Sometimes, a stage comes in life when nothing feels right. These are the times when you wish you could go someplace else where you could just be at peace with yourself. Fortunately, there are places you can go to in order to get away from it all, at least for some days, to reflect and listen to your inner voice. Here you may even find unexpected guidance through the process of living itself. Here’s presenting you a few of such ashram retreats for your mind, body and soul.
Ananda Ashram, Monroe, New York
Situated at the foothills of Catskill Mountain, New York, who could have thought that such a reclusive spiritual destination by a serene lake could only be an hour journey from the busiest city of the world? Standing on 85 acres of woods, orchards and green fields is the calming retreat of the Ananda Ashram. Guest accommodations include six bedded dormitories and semi-private rooms all amounting to total 45 guests at a time in the Ashram. Following the ideals of its founder Shri Brahmananda Saraswati, guests of the Ashram participate in hatha yoga and meditation sessions three times a day to re-connect with their inner selves. Filled with lively activities all-round the year, Ananda Ashram is also a diverse cultural centre. Residents are encouraged to indulge themselves in learning meaningful Sanskrit “slokas” about life and Indian classical dance forms. Performances are held here annually in the yearly Thanksgiving Weekend Retreat arranged by Manhattan’s Jivamukti Yoga Center. Exquisite vegan food is the speciality and the only type of food available here. Bathrooms are shared. The calm and composite getaway also includes its own swimming pool, publication centre, program hall, natural healing centre and a gift shop. The spiritual journey is never allowed to stagnate with regular inclusions of recreational activities like seasonal camping sessions, workshops and cultural performances every weekend.
Shekinashram, Glastonbury, Somerset, United Kingdom
The Shekinashram perfectly fits the bill of a peaceful retreat. The ashram is perfectly set up for those who wish to take some time out of the usual routine; to rest, rejuvenate and just to “be” with themselves for a while. Single and double room occupancy, served meal, self-cooked meal and recreation – everything is available to meet your requirements during the stay.
In the disciplines of Bhakti and Karma Yoga (selfless service) residents gain inner peace and learn the ways of peaceful living. Shekinashram is an amalgamation of East and West where the values of Radha Krishna are taught. Slowdown in the rapid paths of life and find yourself in an enchanting and refreshing atmosphere during the morning “aaratis”. Regular “kirtan” and “satsangsabhas” rejuvenate your senses and creates a compassionate nature towards the living around you. Workshops on healing your elements, connecting with the natural spirits restore your faith in the supreme power. Shekinashram can also serve to be a ‘women only’ retreat with its specialised workshops addressing problems regarding their specific mental and physical states.
You may choose from the many other activities possible during the stay de
pending on your idea of getting in touch with yourself. The activities range from doing nothing to participating in the weekly programmes only, browsing through the insightful books in the library, morning meditation, ayurvedic therapy, learning vegan food preparation, to strolling in the garden or walking over the sacred Chalice Hill to reach the Tor and the fields beyond.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, Tamilnadu, India
“Now” is the best time to take a break and look within and Sri Aurobindo Ashram can be the right place to do so through “karma yoga” (selfless service). The Ashram is located in the eastern part of Pondicherry (Puducherry) in the southern part of India. Connected via Chennai (the Southern-most metropolitan of the country), the spiritual seekers come to this internationally acclaimed spiritual destination to find themselves. The ashram residents live and work in the
large number of buildings spread throughout the area. The brilliant radiance of life bursting out through the daily activities and blooming smiles awaken the inner souls every day here. The ashram provides its members and residents the minimum that is required for a decent and healthy life. Food, clothing, shelter as well as medical care are the responsibilities of the respective departments of the ashram. Guests and residents can browse through the libraries and facilities for different cultural pursuits. The Ashram is administered by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
Based on the foundations of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, it teaches the principle of becoming “the one among the many” that frees one’s mind from the constraints of daily struggles and competition for existence. Spiritual sessions, music lessons, and a simple routine through fulfilling basic daily chores are the key to a resident’s training in patience and calmness.
The Ashram has also been the centre point of the township of Auroville, an international town with the goal to unite thinking of human minds irrespective of their origin, religion, cast and sect. Supported by UNESCO, Auroville is technologically sound too making it the “town of the future reflecting its past”. The Auroville Festival held here is the celebration of human unity.
General guidelines to follow while in an ashram
- It is best if you get acquainted with vegetarian food because the ashram authorities do not serve/cook/accept non-vegetarian food inside their compounds.
- Fancy and revealing clothes are not allowed. It is best to use light coloured, comfortable and covered clothes in these environments.
- If you wish to stay in the Ashram overnight, do enquire about the closing time, as the ashram doors are closed at a pre-fixed time and the authorities are not flexible with timings.
- Apart from guide dogs, pets are not generally allowed in the premises.
A few renowned ashrams worldwide:
- Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, Woodbourne, New York, USA
- Osho International Meditation Resort, Oregon, USA
- Shantimandir (by Swami Muktananda), Buenos Aires, Argentina, S. America
- Mata Anandamayee’s (Amma) Ashram, Cheltenham, Australia
- Tolstoy Farm, Linden, South Africa
A few renowned ashrams in India:
- Umeshwar Dham, Sapta Sarovar, Ananda Van, Haridwar
- Art of Living Ashram (founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), Udipalya Village, Panchagiri Hills (near Bangalore, Karnataka)
- Isha Foundation Ashram, near the base of Velliangiri Mountains, Tamilnadu
- Osho Ashram, Pune, Maharashtra
- Amritapuri Ashram, Kollam, Kerala
An ashram is an ideal place to refresh your mind and relax through different spiritual activities including meditation, yoga, educational programmes and charitable activities. The healing process in an ashram is completely different and worth giving it a try. The best part about these ashrams is that everyone’s welcomed here with an open mind. So when you are about to give up, check in at one of the many amazing ashrams around you and let the tranquil and divine ambience in the ashram remind you that – it’s always darkest before the dawn.