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Dance and Yoga Retreat at Pandavas Paradise

This year’s Easter retreat at Pandavas Paradise was a dance and yoga retreat with Amber Joy Rava, a dancer and designer from New York who has performed all over the world. It was Amber’s second retreat with us and now that she is spending more time in Alto Paraiso (our nearest town) we will be hosting more dance retreats with her in the future.

15 guests attended the retreat and danced with the wind, fire, water, and earth. They came from all over Brazil and one guest even came all the way from Seatlle (USA).

Each morning they would get up early to dance for the sun as it rose over the distant hills. Then they would enter the temple for kirtan followed by a 30 minute japa session.

After japa was a “yin yoga” class led by Amber, and then a big breakfast before heading out to dance some more.

On the first morning they walked to one of our beautiful, refreshing waterfalls to dance with the water and the rocks. On the second morning they walked up to our scenic lookout point to dance with the wind. On the third morning they danced in the temple.

Each day, the morning activities were followed by a sumptuous lunch.

And after lunch? More dancing! Amber led the group in various dance exercises employing different styles of dance. Amber’s goal is not just to teach people to dance, but to help them to know themselves and express themselves freely through movement and to reveal their divine inner nature.

In the evenings we had our Gaura Arati at the usual time. I led the kirtan and Krishna Mohini dd performed the arati while Amber led the group in a synchronized dance for the pleasure of the Divine.

After the arati I gave a class on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. Then we served dinner. And then, yes, you guessed it, more dancing! Amber specializes in fire dancing, so one night they danced with fire beneath the full moon and a clear sky of thousands of visible stars.

The guests were very satisfied with their experience. As usual, they spoke of deep transformations and expressed their profound gratitude. Many of them went home with japa beads and books on Krishna consciousness. Here is what some of them wrote about the retreat:

“The step we took towards the Sacred is a miracle, a unique experience.  Let’s be aware, brave and open. I’m very grateful to all of you for the inspiration and for sharing. “– Simone, São Paulo – SP

“I carry in me the magic of the sunrise, the full moon’s rays in the starry heavens, the joyful force of the waterfalls, the heat of the rocks, the majestic wind and wild power of the fire. I’ll treasure the smiles and the tears of each one of you. I felt touched by the courageous seeking in all of you, which reflects my own yearnings.  I know that life is a dance in the here and now, listening to the music of the Universe. All we have to do now is breathe deep, raise our hands to the sky and soar above our fears, illusions and guilt. We came to honor our own beauty and creative force of GOD! I feel inspired and grateful, and I feel a deep desire to put into practice the teachings each of you confided in me.” – Bellé Flora, São Paulo – SP

“The retreat exceeded my expectations. I never imagined that dance and yoga could be such a strong channel to the Divine and the Inner Self. I thought the retreat would be more about relaxing and physical exercise, but I ended up finding parts of myself that were previously hidden. I thank all of you for having participated in this process. I wish that other people may also enjoy this incredible experience. I totally recommend it! Hare Krishna.”– Sinval Neto, Brasília – DF

You can see more pictures of the retreat here.

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Month Packed with Retreats in Pandavas Paradise

We had an intense month with four retreats in Pandavas Paradise. We started with the New Year yoga retreat on the 26th of December and ended with a January yoga retreat on the 22nd of January. In between we had two bhakti retreats.

Our New Year Yoga Retreat was a huge hit: fully booked and a great group of people. We had six days with lots of yoga (Iyengar style), beautiful weather, walks, swimming in the waterfalls and, of course, japa, kirtan and lecutres on Krishna consciousness every day.

A few days later we had another fully booked retreat, our Pandavas Retreat and Festival, celebrating 6 years of retreats. This bhakti retreat is focused on sadhu-sanga. This year we were again blesssed with the presence of the charismatic Chandramukha Swami (HDG), one of the three Brazilian gurus in ISKCON.

The main event of the retreat was the Festival, where we invite residents from the local town to participate. Hours of kirtan, lecture, more kirtan and prasadam! They love it.

Every January we program two bhakti retreats back to back, allowing people to come for a full 9 days of immersion in Krishna consciousness. The second bhakti retreat was a Bhakti-shastri retreat, with some 4-5 hours a day of lectures on the Bhagavad-gita, Sri Isopanisad, Nectar of Instruction and Nectar of Devotion. Of course, also lots of japa, aratiks, kirtan and prasada! One lady who attended this year had previously had no contact at all with Krishna consciousness and is now, after the retreat, chanting sixteen rounds, studying Prabhupada’s Gita and totally enthused.

After only a few days of rest we had our January Yoga Retreat (Ashtanga Yoga style). This group bonded very quickly, despite their very different backgrounds. Many of them reported having felt a deep awakening and a desire to get serious about their spiritual life.

