Meditation and Coping with the Outside World



My partner and I have been talking a lot about how #deepmeditation and #deepretreat affects one's relationship to people and the outside world - particularly in regards to this state of what some call #detachment.


Ultimately, I believe the inner work done on deep retreat improves our relationship to the outside world in that it cultivates a deeper understanding of ourselves and the nature of existence. However, the ride to improvement is not always smooth and the effects not always immediate.


Part of what sparked the ongoing discussion is how my partner and I interact after I returned from an intense retreat in India. In my experience, a natural state of detachment is not contrived, but rather naturally occuring and an effect of the highly intense inward focus maintained while on retreat. This inner processing organically occurs in various different circumstances - sometimes from meditating or doing intense sadhana, sometimes while in the company of highly evolved or even, some would say, #enlightened people, sometimes when visiting strong naturally occuring energetic vortexes like sacred mountains or rivers like Arunachala or the Himalayan Mountains, going to pilgrimage sites or temples, etc.…..


This has been my trip for 5 years now. Every winter I leave for India with the intention of letting my attachments to my normal life go and giving myself entirely to the pursuit of inner awareness God Consciousness…..However, when I return back to life, there seems to be a significant disconnect between my state of mind and others who have not been on the same journey, but rather living normal lives back at home. And in no other relationship has it been so obvious to see the difference than with my partner. This has caused some challenges in understanding how to re-integrate as a couple and sparked questions in me as to the usefulness of this state in the real world.


Whatever happens in the time that I am in India, when I come back, I invariably feel like I’m operating on a completely different level than I was before. I rarely like to leave the house or be around people. I like to cook my own food at home as opposed to eating out – very simple food. I enjoy doing many more hours of spiritual practice each day, consisting generally of meditation, mantra chanting, puja and reading texts. I like spending more time cleaning and doing chores around the house, as well as reflecting and writing. I spend more time just Being with nature, noticing all its splendor and delicate beauty. I’m much slower. I don’t feel the need to do as much, if anything at all, other than spiritual practice. I feel very alive yet very inward, very focused yet unfocussed in all my actions and very content to be this way.


I don’t feel the need to interact with people as much, and when I do, there seems to be a stark contrast of understanding, like we're on two totally different wavelengths. In the times when I do feel like reaching out, I try and the result is incongruent with the environment I have inside. Or rather, the experience I feel takes me out of the depth and peace I feel inside, which is a close relationship with Self.


The obvious question comes - how can this blissful state be the highest if it takes us further away from being able to do our duties in the world? How can this inner state of peace be rocked so easily by engaging with the outside world?


How can we interweave this state of Being with the World and still stay balanced and unmoved? How is it that we can feel closer to ourSelves and Consciousness than ever, yet further away from our loved ones?


One time I was walking past the old Grandmother Tree in front of #SriRamanaAshram, and was compelled to stop and bask in its glory. The tree is gnarly - twisted and maimed with what looks like elephantitis and tree warts billowing from its bottom. In those minutes, I was in complete awe of this tree. I felt the energetic capacity of the tree and all the karmas it had relieved people of over the years - the poor, the sick, the tired and the hungry – the "normal" like you and me - it took on all of our shame and our weaknesses, the grieving and the suffering. Like the tree was a realized Being itself and was emitting an energetic field that I had suddenly stumbled into. I looked at the tree like it was God and was hypnotized, enthralled and stopped in my tracks by all its glory. My eyes bulging, watering, unable to move, absorbed in the light emanating from the tree. And in these few moments, Indians in saris and dhotis stopped and stared at me and said things to me to jostle me out of my hypnotized state. But I refused to move. I was aware they were there and that I may have looked bizarre, but was sort of paralyzed….


If I really wanted to, I could have exercised great effort to pull myself out of that state. But why turn away from Consciousness when it is looking right at me? Why pull myself away from a Divine light that feels so Blissful and so full of Awe, wonder and amazement, just to satisfy someone else’s curiosity? So, I remained there absorbed in that Light until it faded….faded enough so that I could easily turn my gaze.


Sometimes in the moments when I feel I have turned away from that Divine Feeling and back into the world, there is a painful existential dilemma that takes place inside of me – a little voice that says, “you could have kept going. Why did you turn away? Why did you leave that temple or that Guru or that tree? Why did you stop meditating? Why did you leave that nature spot when you could have reached a height and understanding you had never reached before?” And then a sadness occurs…..like a fall from Grace. Like I had my chance and I threw it away…..and then I eventually forget and get sucked back into the flow of life.


In the #BhagavadGita, it says that when Krishna reveals himself not to be a man, but as God himself to Arjuna, Arjuna feels mortified and ashamed. Ashamed that he had been treating God like a mere mortal and friend all this time……But Krishna says that he makes man forget that they are around God all the time because the Bliss State that would result is too much for humans to handle - that they are not ready yet - and so Krishna makes them forget. The feeling eventually fades away, and Arjuna returns to a state of relative ignorance, treating God as a friend again.


The ongoing discussion between my partner and I is that he thinks the greatest teachings come from the Outside World, and that because we were born as human beings with bodies, our main function is to Do and Create in the World, what I would attribute to the concepts of Dharma.


But my perspective is that the greatest teachings come from the Inside World because this is the only way we can truly experience the meaning of the outside world, what we may attribute to the idea of Moksha. However different our natural tendencies and paths to experiencing life may be, I thing a balance of both #Dharma and #Moksha is necessary and that one of the reasons we came together is to help each other understand this balance better.


Ultimately, the major texts and teachers say that everything we do in life should be like a meditation. But the reason we practice, is so that the silence and stillness of #NonDoing in the Doing must first be cultivated – and only then is our ability to be steeped in the sacred so strong that we can be in a constant state of Doing and Non-Doing simultaneously.


Perhaps the answer is both - that there is a constant mysterious interplay between the outside and the inside and they alchemize to keep us growing, and the journey is in the formula we use to keep this alchemy going….Or perhaps it’s not the answer, but more the question that is truly important and keeps us moving toward the infinite. As a great poet, Ranier Maria Rilke once wrote:


“…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


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