By Vasile Szavo, Yoga and Tantra student
“The ego is the freedom of the mind to choose anything else than GOD”
- one of Mihai Stoian’s thoughts shared with us in this silent retreat.
I believe that only the Divine Grace was the one guiding me and making possible for me the Iceland Silent Retreat in January – February 2011.
First there was the state of longing for God after the Hiatus spiral in August in Costinesti, 2010, then, in the November Archangel’s Week, the mysterious benefic ‘obsession’ for the meditation music with Uriel Archangel and then, finally, my silent, but intensive request to God to participate in this retreat… and when I gave up on it – since it was impossible for me to imagine how could I get the money for affording this experience – and confessed this to my beloved, a miracle happened and it suddenly became possible that I, myself …could also be there… in my first silent retreat for revealing the divine essence, the immortal Self ATMAN. Indeed, if I were to follow what my mind was telling me I never have had this chance, but a simple inner request from the heart was triggering what I consider a true miracle for me.
Considering the spiritual results I have personally experienced in this retreat, I have to admit that this spiritual retreat was relatively easy: already the trip itself felt like a light vacation, my first breaths on the Icelandic shore in a state of an adolescent’s joy and happiness, the funny moments in the bus with the familiar and new faces, Mihai’s lucid enthusiasm for the Icelandic scenery, the electronic toy helicopter I took care of on the way, the taste of the rich in minerals water and of the ashram’s bread and soup and the entire atmosphere of the Icelandic yoga school reawakened something very pure and joyful inside, which reminded me of the times I was 12 and had just discovered with full enthusiasm Chopin, buying tape after tape with his crystalline music.
Neither the quite strict program of 6.5 hours meditation, nor the rule of total silence were too difficult for me and the experiences I’ve had in the third day and in the last day of the retreat have showed me very clearly that it is possible… what E.Tolle, Maharishi, Yogananda or Poonja described in their books are attainable and easier to attain then I thought, and the focus on this high goal is giving by far much more joy and ecstasy than anything else the world can give. I just couldn’t believe how - in my ten years of practicing in this yoga school - I tried almost all the types of Yoga,… except for this one… all those stories about how difficult these meditations were, now they are, in my vision, just bedtime stories for kids …
“After the Iceland Silent Retreat a very curious and cunning reporter approached a participant in the camp, asking him the first question: ‘who am I talking to?’; the student’s amazed gaze was pondering for a moment on a spot somehow behind the reporter’s microphone, then the calm answer came with the ingenuity of a revelation: ‘to me’ ”- the second spiritual joke inspired to Mihai towards the end of the camp.
The famous question ‘who am I?’ from Ramana Maharishi’s self-inquiry technique bears almost no meaning for the reader of his books unless doubled by the practice of centering in the heart. The seven steps technique in which we were gradually introduced, during the meditation program, had on me the effects of several revelations…first of all because my ideas about the heart and the soul were so abstract and far from my personal experience. From the short lectures we were presented I understood that essentially the concept of the heart as the center of everything that exists is a genuinely practical concept: I remember many years ago in my room I had a red old armchair in which I took a break sometimes, simply following a need of my being to stop for a moment in the middle of the very agitated emotional life I had in that period. There was one time, I clearly recall, when I simply felt a state of bliss – experienced as profound peace – just by stopping and relaxing with the eyes closed sitting on this armchair… Indeed, this experience of mine was an authentic centering in the heart which I did without knowing anything at that time about yoga. So, it became clear for me that I’ve already had some special moments in my life when the centering in the heart was there for short moments, but to find a simple practical method to recall and have that state at will is almost like dreaming about the Aladdin’s wonderful lamp from the One Thousand and One Nights fairy tale… still, and this was my first extraordinary revelation, with the right method, the adequate conditions created and a perseverant practice, the state of being in the heart can be attained now, by almost anyone who truly aspires to it.
Practically, the crystal clear exposure of the seven steps meditation technique had the role of protecting me from various traps, but even in these privileged conditions, the very clear guidance and the unison of aspiration with the fellow spiritual aspirants in this retreat, I still had to pass through my own tests until getting the first results.
