Finding God in the Mountains


Hi, I have a few Q's: 1) Do you know of any yogis who live in the Sierra Nevada mountains themselves (like how Yogis in India live in/around the Himalayas)? Is it possible to live in a cabin alone there?

2) In the US are there major spiritual festivals --vnot small ones, but a large one like a 'Kumbha Mela?' If thousands of people gather for 'Coachella,' why not one for God?

—Rush, USA


Dear Rush,

As one who has had the privilege, challenge, and blessings of visiting the Himalayas several times in my life, I have wondered the same questions myself. While one imagines surely there are yogis in the Sierra Nevada, there is no continuous tradition and conscious social awareness of this. I think of John Muir: a great yogi (and lover of the Sierras) surely, it would seem! I have two friends living in the Sierras who a few years ago happened upon a reclusive saintly soul in the southern Sierras. So, yes, of course, there must be SOME! Ananda Village near Nevada City has an entire collection of such souls.

Is it possible to find a cabin? Yes, and, well, not easily. My sister-in-law’s parents once had a cabin up in Graniteville, miles beyond and above Ananda Village. Though located along the unpaved street of a tiny, tiny former gold rush town, it would have been ideal. You’d be better off in Arkansas, Missouri, or other such states where small hamlets and cabins are all but abandoned rather than in California where real estate is prized and expensive. You’d have to roam far and wide and befriend many people before achieving success.

The USA has no history of melas — large gatherings of devotees from diverse traditions together with spiritual teachers, leaders, and renunciates. Some individual churches have such convocations but not otherwise.

Friend, the temptation to live alone in the proverbial cabin in the woods is not an unknown ideal. To do so here in one’s own country is far easier than to traipse off to the Himalayas. Is this a pipe dream? Probably. The problem with caves and cabins is that “old fellow” YOU is there, too. Rambling thoughts, fantasies, fears, and desires are one’s own, personal demons. They follow you wherever you go. Are you not alone when you meditate at home right now? Satsang (the company of saints and fellow seekers) is a far safer “cabin” for spiritual awakening than the “cave” of the subconscious mind.

Besides, we don’t achieve soul-awakening by self-effort alone but by the combination of effort with the grace of God and guru. Not “my will,” but “thy will be done.” God can come to you in a high rise apartment, in a crowded city, on the factory floor, or in the jostling crowds on a city street. Let your non-stop attention on God alone be your Himalayan cave, focused at the point between the eyebrows.

Then, in addition to this, seek the refuge, the company of saints, by periodic retreats to holy places and among the holy presence of other devotees. The Expanding Light Retreat (located at Ananda Village, CA) and its companion seclusion retreat (Ananda Meditation Retreat, six miles away on a remote hilltop) are sacred places for soul refreshment.

May your search for enlightenment be guided by the polestar of true, divine guidance!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA