Duality and the Intimacy of Spending Time AloneSep 25, 2023
I was recently told that my choosing to go naturally gray, was a transgressive act, in the sense that it was against the grain of societal expectations. I made this choice when I turned fifty, it was an intentional choice, and have no regrets! I realize that on a conscious or subconscious level, I have always been a bit of a rebel and am perhaps becoming more so as I get older.
Part of this comes from the sense of empowerment that I feel in the growth that happens with spiritual practice, and which accompanies awakening to the true nature of Being. You go through a process of revelation, and what is harmful, becomes even more apparent… we then perhaps think we have a choice, stay the same, or change… but really the Universe forces us to change one way or another, because that is a law of nature to move towards balance.
Once you experience ‘Truth’ it is virtually impossible to be untrue (although it can be reasonably argued that we can always fall into patterns of unconscious conditioning… as I said to a friend the other day, spiritual people can certainly also be a**holes!).
Being a ‘truth-teller’ is a difficult position to be in in the context of the conditioned patriarchal world that we live in today, and can make you very unpopular. But life is not a popularity contest, and these times are ones of enormous transformation and change… hopefully for the better for the generations behind mine.
I know that many of us, including me, are going through a very challenging time. During the last few years, the paradigms that we had taken for granted as our reality, shifted with unparalleled intensity. No one will disagree with that. Maybe like me, you were hoping for some kind of reprieve in 2023… but from what I can tell from all of the conversations I’ve had with everyone I know; things have gotten more intense. We cannot deny that we are in the midst of change, and we can either resist with every fiber of our being, or we can surrender to the natural process of the Universe…she refuses to stay the same because it is unsustainable, because it is un-true.
Equinox night sky at Santosha Retreat in Kingsfield, Maine.
It is common that during challenging times, we pine for peace. When we see chaos happening in the world, we might want to reach out and help others and this is a natural human response. However, we mustn’t forget that we might not be able to solve the world’s problems on a large scale, but what we can influence is our own lives, ourselves and our communities. We are each of us the microcosm of the macrocosm of the Universe in my view… when we make conscious and intentional changes in our own lives, we affect the whole.
Everything and everyone is a mirror and when we realize this, there is a turning of our awareness inward, to truly see our naked selves, the inner child, and the wounds we carry as well as the Divine Core of ourselves. This is where healing can begin. In Yoga philosophy, Svadhyaya (the fourth niyama or observance) is the practice of self-study, the literal translation is ‘one’s own reading.’ This can be self-study on both the microcosmic (human) and macrocosmic (Soul) level. In Patanjali’s Yoga sutra, it says “study thyself, discover the Divine.” II.44
On my birthday this year, I sat with myself with the intention of truly connecting with my needs. In my reflection and practice, I realized that the greatest gift that I could give myself at this time, was to take time away in a retreat setting. Still dealing with the grief of my father’s passing last year, and dealing with the intensity of the aftermath of being orphaned, and the change in family dynamics, the call to self-reflection and healing was stronger than ever before.
As a teacher and practitioner of a multitude of practices including all of the aspects of Yoga, Healing including Reiki, and the intuitive and Mediumistic Arts (including Trance Mediumship), and as a spiritualist minister in training, I am constantly giving and sharing. I have a lot of energetic output which occurs on a daily basis. I have learned over the years how important it is to have a solid foundation of right intention and of self-care.
I do my best to live with the principles and practices of the Yamas and Niyamas of the eight-limb path of Yoga and also to use the Spiritualist principles outlined in my church, The Swampscott Church of Spiritualism, as a living guide to how I conduct myself both when I am alone and when I am with others. I have also discovered how my personal practices nourish me and help me to integrate my experiences and replenish my energy so that I can be of service to the world. In the last year, I feel like I’ve really grown as a teacher because I’ve grown in my capacity to be true to myself and who I am. Everything in life is a practice, and we have tools to help us thrive.
The yoga and meditation space at Santosha.
I chose to go on a solo retreat because it felt like the best way to honor my needs of self-reflection, receiving the benefits of practice, and filling my cup. I do not mind being alone and being alone is not the same as being lonely. I realized that what my body and soul needed at this time was the experience of showing myself deep and intimate compassion. It is not an easy task to show ourselves the love that we deserve and need, and perhaps the truest way we can do this is by intentionally being alone. It is in this space of being with ourselves unconditionally, that we can perhaps know ourselves in a deeper way, meet all of the parts of ourselves, and corral them all in, to reside together in our wholeness which is innate.
I found the perfect solo retreat place, Santosha in Kingfield, ME. The offerings are flexible and cater for a variety of needs. I was looking forward to practicing Yoga Asana (the physical postures), meditation, restorative Yoga, enjoying nature, writing, and nourishing my body with delicious farm to table food. It was everything I had wanted and more!
