Retreat notes: Satsang/yoga retreat
16 Feb 2013 12:36 #9207
I thought this might interest some of you (cross posted at salomesrevenge.com):
Went on a short retreat run by a friend last week (teacher was Marco Schulz: www.simplesmenteyoga.com.br/ (in Portuguese)). He's a bit like a more passionate Adyashanti in style (he studied in California for ten years, which is where he picked up some of his style and mixing of traditions, I think). I resonate with his heart-felt enthusiasm and thought his teachings were very good. The audience was a mix of beginners and more advanced yogis, most (but not all) from a similar practice background. Some people had never done any kind of spiritual practice at all.
It was "devotional yoga" in style, with a multi-traditional openness (I met Marco at a Christian retreat last year, and he mixes teachings from Christianity and Buddhism with a base of Hinduism). On retreat the practices ranged from singing/mantras to silent sitting to physical yoga. It was enjoyable, if not exactly my thing, but he had a lot of good pointers to offer which I made some notes on. A couple of tidbits from his talks:
If you are singing mantra, instead of being sung with/by mantra, then the ego has stepped in.
One fasts so that one never again eats without being grateful, so that one never again sees a person who doesn't have enough without feeling compassion.
"Discipline" is only a burden when seen as something imposed from outside. But what is outside? What is inside? It's a false dichotomy. When that is recognized, "discipline" is not needed to motivate action.
"Yes, yes, yes!" - embrace everything, include everything. Always. Utter acceptance of whatever comes, facing everything with an open heart: this is freedom. Freedom is not avoiding things, but stepping right into it. Freedom is not "I get to choose what I want". A "saint" is an expression of neverending "yes".
Hold gratitude in every moment. Avoid nothing. Shine the light on everything. Seize each day, each moment, and investigate. Don't wait for your guru to do it for you, or a deity to give it to you. Ask, seek, open, embrace. Throw your heart out there.
Religion is a comportment, a practice. It's never a religion if it's a "belief" - it must be lived. People say "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" as if religion is bad, associated with corrupt institutions or blind beliefs. But this is absurd. Lived spirituality is what religion really is. It's about rising to your calling, not living up to some expectations of your parents, self or culture.
Charity that feeds the ego is not charity ("oh, look, I made him feel better"). It must be unconditional. Simply doing what must be done, from the heart - that is true charity. Hold your discomfort in your heart at that moment when a beggar is standing in front of you. Don't just hand him a dollar and feel good/bad. Feel that moment of discomfort. See him as your own son or brother. Then do what feels right.
Take full responsibility. Guilt cannot survive if you act with heart-felt authenticity. Take responsibility for every moment. Do not walk away from discomfort.
Don't think that this retreat is superior to being out partying for carnival. If you think that, then next year I require you to go to carnival instead, and really go for it, drink, party, do it all. Don't make this retreat about feeling superior or separate from others.
Awakening is fully available to the householder. All of your life is there for you to investigate. Change your relationship with real life right now, right here. Do everything in the name of God.
Think about this image: you throw a rock at a window. It shatters. But what if the rock hits a curtain - then it is caught, and falls gently to the ground. And what if the window is open? Then the rock just passes through. There is no effect at all. The development of awakening is like that. Gradually the window opens, the curtain is drawn back, and the things that used to hurt us no longer cause so much pain. When the resistance to experience (glass, curtain) vanishes, then there is no reaction. (This one may have been from a second teacher who gave a talk - Jean-Yves Leloup, a French mystic.)
Can anyone truly be happy or free if any other sentient being is not? Doesn't our interconnection prevent that? In everything you do feel the connection that orients you to wholeness.
Embrace life as it is instead of pursuing what you think it should be.
"Practice" is not about doing 30 minutes of mantra or meditation. It's not about technique. It's about having a fully engaged, conscious life: look, feel, hear, breathe! There's no use in doing endless retreats and piles of reading but never engaging. Monday morning you go back to your habits. There is no technique or training that will fix your life. This is your life. This is your entire life right now, right here. Open your heart and embrace it with utter love.
Waking up is nothing to be proud of. It is a humility. A "Yes, yes, yes!". All of us have the complete potential to open our eyes, hearts and hands, to take this life we have and be fully with it. The sense of connection, gratitude, safety that you feel here on this retreat - the whole world is your sangha. Take that sense with you, always.