I was 26 and still not on any career path. Though I liked the classes at the Santa Anita Church, I didn’t have a call to be a minister, so that was a dead-end.
Joyfully, God was my life now and thus I only wanted to move forward following His guidance. Being inspired by Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I Am God” I decided to spend 30 days in solitude and silence to hear what was mine to do.
Like my 3 practices to put God first every day, the creation of how to live the 30 days came from the Divine within. It was strict. Not only was I in solitude, but I was allowed no TV, or radio, nor was I allowed to lie down during the day. I could read, write, meditate, and go for long walks to fill my days.
The strict structure helped me stay present to my commitment. I especially loved my long walks in beautiful neighborhoods. The only place I went to read, write, and reflect, other than my apartment, was Self-Realization Fellowship’s Lake Shrine. I had recently discovered it just before my 30 days of silence, a human-made lake in Pacific Palisades. The lake was surrounded with lush greenery, flowering plants, and my favorite part, statues and quotes from the world’s religions populating the hillside. There was also a memorial with some of Gandhi’s ashes. This was my kind of place.
On my first exploration of Lake Shrine I had gone into their small bookstore to learn about the organization that created it. I saw a picture of a Hindu guru, and learned he was the leader of the organization. Though I loved learning about world’s religions, I didn’t trust Hindu gurus as I connected them with news stories I had heard growing up of unethical behavior. When I looked at the picture of this Hindu guru, I didn’t feel aversion, but I also knew I wasn’t interested in learning anymore. I never went back into the bookstore, instead, I came almost every day to bask in the universal spiritual energy that was so alive in every plant, tree and drop of water. I loved it there and felt very much at home.
The 30 days of silence started off well, but by 2 weeks in, I hit the wall…literally with my head. The lack of almost all external stimulation was physically painful. I was miserable, yet determined, and so I continued in the silence. Subtly, yet powerfully, it all shifted. The peace not of this world began to wash over me until I became peace, “the peace that passes human understanding.” It was in this state my 30 days came to a completion.
I had hoped for a Vision about my future during this 30 days but received none. The only clarity I did receive from the Divine surprised me. I was told I wasn’t to be a monastic/recluse, that I was to participate in the world and discover the same peace I had found during the 30 days, in the activity of life. The guidance surprised me because being a monastic/recluse wasn’t something I had considered, so I wasn’t sure why this emphatic guidance not to do it? At the time I didn’t know any monastics and was vague about what it meant to be one. Years later as I got to know monastics, I realized how natural this way of being was for me, whereas actively participating in the world was something that was far more effortful. The clarity of this guidance has guided me during many challenging times, pushing me to find Divine peace in the world, rather than seeking it in reclusion.
I am not sure from where the determination to complete a full 30 days of solitude and silence came, but along with my 3 daily spiritual practices, it has consistently sustained and inspired me on my spiritual journey for the past 3 decades. It reminds me that whenever and whereever we are in God, we are in the eternal, and thus in perfect and unconditional peace .
To God be the glory