We had some beautiful summer days where they got to enjoy the unique experience of walking in our private nature reserve of over 1000 acres and swimming in our exclusive waterfalls, born from springs within the property.

The diversity of the people who are attracted to our retreats is amazing. In just these four retreats we had: a zen buddhist computer analyst, an eye-brow designer (yes, there is such a carreer!), a whale researcher, a physics professor, an aspiring public prosecutor, an actress, a mathematician who works in artificial intelligence, a samba/soul singer, as well as doctors, government workers, a personal trainer, and a devotee fireman, with ages of the guests ranging between 21 and 72, not including the children who came along.

A nice devotee couple from Salvador, Krishna Yoga and Purushottama, came to help us with these four retreats, since Charana Renu was “too pregnant” to cook. The guests especially loved the typical Bahia food she prepared (as did we!).

Here are links to the photo albums for these retreats:

New Year Yoga Retreat, click here;

Pandavas Festival Retreat, click here;

Bhakti-shastri Retreat, click here;

January Yoga Retreat, click here.

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October Yoga Retreat at Pandavas Paradise

We held our 16th retreat of this year at Pandavas Paradise, from the 7th to the 12th of October. This particular yoga retreat was one of our best of the year, with a great group. Though ages varied from 23 to 71, and yoga experience varied from zero to teacher training course level, all the guests quickly bonded and had deep, meaningful exchanges.

The guests enjoyed our walks

and our waterfalls.

We had a yoga teacher from Brasília, Priscilla, giving four hours of class a day, including basic lessons in anatomy and the health benefits of different asanas.

As usual, every day the guests had early kirtan with the maha-mantra, followed by 30 minutes of japa mantra meditation. At night they had aratik and a lecture.

The guests had a wonderul time. Here are some comments they sent us:

“I had six special days in Pandavas Paradise where I got in touch with myself and with loving and wonderful people.”- Ramman, Brasilia-DF

“Pandavas Paradise exceeded my expectations. It made me more aware of my body and soul through meditation and the beauty of the Chapada”- Zenilda

“It was my fourth time (the third this year), and not last, in Pandavas Paradise. Again I experienced  special moments, delicious food, invigorating yoga practices and came in contact with very, very special people… I cannot wait to have my fifth experience in Paradise! “- Helena, Brasilia-DF

“… I had moments of pure nectar, praying on my beads and listening to your lectures … in silence and in the middle of nature it’s easier to approach Krishna. “- Nara, Rio de Janeiro-RJ

“I am very happy to have been awarded these days in Paradise. Thank you for all the shared wisdom. “- Paula, Belo Horizonte-MG

“…Pandavas Paradise is magical! I am very happy and fulfilled. You gave me everything I needed – the retreat was very important for me because I was able to purge everything negative that had been bothering me, and I left that wonderful place feeling at peace and very happy. It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed and smiled the way I did there.”- Grace, Rio de Janeiro-RJ

You can see more pictures of the retreat here.

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Cooking Retreat in Pandavas Paradise

From the 2nd  to 7th of September we held a cooking retreat in Pandavas Paradise, led by Carana Renu Dasi.

People came seeking a chance to enhance their vegetarian cooking repertoire as well as to enjoy the regular benefits of a retreat here, namely peace, contact with nature and a chance to deepen their spirituality.

Carana Renu chose varied menus over the five days, including Indian, Italian, Mexican and Chinese dishes. More importantly she taught them the principle of doing everything for Krishna, cleanliness in the kitchen and other aspects of prasadam preparation. Not only that but they also had a lot of fun in the kitchen, as you can see from the photos.

The guests had a good time making chapatis, samosas, calzones, etc.

We also had walks to the waterfalls and our lookout point, which the guests always love…

…though probably not as much as they love eating the prasadam!

On the first night I spoke about the importance of eating prasadam and the modes of nature.  On the second night they saw a documentary on the importance of a healthy diet. The third and fourth nights were question and answer sessions on all topics related to spirituality, Krishna Consciousness and yoga.

We also had a 30 minute japa session every day, as well as kirtans and aratiks.

All in all a successful retreat, with happy guests who got to come a little closer to Krishna consciousness, learn lots of delicious vegetarian recipes, eat lots of prasadam and relax!

Here are comments left by three of our guests:

“It was much more than a ‘vegetarian cooking course’. In truth in was an immersion in a universe of aromas and flavors, with the song of birds and mantras as the soundtrack. If we are what we eat, this experience allowed us to be much better. Hare Krishna!” – Celeste, Belo Horizonte – MG.

