I’m here on retreat in Joshua Tree, California for two weeks. We are primarily meditating, chanting mantras, and studying/reciting sacred Tantric texts. After the first few days of struggling with mind storms and just being uncomfortable in myself, I now feel the growing accumulative power of the practices.

Over the last few days, I’ve become increasingly aware of the extreme stillness of my mind. It’s as though my senses have opened and I’ve become aware of the vibratory essence of consciousness itself. It’s still, yet vibrating. Consciousness is alive! Then a crystal clear, holographic globe of radiance appeared in the back of my skull behind my eyes. Within this globe was a pulsing, throbbing, energy of simultaneous silence, light, and sound. I enjoyed many hours of exploring this inner space with much wonder and astonishment.

Later that night, teacher and Tantric scholar Paul Muller-Ortega read a verse from one of the Tantric texts which described the experience I just had. It said that all spiritual progress and transformation will have the quality of wonder and astonishment associated with it. This state of mind is known in the circle of Rasas (tastes of experience) as Adbhuta, wonder, and is described as being able to see everything as if for the first time. Great masters say it’s like seeing with the eyes of a child. There’s no judgment or commentary attached to the experience of the moment – only direct experience.

But how do we get ourselves into a state of wonder like this? Well, I find my way back to that state through the practice of yoga and meditation. But some people find it simply through taking a walk in the woods or skiing down a mountain. The important thing is to recognize that wonder will accompany any shift in your consciousness. But you need to get to the place where you can let go of the obstacles that block your wonder.

Obstacles? What are those? Obstacles are subtle thoughts or grooves in the mind (samskaras or imprints from the past) that cast a negative hue on the light of consciousness. It’s like a cloud covering the vastness of the sky. Not much light can shine through. Common obstacles include worry, anxiety, regret, resentment, and attachment to any state of mind whether positive or negative. Sometimes the thoughts will repeat over and over incessantly like a “hamster on a wheel” going nowhere.

Wonder comes as a result of grace. You can’t make it happen. However, you can create the appropriate environment for wonder and increase the probability of it through various practices. Grace requires your effort. I always say, “The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to set your sails.” Through regular practice, your consciousness gets stronger and healthier such that, one day, you discover that your head just poked itself up above the clouds. The obstacles may not totally go away, but they no longer grab your attention. They become neutralized. When that happens the vastness of the sky is yours. Adbhuta arises effortlessly.

This state of wonder is full of vitality and fullness. Soma is the Sanskrit word for wholeness, bliss, or nectar. I had the experience of soma arising within me. This is the natural outcome of dedicated practice over a long period of time. I shared in the group yesterday that “I received what I came here for. Everything else from this point on is extra.” Soma brings you to a place inside yourself where you feel whole, full, and satisfied. Like after a delicious meal when you eat just the right amount, you reach your physical satiety level. On a spiritual level, meditation gives rise to this feeling of being at home within yourself. It doesn’t mean that you have everything worked out in your life. But this flowing vitality is like an upsurge within the self, and that is like tapping into an underground wellspring of nourishment. Within that experience arises creativity, insight, compassion, increased feelings of love and belonging, a true joy to be alive, and of course, a sense of delight, wonder, and astonishment.

While I’m basking in this wonderful state, we had the full moon. This moon was particularly beautiful being a “super moon” and low in the sky; it was bright orange. Then two days later, it snowed. Not just a little, but about 4 inches. The desert became a winter wonderland. During parts of the retreat we practice silence as a way to conserve our energy and become even more attuned to the stillness within. But it’s not stoic silence, it’s joyous silence. We are encouraged to greet each other silently with a smile, make eye contact, or offer an Anjali Mudra (palms together in front of the heart). But the snow was so incredible and so uncommon that I delighted in the white blanket of snow on the Joshua Trees (a weird kind of cactus) and all around. Just then, another participant was walking down the path toward me and without thinking about it, I bent down to make a snowball and hurled it toward her. Without missing a beat, she began throwing snow at me and we went on like this for some time giggling quietly and enjoying the spontaneous and unusual play of having a snowball fight in the middle of the desert! My delight reached yet another high because when you share delight with another, it grows within you.

When you pay attention and dive deeply into the stillness within, there exists a field of consciousness that is self-rejuvenating, self-refreshing, and brings forth the experience of wonder and joy. May you find that place inside yourself today and delight in it.

Namaste,

Todd

I invite you to delight in my upcoming programs. All of these courses include yoga and meditation as the pathway to access your natural state of joy. Come and release obstacles within a supportive community and savor the experience of the Self with wonder. Coming soon:

DATE(S) LOCATION
March 2 Great Barrington, MA LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
March 15-18 Cincinnati, OH LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
March 23-24 Chelmsford, MA LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
March 28-31 Toronto, ON LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
April 6 Simsbury, CT LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
April 20 Great Barrington, MA LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
April 25-28 Stockbridge, MA (Kripalu) LEARN MORE AND REGISTER