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Lessons Learned on a Spiritual Retreat

I recently completed a month long spiritual retreat in Cambodia, in which I learned how to slow down. As I have progressed on my path, I have accomplished many goals. I have gotten out of debt, sold a large home, prepared for a major career change, navigated a painful divorce, moved several times, etc. All in all my circumstances have improved. Despite this, I have had a hard to shifting gears and slowing down, now that it is an option. Doing this was the biggest overall lessons I learned on the spiritual retreat. To achieve this, I had to face a variety of fears and desires that persistently popped up and disturbed my kriya yoga. I was successful at doing this. This was not just a matter of long hours of meditation. Having completed the many worldly goals I mentioned certainly made it easier for to do this. It’s easier to let go of fears of failure, if you have already succeeded on many of your goals. It would have been impossible for me to let go of these fears, earlier in my path when I had many uncompleted goals and no idea how I would tackle them. Anyone considering an extended spiritual retreat like this, should do their best to get their life in order first.

If you are interested in many of the details of the retreat, such as how I spent my time there, where I was and some other general facts, please read my article “A Spiritual Retreat Benefits All“. I will not repeat those points here, instead I will go straight into describing the exact fears and desires that threatened my success at shifting gears to slow down and focus more inwardly. I will start with my fears.

Fears:

1. Insecurities and doubts about the validity of my spiritual path. These were the first to pop up. They were not new, I have noticed them just below the surface before, and they typically become amplified when I am visiting my Guru. This occurs because I have had expectations that he will make my life easier. If things aren’t happening as I had hoped, then I feel frustrated and doubtful. What is amazing is that I don’t even know I have these expectations, until something I had hidden hopes for doesn’t happen. The more burden I try to put on him, the more anger I feel and the more doubt I am flooded by at these times. This same pattern of expectations and feeling let down has happened with the first two times I visited him. With each visit, the doubts are less intense and less believable. This time, I quickly noticed what was happening, and found these fears melted in the spiritual presence that has been growing inside me.

2. Fear of letting go of my past lifestyle. This retreat marked a transitional time in my life. I had just let go of a lucrative, yet hectic job and the second apartment associated with it before the retreat. I was preparing to start a more spiritual, home-based job upon my return home. There were fears about whether I would have enough patients to feel useful about my work or whether I would be good enough to attract new patients. Fortunately I had been through a similar experience before. I have learned that if I work hard at being useful, and the create space in my life to be available, that space always gets filled in. This fear, also was easy to let go of.

3. Fear of rejection. My long time weakness has been that I am a people pleaser. I would always prefer to say something nice to someone and avoid a conflict, than say the truth. My spiritual path has brought this to the surface many times. I’ve improved substantially, but when a conflict causes a lot aggression inside of me, I usually fall back to people pleasing or just being silent. I know that if I speak up, there is a real risk I will become passive aggressive and react out on my inner aggression. Recently, however I have been able to sit with that aggression without letting it control my reactions. There has been an increased spiritual presence that helps me see through it all. Hans challenged my people pleasing weakness. I realized he was right, I was developing more clarity, so that even when I am triggered, I can see a neutral, truthful way to respond. It isn’t what people initially want to hear, but as I am getting better at delivering the message, I can see it gains me respect. This fear took me awhile to face. It came up during multiple days of meditation, but eventually it fell away and one day I could see it was totally irrational. I was ready to face it and now that I am, it has been liberating.

Desires:

1. Small worldly distractions. I had many desires pop up when I entered the more intense phases of meditation during this spiritual retreat. My mind wanted to obsess about food, socializing, exploring the island, working on the computer, unsolved work at home, etc. When this got out of hand, my Guru somehow could tell. Twice during the retreat he confronted me about not taking things seriously. I have never seen him preform any spiritual tricks, but with these confrontations, it was clear that he knew exactly what was on my mind, without me having given a single outward clue. His firm demeanor did the trick both times. My mind quickly went silent and I found myself easily maintaining hours of kriya yoga.

2. Desire for a female partner. This was a big one. Although I have always had a healthy attraction towards women, this desire had not been active much until lately. I suspect I have been overwhelmed with so many other drastic changes, that women were not on my mind. I also had a platonic female friend until about 6 months ago. I am sure that friendship fulfilled much of my need for a partner. Now that things have changed, my mind started to shift gears. I noticed this mainly near the end of the retreat. My mind had passed through all the fears and desires mentioned above, before it came to this last big one. It became clear to me that one of the major reasons I still felt a need to rush, was that I wanted to make sure I was spiritually mature enough, so as to be ready to recognize my soul mate if the chance to connect presented itself. Such a meeting is a once in a life time opportunity and it was a major reason for my intense efforts. I realized however, that many never meet their soul mate during lifetime, and there was no guarantee that was part of my God given path. I sat there in meditation pondering, could I still be happy if I never have a partner in this lifetime. Tension started to build. I started to feel frustration and anger towards God, Hans, myself and just about everything. I was having a mini-crisis. I knew I needed to forgive all, and I did so with a spiritual bowing practice. As I bowed, I felt a silent crying inside. Eventually there was a break in the tension, and I felt God’s presence. I laughed, because I could see that as long as God was present in my life, the details just didn’t matter. I still hope to qualify for a loving female partner, when I am fully free and grounded in God, but I also trust that God has got my back. If its not in the cards for me, I know he will provide me a meaningful life. At that moment, my commitment towards God Union was tested and proven. I could sincerely say, yes I work for God as my source of happiness first. I care for the rest of this physical world, but it always comes second to God.

When I completed the retreat, a burden had been released. In the past, whenever I would think of the list of things to do at home, a sense of urgency would come up. Now I was able to accept the thought of a whole lifetime of work and my mind body spirit all felt totally at ease. I noticed my attention now turned inward much easier than it ever had before. It didn’t come easily, but there was a surrendering of my worldly goals. Now I often feel that I have all the time in the world. My attention is turned inwards, not because it is lost and searching, but because there is a living, spiritual energy coming alive inside. My attention is finding something valuable, hidden deep inside. I am thankful for the lessons learned on this intense spiritual retreat in Cambodia.

God Bless

Cambodian Beach

Cambodian Beach

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