“Thank you, Charana, for sharing with us valuable information about your cooking, which brought us to higher states. This retreat was not only incredibly delicious, it also provided a deep comfort to the soul, through the sincere hospitality, the sharing of spiritual knowledge and the impressive natural setting. I leave Pandavas Paradise transformed and with the certainty of having made one of the best investments in my wellbeing.  Hare Krishna!” – Rachel, Rio de Janeiro – RJ

“The days I spent in Pandavas Paradise were absolutely incredible. I enjoyed an exuberant natural setting, with walks and swimming in the waterfalls, while at the same time learning delicious vegetarian recipes, as well as Giridhari’s enriching teachings. I had the chance to reflect on my life in a way that I could never have done in my regular day to day life, in a welcoming and very peaceful environment. Charana and Giridhari, thank you!” – Emerson, Brasília – DF

Click here to see more pictures of the retreat.

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Devotee Training Retreat (JIVA) in Pandavas Paradise 2011

For the fourth year running, we held our one week intensive bhakta training retreat at Pandavas Paradise. We call the retreat “JIVA” (Jornada Intensiva de Vaishnavismo).

This retreat is probably one of the most rewarding for us. Seeing enthusiastic devotees take to Krishna consciousness with determination, getting a deeper grasp of the philosophy and practices, gives great pleasure to any follower of Srila Prabhupada.

This year we had a slightly more advanced group than the previous year, including an already initiated devotee lady. This meant the participants got more hands-on training, including leading the kirtans and helping with the aratiks.

We strive to instill in the participants the importance of having a solid sadhana as well as a desire to serve the mission, be it in direct preaching engagements, or be it in the form of helping out their local administration.

All the classes were taught by me or my wife, with the exception of a Vaishnava songs class taught by our visiting guest teacher, Sadhu Sanga Prabhu.

We emphasize the importance of reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, especially the Srimad Bhagavatam. Every year just about all the participants walk out of the JIVA retreat owning a Srimad Bhagavatam. This year we sold three full 12 Canto collections, as well as large Gitas and other books. Alas, these are the last Portuguese Srimad Bhagavatam collections in Brazil! The Brazilian BBT has run out of them and it may take a while before they manage to print another full set.

JIVA isn’t just about studying and austerities though. We also make sure everyone has a really good time. The rooms are very comfortable, the prasadam quite opulent (but still healthy!) and we take them on walks and for swims in the waterfalls and natural pools.

Here are some comments we received from this year’s group:

“This experience was an important milestone in my spiritual life. I feel I have made great progress and many concepts which before were vague and unclear to me I now understand well.” – Alessandra, Brasília – DF

“I had rich unforgettable moments in this retreat, full of intense devotion. I left there with more love, wisdom, understanding and friendship.” – Rasa-lila Devi Dasi (CMS), Brasília – DF

“By Krishna’s mercy my family and I spent a week in a true paradise with sublime people. We had eight very important days for our spiritual lives. We returned home renewed.” – Gustavo, Márcia and Hillary, Belém – AM

“Many of the questions I had about Srila Prabhupada’s mission were answered and  I had the chance to learn various key practices for my spiritual progress… Beyond that, I was able to understand more clearly the importance of passing this transcendental knowledge to others who are in need of true peace and happiness… Pandavas Paradise is a holy place that is completely favourable to our search for a spiritual life.”  – Raphael, Brasília – DF

You can see more picture of the retreat here!

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Dance and Yoga Retreat in Pandavas Paradise

In July, we tried a new kind of retreat. Instead of a pure bhakti or yoga and bhakti retreat, we did a dance, yoga and bhakti retreat! We met a New York dancer, Amber Joy Rava here in Alto Paraíso and decided to organize a retreat at short notice. Amber performs all over the world, including in the Cirque do Soleil.

The group that came was very sweet and soon was in the highest of spirits. They danced 5-6 hours a day, chanted the Hare Krishna mantra, swam in waterfalls, ate wonderful prasadam and did all this in a 1000 acre ecological paradise – who wouldn’t be in bliss?

On the first day they had a section on “Dancing with the Water Element” in one of our waterfalls.


Early in the day, after chanting mantras, watching the sunrise and doing mantra meditation (japa), the group had lessons in “yin yoga.”


Later Amber taught different aspects and techniques of dance, focusing on “oriental dance”.


But it didn’t stop there. Amber is very creative and the retreat was intended to help participants connect with the Divine through dance, both in material elements (earth, water, fire and air), as well as directly with the Divine, dancing for the pleasure of the Deities during kirtans. Thus, the group went out dancing atop mountains, in the rivers, at night with fire, with stones and clay and so on!

At night I also talked a little about the philosophy of yoga, explaining the concept of karma, the different practices of yoga to stop karma, Krishna consciousness, etc.

As usual the food (prasadam) was a special highlight of the event. Every day they experienced a new treat for the soul and tongue prepared by Charana Renu.

