and that you never really asked yourself what you truly wanted?
Before we get carried away in the stream of outer pressures and achievement in life, it is vitally important that we establish an authentic connection with who we truly are underneath all our masks and beyond all our interactions with other people. This inner connection, like any relationship, is not gained in a passive way. It takes time, curiosity, patience and love. The isolation of retreat is, in a way, our research laboratory, or the place of total vacation from the outside world. It is where one can establish a more sincere relationship with oneself.
During retreats, the inner world reveals itself and all the hidden rooms of the heart and soul are opened. Inside the active retreat we may reveal within ourselves insights and clear directions that can guide our lives to be more meaningful and more harmonious.
Before going into retreat there are a few basic conditions that must be fulfilled:
1. First, one must be in a good mental state and have the capacity to handle oneself if or when disturbances arise.
2. Second, one must have a genuine curiosity and be open to discovering new things about oneself.
3. Lastly, one must have faith in something spiritual or in something of true meaning. This faith will be the source of all positive transformations during the retreat.
The three components of retreats are; isolation, silence, and intense spiritual practice. Being in isolation helps to remove distraction and increase inner focus. The best location for a retreat is a quiet space far from cities and roads. A place which embraces the splendor of nature will color the spiritual practice with joy and depth.
The second ingredient in creating the magic of a retreat is keeping silence
Most people start talking when they are a year old and from this moment on, they never stop. Keeping silence returns to us something of the purity, innocence and wisdom we had as infants. Once you are silent long enough you see clearly that words create screens which cover the heart. The light of silence cracks open these screens and reveals the heart to the eyes of consciousness. Silence also brings rest to the tongue and mouth and a sweetness to the soul, which then begins to radiate with love without reason. Words create need, silence creates satisfaction. Words draw us outside of ourselves, silence invites us in. Words agitate, silence brings rest and peace.
Silence and isolation are the passive background of a retreat and the spiritual practice is the active part. The spiritual practice is the part which provides the ascending direction to the retreat and it is the active force which cleanses and modulates our inner world.
Spiritual practice is usually composed of yoga, mediation and sometimes prayer. The yoga practice detoxifies the body, and the energy structure. Prayer and devotion detoxifies and purifies the emotions and the heart. Meditation silences the mind and eliminates mental agitation. A spiritual practice composed of these three elements, together creates a connection to the divine. Each of these three elements can be practiced individually and serve as a clear path from alpha to omega. However, the combined practice of all three components is the most rapid, safe and fruitful path to transformation.
(To be continued – in part 2 of 2)