My Stay at the Ananda Yoga Retreat

In 2012, I committed to myself a three-day retreat to work on my meditation practice and myself. Its a great way to simply pause routine and bring focus on the tiny habits that creep in to practice and attitude.

My search triggered after a friend classified the Osho Ashram in Pune as more a resort than a retreat. Ever since, I’d been looking for a destination that offers both solitude and at the same time isn’t too expensive to get to. On one hand are destinations such as the Bodhi retreat in Kodaikanal. Getting there for me isn’t trivial. I was looking to keep the cost of my travel, stay as low as would be possible.

The Ananda Yoga Retreat is an ideal solution. The retreat is a great place to go if you’ve got a practice in mind. All the acharyas, residents at the ashram support each other in their practice. At the same time they’re agnostic to the specific path you’re following. They do dedicate the ashram to the teachings of Swami Kriyananda and Swami Yogananda Paramhansa. I guess this is as clear as it can be.

The ashram is a little before Lavasa in the valley that also houses Camp Temgarh. Travel time from Pune is a little over an hour by car. In the summers it can be bare and hot, we were fortunate to get a day’s rain that helped cool down the environment and radically transformed the valley.

Its important to let them know you’re going to be there a couple of days in advance so that they can prepare for your stay. They’ve got a range of options to choose from and also offer the option to work in the ashram if you’d like to do that.

On day one, I spoke at length to Shamini who helped me get settled into a quiet, one-room cottage on one end of the ashram. I was given a badge saying that I was in silence and that it would be respected by the other residents in the ashram.

Life on the ashram is simple. My stay included breakfast, lunch, dinner and nimbu paani (lemonade) in the evenings. There’s no room service, you’re expected to wash your own dishes and not lock your doors when you leave. The food served is vegetarian and low on spice. Often devotees will bring food with them to share and experiment with western food. The cottage comes with a convenient small stove, drinking water and a refrigerator. It’s a good idea to bring tea bags, coffee and anything else you want to cook in your room.

I found my room to be homely, about ten minutes of uphill walking from the dining area. The room stayed fairly cool in the surrounding tree shade. Apart from a noticeable brackish taste in the drinking water, it was an uneventful and comfortable stay. A healthy time to focus on my practice. I took regular breaks to step outside and walk around the huge multi-acre premises. Cleanliness across the ashram is well-kept and you may even wash soiled clothes in the ashram machine if you choose to do so.

It was difficult to stay in silence as the other residents were incredibly friendly and inviting. Dining was a cheerful event with lively interaction between everyone present. Except for breakfast, which is done in complete silence. I was eager to break silence on my final day and be introduced to the others. All are welcome to join in on the Ashram events (includes, meditation, yoga, satsang, prayers and so on) – it ought to be said that you don’t have to do so if you don’t want to.

At all day times Narayani and Shurjo, Ashram Managers are available if you need to have a chat or share your thoughts.

Their website, stay details, camps and rates are online. Hope my review helps!

What’s Luck Got to Do With Breakout Success

I enjoy putting together a once-a-year panel of successful entrepreneurs for the Pune OpenCoffee Club. This year’s panel was posed an interesting question. Someone from the audience asked “What role do you think luck has had to play in your success?” There are two extreme perspectives that one might take. These were relatively young entrepreneurs, each one having distinctive achievements early on in their lives. On one hand, was the surprise breakout success each one had had. On the other hand, each one’s struggle was undeniably real. While each one of them listed the ingredients of their success, none of them mentioned luck. The audience on the other hand didn’t immediately believe that the panelists weren’t favored in any way.

Tom Preston-Werner, Cofounder at GitHub has one way of looking at luck (from his talk at Startup School 2010 “Optimizing for Happiness“). As an entrepreneur’s wits get sharper with time (or hungrier, if you must) the way he looks at luck is both what he can control and what he can’t control. It’s both you and this constant we can’t change. He might not be able to control if someone will invest in him, but he can control if he will choose to invest in himself.

Tom’s journey began with that choice. He relates that he asked himself “Should I seek permission to build GitHub from an Investor? Or build it anyway?” He’s shared other choices in a similar fashion, including picking a big idea, moving to San Francisco, bootstrapping his company, giving Gravatar away to WordPress, choosing his cofounders, giving autonomy to his employees, deciding on an office space and so on.

In hindsight, I do agree with Tom that luck does have a role to play whether good things will happen to you or not. Before luck swings your way you cannot know for certain when it will strike. With that in mind it’d be foolish to assume that you can cease stacking the odds. Pick the objectives that you believe are right (or as Tom says, optimize on happiness) and keep at it. Learn to get better at recognizing what needs to be in your favor and its role in your eventual success. Interacting with a peer-circle of successful and experienced entrepreneurs is one way to stay sharp.

As Tom recommends, stop waiting on Luck and start acting on key decisions proactively. Then you have a real choice from day zero and a better chance of picking up on favorable winds.