Here are some of the testimonies of the participants:

“Participating in the dance and yoga retreat was a very special experience for me, first by allowing me to connect to wonderful people –  sweet, gentle, loving and full of humanity, each one doing her best  to make the most of life and closely connected with the Divine -, then the charm transmitted by Mother Nature’s loving embrace, in harmony with the experiences passed through dance by our master Amber Joy… I felt everything was perfect and I thank Krishna. To be sure, I will be in Pandavas Paradise again. Thank you. “- Monica, Brasília – DF

“Reconnecting with the divine in dance gave a new meaning to my movements. Understanding the harmony between body and spirit are essential for the exercise of sacredness in women. I thank Amber for the love and care with which she conducted these discoveries and for this opportunity!” – Cathana, Brasília – DF

“I appreciated every moment lived in these days of the retreat! Our teacher, Amber, conducted with love our connection to the Sun, the earth and water and through dance and movement I could release the female beauty and sensitivity in me. I am grateful to God for this gift that I was provided – this reconnection with Krishna. “- Andreia, Sao Paulo – SP

“I treasure the memories of this piece of paradise. And I take with me the energy and love received… “- Rejane, Brasília – DF

“I can only thank God for the opportunity I got of experiencing love so naturally. I saw that my material gains mean nothing – without God’s love I will never find peace.”- Florizel, Sao Paulo – SP

Click here to see more photos of this retreat.

 

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May Yoga Retreat with Laurent Dauzou in Pandavas Paradise

During May 20-24th, we had another yoga retreat with Laurent Dauzou here in Paradise Pandavas. This time we had a smaller group, ladies only, with the upside that the group bonded very quickly, creating a very friendly atmosphere.

On the first day of the retreat we had a little rain – I think that was the last rain we’ll have now until the start of the next rainy season in September. Winter has come, with temperatures falling, getting as low as 12ºC at night (yes, that’s cold for us!) and the relative humidity now in 50-65% range. The expansive Chapada sky is a gorgeous deep blue and the clarity is amazing (the above picture was taken by one of our guests!). At night we clearly see the constellations, the Milky Way shines in the sky and shooting stars and satellites are easily spotted – there is practically no light pollution here as we’re hundreds of kilometers from any big city. This month we had the rare conjunction of Mars, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter in the sky, very close to one another, being visible in the horizon just before sunrise.

Taking advantage of the fine weather, we had some great walks. On the first day we went to three of our waterfalls.

On the second day, we climbed to the lookout and then bathed in our Mahavira Kunda.

One of the main focuses of the retreat was the Iyengar yoga classes with the renowned French teacher, Laurent Dauzou. His classes are intense, but his ability is such that even with only one weekend, participants feel the difference in the alignment of their bodies (as well as, of course, the sore muscles!).

The prasadam prepared by Charana Renu was a real treat. Every meal got “oohs” and “ums” from the guests. The challenge was not to over-eat three times a day!

On the first two nights I lectured on yoga philosophy and the last two nights we did question and answer sessions.

We had our regular aratiks twice a day and chanting of japa (mantra meditation) in the mornings. One of the guests, who had never chanted japa before the retreat chanted a full hour of concentrated japa on the last day, sitting in one position the whole time!

See here comments from some of the participants of this retreat:

“The retreat was wonderful! From the moment I arrived I felt totally welcome and at every moment I was surprised to see me the affection and love with which all things were prepared – the food, the rooms, a flower placed in different places, a jar of water… Wow! And what about the lectures? Spectacular! I am sure that many of the teachings will remain in my daily life. It was a great learning experience. Anyway, the place is divine and the people who take care of it are beautiful. I loved you all. May God bless you always. Namaste! “- Alice, Aracaju-SE.

“I really enjoyed taking part in this yoga retreat in Pandavas Paradise this weekend. The place is very special. I felt very reinvigorated afterwards. Everything was wonderful. Waking up early in the cold, chanting mantras, meditating, doing yoga classes, hiking and swimming in the waterfall… it was all I needed. I was very tired and came back renewed. I loved the people, the place, the food, which is divine. In short, I can only thank God and my friend Berê who organized everything. Thank you! “- Lara, Praia do Forte-BA

“Thank you for your attention and kindness, Giridhari! I loved the weekend and came back with renewed energy. The classes with Laurent were wonderful, the place is beautiful, my retreat colleagues super friendly and wonderful people, and the food was something else altogether. Everything was very tasteful and classy! “- Fernanda, Brasília-DF

“I am very thankful to God for the wonderful days I spent there. Waking up in Pandavas Paradise always enchants me and to start the day chanting alongside such special people is a blessing. I also feel spiritually renewed and more open. I really needed it and I loved our group. Thank you for the opportunity. I will return soon. “- Angela Berenice, Brasília – DF

“It was a real pleasure to be able to have participated in this retreat in Pandavas Paradise. I am very grateful to be able to have experienced divine moments in the company of such nice people.” – Aurelia, São Paulo-SP

Click here to see more pictures of the retreat!

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