A Himalayan retreat

A Himalayan retreat
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DEVI SEKAR, SHARON GRAFFAGNINO, MIKE McCLEARY and MARK DAUGHTRIDGE from North Carolina, USA, traveled to the Himalayas for a Family & Friends Retreat. Here they share their experience.


For millennia the Himalayas have been the abode of saints, sages and spiritual seekers, a place where the high peaks and deep valleys are so conducive to the inner journey of the soul. Satkhol is situated near the foothills of the mountains, at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet. The Satkhol Retreat Center is a very special place in this holiest of environments. Its penetrating silence, charged vibrations, and deep peace all contribute to the inner journey, the inner yearning of the soul to reach its highest potential. Over the past 20 years more than 25,000 spiritual seekers have stayed here to deepen their practice in the lap of its profound silence.

This beautiful ashram was established in the year 2000, the sole purpose being to provide a place for seekers to focus wholly on their spiritual path without the distractions of daily life. The Friends and Family Program is offered four to six times a year. Each session starts on a Wednesday and ends on a Sunday, lasting four days, with 50 to 60 participants selected for each session, which includes a mixture of experienced Heartfulness practitioners and newcomers.

The four of us traveled from North Carolina to Satkhol in the month of April 2019 to join one of these programs, and for two of us it was the first time traveling to India. We would like to share our reflections on this wonderful retreat.


Devi, a longtime Heartfulness practitioner

It was a six-hour train ride from New Delhi and an hour-and-a-half car ride through scenic mountains to reach the Satkhol Retreat Center. Participants were arriving from as far as China, USA, the Middle East and all over India.

It was a six-hour train ride from New Delhi and an hour-and-a-half car ride through scenic mountains to reach the Satkhol Retreat Center. Participants were arriving from as far as China, USA, the Middle East and all over India.

Each day started with a wake-up bell at 4 a.m. We did our individual meditations for 30 to 40 minutes, hiked around the mountain trails and watched the sunrise. At 6:30 a.m. there was a Yoga class and breakfast was served at 7:30 a.m. Group Meditation followed from 9 to 10 a.m. after which we went on a nature walk as a group. Afternoons were free, so we would read books in the library, and spend time in contemplation and introspection. The activities were very well organized, and coming from different parts of the world we bonded together and there was a deep sense of oneness. The silence was astounding. Meditation sessions were very deep and profound. It was not only a delight for our senses but also for the soul. Sitting amongst mountains, valleys and trees, looking at nothing, was an experience in itself. There was a deep sense of peace and contentment being in that place.



Simple and nourishing vegetarian food was served, and most of the vegetables and fruits were from the organic gardens in the Retreat Center. Natural resources are very limited in the Himalayas, especially water. Water for day-to-day activities comes from rainwater harvesting and natural springs, known as nullas in the local language. These nullas are the main source of water in most of the hill villages, as there are few rivers.

Satkhol Retreat Center has a meditation hall, a library, offices, a dining hall, a kitchen, a canteen and accommodation buildings. There are so many trees and flowers, which are home to many birds. There is a very friendly and loving dog, Delphi, who never barked or disturbed anyone.

Satkhol Retreat Center has a meditation hall, a library, offices, a dining hall, a kitchen, a canteen and accommodation buildings. There are so many trees and flowers, which are home to many birds. There is a very friendly and loving dog, Delphi, who never barked or disturbed anyone.



There’s something
wonderful about coming
together with a group of
like-minded people
practicing Heartfulness,
which can only be known
by experience.



Sharon, new to Heartfulness

I enjoyed my train travel to Satkhol very much. I knew I had arrived in the real India. Several hours looking out the window of the train admiring the agricultural farmland and seeing the families together in the field working showed me everyday life. Along with the beauty of the prospering crops was also another reality, as we saw what poverty looks like up close. Seeing children begging for food and tent villages is very hard and yet I believe it is very important not to miss. Upon arriving at the train station, our driver took us on very scenic mountain pass’s, where we saw monkeys and exotic birds that I have only ever seen in books. I was overjoyed at this part of the travel.

The environment at Satkhol was perfect. The people were welcoming, informative and friendly, and our accommodation was more than adequate. The homemade meals were delicious, and I truly admired the non-carbon footprint of the community. The system of dealing with waste and food scraps with composting, and the five-part system of washing our own plates and cutlery were so simple.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to eat in silence. Whether I was under a tree surrounded by beautiful birds or at a table next to others, it was all so comfortable and nourishing.

The scenery was beautiful no matter which direction you looked. To be at the foot of the Himalayas was breathtaking! It was a treat to the eyes and nose to be surrounded by beautiful gardens with flowering bushes and trees. Each winding path was special, including the wonderful walking trails that took us alongside the cow barn and past the organic gardens that were growing our food. I never expected to see such birds. I’ve been in many different parts of the world that claim extraordinary birds, but Satkhol took first place for me.

