Imagine an ancient chateau nestled in a coniferous forest, in the silent hills far away from the chains of modern life.
Instantly upon arriving at Hridaya Yoga France, I felt my whole body resound in a YES. I had been waiting all year for this opportunity to go deeper in my practice. Everyone was smiling and Oh!So welcoming. We got shown our rooms, which were luminous. Tim, my husband and I had chosen separate rooms that we were to share with another attendee. We were going to celebrate, ahem…I mean be aware of our 5th anniversary in quietude at this retreat, how about that? Haha!
We were briefed that evening about the importance of noble silence that would begin the following morning on Day 1 of the retreat. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
Personally, I have found the terrible fear of silence to be a misunderstanding. Imagine being engaged at a seminar with inspiring speakers, speech becomes superfluous and is reduced to a social activity. That’s precisely what happens here, one is consumed with learning and practising new techniques & enthralled by fascinating lectures.
The silence is almost like a byproduct except that it has the exceptional power of resulting in profound interiorization. Of course it takes some getting used to, with everyone avoiding eye contact and maintaining silence one can adapt quickly. Gender segregation also keeps sensory distraction to a minimum, men and women have designated areas in the hall and in the dining areas.
On Day 1 we were introduced to Hridaya Yoga Spiritual Heart Meditation which is based on Advaita Vedanta(non duality)and Tantra Yoga.The retreat focuses on the revelation of our real and essential nature, the Supreme and Divine Self, Atman.
The approaches throughout the retreat were varied and intriguing, we dove into esoteric Christianity, Sufism, Kashmir Shaivism and Dzogchen. Marvelling at what they had in common.
The meditation technique is centred deeply in the heart which is where we held our attention while incorporating breath and pauses and asking the question “ Who am I?” thereby making ourselves the object of the meditation itself. We were guided into this realm of the heart and slowly discovered the intuitive intelligence of the spiritual heart, our fundamental essence.Before the commencement of a meditation session inspiring sacred poetry was read which blazed our hearts open, igniting passion and vibrance that reverberated into the meditations.
The yoga is a contemplative style of Hatha yoga ,the asanas or postures are held for a few minutes while being aware of the energies in the chakras and then one is guided to expand deeper into the dimension beyond mind & body. It was profound!
We were given the option to take a Karma Yoga task which is an opportunity for selfless service where we do simple chores like sweep or serve a meal etc. I was thankful I could do something active, I tracked my progress in meditation in a remarkably tangible way by performing it everyday.
Here’s what my 10 days looked like…
Day 1: JOY * EXPANSION * INFINITY
Day 2: Melting in self love & bhakti(devotion,faith)
Kundalini(dormant primordial energy starts to awaken) Incidentally, it’s our anniversary and we practice a different meditation technique where we evoke the most beautiful memory of love we know. Immediately, I am transported to Redang Island to our commitment ceremony and there’s Tim; the happiest man on earth.I am carried away on an ocean of love and I know Tim is feeling it too. What a way to celebrate!
Day 3: OMG My sexual energy is through the roof! Sexual dreams about men, I realise I’m ovulating. I should totally wear the prettiest thing I have?! I can’t stop looking at men’s feet, especially my husband’s; they are so beautiful!! During yoga, I have a delicate breathing orgasm, this sometimes happens in my regular Tantra yoga practice but everyone is silent and it’s coming on…Ok here we go, try to make it not so obvious, this is serious! Phew, crisis averted, it was not a biggie!
Kundalini really makes her presence known and I start to interiorize deeply.
Day 4:I observe an ever-growing list of false identifications of my ego, which I decide to face head on. I quickly realise this is insurmountable. In a desperate attempt to stay in a deep meditation I realise I might wet myself(Oh!The embarrassment!)I fight the compulsive tendency of distraction tooth and nail, it wins. I run to the toilet and pee, in that moment of relief and release, I cry, I weep for how impossible all of this is, I can’t do it!! How can I possibly tackle these childhood compulsive disorders I allowed to grow insidiously in myself?I face-up to the work before me. Hmmph.
Day 5: It’s a new day & a new technique, this time we practice an esoteric Christian prayer, last year when I did this retreat I was so resistant to it that I closed myself off to anything and made a face. This year with absolute trust in Sahajananda, the retreat leader, I dive in. The prayer is used with the breath and awareness of the heart. I start losing myself, dissolving into weightlessness, simultaneously I realise I am being loved by Jesus, I am accepted exactly as I am, I am held. I am loved. Suddenly this pathway opens up to a dimension of no thought; I’m in communion with a benevolent, blissful vastness and I recognise what TRUE LOVE really is. I have been in this dimension before…It is revealed that all roads lead to the same absolute reality.I come out of this experience stupefied yet joyful.
Day 6: The lecture on Surrender obliterates the thought patterns that are keeping me stuck in my mind & body. I am now firmly under the grip of deep meditation. I’m exploring Surrender in the experiential realm. When I’m not meditating, I’m facing some demons. It’s all connected, inseparable.
