Some years ago I was on retreat for a month and I thought it would be helpful to share the process I underwent, even though the process today would not be the same.
The First Two Weeks of Being
On commencing my retreat a month ago my personality wanted to lie around, eat chocolate and sleep a lot, and my soul wanted to meditate and read spiritual books. I decided, rather than denying one of these needs, to feed both my personality and soul. I’ve found that if I want my personality to co-operate with my soul I need to bribe it, cajole it and humour it in ways that will not adversely affect my spiritual practice. I have held my personality on a very disciplined path for many years in my dedication to service in the world and it needed to be fed and restored in order to ensure ongoing co-operation with my soul’s projects.
A typical day found me getting up between 2.30 and 3.30 am to add logs to my wood stove. I’d retire again to bed to continue dreaming and rise again between 5 and 6. Then, as I was living in nature’s, and not the clock’s time, I’d meditate in the dark and the quiet. How wonderful the sun is just before it rises and I was there to enjoy it. It rained daily for the first two weeks of my retreat and yet produced some of the most breathtaking sunrises that went on and on and on, sometimes for an hour and a half, and I would sit in front of the window allowing the beauty to explode within me as I did not have to worry about getting ready for work or for anything at all. This is the gift of resting in the present moment.
I’ve lived on the ocean for 8 months and have never taken the time before now to watch the abundant life in my little bay. So now, with this gift of unending time, I’d sit for another hour or so identifying all my birds in my bird book (which I’ve had for a decade without opening) and watching the curious harbour seal who seems to have made her home in my bay.
By now I’d be starving so I’d have some oatmeal and write down my dreams from the previous night and find the direction they wanted me to go in my waking life. The message was usually to stay with the process of living fully in the moment and doing exactly, and I mean exactly, what I wanted to do. It was as if I was on a razor’s edge balancing my personality and soul needs. My personality had a desire to retrace it’s past all the way up to the present. A part of me had been ‘doing’ my life fully, but I had not taken the time to integrate the ‘meaning’ of my life into my consciousness. It was as if my life was a beautiful tapestry that I was weaving, and I had woven all the colours and patterns together, but I was so busy with the weaving that I had not stopped to look at the beauty of the whole work. So, in order to understand how all the pieces fit together to complete the whole of me, I decided to put all the photographs of my family history and my own life in albums and feel into what those people and times had signified for me. “This will probably take a day or two at the most,” I had thought when starting. This one or two day project actually took two weeks. Very fruitful weeks I might add, and I recommend this process for others who have not taken the time to catch up with the life they have been living.
By now I would be hungry again so I’d have something to eat, maybe a salad and my favourite cookies from childhood that I baked for the first time in over a decade, and I’d go for my daily walk. Exiting my driveway I’d meet my neighbour’s nine-month old dog Sam, who greeted me with a big smile on his face and tail wagging like crazy, awaiting my signal that he was invited to accompany me. I lived in silence for the first two weeks, but dogs are telepathic and can easily pick up my happiness at his company so off we’d go together exploring the sea cliff and forest.
Returning home I’d meditate again, chanting songs of gratitude that opened my heart more and more, and then, when I was vibrating and full of good feeling my mind would attract my notice. “Feed me. Feed me,” it would be saying. You may be aware that the main path to consciousness, the one that most people take, is through the open heart. This is the path of love called in India Bhakti. However, a few people go by way of the mind, and a few others travel by way of both the heart and the mind. I’m in this latter group. I have experienced the bliss of the heart on more than one occasion. The current of joy is an old friend that awaits my attention and then, once beckoned, runs into me. For many years I’ve seldom beckoned it as there is a danger, hard to believe perhaps but nevertheless true, that one can become bliss intoxicated. Also, experiencing bliss in nature and/or in God is a place that can so satisfy that one does not really want to stay in this world, and also one might not want to go past this level of bliss to the next level of consciousness.
The path of the mind, which is taken by fewer people, can be accessed either as their primary path to awakening, or secondarily after having their heart has awakened. There is a thorough guide book on awakening through the mind written by Franklin Merrell-Wolff and called Pathways Through to Space where Dr. Merrell-Wolff takes the reader step by step through his own journey to awakening. I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Merrell-Wolff over 20 years ago, just before his death, and state unequivocally that he was an enlightened Being whose mere presence catapulted you into a higher spiritual state. These avatars are rare in the western world for most enlightened Beings are found in the east and have gone through the path of the heart. Perhaps, in another column I’ll write more about the various paths to awakening, but for now I’ll return to my personal account.
