By a Wanderer  (A story with fictional characters in real setting)
We were all set to go for our yearly vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We have a beautiful time share right on the beach. I, my wife, three kids and two dogs; we were all excited. Everything was going according to plan until last week. Right before our departure, an unexpected series of events forced us to cancel the whole trip.  Everything fell apart.

While searching for an alternative, I came across a sign board for a retreat “Meditate-A-Thon” – a two-day residential meditation retreat at Vedanta Society of Providence. I registered for both of us. This was the first summer when we were doing something without kids. My wife was reluctant to attend, but in the end she agreed to participate.

Retreat began with Swamiji’s short talk. Thought of long meditation sessions gave me shivers down my spine (unfortunately it was not awakening of Kundalini). I was uneasy but couldn’t talk because of silent retreat. At last, I decided to deal with – ‘I’ and ‘my mind’. Two days of complete silence. Slowly, serenity of the environment took over. I determined to stay instead of running away.

There were 15 participants. I was amazed to notice that each one was a serious seeker. Everyone was adhering to the schedule that starts early morning at 5:30AM and goes until night 9:30PM.  Participants were very careful while moving around to avoid noise. Every single action was part of meditation. Even the noisy clock was removed to avoid “tick” “tick” sound.

I can comfortably watch a movie for a couple of hours, but sitting for meditation is a different story. I was struggling to bring back my wandering mind. I was about to give up, and help came from a short reading. One statement struck me hard. “When the mind is awfully restless and out-going, you should doggedly persist in your Japa, even do it mechanically, without giving way to restlessness. In that way part of your mind is always engaged in Japa. Thus, the whole mind cannot become or remain restless.” – by Swami Yatiswarananda. This simple piece of advice helped me a lot.

Two days went by. Last day, Swamiji concluded with some important notes –
1. Practice – Even if mind is not focused, continue Japam or meditation. Repeated practice brings joy. Thus, quantity leads to quality.
2. Dynamic mediation – Last two days we meditated in silence, now make this mediation dynamic.  This meditation should permeate through every action. As electricity illumines the room so also meditation should illumine our actions.

At 1PM, the retreat ended. Some of the devotees were still feeling the momentum of Japa. For me, I was happy that I could sit through the whole retreat. As soon as my wife got her phone back, she called our daughter, “Sweetheart, we found a new Time Share, and it is quite close to our home.” She was right. Last week, I thought everything was falling apart as we couldn’t make it to Myrtle Beach, but in reality everything fell into right place, and we found our new Time Share, a retreat home.

One Comment

  1. I wonder who in "sane" mind would think a beach trip could be replaced by a meditation retreat :-). Nice write up.

    Yes, the reading of Swami Yatiswarananda's article was helpful. He described three methods of doing japa with a mantra: chanting loudly, chanting softly with moving of lips but inaudible to others and chanting mentally. Whenever I could not focus when chanting mentally (often on second day), I employed the second method of moving my lips with chanting softly. It helped me focus well.

    "Participants were very careful while moving around to avoid noise": it could have been done better especially with the flip-flops yelling : "I am hitting the feet-I am hitting the ground-I am hitting the feet-I am hitting the ground" etc. echoing my state of mind that had its own monotone, "I am focusing well-I am not doing now-I am focusing well-I am not doing now".

    I thought exactly on similar lines like you did: I can sit in the same posture for a movie without any problem (assuming the movie is interesting), but the same cannot be said for meditation :).

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