Devi and I just finished a week of seclusion at a private retreat house atop Abbott Mount, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Ever-present in the distance is Nanda Devi, a mountain that many in India believe to be a living goddess. In this rarefied air, one feels the blessing of God and the Masters to be palpable.
Seclusion is a very important part of the spiritual search. In his Praecepta Lessons, Paramhansa Yogananda wrote:
Always remember that seclusion is the price of greatness. In this tremendously busy life, unless you are by yourself, you can never succeed. Never, never, never. Walk in silence; go quietly; develop spiritually. We should not allow noise and sensory activities to ruin the ladder of our attention, because we are listening for the footsteps of God to come into our Temple.
There is a lovely chant whose words are: Time alone, in quiet, allows the mind to disengage from the world of maya, which otherwise entangles and entrances our consciousness. More importantly, it helps you to feel the reality of the spiritual teachings. Too often, our efforts and our devotions are scattered, like sparkles of light on a breeze-ruffled pond.
Thou art my life. Thou art my love. Thou are the sweetness which I do seek.
In the thought by my love brought I taste Thy name, so sweet, so sweet.
Devotee knows how sweet You are. He knows, whom You let know.
Most of the time, amidst our busy lives, words to a chant such as this are repeated halfheartedly or in a distracted state, and are little more than hopeful affirmations. During seclusion, when my life really was given wholly to God, if only for a week, it was as if these words became living, emerging from the printed page and throbbing in my heart, my mind, my very breath.
Here are a few of the benefits I felt during the seclusion:
* My mind disengaged from activity and became quiet. * Meditation was much easier, deeper, and more attractive. * My heart turned almost constantly toward devotion. * The presence of the Gurus felt very real. * After a couple of days, the duties and problems of daily life faded into a misty distance. * New insights, often very subtle, came unbidden. * I deeply felt the sweetness, love, and constant blessing of God and our Masters.
Can everyone take a week of seclusion in the Himalayas where Babaji lives? No, of course not. But everyone can find a way to get away from the turmoil of life, to be silent and alone for a few days, at least. The memory and benefits of even a little of this practice will sustain you for long months as you trod through the hills and valleys of daily life.