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Seclusion is the Price of Greatness
February 27th, 2013

I felt inspired to write the following article during my recent seclusion at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat in Northern California. I also felt to share my thoughts on seclusion after reading a beautiful book during my experience entitled, : The Joyful Art of Sharing Quality Time with God, by a dear friend and long time Ananda minister, Sudarshan Simpson. Unfortunately this wonderful handbook has not been published. However, having spoken to Sudarshan, he is willing to provide some of his extra copies if you’re interested. It is a wonderful guide for anyone who is new to seclusion or anyone who just wants to receive some inspiration. Now begins my story.

I was 18 years old at the time, studying Yoga Philosophy at Ananda’s College of Living Wisdom. It was located at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat, a place where many guests came for silence and seclusion. It was mid-January and all of the college students were away on vacation. I knew that the old timers at Ananda (the one’s who have lived the spiritual life for many years) spoke highly of seclusion and the importance of taking one week out of the year for this practice.

“What a perfect time to seclude!” I thought. “All the students are off on vacation, the weather is cool, there could be some quiet snowfall to encourage my withdrawal into my cabin, and my schedule allows me to take a whole week off!” I imagined myself meditating deeply in the girl’s dorm house, which I would have all to myself during my silent retreat. At the time, I was already meditating regularly (morning and evening) for about a year.I thought highly of those I knew of who had gained deep spiritual wisdom through many years of self-discipline. It was time I gave this seclusion thing a try!

meditation

I soon made arrangements with the college staff to take my seclusion in silence, undisturbed, and without meals. I figured I could buy my own groceries and cook on the single burner in the girl’s dorm, which was currently being used to heat tea water. To make a long story short, my week long seclusion lasted about an hour or two. First of all, the weather was the most gorgeous it had been all winter. The sun was shining so warm and bright that I had no desire to be inside all day! Secondly, my first meal was tomato soup from a can, which I stirred sadly on the tiny burner. I remember distinctly my melancholy filling the cabin as I drew my first spoon full of bland soup toward my lips, knowing that the others were enjoying a beautiful wholesome meal back at the main building. It was in that moment of tasting the soup that I knew this seclusion couldn’t last. Did I really have the guts to throw in the towel so soon after telling everyone I was going to be away for a week? Before making my final decision of defeat, I went to the dorm’s mini fridge to look for some kind of comfort.

“Did I plan this whole thing out well enough?” I stared shockingly at the few nuts, 2 boxes of rice milk, the cereal, and fruit that I had bought. “What was I thinking?!” Suddenly remembering it was choir night at Ananda Village, I ran to the school building to call a friend. I was dying to speak to someone after all of that silence! (A couple of hours). I explained to her why my seclusion was ending and I asked her to pick me up.

It turns out I ended up having a wonderfully uplifting night singing Swami Kriyananda‘s music. I felt so much better choosing not to force myself into something I obviously wasn’t ready for. Knowing the seclusion was behind me and that I didn’t have to judge myself for it was a huge relief.

“It is what it is…” I decided. “Some day I will I have a better experience.” The college staff was surprised to see me the next day, but I told them I didn’t feel like secluding after all. They didn’t make a big deal about it, thankfully.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

altar

Now let’s fast forward to about 4 months ago when my husband Kalidas said to me, “I think we should both schedule a time for seclusion this year.”

“Good idea.“ I said quietly while trying not to recall the memory of my first attempt at seclusion.

Catching on to my half-hearted reply he continued with enthusiasm, “I’m going to schedule my seclusion right now!” He whipped out his planner and started flipping through the next few months.

“Wow! He’s really serious.” I thought. When he said “this year” he actually meant in the next 3-4 months. It was mid September.

Locating an open space in his planner, he inquired, “How about we take a seclusion from November 14th to the 20th?” I thought about my teaching schedule at The Expanding Light for a moment and soon realized I had prior commitments.

“That’s not going to work. It’s the same week that Yoga Teacher Training ends and I will also be organizing a Restorative Yoga for Women Weekend.” I assured him that I definitely needed that time to prepare.

Kalidas, knowing of my past experience with seclusion and sensing my hesitancy to commit to a definite time, commented, “You were only eighteen years old back then…Do you know what a disaster it would have been if I had tried to seclude when I was eighteen?! What I mean to say is that I know that you have grown so much since then.” I was still inwardly worried that I wasn’t “deep” enough to take a seclusion. Not seeing much certainty in my face, Kalidas moved forward in his decision. He was not going to let it slip away as it had in the past.

medret

The day arrived when Kalidas was to leave for seclusion. I kept telling him how much I would miss him. This would be the first time in our relationship that we’d be physically separated for this long. He agreed that he would miss me too, but he also knew that a great blessing was awaiting him. The day he drove off into seclusion, I had a brief cry. I was insecure about how I would feel for the next 5 days. I wiped my tears and prayed for time to speed.

