retreat in Mother Earth


Tat Walla Baba of Rishikesh in his eighties!

Thursday 27th May was my last day sleeping in the ashram before going to the cave. It was a terrible night as I was kept awake by the mosquitoes. The electricity had gone and the manager put the generator to work and it made an extraordinary noise and kept me awake.

I took in with stomach pains and literally thought I was going to pass out but it eventually left. As morning came, and the sun rose, after meditation I left and began my trek up the mountain to my cave.

On arriving, my first task was to clean out the cave and I found a neat little bunch of black scorpions and as they were small, I recognized them to be the most dangerous.

I was told not to kill anything here and so I had to get some leaves etc and use as a broom to sweep them out.
I just sat in silence listening to the sound of water-falling below, birds, a peacock cries. Some bees trying to get outside, all these sounds so peaceful.

I remember visiting a cave in Italy in Assisi, one in which St Francis stayed. It was not even as clean and comfortable as this but the similarity of being ‘inside Mother Earth’ like a ‘rebirth’ pleased me.

The cave was on the side of a small cliff and there was a tiny,narrow path that led me into the entrance. Above it, a huge part of the ‘roof’ was actually a flat stone.

Nature had designed it so well. During meditation a peacock perched on the ‘roof. I had an opening which served as a window looking out to the valley below and when the peacock flew away I could see her glide across to the other side of the valley. It was like a fairy tale.

That night I spread a piece of cotton cloth on the floor and using a small travelling bag as a pillow, I was tired and it did not take long to fall asleep

Friday 25th May, and I awoke after a very wonderful sleep. There was a cool breeze blowing through the cave. A lizard ran across the roof catching flies and a huge spider sat near where I lay my head. She did not make me feel very comfortable but I spoke and told he that we had to make friends if we had to live together in such a space.

Toilet was simply out-doors under the stars, something to get used to, but I loved the shower which was simply a peaceful waterfall.

The Baba who took care of the caves, Tat Walla Baba’s disciple warned me very strictly, (his name was  Swami Shankardasji. He introduced himself to me simply as Shankardas)

“My Guru was shot right there as he was taking his bath! Be careful, there are people who would think nothing of shooting you.

No one must know that you are Christian! Don’t talk to anyone you meet in the forest. I will tell them and spread the word that you are a sadu from Madras and that you are in silence.. do not wear a crucifix no matter how small.

This is jungle. never walk barefoot at nights as you may accidentally place your feet on a cobra and it will bite you. You may go for walks in the forest but stick to the path. Two miles from here you will find wild elephants and occasional tigers. These caves were theirs and now we live here, remember to live like them.

You need to mark your territory. Pee around your cave! Don’t kill anything!” (this last instruction about ‘peeing around the cave’ was something I never understood as the cave was inside and on a cliff. If I was a gymnast from the “Cirque du Soleil” maybe I could obey this rule, but because I was not, I just prayed about it!)

A Franciscan brother gave me an orange sadhu’s garment. The Christian monks were given permission by the Church to wear the colors of the place. A person in orange was seen outwardly as someone consecrated.

Thus I was wearing this garment. It consisted of two pieces, one around the waist which was like a skirt (there was a way of wearing it so it did not fall and reveal our shorts, as happened very often with Westerners, making the locals laugh) and the other was just a sort of scarf to protect ones upper body from the rays of the sun. It was very comfortable.

After early morning bath I came back to my cave for yoga and meditation and I had the little Office which I recited. Being alone, it was healthy, I thought, to divide the day into moments of varied activities and so my mind was kept disciplined and my body was kept healthy

I would be living in solitude here for several weeks.And of course, my daily journal which I am so happy now that I kept!

In my prayers this morning, I was praying Psalm 104 as marked for today and in verse 10 very appropriately reads

“You make springs gush forth in the valleys:  they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal: the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams, the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work,”
(New Revised Standard Version, Psalm 104 v10)

The words were alive as I could hear the sounds of the birds and water falling. Meditation was easy. A real gift!


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