April 15, 2014

Get Lost! The Power of Retreat. ~ Sandi Siegel

Gila Hot Springs

I just got back from the Hanuman Jayanti in Taos, New Mexico where we chanted the Hanuman Chalisa for 24 hours.

The retreat was at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram and was a celebration for Sri Hanuman’s birthday.

There is something magical that happens when chanting in a community like this, and while I know it is a respite from my wonderfully real responsibilities in my life as a householder, I find immense peace and pure bliss that feeds me for months to come.

There is value to this type of retreat from responsibility, but on this particular trip I realized the power retreats can have, enabling us to become a more fully engaged person in the mire and muck and sometimes major suck of every day life! (hey, even bad poetry has its place).

On the back roads I took to Taos, I realized how important it is to step out of our lives of concrete infrastructure, and reconnect with both the beautiful back roads of our country and the less traveled ones of ourselves.

It is sometimes hard to realize how routine life becomes and how much the constant noise and human-created surroundings have a sort of numbing affect on our ability to see things in a whole new light.

I am grateful for civilization. Don’t get me wrong, pedicures and fashion make me happy, too…but as soon as I hit those country roads, I felt my skin, eyes and breath completely soften. Ahhh.

It’s so important to get lost, too! After a marvelous lunch with a newfound soul sister, I put Usha Seturaman’s “Bhakti Manjari Vol.2” on constant replay, as I have since my Sanskrit teacher recommended it to me, and missed the usual turnoff that takes my magic carpet most expeditiously to Taos.

I panicked for a brief moment, wondering how much time this wrong turn might add to an already fairly long day-drive. But, I was also fairly thrilled that I had to take a completely different route.

I soon had to slow down to navigate through the mountains and wild forests, and they served as a reminder of a time when the Earth and even most of our urban nature wasn’t so organized. It had a fecund feel, a sweet simplicity in its chaotic perfection as it main lined relief to my weary momma heart.

I get a similar feeling when I look at 19th Century (or older) paintings set in nature around the globe. It’s a connection we all know to our very cells, a longing and odd familiarity with a time when our rhythms were more aligned with the seasonal structures that make up the labyrinths and laboratories of our lives.

The “not interstate” speed limit forced me to slow down and, boy, was I rewarded! I saw wild turkeys just hanging out doing their thing, elk, antelope, and as usual, hawks flapped overhead as we waved to each other, as I do with all creatures I encounter. At least here I didn’t look like some crazy grey-haired medicine woman who has a simple practice of always waving to the other life that graces our world and who I am always thrilled to cross paths with.

Traversing these roads allows our hearts to truly open to new ideas and creations in ways that are so different than some of the glorious things our daily practices bring to us. The power of retreat is so real. It doesn’t mean that we stop engaging! Quite the opposite! In this way, retreat means the conjuring of more space where we can more fully create and rejoice sometimes in wondrous new ways.

And this is Hanuman to me; getting lost so you can remember these creative powers, finding courage to leap into new territory as you encounter new challenges that require effort to commensurate with the situation. Realizing that sometimes the pulling back of effort is what is needed to find Sri and further abundance.

And service. How can we more fully love and serve the people we are in relationship with? Because, this is the very core of what we do, and for me, why I am here at all.

This year Hanuman (again) gave me the courage to leap and lead some of the chants on both days of the celebration and that, too, will empower me in my work with my marvelous partners, Erin Keeley Phillips and Murray Greene, as we travel with our unique workshops this coming year.

Let’s get lost together and see what hidden treasures we can find.


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Apprentice Editor: Andrea Charpentier/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photos: Author’s Own

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Sandi Siegel