I re-read Dr. Merrell-Wolff’s book in detail for two weeks and found that I understood much better, than I had twenty years earlier, what he was writing about. It is an spiritual law that we can only understand to the level of our own development. Intellectual ‘ah ha’s’ have always been for me mental moments of bliss. Finding bliss through the awakening the mind is as satisfying for me as bliss through the heart, and this feeling is true for people who walk both the heart and mind paths to consciousness. And so my two weeks passed in joy and peace.
One day the sun came out and I found myself saddened as if the sun was calling me out of my retreat and back into the world. So I plugged in my phone to listen to messages, and turned on the computer for emails. With some success, I was able to keep my peaceful inner state while responding to messages. Encouraged, I decided to prepare an outline of a Men’s Retreat I am looking forward to hosting at my home in September and then found I had to visit neighbouring B and B’s to line up accommodation. Feeling a bit fragile to be interacting with people again, I nevertheless persisted, got things organized and then quickly retreated to my home to recover from the interaction.
I returned to my formula for peace for the preceding two weeks. Meditate…….walk in nature………. Feeling relatively peaceful, and in balance again, I went to the bank, bought groceries, and welcomed a friend for the weekend. My friend is undergoing a similar process to mine, and we had committed to support each other’s journey, and to make certain that we were not getting off track. Day one of our time together went well. We were able to shed light on each other’s journey, work together in beautifying the garden, and walk with Sam. Then, day two we got the bright idea that it would be nice to be financially independent so that we would not have to depend on anyone to support us, and so that we could do exactly what we wanted to do. Because real estate is going up by 20 to 30% each year where I live, we decided that we could buy a little house together for very little money, and that the rent would pay our mortgage. So off we went looking at real estate, and by the end of the day I had a terrible stomach ache, and she had a migraine.
Let me be clear that this idea to buy real estate is, I’m convinced, a great idea financially however, our bodies had a toxic reaction to doing it. We learned a great deal from our fall from peace. Firstly, that even if there are many good reasons for a course of action, it might still be the wrong thing to do. Secondly, that neither of us any longer believed that we had to work at anything, or become anything. Instead, we needed to live in joy doing exactly as children do, and give up forever the idea that we had to ‘earn our way’ in the world, but accept that we are enough, just as we are, to attract whatever would be right for us to us. Now this is great in theory, and I’ve believed in this theory and lived it ‘partially’ for many years, but to actually live this, and only this, is a more difficult step. It takes utter trust in the divine to provide for us, with no reservations. In addition, to live this way and to do, and be exactly as we are is to surrender the idea that we must improve and become better. I am not negating that we evolve and improve, which is the belief of our third dimensional reality, but that, on a higher level of truth, we already are what we seek to be. If we live, from this higher truth, we live at cause and not effect, and this is how I have chosen to live.
Integrating Doing with Being
The next day, I saw my friend off and returned home to find that a filmmaker loved my book Summer with the Leprechauns and wanted to make a documentary about nature spirits. Also, Tenzin Choegyal, the 15th Ngari Rinpoche and the brother of the Dalai Lama, was coming to Vancouver in a few days and I was invited, along with 20 other people, to meet him to discuss the current situation of Tibet and China. Oh tests, tests, tests. They never end. These things were important, but it is essential that I actively commit to establishing my life in the new way. How can I do both?
So, I agreed to do the documentary on nature spirits in three months. I have commitments to do seminars and must be out of retreat by then. I only hope that my inner calendar agrees with my outer calendar. Also, I have agreed to go to Vancouver in a few days to participate in this dialogue with Tenzin Choegyal. My intention, during this time, will be to live in my still fragile state of being, while still walking in the world. Furthermore, I have decided to return to another two weeks of silence and retreat after the Vancouver trip, as it’s very clear that I must strengthen my new beingness, if I am to be in this world fully in this new way. I find that I am more certain, than I was a month ago, that we will never be able to live in joy and peace unless we are able to live in the present moment. Also, we need to fully trust that we are enough, just as we are, and realize that we don’t have to effort. Efforting only takes us away from our centre, which is where the union with the ALL, the divine, resides.
Tanis Helliwell, a mystic in the modern world, has brought spiritual consciousness into the mainstream for over 30 years. Since childhood, she has seen and heard elementals, angels, and master teachers in higher dimensions. Tanis is the founder of the International Institute for Transformation (IIT), which offers programs to assist individuals to become conscious creators to work with the spiritual laws that govern our world.
Tanis is the author of Summer with the Leprechauns, Pilgrimage with the Leprechauns, Embraced by Love, Manifest Your Soul’s Purpose, Decoding Your Destiny and Take Your Soul to Work.
For information on our courses and meditation retreats please visit www. iitransform.com