Sadhak Empowerment RetreatOctober 12, 2011
“This has been the single most incredible event in my entire life,” declared Dia at the end of the most recent, monumentally moving, and life-changing Sat Yoga retreat. As the name implies, the “Sadhak Empowerment Retreat” was geared to give students en route to, or even considering, becoming fully vowed Sat Yoga disciples a chance to gather and focus their energies on the greatest question that one may face during any given lifetime: “Am I ready to dedicate my life fully to the realization of who I am, here and now?”
The retreat commenced on September 23 with yogis gathering at the holy hill of Arunachala for a week-long intensive, to be immersed in the practice of spiritual discipleship, community bonding, and pure Being. “The key to discipleship does not lie in some sort of radical asceticism, engrained in the cultural imagination as the image of the emaciated sadhu sitting alone in a cave somewhere, but in the simple practice of staying present, of remembering at all times who one is, of not falling back into identification with the imaginary ego, but rather staying in constant and ceaseless prayer, which may seem to an outsider to be an insurmountable feat, but which to the practitioner blossoms as an act of joy and surrender—an expression of pure vivacity if there ever was one,” gleaned another student from his experience at the retreat.
The gathering was peppered with opportunities for long, undisturbed meditations, allowing participants to discover that the true spice of life lies within. But even when there were no formal meditations being held, there was a subtle air of peace and serenity. “It is rare that we have the opportunity to experience continued peace and solitude within a community and when we do, it is greatly treasured. I was touched by the light which emanates from Arunachala, increasing day by day, and when I left, my heart was full,” Gita commented.
One of the most powerful experiences for many was a meditation walk in which participants were encouraged to take as much time as possible to be in full presence and awareness at every step of Arunachala’s lush, tropical environment. Meditators took 45 minutes to walk an approximately five minute long trail, but did so in such a state of reverence that it inspired writing, memories, and deep feelings that will last a lifetime.
Saraswati gushed with joy on her experience of the retreat: “The seven nights and eight days spent at the Sadhak Empowerment Retreat were, for me, some of the most transformational and deeply felt ‘imperiences’ and ‘sumeriences’ of my life. The internal shifting and melting away of obstacles on the spiritual path such as judgmental voices, doubt, fear, feelings of inadequacy and in general the compulsion to repeat negative and self-defeating patterns was accelerated by the palpable group energy field that was directed towards ascendance, the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Arunachala and, especially, Shunyamurti’s permeating spiritual presence, love and wisdom that was suffused into all aspects of the retreat. In my life, this event achieved its objective…to empower a seeker on the Sat Yoga path to open her heart and mind to her soul’s desire: becoming a sadhak!”
For some, the experience of the ashram was an uncanny feeling of returning home and of being with family. “The most important thing in this retreat for me was realizing that the ashram is not just a place I visit but a real home. I think that it was during the creative writing class that I realized I was not only among friends but among family,” remarked Rob in gratitude. The experience of others, who bear no biological ties to us, as family, is an unbelievably beautiful experience, which gives one the understanding that the whole world is our family; that we are all One. And the biological family is just practice for the spiritual family, as Shunyamurti reminds us.
The wise teachings of Shunyamurti were offered throughout this retreat, meeting the needs of aspirants, blowing away the clouds of Maya, and creating a sattvic atmosphere of intellectual and practical delight. Shunyamurti started by asking the pravartaks and pre-pravartaks what they wanted to be rid of by the end of the retreat. It was a great teaching in dharma combat, with Shunyamurti disarming and debunking the negative behaviors/thought patterns that keep people trapped in the throes of Maya, such as anger, attachment, covetousness, judgment, worry, doubt, the need for control, as well as the full egoic panoply of other self-defeating, false presuppositions people make about the nature of reality and themselves.
There were many other beautiful and clarifying teachings throughout the week, ranging from the true meaning of karma yoga and seva, the “seven stages of Satananda,” an in-depth look at the yamas and niyamas (the traditional yogic vows), the ineptitude of Western science and philosophy due to the exclusion of the primal concept of Sat, as well as many others. During and after these teachings, the opportunity was always given to air any doubt or to have any question answered, which inspired and reinvigorated not only the questioner, but all who were listening. In one particular instance, when speaking of the transition now occurring from Kali Yuga to Sat Yuga, Shunyamurti explained, “We have to face the horror of the lack of love in order to pay back all our acts of non-love from previous lifetimes, to become so loving that we have the power to change the world.”
The experience of non-love is nearly a ubiquitous component of modern Western industrial society, in which the solutions to life’s problems have become mass produced kitsch and our most important values have been made subservient to global capitalism’s only god: profit. There is no one person who has not been affected by this. But, as civil rights biographer John D’Emilio reminds us, “The most important stories from the past are often those that have been forgotten, and from obscure origins can emerge in individuals with the power to change the world.” Equally, the most important stories of today are being largely ignored or overlooked, as the shoots of Sat Yuga reemerge, and in the unlikeliest of places, certain individuals, becoming empowered by their practice every day, are cultivating the qualities necessary to change the world.
A Sat Yoga retreat, then, is alchemy: turning the lead of the ego, the sting of non-love that we have all experienced, into the gold of the Real Self: the universal love that is the wisdom of recognizing that all is One, and you are That. And, as Shunyamurti always reminds us, the poison is converted into potent medicine, and the more lead you have, the more riches you will be able to share with the rest of the world when it is transformed into gold.
We hope you share in the riches and join us for our next retreat.