It’s been a while since I’ve written, so I’ll catch up on everything soon—our trip to Baja, family camp, my inner life and more—but first, the meditation retreat…
Two months ago, I went on a three-day silent retreat at the Self-Realization Fellowship ashram in Encinitas, Calif. Ever since, I’ve been telling friends who ask about it: “It was great. Intense, but awesome. I’ll share more about it later.”
I keep waiting for fascinating words of inspiring profundity, but they haven’t come. This business of leading a spiritual life can be so personal, so gritty, so impossible to explain.
As such, instead of my typical long-form essay, here’s a stream-of-consciousness re-cap on what it was like to keep silence, meditate way more than is normal for me and be alone with God for three days, in chronological order, with several parts missing:
- Aw, I look super cute today. This is just the perfect outfit for meditation.
- I’m kinda nervous. What might come up when I get quiet?
- Silence now? I thought the retreat didn’t officially start until tomorrow?
- It’s weird not talking at the dinner table
- Substitute smiles and eye contact for words. Hmm. I kinda like this.
- Nature Gardens Wildlife Waves Hummingbirds Euphoria
- Soundest sleep I’ve had in months
- Wake up. I choose to shower instead of meditate. Again, I find the perfect outfit and lip gloss for the occasion.
- Meet up for energization exercises and group meditation
- Darkened chapel, sit down, straight spine, woo! Here we go!
- Peace, quiet, gratitude for the time to do this
- Here comes the back pain
- Break. Sneak off during the break to get a massage in Encinitas. The back pain is unbearable.
- Return for more meditation.
- This chapel is so peaceful.
- I would like to feel as peaceful as that woman sitting over there smiling.
- I talk too much in real life.
- So quiet outside; so loud inside
- Get distracted while meditating, draw myself back (repeat times a billion)
- Feel an inner storm rising, shudder at the thought, tell myself that’s why I’m here, and try to trust that I’ll be ok no matter what comes up for me.
- Feel ridiculous for even thinking about clothes and lipgloss
- Breakfast is delicious
- Loooong period of meditation (2.5 hours)
- Stabbing upper back pain
- Inner storm hits
- Gurus, could you take away this back pain so I can concentrate better?
- Cool. Thanks!
- Dang. It’s back again. Mother effer! This is so hard.
- Please, God, make this easier, I want to hear You.
- Resignation to the fact I’m going to be here a while.
- Keep dragging my mind back to the techniques.
- Relief! It’s finally over. And now we chant.
- Can I go home now? I’m sure Marina will let me stay with her the next couple nights…
- Another meditation
- I can’t effing believe I’m going back for more. Not fun. I should’ve booked a beach vacation with girlfriends…
- Straight spine, open heart, aching back
- Praying, praying, praying for help
- Light across the Christ Center (third eye)
Sister Yogamahi—my fave nun—pulls me aside because she feels like I could use a counseling session. OMG! She’s like a rockstar nun! And she’s going to talk with ME about MY problems! Squee! I break silence to chat with Sister Yogamahi
Me: blah blah blah, bunch of majorly un-spiritual admissions I can’t believe I tell a nun. Vent, vent, vent. What would Master say about this? Cry, cry, cry. Do you have any advice?
Sister Yogamahi: Warm smile, gleaming eyes, doles out real-deal wisdom, offers perspective, cracks some jokes, makes me laugh, gives me support with zero judgment, promises to pray for me and it feels like I’ve just hooked up with God Himself, tells me stuff that comforts me, puts me back in touch with my own ability to feel God’s presence, makes me wonder if she’s not actually on the line with Jesus and Paramahansa Yogananda as she’s talking with me.
Me: “Wow. Thanks. Can I hug you? Wait, do nuns hug?” (It occurs to me she might prefer to connect with the heart than with the body, or her vibration might be so high from meditating like a boss all these years that touching a mere mortal might send my nervous system reeling.)
Sister Yogamahi: Only when no one is looking. And I think we’re being watched. She laughs.
Me: Etheric hug, then! (I clasp my hands at my heart and bow my head in gratitude to her.)
Sister Yogamahi: Smiles with a bazillion watts of God’s love, then swishes away in her ochre robes.
Me: 80 pounds lighter and heaps clearer than moments before.
- Another long period of meditation. I approach sans dread.
- No more back pain
- No more caring about what I’m wearing, or how cute I look for this
- Melancholy about leaving, about returning to the noisy world
- Missing my family, but loving the peace that’s finally settled. It’s a bittersweet farewell
- Fly back home
That’s that. Someday maybe stories of substance will emerge, but this was my experience. If any of you have ever gone within for several days, I’d love to hear of your experience. What went down for you when you went inward?