Monday, 23 January 2017

RETREAT LIFE 1: LIFE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE



Many well-wishers of the blog have asked how things are doing for this beaten-up old Englishman since the move away from London at the end of last year. So I wanted to update you on what's going on and report back once in a while.

Beautiful picture, isn't it? This is of the mountain river not far from my little house, which is perched on the side of a steep hill and is a small.. we call them in England bungalows, so small one storey house a bit like a Hobbit house, with a puja room, two bedrooms, and the usual amenities including solar panels, LPG for cooking, gasoil for heating... and a wood fire in the living room. 




Not far away is the ocean...and all around is this fresh forest, full of prana and bird life... owls at night.. and the birds are vivid, unusual... and in England we don't have to worry about snakes, scorpions or other nasties, just the cold weather.

Now this house was truly a miracle and gift of God, an astonishing example for me of the power of manifestation of the spirit after years of sadhana. It belongs to me, there is no mortgage to pay, and it is full of an enlivened silence --- and just needs some redecorating. 

In this house I will likely pass my final days, and hopefully before then pass times embedded in silence and able to pray and chant for others and turn this gift to use for all. I still have to work part of the week in London, which is a bone-crunching five hours drive away, but life is beginning to settle down a bit after a turbulent 2016. 

The idea is to listen to God, worship God, learn a bit of humility, practice Metta Bhavana and prayer, but above all meditate in silence and let the holiness of the surroundings swallow this idiot up hook line and sinker. It is entirely undeserved, but as always in life, if you are thrown a ball, then catch it and run with it! Or in this case, sit with it.

There is much to discard slowly but surely - all the hard skins we grow from working for a living and living in a toxic city, family concerns, illness and all that. It takes a while to shed those skins, to regain the original purity. 

I've taken the time to really question every practice and try and forge a real routine that works and will not become top-heavy. No robes, no elaborate pujas or  chants, just a cut back to the radical, the essence of what it is to be human, with a faith in the Divine, with human traits, entirely alone, and with a legacy of many great projects unfulfilled. How blessed is this opportunity!

Now there is always a chance i grow ever so slightly crazy, but I think not. Having been in the world for so long, it teaches you a few tricks about what impulses to trust and what to reject. I have a legacy, too, of things I have no desire to give up... such as coffee and music! Without a sense of fun, too, the whole project will get very over-serious, pompous and self-important. I reckon the learning of humility is one of the first great lessons. We tend to view our little spiritual concerns as all important, and time and time again forget how simple such a life really is. Just be open to receive from the Divine, protect from your own subconscious urges, bow to God, make no claims, check every revelation or shaft of understanding with Viveka, discrimination, and set up a whole some pand flexible practice. 

So, here goes, and on with life by the mountain river...




It reminds me a little bit of Rishikesh, the same steep hillsides.. of course no caves or yogis or ashrams. My companions are principally the birds outside and the neighbours are friendly and do not bite. The nearby town is Lynton, which is also on a steep hill and was built principally by the Victorians who called the area "Little Switzerland". Below Lynton, at the bottom of a cliff is a village called Lynmouth, very crowded in the summer. In 1952 there was a dreadful disaster when a torrential flood in August caused serious devastation and loss of life. Lynmouth still has a memorial hall dedicated to this tragedy — which at the time was widely reported around the world. The prime minister of Jamaica even sent a truckload of bananas as his country's contribution to the relief effort.

In every country, the most sacred places tend to be where rivers meet, and in this area there is a famous beauty landmark walled "Watersmeet" where two rivers indeed meet.

One of the first things I did here was pour as pot of honey as a thankyou offering into two of the rivers, and there is a whole back narrative attached to this. I first came to the area in 1999, running a half marathon in a race called the "Doone Race"  which went over the mountains. It was a near-death experience, back in the days I could run! But I finished the course...last.

The beauty of the place stayed with me, and the following year I came back with my then-girlfriend and remember chanting the Guru Gita early in the morning by the stream. Maybe this simple act is what ultimately produced the house all of 16 long years later.

There is a famous song by Jnaneshwar and the English words come to mind this morning. Wishes get granted in God's time, not your time - remember this! And God always knows whats best for you. These words may sound trite and cliched, but they are true, so deeply true and my life is a living testament to that. A truly worthless individual touched by grace, undeserving though it is:

My Guru's protection
Is always behind me
With this benediction
What more do I need?

The wife of a noble king
Should never go begging
When all of Her wishes
Are completely fulfilled

To one who is sitting beneath
The wish-fulfilling tree
What more is still needed
When all is granted

I have crossed over
I have crossed over
Grace has protected me
my Guru has saved me

JAI MA!