|What Is Seclusion?|
|The Benefits of Seclusion|
What Is Seclusion?
It’s taking a chunk of time out of your life—which may be very busy—to be alone, in silence, to deepen your spiritual life. In order to discover the joys of seclusion, you may have to:
1. Convince yourself that you really need and deserve seclusion, and
2. Get over any fears you may have of spending time alone and in silence—especially fear that you might fail in trying to meditate more deeply and become closer to God.
Many people have these feelings at first. If you do too, it might be wise to talk to someone who has done seclusion before and loves it.
If you’ve never done seclusion, start slowly, just a day or two to begin with. Then when you’re more used to short seclusions, try for longer.
Planning Your Seclusion
Carefully plan ahead where you’re going to stay and what you’re going to do. In regions with a prolonged cold season, winter is often the best time of year to seclude, as life tends to be more naturally inward.
In India, however, where winter is short if at all in many areas, monsoon season is often best.
- “Find a place and book your space”—as far ahead as possible. Life has a way of crowding in and taking over your best-made plans. Don’t let anything else interfere with your intention to seclude.
- Your seclusion place needs to be very quiet, preferably one with a retreat-like environment where any people nearby, like retreat staff, will respect your need for complete silence, privacy, and what you want to do with your time.
- Although it’s possible to seclude where you live, especially if you live alone or your family will be away for awhile, most long-time secluders will tell you that when they tried to seclude in their usual environment it didn’t work as well because of strong temptation to get back into old routines, habits, or thought patterns.
In India, with its prevalent joint family housing, secluding at home can be particularly challenging.
So aim for a place away from home. But if you really want to try secluding at home, find a place, even if it’s only a room, where you can be completely alone and uninterrupted all day.
- Decide what you want to do, then what you want to take with you to make that possible. Good spiritual reading material is helpful, especially on the lives of the great saints of all religions. Consider such things as music to listen to or spiritual videos; meditation equipment; shoes and clothing; and food. Write out your lists and proposed daily schedule ahead of time. But …
- Be flexible! You may get to your seclusion place and find you’re very tired (this is often the case) and simply need to sleep a lot for a day or so before getting on with your seclusion plans. That’s fine. Or you may think you’d like to fast but find you’re hungry. Be prepared for that. Be ready to come up with new plans on the spot, if you need to.
- Let God and our gurus guide you carefully in both the planning stages and while at your place of seclusion. Don’t be attached to what you want to happen. Relax and just be. Begin each day by saying, “What shall we do today, Divine Mother? Guide each moment. And thank You for giving me time to be alone with You!”
The Ups and Downs of Seclusion
For most people starting on seclusion, a primary goal is to have increasing times of prayer and meditation, along with everything related to getting ready for deep meditation like the Energisation Exercises, yoga postures, chanting, and inspirational reading. These are core activities around which everything else revolves.
But if you’re taking longer seclusion, you may find that some days you simply cannot meditate as long as you’d hoped. Go with the flow! You might take a long walking meditation in nature and be with God that way. Or do some journal writing and write a letter to God. There are many “meditative activities” which—though they don’t help us quite as much as silent, sitting meditation—are still powerful ways of spending time with God. After all, that’s what seclusion is for.
Remember, “silence is the altar of Spirit”, as our guru said. If you must be around people for any reason, wear an “IN SILENCE” badge and point at it if someone tries to engage you. Don’t make eye contact with others. No note-writing, either. Best of all, stay completely alone and “speak” only to God in the language of your own heart.
Try to isolate yourself from all distractions. Turn off your phone. No worldly magazines and books, TV, newspapers, or Internet. Resist all temptations to check messages! .Remember, this is your time to grow closer to God and there’s plenty of material of higher consciousness without falling into those other traps.
It may feel strange at first to be “cut off” from the world. But that’s really the idea—to give you time to look at your world in a more interiorised way. Your mental clarity increases.You may wonder, when you return to your daily life, why constant availability seems so necessary.
What if things come up from inside yourself and you become alarmed or feel you need to talk to somebody about them? This can happen. First, do your best to get through the experience on your own. Do something different and pray for insight. Exercise and fresh air often help quite a bit, or a nice long shower or bath. Try writing about it in your journal, or sleeping on it. Sometimes that’s all you need to give you insight and fresh perspective. But if all else fails, of course find someone to talk to.
