In response to the success of its summertime Sunday Brunches at Prabhupada’s Palace Rose Garden, ISKCON New Vrindaban is set to offer a series of winter retreats that will give newcomers as well as devotees a chance to refresh and recharge in a spiritual setting. The four-night mini-retreats will run every week from Thursday through Sunday, starting on January 5th until the end of March.
These will be preceded by the West Virginia farm community’s annual Christmas retreat, from December 25th to 27th, and New Year’s retreat from December 31st to January 2nd, which will include Bhagavad-gita recitations, New Vrindaban memories, activities with the cows and with Tulasi Devi, feasting, and weather permitting bonfire kirtans.
Following the holiday retreats will be the weekly four-night winter retreats, which will offer a transformational, rejuvenating life reset of prayer, mantra meditation, philosophy classes, yoga and pranayama classes, and vegetarian Ayurvedic cooking. There will also be cleanses and fasts tailored to the individual, a chance to serve Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s cows and observe their milking, and time in nature amidst the peaceful, snowy hills of New Vrindaban, which covers hundreds of acres of natural beauty.
The days’ activities will begin with kirtan, mantra meditation and cow seva at 6:00 am. New Vrindaban resident Nikunja Vilasini Dasi will teach hatha yoga with elements of vinyasa flow, incorporated with breathwork and kriyas (energetic exercises to release blocked energy). Now residing in New Vrindaban, Nikunja Vilasini is originally from Moscow, Russia, and has completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training course at the Bhakti Yoga DC training academy, and a 500-hour yoga teacher training at the Bhakti Center.
Born in Czechoslovakia, Vrindavan Priya Dasi will lead all the retreat’s kirtan activities, and its classes on kartals, mridanga, and harmonium. An expert kirtan leader and facilitator, Vrindavan Priya teaches many devotees how to play traditional instruments, and leads kirtan sangas.
New Vrindaban Communications Director Anuradha Dasi, who hails from an Indian family in South Africa, will teach participants how to easily prepare delicious Ayurvedic vegetarian meals at home, how to offer their food, and how to see cooking as a meditation of gratitude.
Meanwhile Anuradha and New Vrindaban Lodge Manager Sarah Ferrer – who studied sports science in college and is a longtime practitioner of different modalities of exercise and nutrition – will guide participants in cleanses such as the ancient yogic practice of Shankhaprakshalana, and the practice of fasting to maintain the body and mind in the mode of goodness. This will include a three-day juice fast, starting the day with an alkaline green juice, followed by a citrus juice before noon, a green smoothie for lunch, a root vegetable juice mid-afternoon, and a rejuvenating warm tea for the evening. Water and teas will also be offered in between juices.
In January, Sarah and Anuradha are also set to study with the devotee-run Vita Rama Health Center in Bulgaria, to learn how to best identify individual needs and create a simple, personalized nutrition and exercise program for participants.
“As Prabhupada says, ‘health, sadhana, seva,’” Sarah says. “We have to take care of our health – if we don’t, our sadhana (spiritual practice) suffers. And we can’t even think about seva (service) until our sadhana is strong.”
Thus the winter retreats introduce newcomers to a balanced life incorporating these three elements and give devotees a chance to refresh and refocus. Depending on one’s needs, every day includes time for juicing, yoga, guided nature hikes, high-intensity cardio, and three Ayurvedic-inspired plant-based meals. When possible, retreat participants may be offered a health check-up, and a reading of blood work to help determine the best nutrition program for them. An optional sweat lodge may be available; and in addition to the main package, massage, acupuncture, and other therapies will also be offered.
On the sadhana side, participants will have ample time for individual meditation, reading, and japa, as well as group classes, kirtan, and association. Those who are unfamiliar will get the chance to learn specific skills associated with bhakti yoga practice, such as japa meditation, how to wear tilak and how to perform achaman. They’ll also get to meet residents of New Vrindaban, learn about their lifestyle and mission, ask questions about kirtan, Krishna, cow protection, and Srila Prabhupada, and take a tour of Prabhupada’s Palace.
Organizers hope people from all over the U.S. who want to escape their busy lives and refresh as they begin the new year will attend. Participants will have the option to share a room with either one or two other retreat-goers in the Palace Lodge temple wing or to have their own private room. Prices will range from $499 to $649, including all activities and meals, with extra therapies offered at an additional cost.
“We would like people to leave these retreats with a renewed sense of calm, and with hope for what they can accomplish in their spiritual life in the coming year,” Sarah says.
For more information, click here: https://www.newvrindaban.com/events-1/winter-retreat