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An Experience of the Heart

Our yoga and meditation retreat in Taos, NM last month was an incredible experience. I think the smiles in our group photo that was taken on the last night of the retreat say a lot.

Upon returning, people asked, "How was the trip?" I found myself at a loss for words when replying, because there truly aren't words to accurately describe the experience.

I can easily tell you about some of the things we did. For a week we shared space with one another in the intimate container of a 100-year-old adobe retreat center in the high desert of New Mexico where the focus of the talks and classes I offered was on the teachings of Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaji) and Ram Dass. We practiced daily yoga asana classes and meditation (walking and seated), ate lots of delicious food, had thought-provoking and moving discussions and conversations, did some sight-seeing and shopping, and laughed, swam, and danced. We had a sound bath. Many of us stepped out of our comfort zones. We watched a full super moon rise over the mountains. We rested and relaxed. We spent time in nature, and some of us went hiking, river floating, and white water rafting. Some of us explored museums and historical sites. We made new friends and deepened existing friendships. Some of us went to the Neem Karoli Baba Temple for the Guru Purnima festival, and while there some of us practiced Seva (selfless service) by serving the consecrated feast to other festival goers. The next day a few of us went back to the Temple and attended the beautiful and emotional memorial service for Ram Dass. It was a very special week where we practiced quieting our minds and opening our hearts and where we worked on seeing both ourselves and others as the souls we truly are rather the temporary roles we play.

So I can tell you the things we did, but those words do not capture the essence or the mood or the feeling of the experience. The retreat was truly an experience of the heart. It had to be felt through direct experience.

If I ask you to describe the taste of an orange to someone who has never eaten one, you might say it is tangy, or citrusy, or sweet, or tart, but until the person puts it in their mouth and directly experiences it, they don't know what it really tastes like. Same goes for all the senses. Think of how you would describe the smell of a rose; an image of the Grand Canyon; the feel of damp clay; the sound of a symphony. The words fall short of the direct experience.

We might think of our spiritual heart as a kind of sixth-sense, one that like our other senses must directly experience something to truly know it. In Yoga Sutra 1.7 Master Patanjali tells us pratyaksa-anumāna-āgamāh-pramānāni: reliable knowledge, or knowledge that is trustworthy and useful, comes to us through: information obtained from the senses' direct contact with sense objects; inference properly applied; or authoritative testimony. The August Jivamukti Yoga focus-of-the-month looks at dhyāna, or meditation. Through meditation practice we directly experience or witness our own consciousness. Meditation practice reveals to us who we THINK we are as well as who we TRULY are. Ultimately meditation leads us to enlightenment, to the direct experience of the Oneness of Being or Self-realization. Maharaji taught, "It's all One." Meditation practice helps us to remember that Truth and to eventually realize it not only as a theoretical concept, but also as a lived direct experience. To move along the spiritual path toward the realization of the Oneness of Being (aka toward the state of Yoga), we must quiet our minds and open our hearts. Meditation practice is key.

Save the date to join us for our next yoga and meditation retreat, July 24-30, 2023. More information will be coming soon.

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