I felt lonely that night as I went to sleep but was happy to find my kitty snuggling up to me more than usual. I knew my guru would take care of me, even if it was through no other way than our cat’s love. I also found great comfort in praying for Kalidas’ experience to be blessed.

The next morning I awoke feeling strong and calm inside. I knew the next few days would be a blessing for me too. I had a blissful experience going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, doing chores in silence, going to work, and coming home to silence. I had great meditations and more time for sleep — two very important things for me.

When Kalidas arrived at the end of the week we were both surprised at how quickly the time had passed and how a couple more days would’ve been nice. (Maybe next year). After realizing that I did in fact enjoy the time alone the past few days, I was relieved and reassured that my own seclusion could be a sacred experience after all. As Kalidas told me of all the beauty and joy of his days at the meditation retreat, I too had a glimpse of the possibility of a successful seclusion. I prayed for guidance and blessings on my seclusion, which was due in a month.

Since we had this space in between Kalidas’ seclusion and my own, we had time to get back into our adventurous days of doing everything together. As you may imagine, I was attached once again to being with my best companion and when the time came for us to part, I didn’t really want to leave. Though on a deeper level I knew that seclusion was a deep blessing for us both and would just take some getting used to. It is an essential part of our path, and Yogananda says that “Seclusion is the price of greatness.”

bungalow

When Kalidas dropped me off at the Meditation Retreat (the same place I attempted to seclude 5 years ago), I held back my tears until he drove away. This time, as soon as the tears came and went, I felt a great blessing come over me and my retreat.I went to my room, which was a simple, yet uplifting bungalow cabin. I unpacked my things, sat down, and listened to the silence.Having been a regular meditator for 6 years now, my heart was thrilled by the depth of inner peace that awaited me. I think I was finally ready for this blessed experience.

I quietly arranged the essentials that I had brought: My harmonium for devotional chanting, special pictures of my Guru and the Masters for my altar, spiritually uplifting books and talks to listen to, and some healthy snacks. Other helpful gear was: A yoga mat, warm clothes, and a laptop for creative writing. Here are some things that I wrote:

Benefits of taking seclusion:

1. A relaxing and rejuvenating experience (more restful than any vacation I’ve taken, even to Hawaii).
2. An uplifting experience for body, mind and soul. There’s more time for yoga postures, meditation, affirmation, and tuning into God’s presence within and without.
3. Waking up slowly and in silence. You can sleep longer if you choose to by going to bed earlier or sleeping in. Either way, you can wake as you feel ready to and do so slowly knowing you have no where you have to be.
4. Practicing your spiritual devotions for as long as you’d like (Energizing, postures, chanting, meditation, all without any limit.)
5. Practicing Silence (a wonderful experience once you get used to it, and a great way to preserve energy.) You can talk to your Higher Self, or with God. Also walking in silence with God.
6. Eating in silence (allows you to pray before eating, consciously enjoy each bite with gratitude, and feel God digesting for you.)
7. More time to pray deeply for others– family, friends, those who are sick or struggling. Sending blessings to all those you love and praying for the healing of the whole planet.
8. Make New Year’s Resolutions (or if it’s not New Years, set some new goals for yourself.)
9. Begin cultivating these new habits now so that they have a dynamic foundation!

I am grateful to report that I received many priceless benefits from my first real seclusion. I was blessed to have two days alone before my guided group kriya yoga retreat began and one day after everyone left (all the while in silence.)

Thank you for reading my story. I hope you will try your own seclusion when the time feels right, and may it also be blessed with the peace and joy of the masters!

 

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24 Responses

  1. Malavika says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience, I found it inspiring and encouraging . Aum

  2. Pati Foster says:

    I love reading true stories of life experiences! Melody, you did a great job humbly portraying a younster yogi in the process of growing and maturing into a courageous and confident woman of God. Your story has inspired me to consider trying a seclusion too. I’m just a beginner at meditation, but I have a deep hunger to surround myself with the stillness of God’s direction and peace. I am grateful to you for sharing your life, and how God’s Grace has blessed you. I look forward to reading more of your blogs. I love you, Mamaji
    PS: Loved the Tomatoe Soup part!!

    • Vinny says:

      Thanks for sharing, Melody! I’ll be taking my first seclusion (actually a semi-guided seclusion with a big group from the Palo Alto Community) during the first half of inner renewal week coming up in a couple days.

      I find your experiences very helpful in gaining an idea of how to maximize the benefits of seclusion and how to be open to the Divine Blessings that await. :)

  3. Steven says:

    Thank you for sharing Melody!