The room bathed in blue light: “…the heart is the king … it is the secret mirror of God inside of us …it makes possible that we can really have what we have and to become what we really are…beginning with the awakened heart we can start evolving and we can reach true spiritual accomplishments…” - from the theory in the retreat
It is still just sterile theory to talk about the heart and is like in one of the short movies with Poonja we watched in the retreat, about the one who talks and doesn’t know, while the one who knows, doesn’t talk … still the very reality of the tests I had, suggests that also the seconds of awareness of my individual heart - I’ve had in the camp - were nonetheless authentic. The blockages in the neck area, unblocked after the first two days, the difficulties with finding the relaxed meditation posture and the triggered physical pain until finding it, the fights with the fluctuations of my mind during the meditations and the kind of an incapacity to believe and pessimism about my capacity to be in the heart, as if forever imprisoned in the mind’s schemes, are some of the shades imprinted in the room where I found rest between meditations and re-read Bhairavastava (the Kashmir Shivaism’s masterpiece poem about being in the heart with the divine) with more and more thirst. From my window I could see young fir trees and, in the evenings, after the blue light bathed the table and the bed, the vision of the warm-houses awakened in me the memory of Roerich’s paintings depicting in the snowy scenery realm of Shambala.
Solheimar, under the snow in the fifth day of the retreat was the magical place I had a walk to visit the green-houses and leave in the snow storm all my melancholy about the lost moments of this life in which I was not in the heart…but far from the essential nectar of the ‘king of my being’, the spiritual heart. There, behind the glass of the green-houses I found my little tree with lively remembrance of the true experience of the man who came back from clinical death - the heart awakening essential story watched in the 2010 Costinesti summer yoga camp about the voyage to God’s heavenly realm of a man who found in a room, there, in God’s heaven the small tree representing the sum of the good deeds he did during his life time. This impressive moment of his story was the subject of my identification, while looking through the windows of the green house and choosing my own little plant…’my tree’.
And yes, in the third day I also had the grace of three seconds of centering in the heart continually and profoundly and the stunning effects are still amazing me: first of all I suddenly remembered in a new light some decisions I took not from the heart in the past, I saw the moment like from above, having a complete perspective… and as if burning that karma of ignorance about the hearts’ solutions, I found myself again in the middle of the warm flow of love which showed me the right solution; simultaneously with these clarifying recollections I felt an inner state of verticality as a renewal of all my masculine essence… reconfiguring my self-transfiguration to the highest extent and giving back to me the freshness of all my purest aspirations. What was really shockingly real and incredible was the speed of few seconds in which I found a renewed inner strength which I haven’t even slightly guessed it existed inside of me. Together with this integrating perspective and refreshed virility I also felt vaguely how is that state in which one knows everything, the past and the future, being centered in the axis of the present moment. After these astonishing states I started to gain an inner happiness which was increasing gradually until the end of the retreat culminating in the last day.
Ideal conditions for the ones aiming to the highest accomplishment on the ‘fast-lane’: NOW and HERE.
It is not any more a mere juicy spiritual saying for us (those participating in this retreat) the expression ‘here and now’. It’s became as practical this expression as the asana-s for a first year yoga student. As Mihai Stoian - our guide in this inner spiritual adventure – called this type of spiritual experience we’ve had: “the perpendicular spiritual practice”, is the one aiming straightly to the highest goal, without wandering in the almost endless stages on the horizontal plane, but taking the bold turning on the vertical axis, directly aiming towards the divine. It is ”a different quality of experience” as he puts it, and it can hardly be compared with anything else in the vast domain of possible horizontal spiritual practices. If, for instance on the tantric path one might have Tantra retreat 1 followed by a new theme, or new initiations in Tantra retreat 2 and so on until Tantra retreat ‘n’, the silent retreat for revealing the Self can only be repeated and continually remembered since it brings us back to the same divine axis within us, which is immobile, unchangeable and springing from the eternity of the very origins of the universe. These camps are analogically speaking like practicing alpinism to the highest peak on the most direct path, the shortest and most efficient side of the mountain.
Also Camelia’s perceptions about the divine entities of light guiding us from the invisible realms here in the camp were significantly highlighting that - what we’ve experienced in Solheimar this year - it was authentic and highly significant for our transformation.
Here I must admit that I’ve never imagined that this kind of retreat in the same space together with others can contain so much depth and authenticity. The rules of the camp clearly stated that we are supposed to be silent at all times and not to look to the others, but live inside of our own sphere as if we were alone in an individual retreat. For me these were relatively easy to be done by imagining that I am in God’s presence; so the only presence I have to take care of is God. And this way of acting brought good results for me…. Still, while living in the same room with my room mate some clarifications and purifications also appeared and I realized that they were not by coincidence catalyzed by my roommate’s presence: the funniest example to this effect was about his wake up alarm singing a song which was hunting me until the end of the camp; until, in the last night I had a releasing dream in which he was acting in a comedy triggering my strongest laughter in this life time …in a dream…thus any melancholic tendency was like burnt away in the fire of this brotherly communion through laughter.
