This weekend, I completed 7 days of silence (well, 5.5) on a retreat with Gangaji. Although I did not stay in residence as I lived nearby, it was very restful and I went deep into the silence and bliss. The retreat site was on a large and busy university campus and they were doing some basement demolition during the first few days of the retreat. But this did not stop the silence. Simply stepping into the group, the silence was immense. A few people who spoke with Gangaji during and a few I spoke with after we broke silence were awake. 2 give satsangs themselves. So it was a powerful group.
The focus and approach of this retreat was quite different from the first I attended earlier this month. The focus of the first was awakening itself and quite a few people did so. There was some time spent talking about process but as I mentioned, it was more a conversation of Self with Itself, so not always something the mind could follow. But certainly the soul could if allowed.
By comparison, Gangaji’s focus was on inquiry as a preparation to awakening. By exploring who is asking, we become increasingly aware of the observer, the Self. She uses terms like “ego” far more broadly and imprecisely in my books but I think is simply avoiding a bunch of concepts and keeping it simple. Staying out of mind. This seems to be the approach of others of the Ramana lineage as well. During her usually twice daily satsangs, people would sit with her and she would lead them into an inquiry into who was experiencing. Or there was simply a sharing of the awakening experience. Oftentimes, the exchange was near wordless with a great deal of heart opening. While Gangaji has an apparent detached personality, she has a deep warmth she readily shares.
We also did several diads, where you sit in direct eye contact with another and they ask you the same simple question over and over. This process can allow you to go very deep into it and step past the mind.
Neither retreat was about lectures or talks but rather a deeper connection within. And both were effective, in different ways. So there was not notes or main points I can share here. But in this case, I did note a few quotes that struck me.
“Engage the silence with activity”
From an awake persons perspective, everyone is already awake. There is nothing but awakeness.
“How else would you know you’re asleep if you weren’t awake?”
“Thoughts are driven by an energy, an emotion. What is the emotion below it?”
Just looking behind what arises, we find something deeper, then deeper. Repeatedly, she took people experientially into seeing that behind their suffering was peace or bliss.
Gangaji is also very frank. She doesn’t pull punches.
“I can’t do it – you’re right. It does it itself.”
“I’m not enough. It’s true. Accept it. All of it.”
“It doesn’t matter what you’re thinking and feeling. Where are you?”
“Am I being used [by God]? There is no way to know.”
“Follow your heart.”
On the fear of failing or falling, “Nothing sinks. And that is freedom.”
Together, the 2 retreats amped up the inner peace and happiness and that has carried forward into my life. That’s a good thing as I have several major decisions to make shortly. It always amazes me just how there is always more and deeper. Always greater happiness and peace possible.