I enjoyed the different activities, especially the Yoga classes in the mornings. Having access to the library was delightful also, and it was very helpful to attend the classes in which the details of Heartfulness were explained.

The meditation sessions were perfect for me, as we never meditated for more than one hour at a time. Having the comfort of sitting in a chair was also helpful. There’s something wonderful about coming together with a group of like-minded people practicing Heartfulness, which can only be known by experience. More than once I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks as I felt such a deep connection to Divinity. That is not something I have experienced much during the last 30 years. Overall I felt that the calm and spiritually rich environment held a great value for me, and continues to enrich my days even though I am back in the US. I feel extremely fortunate to have had this wonderful experience.


Mike, first time in India and new to Heartfulness

Satkhol Meditation Retreat Center was a very beautiful and peaceful place. Everyone we met was inviting, warm and loving. I felt very welcome and a part of the community soon after arriving. The grounds were well maintained, with special attention given to the gardens. There was a seemingly endless variety of flowers that are expertly planted to create color at every turn.

Mealtimes were especially enjoyable. It was a time to meet with others who had made this journey and share experiences. The food was simple and always delicious. Everyone took part by doing their own dishes and keeping the area clean, adding to the sense of community. We went on several hikes that provided stunning views and fascinating facts told by our amiable hosts. The treks were much more challenging than I had expected and I was pleasantly surprised. Destinations included Daaji’s residence and a high mountain forest where we communed with the trees. We were also treated to herbal tea halfway through each hike, which was welcome.

People often have profound spiritual experiences at Satkhol. I found that it is not necessarily how I felt during meditation but what I took away from the experience and how I felt afterwards. Satkhol has so much to offer and it is possible to become a little overwhelmed in the moment, but once I could step away and digest the experience I found my practice took on more meaning and my commitment deepened.


Mark, first time in India and new to Heartfulness

Exploring Satkhol and meeting new people was a joyous meditation in itself. I had come with no expectations about the place, the people, the food etc., only a confidence that whatever we found would serve as part of the meditation experience and that anything is survivable for 5 days! I was pleasantly surprised at the hundreds of beautiful flowers everywhere, the solar panels and a sustainable water-supply system. I walked up the hill to see construction going on for more accommodation; Satkhol seems to be thriving and growing, both physically and spiritually.



Fellow seekers from around the world had their own fascinating stories, and I was pleased to see that a few children had come with their parents. Everyone seemed very friendly and outgoing, especially for a group that had come here for silence and introspection. I had been worried that it might be five days of strict silence but everyone ignored the “maintain silence” sign in the dining hall for the first few meals.

The education sessions about meditation, the Yoga sessions and nature walks were a great addition to our meditation experience. I also enjoyed the library, with many interesting titles, though a few texts I would expect to find were absent, and it was confusing trying to understand how the books were organized. I found myself missing the ability to look up references, but it worked fine to meditate on them on my own, write them down, and look them up later when I got back to the digital world.

At first, I was surprised to find meditation sessions starting with no introduction or instruction, and no discussion afterwards. These sessions were helpful and uplifting for me, as well as deeply spiritual experiences. Others had hoped for a deeper spiritual connection than they felt and seemed to benefit from talking through some of their past spiritual journeys that led them to the ashram. There was a sense of grace in accepting everyone wherever they were at, and encouraging everyone to experience the path that they are on.

In part, my own sense of connection blossomed from seeds of faith that I carried with me in my heart. In the first session, out of the quiet of the meditative state, I felt that God loves us, and therefore we are worthy of God’s love. That thought expanded in later sessions to the realization on a deeper level that we are truly loved, that we also have the power to love, and that we ourselves are in fact the Love that God has planted in the world. We can choose to respond in love to any situation the world may present, and we can always be assured that we are loved and offered grace, even when we choose otherwise. I did not come away so enlightened as to be immune to the emotions or irritations of the world, but I came away knowing myself better as a spiritual, emotional, mental and physical being in the vast universe, and happier and more at peace understanding even more deeply how we are all connected to every other living being, thing, and the Divine.

It is wonderful to go from the unique shelter of an ashram and days filled with meditation back into the busy world again, seeing with new eyes. The contrast of the world, which at times is harsher than one expected, with the peace one has felt within, helps to define further the perspective gained in meditation. Meditation alone, without participating in the world, could prove merely a form of escapism, but in the world we are challenged to help spread the calm, awareness, love, and grace that we feel in meditation.

I am very thankful for those who introduced me to Heartfulness Meditation, invited me to this experience in India, and guided me along the way. None of us will ever have a straight and smooth journey throughout life. Taking time to clear the mind and reflect will help us ride through the highs as well as the lows, and the seemingly mundane times in-between. With reflection, I think we can find that all those times were times of growth and being loved.



Article by DEVI SEKAR, SHARON GRAFFAGNINO,
MIKE McCLEARY and MARK DAUGHTRIDGE



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COLLECTORS' EDITION 2018