I just took my very first seclusion. What is seclusion, you might ask? Seclusion was strongly recommended by my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, as a means for deepening your inner communion with the Divine. Seclusion means as it sounds – secluding. Going into silence, alone and spending time deepening your inner spiritual life through meditation, contemplation and supportive yoga practices. Yogananda recommended a week-long seclusion at least each year and, if possible, one day every week dedicated to silence and meditation. He has been quoted as saying, many times, “Seclusion is the price of greatness.”
So, why did it take me 13 years to get around to taking a seclusion? I was terrified to seclude, and then I became a mom and thought I couldn’t.
First, to address being terrified…that could happen to anyone, not just moms. In fact, I was afraid of seclusion because of my strong tendencies towards laziness, when left to my own devices. I spent free time in my 20’s watching oodles of Top Chef, eating popcorn and chocolate, meditating the minimum needed to feel good and sleeping. The worst grades I ever got happened the semester in college that I didn’t try to hold down a job with full-time school. I learned right away that I had to keep myself busy if I wanted to be successful in life.
My 30’s rolled around and I got quite a bit better. I learned to exercise and my meditations got longer and deeper, but I still feared that I’d morph into a sloth if I were alone in the woods.
Then motherhood arrived. “There’s no way I can seclude now!” I was certain. I concocted one scheme to do daytime seclusion, returning to baby at evening time. That could have worked, but I never got around to it.
Then I got pregnant, again. “This is it,” I thought, “now seclusion is truly impossible!”
Pregnancy is hard on my meditations. I learned that the first time and it’s true again. Something about having another human inside me makes me restless. And hungry. And tired. And emotional.
I realized one day, after picking another pointless fight with my husband and being impatient with my adorable toddler, I have to seclude. I need a time out. I need inspiration and balance.
I decided to leave the house after my morning snuggle and nursing session with my toddler. I’d rent a cabin at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat up the road and spend all day, all night and half the next day there in seclusion. It’s not much, just 36 hours, but it’s a start. My ever-supportive husband happily agreed to my scheme.
I can’t even begin to describe the bliss I found in seclusion, even for that brief time. All my fears melted away and I proved to myself that I have will power, discipline and, most of all, enough devotion to my practice to over-ride even the most reasonable internal argument that I deserve to sleep the whole 36 hours since I’m a pregnant mom.
A few tips that helped me:
1. Do not bring your smart phone. Seriously. What about in case of emergency? What if I need the flashlight feature? What about photos? What about inspirational music? Forget it. You have your whole life to fill with that stuff. In an emergency, come up with an alternate way to reach you. Use an actual flashlight. Don’t take pictures, this world has enough pictures of altars on Instagram. Bring your harmonium to chant, don’t rely on the music of others. So much noise bombards our lives, enjoy the silence.
2. Pack great, healthy food in abundance. As a pregnant, lactating mom, running out of food, or even just running out of the kind of food I want to eat, can be horrifying. I brought watermelon, cottage cheese, raw milk, apples and well thought through prepared meals. It was perfect. For all those non-pregnant people secluding, you probably want to stick with light foods or even fasting, but not us moms.
3. Bring your journal, an inspirational book, meditation and yoga gear and maybe some art supplies. That’s it. Nothing that could tempt you to do anything else. This was my secret weapon…nothing. Having nothing to do except things that I knew would make me feel really good. No movies (not even inspiring ones), no music except what I can play myself, no photos of loved ones who I would be missing at home..nothing.
4. Use smoothie or milk or some other light, filling substance to support meditation. For mamas, we can get hungry and it can turn our meditations into daydreams about our next meal. I found a few gulps of raw milk all I needed to get back to the business of meditation without great interruption
I really had no idea how much of my restlessness was attributable to the noise of my life. Silence was probably the most powerful tool to deepen my meditations. That and a real break from screen time.
I enjoyed blissful chanting, asana, hiking and, most of all, hours of meditation. Those meditations were often broken briefly by sips of milk or stretching a little to stay comfortable, but they were still much deeper than anything I’d experienced since I got pregnant the first time and became a mom.The blessings of seclusion are with me now. I feel rejuvenated and able to face my sweet, wonderful family with energy and patience and love. I cannot recommend it more to the moms of the world. I know you think it’s impossible. I know you think it’s even selfish. But, I believe there isn’t a sweeter gift to give your family. At least, that’s how it’s been for me.
May you all feel the deep blessings of inner communion every day of your lives!