Didi Ananda Acira and Dada Diiptimanananda organized a new people retreat at Ananda Dhiira Master Unit in Penn Valley, California, from May twelve to sixteen. Dada Gunatmananda also participated and gave a class on Samskaras. Sixteen people and two children participated, including three Acaryas.
It was such a joy to be together with everyone for five days – share meals, listen to each other’s stories, and meditate together indoors and outside in the serene natural beauty of Penn Valley and South Yuba River. The food was delicious and grown organically at Ananda Dhiira or store-bought organic. The food was, of course, sattvik, and most items were also gluten-free and vegan and freshly made and tasty. Didi Ananda Acira took the main lead in the kitchen with help from Dada and the participants.
The schedule was tightly packed with activities from 5 a.m. until after 10 p.m., but it didn’t feel tiring as we had plenty of time for meditation, yoga, and outdoor activities. The weather was good, and we enjoyed mudpacks and swimming by the South-Yuba river, harvesting fresh salad and greens from Didi’s garden, outdoor Kiirtana, and meditation in the mornings.
We had a mother with six-year-old twin boys that were so sweet and playful and added lightness and joy to the retreat. They enjoyed playing together while we had our classes, the outdoor activities by the river, and participating in the yoga classes and other activities.
We had three classes during the retreat. Didi Ananda Acira introduced Yama and Niyama, and we enacted short plays in small groups on five of the principles. Dada Diiptimanananda gave a class on Bhagavata Dharma, the essence of our spiritual practices. He explained how the practices help expand our minds, connect and surrender to the Supreme Consciousness, and enjoy the blissful flow (rasa.) And the importance of service imbibed with ideation of the Great. The goal of the spiritual practices is to finally merge with the Supreme Unmanifested Consciousness.
Dada Gunatmananda gave a class on Samskaras (reactions of actions in potential form for expression). He started by explaining the three chambers of the mind (Citta, Aham, and Mahat) and how the mind works. He then details the nature of Samskaras – how they express, different types of Samskaras, and how we can exhaust them and attain liberation. The class went very deep into the subject, and Dada also answered practical questions from the participants.
On Saturday morning, we had a three-hour Akhanda Kiirtana. Some musicians participated in the retreat who joined the Dadas and Didi to lead the Kiirtana. We sang for three hours the mantra BABA NAM KEVALAM and danced in a circle. The time passed quickly in joyful singing and dancing.
Most of the participants had not learned personal meditation, and we scheduled one afternoon for one-on-one meditation instructions. Five brothers and four sisters got initiation (Diiksa) and their Sanskrit names. It was beautiful to see them taking the determination to move along the spiritual path.
This retreat was the first in-person event since the Pandemic. The participants were all young in years and spirits, and everyone came and left in good health. We enjoyed the event together like a big loving family, and it was meaningful and heart-warming to be together after a year of alienation and social distancing.
The retreat ended on Sunday morning with games and sharing love and care for each other. Everyone shone with love and enhanced health after spending time together at Ananda Dhiira, enjoying fresh organic food together, and doing hours of meditation and yoga every day for five days.