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Insights from a snowy meditation retreat – part 2

This is part two.
To read part one, click here.

On new years eve we had a special meditation session scheduled for midnight, so we had a long break earlier in the evening to rest.
Walking out of the yoga center towards my guest house, i felt colder than i felt in my entire life.
I was wearing most of my warm cloths, but was still feeling cold, and the parts of my face that were exposed to the air felt like they were actually freezing. The snot in my nose nearly froze. I hardly had sensation in my hands or feet. I was slightly shivering although i was in movement.
After arriving safely at the guest house, I took a warm shower to defrost and laid to rest.
After a few hours i headed back to the yoga hall, wearing even more cloths. Actually I was wearing most of the cloths I had, which isn’t much considering I travel the world with less than 15kg of luggage.
I guessed that it was around -15, but later found out it was somewhere between -22 and -25.

So here I was, walking alone in the middle of the night through snow-covered streets at -22, to attend a meditation session.
Nobody was forcing me to do it.
So why was I doing it?

That question turned out to be one of the many important realizations I had during and after this retreat.
I realized that what motivates me to travel to other countries, to sit for days in meditation retreat, and to walk through freezing streets was my strong and consistent aspiration. I had felt this longing also felt in past retreats but this time it was stronger than ever.

I guess that in the past I was fighting or denying this longing because I thought that if I acknowledge it, I would have to give up everything I’m interested in and passionate about, as well as my material, sexual and sensual life. I was afraid that I would become an orthodox Jew with black cloths, a long beard and 23 children. (Read more about my challenges with spirituality, and the process I went thought while writing this piece here).

Furthermore, I tried but couldn’t understand this longing.
What was I longing for? And why?

But in this retreat I finally accepted and embraced this longing, and I let go of the need to understand, explain or justify it to myself or others.

As Sahajananda expressed, “The longing you feel is the answer to your prayers”.

“The longing you feel is the answer to your prayers”~Sahajananda

I realized that what I was longing for and what I was afraid of were the same thing. So I decided to let go of the fear and embrace the longing.

“What you long for and what you’re afraid of are one” ~Eyal

I realized that not expressing my spiritual side and not doing spiritual practice, mainly meditation, is actually causing me suffering.

I also got reminded that I have a deep yearning to express, create, write, coach, facilitate, and share my experiences and realizations with others.
Both the spiritual yearning and the creative yearning support each other and are aspects of the same thing – the longing to go beyond myself, my ego and personality.

Other realizations:

I realized that all my stress before the retreat was caused by my mind, by trying to understand, plan and control.
I realized that daily meditation sessions are not a chore but rather the one thing that keeps me relaxed, happy, and better able to do all the things I’m passionate about.

I realized that even positive thoughts bring a fake kind of joy, while the awareness of the present moment brings a small but very real sense of joy.

“Trying to relax by thinking happy thoughts is like trying to stay sober by having a drink” ~Eyal

I realized that these retreat are one of the best things I could do for myself. A real vacation. A vacation from my mind. A vacation for my mind.

Although my meditations were sometimes shallow and i was still thinking, nodding or actually falling asleep, I was relieved and inspired by a quote by Thomas Merton, who said: “The attempt to meditate counts as a meditation.”

“The attempt to meditate counts as a meditation.”~Thomas Merton

Sahajananda said something similar: “It’s better to have a bad 1 hour meditation than a bad 10 minutes meditation”.
It’s not just the intention that counts, but the actual action, be it “successful” or not.

I realized that I don’t need to plan or at least I don’t need to keep thinking about my plans. When the right moment comes, the very next step becomes clear. This is already bringing me much more peace, relaxation, and more focus on whatever I’m doing.

I realized that I often try to change things, situations and people, and that brings suffering to me and to them. Acceptance creates peace, connection, and love.

At the end of the retreat, on the evening of the 10th day, we did a final meditation, the retreat was officially over, and there was a group sharing session, followed by a communal dinner. Although everyone was talking, i stayed in silence that evening and during the next 2 days.

If you received my private coaching, attended my workshops, or saw me in public, you would know that I’m a very talkative person, and I’m usually in the center of the action, expressing my opinions and affecting how things are going.

However, being in public but staying in silence, a practice I’ve been following for many years, teaches me how to let go of my ego and opinions, enjoy other’s expressions, and delight in the state of being.

Before the retreat had started, I desperately needed to speak privately with my teacher, to share my dilemmas with him and receive his reflection and guidance.
But when the retreat finished and I was still in silence, I didn’t need that anymore. The ideas and practices he shared with me during this and the previous retreats allowed me to find guidance within.

The next day we went hiking in the snow to the top of a nearby hill. I was still in silence.
That was yet another highlight of the retreat. Walking with new and old friends in nature, accompanied by happy dogs, through a snow-covered landscape, through a small forest, and then rolling down the hill like a child. I got covered in snow. It was amazing.

(Read more below the photos)

Sahajananda with Eyal in the snow Sahajananda with friend in the snow Kamala yoga center, Romania Hill above Kamala center, Panorama (click to see full screen panorama) Hill above Kamala center

Eyal covered in snow, Romania 2015

During the next few days I caught up on work, spent 5 days alone in that dark room, and then had another kind of retreat that was very meaningful.
More on that – soon.

It’s been 3 weeks since that retreat ended, and I still feel the truth, depth and importance of these realizations. I’ve been meditating nearly every day and even when I was feeling less motivated or even a bit “down”, I managed to witness it, avoid judging myself for being human, and pull myself together.

I am happier than ever to be who I am, where I am, and walking this spiritual path.

To know more about the Hridaya school, read articles, watch videos and attend a retreat somewhere around the world, click here.

And to inquire about joining a meditation retreat or doing your own solitary retreat in the Kamala yoga center in Romania, click here.

This article took me a few weeks to write.
To know more about the long and challenging process i went through, check out “Why is it so hard to admit that i’m…”.

What comes up for you when you read about my experiences?
Let me know.