A key element for remembering a special spiritual state, revealed here Mihai, is to recreate the same conditions in which that special state appeared for the first time…but what were the ideal conditions offered to us by Iceland?
The cool temperature which is excellent for meditation, the pure elements of nature specific to the subtle atmosphere of Iceland, the common aspiration of the spiritual group, and mostly and firstly the warm hearted hosting of the Icelandic yogis and here the gallery of angels taking care of us is enlarged with the volunteers who offered to organize the camp, administrate all the practical details and cook for us every day out of their immense generosity of the heart: especially Magdalena, Serafim and Natha Iceland volunteers, Adam and the others deserve all our gratefulness, since without their initiative and sacrifice these ideal conditions hadn’t been possible to be met.
The Satsang in Natha Iceland Reykjavik: protect your ‘candle light’ not only while meditating and being in a protective environment, but also while walking on the street in the springtime sunshine of the joyful states or the snow storm of the hard to control karmic events, be like those who manage this on and on in all the life situations even in the most intensive ones, the rare, spiritually liberated beings – ideas from the conclusive talk of the retreat.
For me in this spiritual retreat the difference between the astonishing third day’s glimpses of awareness on my heart’s depths and the camp’s final day personal success, is between the lucky luke’s unconscious lucky strike (the third day) and the consciously built up ability to maintain continually for a longer time the focus on the divine essence within. Now only for very few minutes and then to more minutes in a row while having continuity - breaking out of the few minutes short cycles - given by the presence of the silent witness perceived by me in the source of super human perseverance and steadiness in the focus.
The closing moments of the camp, the meditation of gratitude, sharing, the last snowy images around the pond with the colored fish, the taste of the fresh and crispy bread in the hall where smiling people are talking and joking about the weather in a detached way … and the underlying state of surrendering to God’s Will in all the details of our departure. Closing the door of the meditation building, returning the keys and looking from the left side at Solheimar – the home of the Sun, the already familiar holiday houses and the green-houses always bathed with light… the growing happiness rising like the Sun on the faces and silence accompanying the pause between two words… the fragility of our souls’ refined movements, breathing in unison with the yellow bus, crossing through the Icelandic scenery towards Reykjavik.
The Natha Iceland Yogacenter is the playground of the final stage of the inner adventure I wanted to depict.
Our loving and hospitable hosts preparing the Sunday evening Satsang with Mihai; beautifully arranged living room and yoga halls. An atmosphere of warm communication naturally starts to grow while waiting for Serafim’s intro words. All is unexpectedly unfolding and everyone’s curiosity about the Icelandic yogis and about us is fulfilled in a smart and funny way during the self-introductory round. A kind of a refined magic field of sharing is spread all around like in the heart to heart spiritual sharing of the best kind. Unexpected connections are opening new subjects from the topic of least importance of which year of yoga is one, to the silent retreat which is meeting here the Icelandic school’s students; then the questions are pointing more and more towards the now and here; from the highest essence of the national souls, the exceptional value of the meditations with the national soul to which one belongs; the Icelandic soul; Mihai’s answer to this question unveiling the exceptional creativity of the Icelandic soul in its contact with the primordial natural forces; the present-day situation of the creativity and how can it be integrated in the divine perspective; all these in a curiosity and affinity awakening manner of the great spiritual feasts in the end of a triumphant spiritual accomplishment.
The earth’s mountainous ribs are reflected in me like waves on a still lake, while gazing out of the plane’s little window and even the amazement in front of the white cloud’s stony realm is more silent in me than other times. The practice of the technique starts from the airport so that the noises don’t come so hurtfully towards me. Just the wish to be alone and meditate and the thought about the example with the ‘candle light’ - given in the retreat and representing the awakened heart towards the depths of the Divine Immortal Self ATMAN – to be taken care of in the storms of the daily life with all its unexpected turning points.
I wish to all of you to always manage to maintain the centering in the heart so profoundly that its bright light awakens completely not only your candle, but also others’ heart candle light. And I Thank to God, to Grieg, my spiritual guide, to Mihai, my spiritual teacher, Magdalena and Serafim, our caring mother and father in this retreat, the Icelandic yoga students and to all of you who participated, for your love and aspiration which altogether made possible, also for me, the very valuable spiritual experience of the 2011 silent retreat in Iceland,