It’s nearing my third week at the Ananda Meditation Retreat, and this weekend sprinkled me with more blessings. The yama that my friend and I are focusing on and practicing this week is Non-Sensuality, or bramacharya, literally “flowing with Brahma.” The obvious application is overindulging in sense pleasures of all types: consuming too much, desiring people, places, and things (which, for me, can be challenging when the heart is opening to bhakti, devotion). The subtle application is interiorizing the senses and learning to enjoy God in everything. Upon mastery, one achieves mental clarity, great physical strength, and good health on all levels (Ananda Portland).
With God, Divine Mother, Spirit, and Guru in mind, I felt a calling to revisit the Sivananda Yoga Farm Ashram in Grass Valley. Sivananda has been a source of inspiration for the last few years, since my time in India, and I continue to revisit in times of replenishment. Their approach to yoga is classical, traditional, and takes me back to the timeless essence of India and, conceivably, past lives. My mini day-retreat at Sivananda was as follows:
4:00pm: Sivananda pranayama & asana practice
6:00pm: Dinner (their yogic vegetarian diet is even stricter, eliminating all rajastic elements such as garlic, onions, and peppers). Dinner was followed by a raw dessert to send away people who were there for a month-long program. Love and peace emanated through their eyes. The meal was preceded by Hare Rama Hare Krishna. It’s always nice to return to Sanskrit chanting. There was even a short opportunity to do karma yoga, so I swept the kitchen and dining hall.
7:00pm: One hour of chanting Om Namo Narayanaya
8:00pm: Satsang – Swami read from “Sivananda Upanishad” and embellished on the simple definition of living on the path of yoga, which is to seek Truth. We discussed discovering the light and happiness within opposed to looking outside ourselves. Of course, my favorite part of Sivananda satsang is beginning with Jaya Ganesha.
I felt during various moments of my stay that Sivananda wasn’t what it once was to me. Not to say that it wasn’t touching, but it perceptibly played a role on my path that Ananda now does. As kind and cheerful as the people and staff were, the one thing that distinguishes Ananda from other retreats and communities I’ve partaken in is joy, sincere joy.
Indeed the staff contained a lot more youthful energy. It goes to their advantage that there’s a Swami on site. The vibrations of Sanskrit are always indisputably powerful. Sivananda centers maintain and uphold a certain consistency and standard throughout the world so, as I mentioned, it felt like I was back in India. There is less emphasis on God and more on the deities (Krishna & Shiva included on the altar) as symbols of God-like virtues that we aspire and humbly bow to. Yet, as traditional as it is, satsangs always seem to discuss matters that are accessible to human understanding and don’t turn anyone away by reiterating the “G” word. Nonetheless, I left there with a sense of lightness, renewal, and practiced bramacharya, seeing it in all.
Today, the directors of the Ananda Meditation Retreat, Durga & Vidura, welcomed me to join their staff. The news lifted and energized my spirits in the midst of practicing God-consciousness, the beauty of wild nature in my surroundings, the fact that there are such strong spiritual communities close to one another, and the fact that I have access to them now. Since I’ve arrived, the affirmation to bhujangasana, cobra pose, “I rise joyfully to meet each new opportunity” and jathara parivartanasana, supine twist, “I open to the flow of God’s life within me” have continuously been on my mind. Today is a testament that the power of bringing concentration, will, and light can bring one closer to his/her nature and purpose.
It’s always been a dream to live off the grid, to live sustainably, to be a part of a spiritual community. Coming from a city like Las Vegas, it almost seems unfathomable as there are communities that try to mimic such lifestyles to the best of their abilities, working with what they have. But, as most visitors here at the retreat have shared, whether devotees to Buddhism, Hinduism, or other paths, this land is magnetic and, coincidentally, attracts Truth. It’s been possible for me to find mine here, flowing with Brahma.
My friend’s contribution to our week of brahmacharya:
Goodbye, blue house of heaven.
Farewell, stars and celestial celebrities and your dramas on the screen of space.
Goodbye, flowers with your traps of beauty and fragrance. You can hold me no longer. I am flying home.
Adieu to the warm embrace of sunshine.
Farewell, cool soothing comforting breeze.
Goodbye, entertaining music to of man.
I stayed long reveling with all of you, dancing with my variously costumed thoughts, drinking the wine of my feelings and my mundane will. I have now forsaken the intoxications of delusion.
Goodbye, muscles, bones, and bodily motions.
Farewell, breath. I cast thee away from my breast.
Adieu, heart throbs, emotions, thoughts, and memories. I am flying home in the plane of silence. I go to feel my heart throb in Him.
I soar in the plane of consciousness above, beneath, on the left, on the right, within and without, everywhere, to find that in every nook of my space-home I have always been in the sacred presence of my Father.
From Metaphysical Meditations, by Paramhansa Yogananda, 1932 edition
Desire – wanting what we want when we want it, or striving for results – is a great contributor to stress. When we are caught up in it, it seems we only need to work harder to get the desired results. What if we actually need to do less? Less doing, less pushing, and instead, more letting go and being present? –Ellen Grace O’Brian