Note: This post is epic. Sadly, not in that the content is superb, but rather in length. With close to 3000 words, the average read time is 15 minutes. You’ve been warned.
I’ve recently returned from my first silent retreat with Adyashanti. I’ll just refer to him as Adya from now on, as that’s what his friends call him… so I hear.
Although the majority of his retreats seem to take place in his home state of California, I was fortunate to catch him on an east coast stop at The Omega Institute. The Omega Institute is a lovely property close to the Hudson River in upstate New York. It’s a non-profit organization that has an almost unbelievable number of events (seemingly every week) with topics ranging from spirituality to holistic health to personal empowerment, to name just a few.
Let’s be clear, Omega is much more of a “retreat center” or maybe “retreat camp” than any type of resort. It bears little resemblance to a place like the Canyon Ranch Resorts.
It’s a more crunchy or hippie scene than those types of resorts. Let’s just say that there were a lot of “Birkenstocks and Socks”.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s actually my personal preference.
Honest to Goddess, I hadn’t consumed any mind-altering substances in that two and a half decade time period. From a spiritual path perspective, there simply didn’t seem to be any need for it.
Then I started to get an “itch”; but it wasn’t exactly an itch, it kind of felt like an ache. So I’ll call it an “Itch-Ache”.
There was something else that I needed to experience, or so I convinced myself.
As you may recall, on my first LSD trip, I spent a good deal of time after the “peak-behind-the-curtain period” in The Void. This was planned for that first trip, and was certainly liberating in many ways that I was able to carry into ordinary relative reality.
This Itch-Ache felt like a calling/desire for more than the loss of Ego into the Void, but rather a sense of Union. I was unsure exactly how this sense of Union would present itself, as I felt confident that the path of pure bliss, surrender and love wasn’t MY path. I had always been drawn to the more Jnana Yoga Path of knowledge and intellectualism, somewhat characterized by my leaning towards Alan Watts over Ram Dass.
As some of you are already aware, the totality of my drug experience (not to mention my psychedelic experience) throughout both high school AND college consisted of four beers. I suppose I should point out that the term “beer” is used lightly here, as they were really four bottles of Little Kings Cream Ale.
Seriously, I was that straight-edge (before that was a term) and vanilla, up until I was 24 years old.
Although slightly painful to admit, I was a Midwestern Country Bumpkin when I arrived in San Francisco, sight unseen, to study Religion and East West Psychology at The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).
Although I had obtained my BA in philosophy with additional foci on religion and psychology, I somehow missed the books and lectures on mystical experiences, induced both by various techniques and the use of drugs.
That all changed at CIIS, as there was a corner section of the library dedicated to the topic of the psychedelic experience for enlightenment. Mind you, that wasn’t the exact description header for those two bookshelves, but even I could figure it out.
It was like porn to me.
Like real, old school porn, before the Internet; when it wasn’t so easy to obtain, and that seemed to exponentially increase both the desire and appreciation for it. That’s what this new and tasty information was for me… Enlightenment Porn.