Day 7: It seems I have 2 settings: Full power, on fire intensity with everything I do or attempt to surrender and get emotional because I’m not achieving. I feebly attempt to modulate my settings, I cannot. I become livid. What am I doing on this path of evolution? I feel like giving up on Tantra, on yoga, on everything…but I can’t unsee what I’ve seen, I must go on, but how?Only a torrent of tears as an answer…
Day 8: The secret is out, meditation is FUN! I exhaust myself trying and surrender comes naturally, I rest in meditative bliss. I have another energetic orgasm during yoga, it’s a riot. I observe my body vibrating furiously and spiral rotations move upwards to Sahasrara chakra in the crown of the head. I enjoy it, it’s been a rough couple of days. I start detaching from this Naomi person and start observing her. I’m firmly watching as the witness consciousness, as the true essence of who I am beyond the mind and body and its countless identification. This state continues in my waking life, everything becomes practice. RADICAL!
Day 9: Nightmares again, naulis(a yoga practice)to the rescue. Not so easy to drop into yesterday’s state. I put in a valiant 3 hour meditation effort at full power, my central & major meridians fill upwards with energy. I come out with absolutely no thoughts. At dinner, a strong female presence that I don’t recognize sits at my table. I can’t help myself but look. Lo and behold, she is the writer responsible for my exponential growth in Tantra. I AM BLOWN AWAY! I can’t believe it, I had been waiting to meet & learn from Antoaneta for so long and here she is! She can’t help but smile. What a gift! I observe Naomi’s heart race and shoulders tense up in excitement, yet the true, pure I; the observer is serene and intuitively knows the greater meaning behind all this. I look at the autumn leaves in the meadow before me with effusive gratitude, the grand design of consciousness brought me here. I am that.
In the always exuberant Q&A session, my written question signed with my name is read out. Sahajananda answers with such precision and depth to some questions offering advice, with deep knowing he says he can feel Kali is strong in me. I am floored. I burst out in tears, humbled. I leave the hall to get a hold of myself. I connect with Kali ma, thanking her for all her gifts. That night is spent in pure ecstasy; looking at her image, communing with her, dreaming & waking with her benevolent love. My love has no limits.
Day 10: The achiever in me is disappointed with my progress.Upon closer inspection of my modus operandi, I see that I have always hidden behind working relentlessly to run away from feeling emotional. I started doing it very young when I first started being sexually abused as a 9 year old. I was a competitive athlete for most of my life, working myself into the ground for acknowledgement until Tantra yoga found me and I learnt the spiritual technology to heal my sexual wounds and transcend them. Now I saw I was doing subtler groundwork from an energetic standpoint, not the usual fireworks but hard work nonetheless.
It’s the final 3 hour meditation, I employ my personal Laya yoga inner attitudes. I use the general technique and freestyle it with a potent serving of Kali flavour. It starts with the mantra “I love Kali”(pause in the heart) “She loves me.” I go into an altered state and begin to fill up with energy. Effortlessly the mantra becomes a silken “I adore her”(pause in the heart) “She adores me.” I see her image and adore her. The nada which is a potent internal sound used in meditation becomes widely diffused and my body fills up with energy big time. Seamlessly the mantra becomes “I embrace her”(pause in the heart) “She embraces me.”During the pause I see us embrace tenderly in a Tantric hug(a hug that last a few minutes; it strongly activates Anahata chakra amongst other things.) I melt. I sense the might and intensity of the throbbing energy that surrounds me, it is an embrace, it is the embrace of mother, it is unconditional love.I am loved so completely.I cry and ask “Who am I?”… I am KALI.
The meditation ends. I know I am ready for a 17 day silent retreat. I float like a lily on an ocean of bliss. I reunite with my beloved, we stare into each other’s eyes, speechlessly we explore one another’s depth and embrace in yab yum posture.
The retreat concludes with a sharing on the last day. One by one, the lovely souls that shared this experience with me go up to sit with Sahajananada and pour their hearts out. He is a man of heart and supports every single one of us with his boundless love and presence. It is full of giggles, tears, poetry, shared experiences and timidity. We truly see each other for the first time, it breaks down all the walls we have inside. We embrace each other in silent solidarity and unabashed laughter. This is beauty.
As I write this review, I am still experiencing the strong echoes of the retreat in my daily life. The retreat really helps develop a balanced spiritual practice. It is always the highlight of my year.
In my opinion one of the priceless teachings here is that of Nada(The subtle sound). In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the most influential surviving Sanskrit texts on Hatha Yoga from the 15th century, Swami Swatmarama the author states that Goraknath recommended this meditation. Goraknath is widely considered as one of the foremost Tantric yoga adepts. Swatmarama was a disciple of Goraknath, which should allude to the origins of Hatha Yoga. In chapter 4 Verse 66 of the text, Swatmarama declared that both he and Goraknath believe that hearing the nada is the chief practice that leads to laya(dissolution of self)in meditation. Having received my initiation in nada yoga in the past I wish to share how it was indubitably the single most potent catalyst for my transformation. To be able to come to a retreat and learn this most precious teaching is one of the grandest opportunities in the life of a yogi.
Hridaya France is passionate about sustainability, they offer Permaculture design courses and implement these techniques on their grounds. Scrumptious vegan & vegetarian organic food is served at their restaurant and they run Hatha Yoga Modules and various workshops. Hridaya Mexico also does 17 and 49 day silent retreats, here’s the 49 day sharing for those who hear the calling…
There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Invite Him to fill you up,
embrace the fire.
Remind those who tell you otherwise that
comes to you of its own accord,
and the yearning for it
cannot be learned in any school.