I just returned home from a wonderful meditation retreat with Paul Muller-Ortega in Joshua Tree, CA. Talk about hot! It was an average of 105º in the high desert each day and about 79º at night! I loved settling into our daily routine of practice. I was able to completely drop into the present moment and let go of everything else. I believe that retreats such as this are absolutely necessary to get at the deeper levels of purification that need to happen along the spiritual path.
The practice of yoga and all of the practices that go along with yoga, i.e. pranayama, kriyas, mantra, mudra, contemplation, meditation, and devotion, serve to clean the dust (malas) off the surface of the heart. If you don’t practice on a regular basis, it’s hard to keep up with the accumulating dust. Just like in the attic of your house, by no fault of your own, just from neglect, dust accumulates. This is the nature of all material reality. Ultimately, material reality (or Prakriti which includes both gross and subtle material, body mind) breaks down and returns to its essential components in the “universal compost bucket” of life.
What is the dust? Metaphorically, it’s whatever keeps you separate from the light of consciousness and from delighting in the miracle of life. The dust is what makes you forget who you are. The dust makes everything in life a burden. Your vision for a bright future gets blurry and dull. You sink into the abyss of hopelessness which emanates as lack of motivation. You stop believing in yourself and in life. You forget that everything in life is for your awakening. Essentially you become the victim of life rather than the victor. In this debilitated state, you take the view that life is happening to you and it keeps happening to you. Victim consciousness is a sad state of powerlessness. The light of awareness is obscured by a dust cloud.
In Tantra, all limitations and contractions of consciousness are caused by the great light of consciousness itself out of its own delight. You need to walk through your limitations in order to discover your unlimited nature. You forget in order to remember again. This is called the blessing of forgetfulness. You are the crystallization of the divine’s desire to know itself. But you have to want it. Grace doesn’t just come to you. You have to go to her. You have to take the first step. The universe helps those who help themselves. “Don’t be a rag doll to Shakti and say, ‘She’ll handle it.’ No. You are the shakti so you handle it!” By Gurumayi, Swami Chidvalasanandaji.
Everything in life happens for your awakening. Challenges don’t just come to knock you down. Challenges only come when you’re ready for a promotion. What you think is a set back is really a set up for a come back! This is the attitude of the yogi. It brings a sense of optimism and hope. Hope is the unbreakable thread that keeps you connected to your heart during times of deep seated dust storms when you can’t see reality clearly. It’s during these times that you need to retreat into nature, go on retreat, or reach out for support from friends, the community, or a good therapist, and be held with love until you can embrace yourself again.
With all that’s against you every day in life, at least don’t be against yourself. When you go against yourself inflicting acts of self-sabotage by not valuing yourself or letting yourself be overcome by fear and all of its derivatives – self-judgment, shame, self-criticism, doubt, and feelings of unworthiness, you steal your Self away from your Self. The only thing standing between you and the full awakening of your heart is you! This is why practice is so important.
In my life, it’s the cornerstone of everything I do and everything I teach. Because I practice, I feel worthy to teach. It’s not even a matter of worthiness. I feel called to teach. In all honesty, even when I don’t practice (which is very rare) I still feel worthy to teach. Teaching for me is answering the call of my soul’s longing for freedom. Nothing delights me more than when I’m able to make others smile. When I’m able to inspire others and say something or do something that motivates someone to act courageously or take up regular practice again.
I believe we need each other to inspire each other. It’s very difficult to practice in a vacuum all alone. This is why retreats, workshops, or trainings are so valuable. As your practice goes deeper, higher and higher states of consciousness become realized in your Prakritic bodymind. Practice begins to wipe away all dust, stains, and scars from the past that can sometimes take the form of regret, resentment, or wishing you could change your past. Why do you insist on changing your past? There’s no way to change the unchangeable. This is a very common groove I see people struggling with. It’s much easier to just practice. Your bodymind is designed to hold universal joy. All you need to do is let go and align yourself with what your heart most deeply desires. With practice what you’re clinging to and what’s clinging to you will release effortlessly. When you practice, you become a purer and clearer reflection of the great light of consciousness. “States of enlightenment are the reflection of the Absolute in increasingly clearer values within yourself.” Paul Muller-Ortega.
Think of yourself as the reflective surface of the Absolute. If the reflective surface is unclear, then the reflection will be unclear. The character of the reflection is effected by the surface of reflection. It’s like wearing colored glasses. The reflector surface is what matters. This is you.