There is a saying – “the longer the wait, the sweeter the experience”. When I first saw glimpses of the IWC Ganga Retreat 2019 Program, I knew it was something I had to attend. Only two things stood in the way – completion of the requisite courses along with the practices and waiting for IWC to plan a retreat after Covid. In October of 2022, we found out about Ruchi and Sanjil’s plan to conduct one in 2023. When the dates and location were announced, I was immediately ready to sign up. I had completed the requisite courses by then.
When they say members of IWC are a family, they truly mean it. Within no time, volunteers formed a travel group that first timers like myself could use to figure out which flights to book (so you have company) and coordinate cabs to take you to and back to the airport. This was a huge boon for a lot of us since we really had no idea where to start.
Next, preparation. To have a memorable experience, it is often very important to do prep work. Once again volunteers stepped in to conduct group meditations where interested members could take advantage of completing recommended meditations at preset timings (helped establish discipline as well). For the best experience, it was suggested participants do certain practices for 41 days. Quite a number of participants successfully completed the 41 days of practice.
Finally the day arrived… April 23rd! I eagerly and nervously headed to the airport around 4:30 am to catch an early morning flight to Dehradun via Delhi. Soon, the travel volunteers swung into full action. They made sure my check-in was complete and I was headed towards the gate. Once I reached the gate, I met up with 8 other members heading to the retreat. It was a lot of fun traveling together. By the time we reached Dehradun, we had gotten to know each other a little bit and were comfortable with each other.
Thanks to traffic and construction in and around Rishikesh, we reached the Ganga Resort around 5:30 pm. However, once we entered the resort, our mood changed instantly. The excitement in the air was palpable. After a short tea break, we gathered in the conference room around 6pm to complete the registration process and officially begin the program. During registration, as usual, we were given some very thoughtful gifts by IWC… a waterproof bag to carry our belongings to the river ghat, a thin towel (that dries quickly) to cover and protect our head from the sun during the Ganga meditations and a bottle of Ginseng powder to consume a little daily to ensure our immunity was intact. It was only when we saw the items did we realise what we had all forgotten to pack! 😂
Before we knew it, it was time to have dinner and call it a night. The next morning, the first session was scheduled to start at 6 am sharp so, good rest was important.
Soon it was dawn. By 6am sharp, the entire group assembled in the resort lawn to complete the physical exercises before heading to the Ganga riverside.
Everyone was excited when we approached the place where we were going to meditate…. first timers like myself eager to know what is in store and old timers excited knowing exactly what is in store 🙂. Ruchi and Sanjil picked an amazing spot by the river to conduct the sessions. All of us found our comfortable spot along the ghat and quickly settled down with feet in the water. Soon we were deep in meditation with river Ganga gently injecting magic through our feet. Before we knew it, we had all spent close to 1 hour 20 minutes sitting in the lap of Ganga. The experience was simply divine. Afterwards, along with many of the participants, I ventured deeper into the river while making sure my feet were firmly planted on the rocky river bed. My first proper dip in river Ganga finally accomplished!
After playing in the water for a while, all of us ventured back to the resort to change, get ready, have breakfast and then head to the conference room for the next session to start.
Each session had its own theme…. theory and practice carefully created and curated. Over the next four days we reviewed many concepts, learnt new things, experienced amazing group meditations and of course best of all, enjoyed truly blissful meditations and daily dips in river Ganga. Here is a truth – I am terrified of getting into swimming pools, let alone open water. On the first day, three fellow participants helped me take a dip in the river which in itself was a huge accomplishment. On the last day, I managed to take a dip 11 times with the help of friends … what a change! That is the magic of the Ganga Antaryatra. Ruchi and Sanjil ensured all our bodies (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) were so ready before the dip that the dip itself became a no brainer. Simply amazing!
In the evenings, we were given some time off to explore Rishikesh on our own. We quickly found partners to explore the nearby area. As for myself, on the first day I attended a female led Ganga Aarti (which I thought was very unique) with some of the group members. Afterwards we headed to the other bank by walking on Janki bridge (the new bridge). After exploring for a while we headed back to the resort. Soon we realised there was another Aarti happening at the ghat where the morning meditation was conducted. A surprise was in store after the aarti, impromptu garba! After having a blast, we headed back to the resort to have dinner and complete the nightly practices.
The next evening, I decided to explore a bit on my own and walked along the river bank noticing all the different ashrams along the way. I decided to walk into one of them and spent some time in the Shiva temple inside. The volunteers at the ashram were very kind and I managed to have dinner with them.
The other evenings were spent exploring parts of Rishikesh between Janki and Ram bridges. Some of the members managed to successfully complete some serious shopping.
Like this, five blissful days filled with spiritual lessons, exercises, dancing, meditations and unforgettable dips in river Ganga passed by quickly. Before we knew it, it was time to head back home.
What the Antaryatra Ganga Retreat 2023 taught me is this:
- Getting your body ready for meditation is just as important as the meditation itself (essence of Kriya Yoga). The physical exercises done before meditations help you tremendously. Just as important are the exercises done after the meditation. I finally understood why many gurus encourage carefree dancing after serious meditations … it truly helps your spiritual development. Very grateful to all the volunteers who kept our energies high with fun dancing routines after the meditations … from bhangra to semi-classical with a modern twist – we did it all … and it was awesome.
- Learning and meditating in groups is not only fun but truly accelerates your growth. I have no idea about the backstory of how each participant ended up as being part of the retreat. But, one thing is for sure… without each one of them the experience wouldn’t have been the same.
- Location, location, location – no kidding. The location chosen for the retreat was absolutely amazing – lovely rooms – many with views of river Ganga, easy access to river Ganga, nice lawn to do the morning exercises, excellent facilities and superb staff that took care of all our needs. When all the little details are taken care of well, participants have no choice but to enjoy themselves which is exactly what happened.
- Timing – the retreat took place at the end of April, just when the spring weather is slowly giving way to summer. It just so happened that the timing this year coincided with the Ganga Pushkara. In addition, it was held during the fortnight leading up Wesak. Amazing energy downpour anyone?
- Taking time for spiritual growth is not wrong – be it as an individual or as a couple, taking the time to focus on spiritual growth is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
- Finally and most importantly – the teachers themselves. I can truly say that I have never met anyone like Ruchi and Sanjil who so carefully put together the content and executed the program in such a meaningful and impactful way. Their presentations and guided meditations are simply superb. I love how they present the content at a level which neither makes you feel like it is too basic nor too overwhelming that nothing gets absorbed. They seem to have a certain magic where if you are entitled to understand the content, you will have an unforgettable time.
So, will I attend the next Antaryatra program? I will wholeheartedly try my best. I sincerely hope the universe continues to conspire on my behalf to make it happen.
Thank you Ruchi, Sanjil and all the volunteers who made magic happen. When you asked if we were ready to take our practices to the next level, you were not kidding. The learnings and memories of this retreat will stay with me forever. Much gratitude to you and Inner Wellness Circle.
Heartfelt thank you to IWC for sharing the amazing pictures.
Thank you for an AMAZING Antaryatra. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Contributed by: Gita Dasika