More about Aloneness
The practice of \’aloneness\’ we discussed in the last part should not be confused for introverted-ness or narcissism. Sometimes people who encounter bad relationships or unsatisfying life situations may take \’aloneness\’ as the solution but that is not what I am trying to convey. By \’aloneness\’ what is meant is something much more profound. The ability to enjoy one\’s own company at a deeper level due to an inner recognition of one\’s true nature. In these quiet moments, one develops love and compassion for everyone rather than a ‘to hell with them’ attitude.
This is why many people suffer from what I call \’post-retreat syndrome.\’ An individual attends a ten-day spiritual retreat and basks in yoga, bhajans, and meditation in a pristine natural environment, and then comes back to his monotonous apartment and workplace. Suddenly life seems even more desolate. This is due to equating a spiritual retreat to a vacation in the Caribbean. Vacations are great but they are mainly meant for relaxation and de-stressing. A spiritual retreat or practice is meant to take you closer to your real self which is pure and free of all suffering. ‘Aloneness’ here really means to spend some quiet moments abiding as your true nature by emptying every concept and idea and just ‘being.’ It may appear boring at first but in that practice lies the golden keys to your freedom and inner transformation.
Beware of the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’
The ‘dark night of the soul’ is a phase of deep crisis in the spiritual path mentioned in Christian teachings. It is said that everyone enthusiastically pursuing the spiritual path will eventually encounter this at some point. It is an extremely despondent phase where one loses all hope of spiritual progress and starts doubting everything one read and learned. The ‘dark night’ is easier to manage if one has a guru to provide guidance OR if one has been meditating regularly. The intellect is pretty helpless in addressing this.
The ‘dark night’ is actually a purgative process like vomiting is for a stomach upset. If you ever encounter it, welcome it and do not blame yourself. Intensive meditation is needed to get through this phase. Non-judgmentally looking at the mental landscape during the phase of ‘dark night’ helps to dissolve it eventually. In the Hindu tradition, the great institution of satsangh helps to get through the ‘dark night.’ Satsangh traditionally is to be in the company of a realized spiritual teacher or, if that is not available, in a spiritual gathering as much as you can.
“But Arjuna you cannot see my true form with your ordinary eyes, therefore I will now give you this divine vision.” – Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11
So, What Should I do to Know the Royal Secret?
Understand first that the mind can never solve the problem that the mind itself created. The mind can surely solve many problems like differential equations or how to land on the moon, but not the problem of human dissatisfaction in the midst of plenty. Something more subtle than the mind can solve it. Something nobler, more compassionate and effulgent ‘like a thousand suns’ as the Bhagavad Gita describes it. We do not even realize that something like that even exists but it is constantly demonstrating its presence in every heartbeat, every breath, and every germ that is destroyed by your immune system. If you have the right vision you can see it in Planck’s constant and force of gravity. You can see it in the baby in the womb that remains alive without drowning despite being submerged in the amniotic fluid. You can see it in the pod of merrily leaping dolphins or the massive migration of Monarch butterflies. If you start seeing the richness of your own life experience you have initiated the divine vision that Krishna promised Arjuna. Life is EXTREMELY beautiful if you have the ‘eyes’ to see it. Don’t let this ‘secret’ escape you in these living moments because you may probably realize it on your death bed when it will be too late.
“The place you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” – Hafez, Persian Poet and Mystic
Epilogue: The Old Douglas Fir
Many years ago, we visited the Grove of the Patriarchs, a famous little forest in Mount Rainier National Park. Some of the trees here are around a thousand years old and more than 200 feet tall. A sign near a huge Douglas Fir described how these large trees are damaged at their tops because of the harsh winter storms but the smaller bushes and trees around them are protected by these same Douglas Firs. As I stood in front of one of these giants in amazed wonder at its size it seemed to speak to me:
“I stand here alone, always, not because I hate people or don’t like company, but because God created me like that. I am stuck with my roots in the ground so I stand here, tall, protecting smaller trees and bushes around me from the punishing winter weather and contributing my mite to the environment. At night when all of you are gone into the darkness, I meditate on my Creator who perhaps knew what he was doing. I thank him for the life he selected for me and by doing so try to make His life easier by not dropping another complaint on His already busy life. The Royal Secret is to realize that you do not have to find happiness, it is already with you. Be silent, be calm, and be helpful to others and happiness will wallow at your feet like a loving puppy dog. But be patient and give it time to manifest. The Royal Secret is to discover the simplicity of life and to realize that your discontent was caused by the life YOU made complicated. May you find the peace within.”
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I am a yoga and Vedanta teacher living in New Jersey. I had the good fortune to spend 21 years in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world. This spiritual intoxication of Varanasi sowed the seed in me which today has bloomed as a passionate interest in Yoga and Vedanta. Om Shanti.