Q&A with a Yogi
Sat Nam, Yogi Ji.
Can you tell us why we need spiritual retreats? Why would an ordinary person go on a yatra?
In today’s world, we spend a lot of time in the head. When we do not experience life from the heart, we cannot experience life in its totality. At the blink of an eye, one thousand thoughts bombard us and crowd us. These thoughts do not allow us to experience the moment as it is. This moment which is coming is full and complete, but we do not experience the moment in its completeness because of the veil of the mind. The mind is an illusion. In the head, we cannot experience the moment as complete because of the veil of the mind.
But when we gather together with the intention of embarking on a journey as spiritual beings, we are gathering in Sangha, or Sangat. Our collective seeking energy is an expression of devotion. We visit places where awakened ones have sat; we walk paths upon which awakened ones have walked. These spaces still vibrate the high frequencies, still ring with the imprint these awakened ones left for us. Such empowered places help us to come out of head and go into the heart so that we hear the drum of Shiva. Without this drum, there would be no existence. Once you experience the drum of Shiva in a sacred space, your life synchronizes with the energy and rhythmic of the heart beat rather than thought patterns. If you spend too much time thinking and worrying, and you want spend more time feeling inspired, compassionate, and heart-centered, you must go on a yatra.
Many people want to be part of such retreats but don’t know what happens on such retreats. On a retreat or yatra, what kind of things does one go through to transform and to reach truth?
We play with the elements. The entire existence is the play of five elements. Yogic writings state, “Oh wise beings, know that the entire creation outside of you and inside of you is the play of the five elements.” In these retreats, we work through the elements.
For example, we work with the Earth element. We experience certain rituals to bring death to the psychological and historical self. We directly confront the truth that a time will come when the body and the psychological self will not be. We practice a Grave Meditation. We dig graves. Seekers go into these graves and meditate on the impermanence of existence. We concentrate on Atma, the true Self which does not come and does not go but always is. When we confront experience in this way, we negate our small self to spend quality time with the deathless Atma.
Another practice is that we go into dark retreat, to enter primordial womb – it’s called Hiranyagarbha. In the Hiranyagarbha, you and I were one. There is no two. When we go into darkness, we experience the primal womb.
We explore teachings that involve using the water and fire elements. We learn to become silent, to be observant of the subtle layers of consciousness where we can engage the realm of Akash. In short, we work with the panj bhutas, the five elements. Shakaracharya realized, “I am not the five elements. I am not Earth, fire, air, water, or ether.” Ultimately, we eliminate all the panch koshas to experience true being. On these retreats, if we get even a small glimpse of that, it is beautiful and healing.
Not everyone is lucky enough to find a master or go on these retreats. What is your message to people who are struggling to seek truth?
Here is a simple and practical meditation that can help you to break your repetitive thought patterns and help you feel what it means to be established in consciousness. Every day, spend one hour in darkness. Place an eye mask over your eyes and sit in a dark, silent space. At first, concentrate on that darkness that comes behind the eyelids. Then open the eyes and look at darkness when eyelids are open. We are told that we see because of the way light enters the eyes. In the dark we have a chance to contemplate this: Who is seeing when sight is not there? We want to try to catch hold of that which is seeing when sight is not there. To catch hold of this is true seeing, this Sakshi will help you break your repetitive thought patterns. You will become aware of your consciousness. It is a simple technique. However, if it is done sincerely then what the Buddha attained under the Bodhi tree, you can attain under the roof of your own home.
Yogi Amandeep leads yatras in India, find out more here.