Just before leaving for Maine, I received a very thoughtful birthday package from a dear friend of mine containing 2 notebooks and some pencils. As a writer, student, and teacher it is a perfect gift for me. One of the notebooks has an image of a snake on the cover and I was struck by the synchronicities and signs that are always happening in my world… recently on a trip to Etna ME, I received a literal snake message, a water snake! I knew that the Universe was emphasizing to me that this is indeed a time of great transformation, personally and collectively. The Ouroboros symbol (the serpent eating its own tail) symbolizes infinity and the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. This is what happens throughout consciousness, and on the microcosmic level, happens in our lives as we grow, change, and transform.
Grateful for my spiritual tools and the sacred space in which I can practice them.
Shakti has been showing me this wisdom in my Trance healing too, creating the infinity symbol within the movements and Mudras of the form of the practice; I hear you Goddess! The snake notebook and pencil were my writing tools for the weekend.
I observed and noted the overriding theme of duality being shown to me during my time away, through the oppositions in the personalities of the people I met (male and female, extroverted and introverted), through the weather (stormy hurricane rain and wind on Saturday followed by sunny calm skies on Sunday), through the moods and emotions I cycled through during practice, meditation and self-reflection (happiness and sadness, joy and pain, softness and strength), and in the writing that flowed from me; two poems, one about the night and one about the day.
We are here in this human form, in my belief and understanding, to experience duality, and to see that the oneness of all Being contains it all. As the microcosm of the Universe, we can and do contain or hold many attributes, qualities and emotions simultaneously. Through our alone-time we can perhaps observe and witness the wholeness of our Being, and when we do this, it is possible to feel our inner light within the dark and pregnant depth of the Soul… all form, all light, all color, comes out of the dark space of infinite potential.
Soaking in the wisdom from this old wise tree.
Day flows into night, and what was seen in the light is still there, it is simply concealed by the cloak of night, and in the night, we become aware of that which was dormant during the day… it is all there simultaneously, what changes is our awareness of it. In the same way, when we are conscious of being in a moment of suffering, when we feel pain, in the space of our Being, joy also resides… it might be concealed from us in the moment, but it is there.
We can also learn much from seeing ourselves in the mirror of those around us. Each person’s energy has what I experience as a unique luminosity; it is the shine of their Soul, and the varying degrees to which that light permeates through their being… this is how I perceive a person’s luminosity. We can, if we pay attention, also see our own joy and pain in everyone around us and on the collective macrocosmic level too. The pain each of us carries also has a unique flavor, and we get a taste of the ingredients within our suffering in others. We get a glimpse of our own heart when we feel the pain of another or when we witness their light.
by Gurdeep Bhogal
Until the dawn, the silent night
cocoons my weary heart.
The stars within the Universe
of my Being
Sparkle with hope
and the promise of joy.
Somewhere in the velvety embrace
of the inky night
Amid the poles of feeling
there is peace,
a weighty blanket of safety
Holding me in its tight embrace
Until it is time for unfolding of wings
And the flight of the butterfly.
On the last day of my retreat, I took a walk to enjoy the beauty of the sunshine after the storm. Spirit greeted me through nature and synchronicity; the sweet chipmunk who communed with me while my second poem flowed from me. And then the bright red butterfly, not a Monarch, but bright red with black markings.
I chased it and tried to photograph it, but like a mirage on the hill, it disappeared into thin air; assuredly a Spirit butterfly carrying a hopeful message, to be patient, for the transformative process might feel hard, but from it is born something of great beauty. This Spirit butterfly, a reflection of the butterfly in the poem I had written the day before, manifested into fleeting reality. I shared my poems with my retreat companions, the strangers who became friends, the mirrors to my soul that weekend; it was a culminating moment of coalescence and marked the end of that particular journey.
Spirit greeting us and showing us life's aliveness wherever we go.
by Gurdeep Bhogal
Under the bough of Mother tree
Allowing myself to simply be.
Grounded on a study rock
Observing how the mind can run amok.
Here, my Soul comes to the fore
As Illusion melts into the forest floor.
The glow of the sun
Warms my skin.
And I know that I am safe within.
My Retreat weekend helped me to rebalance and replenish, being alone (whilst meeting new friends), practicing Yoga and receiving, helped me to reflect upon, integrate and release experiences and energy which my whole Being found nourishing. By retreating alone, I was able to fill my cup, find balance and get ready for a new season of my life.
My intention is to build in alone-retreat time into my schedule to help me to show myself the love and kindness I need to feel whole. Maine for me is a cathartic and self-reflective place, I realize that I find solace in Maine. All of the places I have visited over time, from Ogunquit to Acadia National Park are nourishing and filled with great beauty. I am infinitely grateful and will undoubtedly be returning to Santosha at Kingfield Maine… Oh and I think my muse has finally returned!
My new friends, I met while on retreat.
And I invite you to honor your space for retreating, relaxing, and rejuvenating your Soul. When was the last time you adventured on a retreat?
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