  4. paula jones says:

    I was interested in your story of seclusion very much. Thanks! Joy and Peace, Paula

  5. Jonah says:

    Hi Mel, Thanks for sharing this story, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s had challenges during seclusion. I had a very similar experience on my first time staying at hidden valley. I arrived there on a Saturday, and I was informed that Saturday and Sunday we’re spent in seclusion and silence by all the ashram residents. As I went to my room and finished unpacking my stuff, I was confronted with a feeling of emptiness and sadness. For the first time in my life, I had nothing to keep me busy or entertain me. Unlike your situation, I had no choice but to stay and deal with it. Over the next 2 days the sadness came and went. I remember during the 3 hr meditation, tears were running down my face but I just stayed and gave myself into masters hands. On the Monday, the seclusion was over and the work exchange program began and I was meeting lots of people and having a wonderful time. By the end of the 2 weeks at the ashram I was happier than I had ever been, and I didn’t want to leave. A few years later I returned back for another retreat and on arriving I had the same feeling of sadness come over me. But this time I decided that I won’t give in to sadness. I realized that it was my choice how I wanted to feel and I chose to feel happy and peaceful and with God. I saw that my whole life I was keeping my self busy and happy through outer things but when I went into seclusion there was nothing and no one to keep me happy but myself and God. So I was forced to depend on God and my soul to fill the emptiness, and I was filled with a greater joy then I had ever experienced. I realized that God gives us these experiences of sadness or fear in order to help us strengthen our minds and souls and see that we are in control of how we want to feel, and that we can choose to attune ourselves to God’s perfect peace, love and joy. Thanks for sharing your story, and inspiring me to share mine. Love and Blessings

  6. Yvette West says:

    I have really enjoyed reading the story you have shared. Furthermore, I especially wish to commend you for these specific observant nine points. It makes complete sense to me that we should begin our devotion to God in silence before sleep and upon waking. talking to our Higher Self or God purifies our heart. When we are pure of heart we can hear God inviting us to accept this divine state of grace, this conversation with God that is right here in the holy spot right in the silence of your room. I often have the blessing of opening my window when I am in silence so that i can hear the tranquil rhythm of raindrops which can lead me into a peaceful retreat. I too wish to all to try your own seclusion time when the time feels right. I believe that your sincere efforts will bring great peace and joy from the heavenly realm. I have received many confirmations that a restless mind is a scattered mind and will attract scattered thoughts of others. But, a kindly thought is found in silence. It is a magnet to the hearts of men. It is the food of the spirit. It clothes the words with meaning. It is a fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding. I thank you for sharing the benefits of experiencing mind, body and soul union when meditating. Joy really does give us wings!!!

  7. MarilynRose Utovac says:

    Thank you for your honest sharing about your process of
    seclusion. I am craving that deep time away and hope to make that happen soon.

    I am interested in receiving a copy of Sadarshan’s book.
    Blessings,
    Marilyn Rose

  8. Sudarshan Simpson says:

    Wonderful story. Thank you!

  9. Jerry Champagne says:

    Thank you so very much Melody for this inspiring story. I have been thinking (for many years now) about spending some time in seclusion but nothing yet. I would be interested in getting a copy of Sudarshan’s book if that is possible.

    • Melody says:

      Hi Jerry,

      Sudarshan would be happy to speak with you about receiving his book. Why don’t you send me an email. It’s written in Mariyn’s comment above.

      Blessings to you

  10. Gopal says:

    Outstanding! I find my self inspired to take a seclusion as soon as possible, I remember the sound of silence when I took my last seclusion. It was divine.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Kingslee says:

    Thanks for sharing.. I would very much appreciate if you can post the book, The Joyful Art of Sharing Quality Time with God, on the internet for the benefit of those who cannot receive a copy. If it is not possible, may I request a pdf copy of the book.
    Many thanks and have a good day..

  12. Jabari says:

    Thank you for sharing this great story sis.

  13. Virani says:

    Melody, what a wonderful and inspiring story you so sweetly shared! It will bless everyone who reads it. I certainly felt blessed when I read it, and I am even more inspired to figure out how to get back to a regular schedule of seclusion.

  14. Clarity says:

    Thank you for the truthful and dear account. I recently came out of a two days silent seclusion and though it could have been much longer, I was amazed to how much deep inward changes had transpired in that short but precious time alone with the Masters. Jai to you sisterji

  15. kamini says:

    Dear Melody,

    Thankyou for sharing your inspiring experience.

    Joy to ytou,

    Kamini

  16. Dhyana says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience — I too have had opportunities for seclusion and have shyed away. I guess my fear was “What if I fail?” Reading about your experience and about the lovely, peaceful rythm of your days in seclusion — has given me the inspiration and dare I say “courage” to give it a go — I even have the perfect opportunity — a friend has offered her lakeside home to me while she is away for a week this summer. Also, the list of benefits you gave has gone a long way in dispelling some previously held “beliefs” I held about seclusion — an unquestioned “story” I was carrying around has been brought to light and has now vanished….

    Gratitude, blessings and joy2u, Dhyana (Ananda Maine/NH)

    PS I just noticed that your blog post was dated Feb 27th — that’s my birthday! Ahhh, Divine Mother… <3

  17. Mark Breckenridge says:

    Thank you so much Melody.. I am inspired to find the time.. Even a day, just to get away and find my inner silence again. Aum!

  18. maillot de foot pas cher 2013 says:

    Good day! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thanks for your time!

 

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