When we focus on our blessings, it creates an appreciative heart and adds a strong sense of balance to our lives.
Amma has given us an extraordinary opportunity to grow and realize our true nature by allowing us to stay in Her ashram. She has laid out various stepping stones for us: karma yoga, puja, bhajans, archana, etc. Her most recent stepping stone is the Amrita Silent Retreats now offered at Amritapuri.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says that a person is bound to fail in meditation if he does not strike a balance in his day-to-day activities. Eating too much or too little, for example, is not going to bring you any closer to God. Meditation can help a person overcome all sorrows, but he must eat and sleep well, work daily and find time to enjoy recreational activities, too.
We can safely say that everyone wants to be happy. Hopefully, entering the spiritual path will help us to find real happiness. First, it seems we need to be aware and present in our lives, less distracted and less scattered. Meditation is an invaluable tool to help us move in that direction. A big part of a healthy meditation practice is balance. It’s crucially important that we relax. This is a very challenging and unfamiliar concept to some people. I think of it as a big balancing scale; tranquil and interested; peace and clarity; calm and energized. This is a balancing act and within one meditation session, we can flip flop back and forth. Both aspects are needed together in harmony.
Next, in our time off the meditation cushion, we have to adjust to the many changing circumstances that we encounter in life. Karma yoga helps us in letting go of our comforts and attachments, our concepts about how things should be.
Karma yoga helps us to concentrate the mind. If we are successful in our Karma yoga we will experience the results when we sit for meditation. And conversely, if we can increase our concentration during meditation, the quality of our seva (selfless service) will increase.
So you can see how the two, meditation and karma yoga, go hand in hand, thus creating balance.
Most people in modern culture are really quite scattered. We spend a large part of everyday distracted. Actually we are addicted to these distractions. We go from one to the next without even realizing it.This can also be true for people staying in the ashram; we can get so caught up in ashram life, that we find ourselves busy non-stop, all day long.
I have been trying to balance meditation and seva for years while living in the ashram. The Amrita Silent Retreats have helped me a lot in this regard. The retreats appeal to both newcomers who are visiting for a short time, as well as ‘old-timers’ who have been around Amma or ashram residents for a while. For people just starting the spiritual path, this provides a strong foundation so that from the beginning, they can learn the importance of setting aside time to sit everyday. They also gain a lot of confidence upon completing a course. For old-timers, retreat participation is valuable because it recharges their enthusiasm for the goal. I have heard this feedback from both groups of people.
After completing an Amrita Silent Retreat, people often say that they come away with a taste for meditation. They see it’s value. They also realize that it isn’t necessary to carve out long periods of time to develop a meditation practice. We can meditate for short periods throughout the day.
Amma has designed another way for us to strive for balance and harmony in our lives. The Amrita Silent Retreats are a rich, powerful and rewarding experience – truly a gift from Amma.