Considering a meditation retreat with Art of Living Indonesia? Here, Darshi Shah shares her experiences.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
I was born in Mumbai, India, but have primarily lived in the US. I have lived in the UK and Indonesia for short periods of time for work reasons. I have travelled to every continent except Antarctica. My home is in Katy, Texas.
I wasn’t always a health guru interested in yoga, meditation, pranayama, nutrition, and holistic measures to wellness. I first learned about wellness through meditation in Indonesia through the Art of Living, a global organization, and then became addicted to the awesome power of meditation and pranayama! Other than travelling the world, I love spinning, reading, and educating myself on other holistic paths to wellness. I am a nutritional therapist and health coach, and I have written a book on recovering from autoimmunity holistically, R.I.G.H.T. Diet for Autoimmunity.
What kind of retreat did you participate in? Where was it located? How did you spend your time there?
The retreat in Bali, Indonesia was a global Advanced Meditation Retreat by the Art of Living Indonesia. It was a week-long retreat at a hotel overlooking a stretch of beach which was secure and private, and could be utilized for morning sunrise yoga and sunset yoga. Guided meditations, informational seminars and service activities were offered throughout the days and evenings.
After the first day, all participants took a vow of silence – not kidding. We were not able to talk, read, watch TV, or text. Phones and electronic devices became obsolete and contraband. After the humorous approach to adapt to this new environment, a change came over the participants that we could see–a sense of calm and serene focus, distraction free. The change enabled deep self-focus, and a successful retreat of increased internal listening and awareness.
Service activities involved quiet giving of our time to local people, businesses, and our retreat catering facilities. I was involved in working at a nearby car wash. I washed cars, vacuumed, and dried off rinsed vehicles. The symbolism I noted was how so many vehicles are dirtied in the environment, and carry that dirt with them until one day when the driver recognizes the need to clean up and lighten the load. I was performing detox on the vehicles and allowing the inner glow to shine through, and then the vehicles were on their way into the world once again. My minutes were spent working hard and seeing the achievements. It made me happy. I began to understand the need to attend retreats designed to self-reflect, self-improve, and self-renew; and while experiencing this intense learning from within, I never uttered a word.
What made you decide to participate in the retreat?
I decided to travel to Bali for the Advanced Meditation Retreat because I had heard that it was a life-changing experience. There are few words that can describe the “life-changing” aspect, but I will give it a try. The focus we have on our lives comes from what we see around us. We mimic our values and reactions to our environment. If we travel to a foreign country, we can see these things evolve to our new surroundings. A retreat like this redefines our values and reactions to be based not on anything external, but on everything internal. When we learn how to do this, it will change our lives from that point forward. The learning is priceless; and in hindsight, worth every penny I spent for travel and the retreat. It changed me.
What were the highlights of the retreat? What disappointed you about the retreat?
Highlights: I sat next to a Japanese man and a Russian woman during a guided meditation seminar one day. Neither person understood the English, which the instructions were in. Each had a translation device on them with headsets so they could follow along in real time. During the session, I realized the energy flow changed and I could feel the vibrations flowing. I was uniting with all of the people around me for a common mental flow of energy and communication with the universe. It was awe-inspiring to befriend and bond with people who I couldn’t communicate with verbally. It didn’t matter because we were forbidden to speak, anyway.
I realized that as humans we can communicate non-verbally with all other humans. We did kind acts for each other: setting up other’s materials, putting each other’s mats away, clearing spaces, smiling, and wishing good things for each other. It was a highlight because I learned how to channel attributes of kindness, caring, and love through non-verbal means and heightened those skills.
Spiders: You can’t scream or shriek when you have taken a vow of silence! You have to control your emotions instead of allowing your emotions to control you.
Hunger: The food is sattvic: pure, non-grounding, and vegetarian. I enjoyed it and it gave me healing, immune boosting nutrition. However, initially my body was looking for sugar. I hadn’t expected this side-effect of a clean eating detox. Meals were non-meat, non-sugar, and non-root (onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, etc). By day three, I was fine.
How, if at all, did the retreat change you? Were there new practices you incorporated into your life following the retreat?
It was life-changing. Given situations to analyze, I factor in more than just facts. I factor in my value system and life’s mission. I ask myself, does this solution fit the situation and is it aligned with who I want to be.
Although I am not perfect, I strive to spread the energy of my kind and compassionate soul in this world verbally and non-verbally.
Finally, I spend between 5-20 minutes per (day initially, and now) week focusing on self-improvement. We are all like the cars I used to wash. We get dirt on ourselves through the environment. A few minutes of self-improvement over time leads to our true soul shining. It is important because we are all here for a certain reason, purpose, and mission. It helps our soul to understand the purpose and focus on accomplishing it. We do better when we and others can see our spirit shining through.
What are some of the benefits of participating in a retreat? What are some of the downsides? Would you participate in another retreat?
• Self-awareness of true identity.
• Self-assessment of value systems.
• Self-improvement. This helps us deal with our issues with others because all too often, it lies within you to change in order to improve your life situation.
• Self-discipline strengthening.
• Slowing down for a time-out.
• Spiritual nourishment leading to bliss and joy in mundane acts. Our society doesn’t always provide opportunities to slow down enough to smile and give to a stranger in a caring and time-intensive way. However our spirit needs that.
• Internal focus.
• Self-reflection to better understand life as a grand opportunity with a defined measure of time and allies.
• Learning to accomplish our mission.
• Time away from family and work.
• Hard endeavor due to the vow of silence and the meditation after meditation.
Are there any tips you’d give someone else who is considering a similar retreat?
1. Ensure you can stay away from family without any hardships on them. It is also important for your family to be able to get along without you, to miss you, and to appreciate you for what you provide them.
2. Inform others they cannot reach you for the extent of your retreat. A vow of silence means you can’t carry them and won’t know if there is an emergency. Perhaps you can provide the hotel number in case of an emergency. Participants wear name tags so the staff will be able to find you if they need to.
3. Inform your significant other that he/she may find it difficult to deal with your silence for the week, but it will strengthen you both and will cause you to love each other’s voices even more.
4. Don’t be scared of the unknown. We are meant to explore the far reaches of the world in search of the skills that will lead to our success.