You might ask why anyone would want to sit in a hot cave for a month. Well, ‘anyone' might not, but ‘someone', especially if that person has been trained in Vipassana meditation; might, particularly if inclined towards radical ways of ‘getting to know him or herself.'
And if that ‘someone' is lucky they may have a friend who is fulfilling his life-wish by creating such a place with lots of habitable caves scattered over the landscape where he invites people to come and meditate, while providing the basic essentials so they can give full attention to this seeking.
A rocky overhang becomes a meditation space at Hampi's Island Sanctuary. (Photo Courtesy Island Sanctuary website)
This was my case when I decided to go and spend a month in Hampi at Horst's Island Sanctuary.
Although Integral Yoga does not advise a life-long renunciation of the world and escape into nirvana, it certainly does advise that sadhaks follow their inner guide on their own unique path.
So I thought that if I sat for a month in a cave, resolutely resisting normal distractions, I could perhaps train both the vital and my monkey-mind to quieten down, and perhaps obey the spirit.
I had a very good retreat. Of course, meditation is not in itself pleasant: one gets sick, bored, tired, discouraged, or obsessed – as I noticed I became – watching my body's heat, or the mosquitoes, or the itching, or my aching back, or worse, the preoccupations with food and bowel movements! But one just keeps working on developing detachment plus the will to continue. The results one keeps for later.
Now I have returned and my notebook is full of reflections. I also notice that physically I am fitter and, others tell me, even glowing and bright. Vitally I feel renewed and rejuvenated, and mentally I seem to have hit upon some inner confirmation of my direction at this stage of my life.
In all, it was a challenging process and a satisfying one. On the last day of the retreat, I gave myself permission to think. What I did was to review the various mental whirlpools that had been spinning persistently in my mind. Many were situations where I felt a strong urge to give someone ‘advice'. I decided to use the ‘Law of Projection' or ‘mirroring' as it is called to see how this ‘advice' would sound if I directed it towards myself.
What it revealed was striking.
To one friend, who is about my age, whose life is extremely balanced, and who seems to have reached the top, I wanted to say, “But you must not get stuck in the fineness and correctness of all this; there is now an emphatic turning inward which is called for.” And so I said this to myself. I saw how beautiful and fulfilling life in Auroville and Vérité had become for me, but I too had to turn ‘emphatically inward'.
To another friend whose office is a picture of unimaginable chaos, I wanted to say, “Mahalakshmi is waiting to bestow all her wealth on you and what you are doing for Auroville, but she can't stand this mess! Please call in Mahasaraswathi plus any other help you can get, and clean up your place so she can do her work for us all.”
When I applied it to myself, I looked at the Vedic meaning of Lakshmi's wealth and saw that it meant the ‘wealth of higher knowledge', while Saraswathi is ‘study' or the ‘organiser of the mind'. So I told myself it was important now to actively prepare myself to receive the higher knowledge, not just by studying Sri Aurobindo but by getting to know at every moment the planes and parts of my being from where I was acting.
Then to another friend I wanted to say, “Please stop thinking you can wriggle around this problem – you need professional help!” And to myself I said, “If you are serious about turning inward, then get a teacher – no more doing it on your own which amounts to leaving your sadhana in the hands of your ego.”
Then I noticed that all those I was addressing were men, and that it was the ‘animus' in me, the mock-man in myself, who was needing so much instruction.
Then I remembered that there was yet another whirlpool of advice for one other friend. “Could you stop being the indomitable he-man, and allow your feminine aspect to develop and come forward? With this you can bring more beauty, tenderness, refinement and much else into your life.”
And with that I heard myself tell myself, “Yes, Bhavana, you could drop a lot of your heavy-handedness, use art to explore the Eternal Feminine within, and intensify, deepen, your relationship with the Divine Mother.”