Three years ago I was contacted about a role, for a soon to be opened retreat in India, called Vana. It was an interesting offer, but alas my gypsy soul was well settled back in Australia so moving to another continent was not an option. However, my curiosity was piqued and I was keen to follow this wellness newcomer to see what it would offer when opened. Cut to October 2017 and I find myself touching down at Dehra Dun airport prepared and ready for 7 days of contemporary ashram living.
A friendly and humble Indian driver was waiting to collect me at the gate and then we drove through villages and countryside for an hour before arriving through the gates of Vana. A welcome bracelet (red thread) was wrapped and tied around my wrist upon arrival, which is traditional when entering temple ceremonies and rituals.
I was inducted into the Vana way and shown to my room before I made my way back to the Tibetan Healing Centre for a Sowa Rigpa therapy, which followed with dinner and bed. The next morning I began my day with a classical hatha yoga class, which included pranayama and yoga nidra to close the class. Something the yoga classes in the west have lost. After breakfast I made my way to the wellness centre with 'spa wish list' in hand. My initial wellness consultation was with an Ayurvedic Doctor and based upon the discussion I was asked to surrender to the prescribed plan that was seen to be best for my dosha and current imbalance. By lunch time I had received my spa itinerary for the entire week, which includes a daily Ayurvedic massage, tibetan healing, a consultation with the Tibetan Doctor and a number of other treatments.
This is a contemporary ashram in every sense. Vana Retreat offers inspiration as to the power of simplicity, spirituality and silence. This retreat model was appropriate given the location and design of the property as it is not an expansive property and by way of its very design causes one to go on a journey of inner reflection. No mobile phones are allowed in public spaces and this causes further 'present moment awareness' and makes me realise how attached I have become to my device. I enjoy this digital detox. A set of white kurta pajamas are delivered to the room every day and not having to think about what to wear is one less decision each day and has a way of removing the egoic need we typically have to be 'special'.
Currently Vana offers a minimum 7 day retreat and soon this will be a minimum of 10 days as they strive to preserve a purist philosophy and maximise the healing result for guests. I met quite a number of guests who have already been to Vana 5 to 7 times in the 3 years it has been open. Certainly testament to Vana doing something very right. There is certainly a purity to the Vana way that is expressed through the ecological approach of the building, the spa and healing therapies, and the approach to food. The Dalai Lama has been to visit and bless Vana, and quite honestly the strong intention that belies this business can be felt in the ether. Spiritual and cultural traditions are honoured and as a guest I have the opportunity to touch the authentic essence of India without the usual dirt and noise of the country.
Finally where would a retreat be without its food? Well I can say the approach to food is not restrictive in terms of flavours and colours, but rather served in small portions so that the taste buds can enjoy a variety of ayurvedic foods in a contemporary sense. A cooking class is also presented twice a week. One of my favourite times is afternoon tea in the lounge with my book 'The Road Less Travelled' by Scott M Peck. Apparently when the student is ready the teacher appears, and it seems I am now ready to read this classic tale of personal growth and spiritual development, which lands deeply inside of me given the reflection time I have had on retreat.
Day 7 comes around all too soon, but what I can say is that I am well rested and ready for the final leg of this 5 week exploration holiday. Upon departure another red thread bracelet with a charm is wrapped and tied around my wrist with well wishes. I am also given a red thread (presented on a copper platter) and invited to make a wish whilst tying the thread around an installation on the wall in the welcome/farewell pavilion. I pause and think for a moment before tying my 'lucky' thread to the wall.
Overall Vana Retreat offers something very unique. Bringing Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and healing together ensures that the Vana way offers a lot of wisdom, integrity and applicable philosophies for modern day life and psychological development.