The Benefits of Seclusion
In seclusion you begin to see that your mind is like a glass of water cloudy with dirt and debris from constantly being “stirred and shaken” by daily life. By being very quiet and still, by praying and meditating more than usual, thinking uplifting thoughts, keeping company only with the saints and our line of gurus, all the dirt and debris begin to settle down.Your “mental water glass” becomes very clear and clean.
When your reach that point in your seclusion, you can begin to see life as it really is. Life looks so different, so much more beautiful. When you pick up an inspiring book you’ve read before, it’s as though you’re holding a different book. Each sentence is written in flames of light, their perfect wisdom meant especially for you.
Your heart also becomes more open, softer, and more in tune with devotional practices. Chanting and devotional music become much sweeter and more uplifting. You can feel yourself soaring on wings of joy! God becomes “the nearest of the near and the dearest of the dear”.
As the years go by, each time you seclude you’ll grow more used to the “rhythms” of seclusion. You’ll probably find that each seclusion is different. Some turn out to be just as you had hoped. Some don’t. All are great learning experiences. Sometimes you find yourself weeping to think that your seclusion has to end and you must return to daily life.
More Pointers for Seclusion
- Don’t eat a heavy meal the night before a seclusion day. This will help your next morning’s meditation immensely.
- Try to meditate deeply the night before, then go to sleep affirming, “Tomorrow is my day to be alone with God!”
- Get up early! Sleeping late will make you sluggish all day—and, besides, you’ll miss the coming of the dawn, the loveliest and often quietest time of the day.
- Energise—outside if at all possible. Go slowly and stay very conscious of how you’re doing the exercises.
Do some yoga postures. Take time to do them carefully, gracefully, and meditatively in the Ananda Yoga way. If you’re not used to doing yoga on your own, use a guided audio or video Ananda Yoga routine. Be adventurous! Pick some postures from the Ananda Course in Self Realization (14 Steps) or Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness that you rarely or never practise and give them a try too. Here’s your chance to really enjoy them.
This may also be the perfect time to do all those yoga exercises or techniques that you keep intending to do but don’t take the time for: the special mudras, bandhas, or pranayams.
Now for a long, deep meditation with no time barriers. How glorious to know you can meditate for as long as you can sustain the energy! Do the techniques longer than usual, with your mind deeply absorbed in what you’re doing. Do more kriyas and/or higher kriyas than usual too. End with healing prayers—sending healing vibrations to the world, to individuals, and even to yourself.
- Try bridging the gap between meditation and the rest of your day by practising an affirmation, reading one of Yoganandaji’s prayers or poems, listening to some of Swami Kriyananda’s inspiring music, going for a walking meditation in the beauties of nature, or having a little ceremony or ritual of some sort for yourself.
- Read, listen to, or view other inspirational works, lives of saints, or biographies of other godly persons.
- Make music, chanting, japa, and the power of vibration an important part of your seclusion. Practise your chants, letting God flow through your voice. Take one chant and sing it for a long, long time. Learn a new chant. Learn one of Swami Kriyananda’s songs. Sing along with an album of Ananda music and chanting on a CD. Chant Aum at each chakra, using the appropriate musical notes.
- A seclusion day is perfect for fasting and keeping complete silence, or breaking silence only for prayers or chanting (even then, try chanting softly, staying very inward). If you find total fasting is too much, you might try fresh fruit and vegetables only or fresh juices all day. Drink plenty of water, please, whether or not you fast! Whatever you take in, do it lightly, gratefully, slowly and consciously! Don’t forget the other kinds of diets and fasts that Yogananda recommends in his article “The Divine Magnetic Diet” the wisdom diet, the courage diet, and of course, a worry fast.
- Most people find it much easier to fast if they keep silence at the same time. You’ll find your energy begins to build as the time goes by. Hoard all your energy, directing it up towards God and toward longer, deeper meditations. It truly works! After several days of complete silence, you’ll probably find a greater sense of inner peace and joy than you’ve ever known.
