Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tivra Samvega Baby!

The title of this post loosely translates from the Sanskrit/English to "Go For it Baby! Or you might say, No holds bar!

I picked up this term years ago in a Yoga Sutra class taught by Ven. Sumati Marut. Kendall,my spiritual sister, and I loved this term and used it as an "inside joke." Yet, there's no joke about it at all. It's one of the most amazing ideas I've ever considered. The meaning behind this expression is basically a bumper sticker for my mind, "Enlightenment or Bust!"

So in a few short days, my grand experiment to get enlightened in this lifetime will be tracked into the fast lane. I as a mother, wife and domestic engineering Goddess will be in a silent, solitary retreat for 30 days in Sedonna, AZ.

I've been asked many questions about this retreat. All of them great questions. I think it blows people away that I will not be in communication with anyone. The only notes back and forth that I plan to write is to someone who will be care-taking my retreat by providing me with fresh veggies and fruits. All contact with the outside world will cease. My laptop will stay at home, the cell phone will be off, no TV, no radio. No nothing. Just me, my mind and my spiritual practice. I won't be taking any books to read to entertain my mind or some creative project to do. I won't step foot outside of my boundaries until I've completed 100,000 mantras/short prayers. It will take the entire month to do this.

Someone asked me if I would miss my family? Of course I will miss them, but this is not a major issue for me in retreat. I did 10 days in Tucson a year ago, and I loved it. After my mind let go of the normal routine as mom, it became much quieter, more expanded and focused all at the same time. The hardest part in retreat was dealing with the mental obstacles that my mind posed for me. The "what if's", and "do I really", and "what's the point". For me, it's very similar to training to swim competitively. You finish 4 laps and you've got 16 more to do in the set. You are constantly pushing your body but more importantly you are pushing your mind to not give up and just walk out of the pool. It's just like that in retreat.

Except the goal this time is not to win your event. It's much bigger than that. The stakes are higher and the mind doesn't quite like this break from the routine that keeps it highly entertained and stimulated. So, it's important to start training the mind every day, working in 15 minutes of meditation. Then working up to an hour. Then working up to a silent weekend retreat. Then 10 days. Then a month, and if you are really truly ready, longer than that.

I study with people who are planning to go into retreat for longer than that. They don't have families and the commitments. Sometimes, I feel stymied in my aspirations. Yet, I asked a visiting teacher to give me the good news about living the life of a spiritual family practitioner. One of the best things he said was that we have already developed the compassion needed by being parents. That others spending time in great retreats still have to work on this aspect of themselves. Compassion and Wisdom are the two wings that take you to enlightenment. We as parents are at least half way there.

Yet as spiritual family practitioners, we have to balance our commitments with our practice, which makes it difficult for many of my friends to leave their families and go into retreat for a month. My husband is the one who has the full time job, as do many parents that I know. I'm working part time as an Interfaith Minister. I have more flexibility than most.

However, I can't just walk out the door and go into retreat. It's not just about me getting time away. It's making sure that my family is served while I'm away. I can't leave if it will be too difficult for them. We've already done 10 days apart from each other and found that Sheshadri just could not get enough time to work and do my jobs as mom and Domestic Engineering Goddess. This time, I asked for help. I wouldn't have even planned this retreat without it. Luckily, Allison came through for us. She's a mom of grown children, living at a retreat/spiritual center, who can get away for a month. She's great with Annamika and fits well into our family. My job now is to surrender my role to her and Sheshadri knowing they won't do it just like I will. I have to give up my control and relax into knowing that they can get the job done. I can post schedules, leave behind instructions and things will certainly not run as smoothly as I would like. But it never runs as smoothly as I like, even when I run the show! So, there's really nothing to worry about.

It's getting closer and closer now. Supplies are being purchased, bags and boxes are being packed. I'm about to go on the most important trip of my life and I go into retreat for all of the families who are living the spiritual life. You know who you are. You are the people who turn off the TV for good, who start a spiritual gathering on Sundays in your backyard, who travel with your children to listen to sweet Holy teachings, who spend a vacation at an ashram instead of Disney, who make sure your children spend hours and days outside soaking in the goodness of mother nature...

You are my inspiration and my motivation. If you can do all those things and more, then I can set aside my life for a month, spend 8 hours a day on my meditation cushion, wrangle with my mind, put lineament on my aching knees, and purify my mind so that I can be of benefit to all of you in turn.

Tivra Samvega Baby!