Integral Yoga Events in USA - Sierra Retreat

Second Annual High Sierra Integral Yoga Retreat

August 1-4, 1996

This is part 2 of some notes written by Chandresh Patel, Dave Hutchinson and Girish Mantry about our retreat.

Part 1


Well, after we (I, Chandresh, Prapanna, Dana, Bindi) took a hike around the lake in the evening, I saw Dave and Sally coming back from the rocks above. And I noticed that the sun was still shining. My inner being craved to be one with the mother nature and with our sweet mother. So, went onto the tip of the rocks and a found a flat place to sit down and meditate. No sooner than I sat down, I heard the familiar voice of Bindi and was surprised to see how she followed me without my taking a slightest notice of her. Then she started jumping around me making her love-craving and attention-craving noises as if to tell me that she wanted to hike more and not stop. I entertained her a little bit and closed my eyes to meditate, expecting Bindi to stay by my side. By the time I opened my eyes ( after a few moments), Bindi was nowhere around to be seen. She went back to join the excitement down, around the fire at the camp site.

No sooner than I closed my eyes, I started hearing the voices from the camp fire laughing loud and talking. The area was so quiet that, the distances did not seem to matter to carry the sound across from one side of the rocky mountains to the other side through the valley. One could easily make a howl and convey the message to others anywhere in the valley.

T he mind, having been used to the excitement all day was not quite ready for the meditation. So, I started to sing my favorite mantra "Om Anandamayi Chaitanyamayi Satyamayi Parame". While I was chanting, I heard the laughs again from down, even though I was quite far from the rest of the group. This made me suspect whether the folks were also listening to my chanting and felt a little embarrassed, as I am usually very conscious of not letting other people listen to me while I do the chanting. So, I began my hike onto the tip of the neighboring rocks which were a little further from the camp site. (I should have entertained Bindi and took her to the neighboring rocks at least to give her a bit more hike... Oh well, next time). Found another flat place and sat down. This place was much better, though the laughs were still to be heard relatively faintly. But I was confident that I will not be heard and started singing freely. Then slowly the mind entered into meditation. Opened my eyes once to observe the nature and the setting sun. It was so calm around and the valley with its woods and rocks in the setting sun was so beautiful... Then closed my eyes again and resumed my meditation. Time passed easily and a lonely bird started making high pitched noises as if to tell me that the sun has set and I should probably head back.

While I was coming down, Dave who decided to look for me met on the way. We came down. Every one appeared to have finished the supper and enjoying the fire and the conversations. The group offered me the noodles that Chandresh prepared affectionately. While I was eating, Sally read out aloud the adventures she had in Canada and California to everybody. Every one was impressed with what she had done.

Then there was some serious discussion on various topics of sadhana. I don't remember (excuse my poor memory) accurately where it all started, but Prapanna was saying that, our own negative vibrations give strength to the hostile forces. Then Celest said that we were all doing that very same thing by talking about some negative things... Having missed that part of group experience while I was away on the rocks, I did not understand head and tail of what she was talking about. Any ways, there were some insightful remarks, stories, speeches and lectures and what not on the sadhana and other miscellaneous topics. (Perhaps, one of us should summarise all the satsang discussion we had during the retreat. I am not very good at remembering conversations).

Then, slowly Marta, Celest, Vishnubhai, Dana, Bindi and Prapanna retired to sleep. Vishnbubhai put up his hammock on the rocks this time (and had a sound sleep, looked very fresh when he woke up around 8.00 in the morning). I, Dave, sally and Chandresh went into the valley for a stargazing session. The sky was very clear and beautiful with the stars. We spotted out the sapta rishi nakshatras( also called as bear and saucepan). In India the 7 stars are referred to as the seven Vedic rishis. We also spotted out our own milky way. Chatted a little bit about planets, stars, life on other galaxies, etc. Then Sally proposed a two minute standing meditation. Dave suggested the "Infinite" as the focus of our meditation. Later we retired to sleep. Dave and Sally to their respective tents. I and Chandresh joined Prapanna and Bindi and Vishnu as usual to sleep in the nature with he trees, stars and the moon who appears around 2.00 am, comes straight on top of our heads around 4.00 am or 5.00 am and persists into the morning even after the sunrise.


"The face of Dawn out of mooned twilight grew."

The last day arrived. Chandresh as usual was up long before anyone else, wandering the rocks, listening to the morning birds. You would lie in your tent and hear the crunch, crunch, crunch of his footsteps passing by, like a watchman making his rounds.

The rest of started to wake. Vishnu had slept up on the first rock ledge this night, in his oversize hammock, so we took Bindi up to greet him and give him a morning slobber, which she did with abundant doggy relish. Chandresh started a fire, which soon was crackling hot. We gathered around the fire to eat breakfast.

After breakfast we retired to a small clearing in the forest up-canyon to have the morning circle. "You look like a bunch of hobbits," Vishnu noted, on seeing the first of us sitting cross-legged against the pines which ringed the circle. Soon we were all there -- Bindi included -- and Girish led the opening chan t this time, modulating the Gayatri up and down, in and around the woods.

We read some passages from The Supramental Manifestation on Earth about the supramental body, supermind, and collective. The group by this point had reached a fine level of unity, and we were able to talk about these abstruse topics with fluidity, reaching back and forth for understanding. Marta br ought in an example or two from Buddhist teachings; Dana asked a question about our relationship to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother; and the rest of us joined in where we could.

Vishnu was quiet as usual, holding his knowledge in reserve for the correct moment. One always feels a solidity about him, as if being in the presence of a forest oak, wise with the years, imperturbable, benign, a little weather-beaten. At his feet a face grew out of twigs from the forest floor. The face looked up at the rest of us with the face of Earth, kind and quizzical, amused, ever-shifting.

The circle finished, we slowly made our way back to camp to pack up. The next hour was spent sorting, folding, stuffing, tying, unpacking, re-stuffing, grunting, hefting, shuffling, along with the myriad details of preparing to break camp. Prapanna gathered the non-burnable trash to carry out; Vishnu roped his dozen or so items into something that resembled the modern backpack; Sally put on her internal frame pack and let us cinch it up in ten different ways, the equivalent of a thirty pound corset; Marta took down the Mother's banner, which had watched over us these last three days; and at the end we had nine packs more-or-less ready to go.

At the last moment we took out a camera and clumped ourselves together -- with our packs on, just to make it harder -- and took a few pictures. Th en we said goodbye to the site and began the hike back. Within a short time we were spread out along the trail, as Marta and Dana and Bindi took up the lead; Prapanna, Girish, Chandresh and Vishnu along the middle; and Celest and I taking up the rear.

Back at the trailhead we sat among some thorny berry bushes in the scant shade of a pine, felt the heat and our pounding hearts, kicked the dust from our boots, thought of home and the valley, of fresh food, cool beds, sweet showers, and lingered as long as we could before the final leave-taking.

And then we were gone, leaving the primeval forest, the immense mountain s, the silence, until another time. But not entirely; some part of that wilderness remains in each of us -- and some part of the experience we all shared.

Part 1

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