- Perhaps your seclusion time can be a time of not only internal but also external cleansing. Take a mild herbal laxative one evening or an enema in the morning. Have a long soak in your bathtub, or a good long scrub in your shower. Take a swim if the weather’s nice and you know of a fairly private place to swim. Take a sunbath, too, consciously pulling in healing rays (but be careful of going too long with this, especially at mid-day). Do some of Yogananda’s heliotropic methods of self-healing.
Really get into journaling. If you don’t have a journal, use this time of seclusion to start one. If you keep only a brief daily spiritual diary, have another journal for expanding journal writing—and write, write, write! You’ll be amazed how many problems you can solve by listing them and then asking Divine Mother to help you find all kinds of solutions; for instance, “Why are my meditations so blah?” and “Why don’t I get along with so-and-so?”
- Write letters of spiritual encouragement. There are surely many folks you know who are in great need of such a letter.
- Be creative. Write poetry, but try to make it introspective and God-centered. Draw or paint, but only with a focus on God.
- And study! This should be part of every seclusion. For example, take one of the lessons from Raja Yoga (14 Steps) and read it slowly, reflecting on every sentence. Take notes. Make outlines. Pretend you’re going to have a pop quiz tomorrow, or that you have to teach a class in whatever you’ve chosen to study. Listen to one of Swami Kriyananda’s recorded talks; perhaps even transcribe it word for word, or at least make some good notes.
- Do you like to run? Fine! But try to find a place where you won’t see anybody, at least anybody who might want to talk to you.
- Take a long walk, again in a well-chosen location. In fact, do a walking meditation.
- At twilight have another nice, long sadhana—perhaps outside, if the weather will allow. Try a 3-hour meditation with breaks every hour for chanting or stretching. Go even longer if you feel you can, or work up to longer meditations as you are able.
- End your day with a prayer of thanksgiving for the joy that comes from spending a day alone with the Friend of Friends.
Yoganandaji’s Words about Seclusion
|Seclusion is, as our guru says, “the price of greatness”—greatness of spirit, that is. This comes only with an increasingly closer walk with God— feeling God’s presence within and all around us always.
Indeed,Yoganandaji encouraged regular practice of one day of seclusion each week. In an article from 1923, he said: “The week should be allotted to work, amusement, and spiritual culture—5 days for money-making, one day for rest and amusement, and one day for introspection and inner realization.”
In his above comment, Master was addressing an America audience, whose typical work week is 5 days in contrast to India’s typical 6. Yet his advice to seclude one day a week can be adjusted to carry it out for at least part of a free day.
Savitri’s Personal Seclusion Testimonial
In my early years at Ananda, I was able to dedicate one day a week to a mini-seclusion. Now, I usually take 5-7 days close to Thanksgiving in a housekeeping cabin at Ananda Village’s Meditation Retreat. I choose that time of year because it feels very inward, the autumn scenery is still beautiul for my daily walks among the hills, and it’s close enough to Christmas that I can begin the process of “preparing the cradle of my heart for the coming of the Christ (Consciousness) Child”. It is definitely one of the high points of the year for me.
My husband Sudarshan probably holds the “Ananda Village record” for the most time spent in seclusion. He spends 4 weeks a year, usually in February, in his little seclusion trailer, parked at a secret and remote location nearby. He does Master’s 9-day cleansing and healing diet
|I have made it a priority in my life for the past 30 years to take a longer or shorter time of seclusion at least once a year. Now, many years later, I am still just as enthusiastic about seclusions, if not more so. I now know, without any shadow of a doubt, that times of seclusion are essential to one’s ability to persevere on a lifetime spiritual quest to final freedom in God.
for the first 9 days. I re-supply him with food about halfway through. When he returns home after all that time in seclusion, his eyes look angelic and his face looks about 10 years younger and filled with divine light.
|The Joyful Practice of Seclusion|
|Going Deeper Within – Weekend Retreat|
The above insights about seclusion come from 2 articles by Nayaswami Savitri Simpson, one of Ananda’s pioneers and foremost acharyas—”Sweet Seclusion” and “Time Out for Seclusion”. Savitriji’s insights were combined with additions by Brahmacharini Prisha Kirby.