Reflections by Justin Maggart
This year’s Retreat to the Heart of Silence at Camp Brotherhood was a powerful opportunity for me to reconnect with the spiritual practice of retreat. When I was in high school at Seattle Prep, I went on several retreats to wilderness areas, surrounded by trees and the distant sound of waves washing upon ocean shores. In the tradition of Catholic Jesuit priests, we were encouraged to reflect deeply through conversation, writing, and time spent quietly contemplating and awakening our awareness in nature. We also had a lot of fun playing together and building relationships over shared meals, music, skits and deep learning. Looking back, many moments from these retreats are some of my fondest memories of adolescence.
As the end of October neared, I eagerly anticipated the chance to spend a weekend in silence focused on spiritual practice. The journey up to Camp Brotherhood and dinner were full of many pleasant conversations, meeting new friends, and reconnecting with familiar yogis from the Ananda Sangha. The food and the accommodations were excellent, as was the fellowship of many spiritual seekers. Following the orientation for the weekend’s retreat, all participants went into silence with chanting and a group meditation. The collective intention was a palpable presence in the sadhana room that evening, as were the guiding, nurturing vibrations of the Masters of Self-Realization. I experienced one of my deepest meditations in years. Thanks to Murali’s pre-dinner Ananda Yoga class, I was able to sit in the silence long after many had gone to bed. As I blissfully walked back to my room, I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.
Saturday and Sunday were full of opportunities to meditate, practice yoga postures, breathe the cool country air, and reflect. Many hours of meditation were balanced with two Saturday yoga asana classes lead by Murali that were keenly focused on helping us experience stillness in each pose. As morning turned to afternoon turned to night, I felt more and more aware of the subtle currents of energy gathering in my spine and flowing upwards to my spiritual eye. Instead of the static of idle chatter, my mind’s ear resounded with prayers, chants, affirmations, and the sound of OM. In the midst of all of the sadhana, I also took time to journal and witness the seasons turn throughout the verdant grounds of Camp Brotherhood.
In many ways, this weekend of silence allowed me to better know myself and my Self. The ripples of feeling and whirlpools of worries calmed to placid morning waters. I felt a keener and keener awareness of spirit as I tuned my consciousness to images of wisdom within and without. I felt reluctant as the end the silence neared. But the door of my heart, open wide, would not close as we shared our final meal and resumed talking. I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I was glowing. I look forward to many more sessions of group sadhana, and the deep bliss that comes from sweet satsang.