What is Seclusion?
Often when one mentions “seclusion”, there arises in the mind the stereotypical image of an emaciated, bearded and nearly naked religious recluse meditating at the mouth of a cave high on a snowy mountain, inaccessible to all but the most determined mountaineers who have come to get the last word on the “meaning of life”! The challenge this image humorously depicts has deterred many meditators who otherwise would greatly benefit from the practice of seclusion.
For some, it is certainly true that the austerity and one-pointed concentration of strict renunciation can be extremely helpful. However, a modified version of this practice is far more realistic, yet as beneficial, to the average meditator. The basic principles which underlie the life of the “saintly hermit” can also be of tremendous benefit to all spiritual aspirants.
“Seclusion”, then, could simply be defined as an interval of time—longer than your accustomed spiritual practice— which the meditator devotes to communing with God, or the Divine presence, existing both within and without. This communion arises not only from meditation, but also from contemplation and other practices (such as devotional chanting, being in silence, spending time in nature, creative activities, reading inspiring materials by great spiritual masters, etc.)
Should I Seclude?
Of course! Whether you are an experienced meditator or a beginner, you only stand to benefit from this practice. The great master Paramahansa Yogananda, (on whose teachings Ananda and the origins of the Retreat are based), has said, “seclusion is the price of greatness.” What he was referring to is an inner greatness—that is to say, an expansion of consciousness moving inward and upward, toward higher understanding and communion with the Divine. Being in seclusion allows the spiritual aspirant to experience this expansion. Many who faithfully set aside time for their seclusion attest to profound inner revelations, a more subtle understanding of spiritual truths and an opening of the heart, bringing about great peace, joy and feelings of love.
Yogananda was not the only spiritual teacher to recommend this practice. Seclusion and spiritual retreats have been key practices in the lives of saints and seekers of most religions worldwide, throughout history. No matter what path you follow you are likely to find the practice of seclusion to be extremely helpful. Even if you are unaccustomed to spending time in solitude, you are likely to find—as most do—that the outer peace and silence lends itself to an inner peace and stillness, making it easier to access your connection with the Divine—your highest Self.
A week of seclusion at the Ananda Meditation Retreat: what a joy, what a blessing. Even after having visited sites of pilgrimage all over the world, the Meditation Retreat temple remains my favorite place in the world to meditate. Seclusion here annually renews my faith in the possibility of Self-Realization. After a week of silence and meditation mere theoretical possibilities approach reality. The hem of Divine Mother’s robe is here to be touched. I go forth recharged and ready for another round of battle with egoic desires, and the vicissitudes of earthly existence. Thank you for providing a place of unparalleled power and depth. - Peter, regular guest for 20 years
Click here to read Peter’s Seclusion Blog.
An ordinary man thinks either that silence cannot be achieved or that it is of no avail. But a seeker knows that silence can be achieved on the strength of his inner cry. He also knows that silence is of tremendous importance, for without silence we cannot see the face of Truth or grow into the very image of Truth and Light. Silence is within but we have to discover it. Unless and until we discover our inner silence, we cannot feel that we are of God and for God. Inner silence is not just the absence of thoughts. No! Silence is the blossoming of our indomitable inner will. Silence is our inner wisdom-light. This wisdom-light is our conscious and constant surrender to the Will of our Inner Pilot, who inspires us, encourages us and guides us to the Shores of the Golden Beyond.