Inside Out Youth retreat : Jan 2018

The New Year youth retreat at Sehatvan exceeded my expectations in what I experienced and also what I came home with. The space itself was a thankful change from both the monotony and overexcitement of city life. Mud huts, open fields, forested hills on all sides, the fresh air, healthy food, the timeless nature of the place was clearly indicative of what was to come. The memories, lessons and thoughts the three days of this retreat left me with added real value to my life and were much needed specially for the place I find myself in, in my life right now. What struck me first about the idea of being part of this retreat was the fact that my fellow travellers in this journey were people who were kindred souls, where they willfully chose to spend their New Year weekend far away from the usual fanfare of celebration and all that it traditionally consists of. To decide to spend their time alone with their thoughts is not an easy decision. In this case we were a group of similar, yet very distinct people who were collectively spending hours together in this alone-ness with their collection of thoughts, questions and confusions. It was about sharing a space with strangers who quickly became friends when we found out we spoke the same language: or in fact, multiple languages which criss-crossed to make it a happy web of thoughts. There were precious moments of clarity among the continuous attempts at untangling the knots in our heads, and more importantly having them out in the open so they can be picked at by all of us rather than going at it alone.

The various spaces that we occupied, ranging from around a fire, around good food, under the morning winter sun on a rocky cliffside, arranged precariously and half visible on branches of a tree, carrying on endless conversation about life — gave me a new standard to which all future conversations shall be compared. We ended up creating a unique language of our own. The patience, openness and curiosity that the practices during the retreat offered, and cultivated, were made possible by the ingenuity of its organisation and planning and of course the collective interest in participating. The simplicity of some practices at Sehatvan and its accessibility and a straightforward ease of practice were stunning.

The simple ways in which we can all make our lives better and healthier are out there and it just requires some openness and time to learn them. Or rather, unlearn our old harmful practices and adopt some new ones which are good for us and for the environment. The prompt realisation that the daily practices that we have conditioned ourselves to are just not good ideas but only ‘convenient’ in the worst way was a reality check. I wish more people make a journey to such realisations so they can start to mend their lives and health sooner. The love and dedication with which Sehatvan was built, which is very apparent to anyone visiting, the ways it functions and will continue to grow is inspiration enough to want to contribute in this movement.

Being the only woman in this group was an important learning experience, I could see the blurred boundaries of gender and stereotypical notions of gender roles and mainstream definitions breaking down. In retrospect I wish conversations on gender had begun earlier in the retreat. Sadly, there was not enough time to engage with questions around our gendered identities and the different demands the world puts on us. The fact that I could see multiple men engaged in the activities of cleaning, cooking, and washing up was somewhat of a marvel in itself. Those are not the usual things a woman specially would associate ‘the other sex’ with, but only wishfully dream of it. Sehatvan came close to a utopian idea of what the world in my head looks like. I only wish the retreat was longer so more things could be explored. And that more women find themselves interested in what this space can offer. Beyond the obvious ideas of wellness and health, to finding an alternative space to exist and think clearly and honestly about their lives unbogged down by home and the world.

A longer retreat would also mean more time to warm oneself to the surroundings and the people, experience the goodness for longer and absorb more sun, which honestly even feels better in Sehatvan than other places. I would suggest young people looking for a wholesome experience, to take some worthwhile time off from the inane drudgery of life, head here and work their way inwards as we did, rather than go through the usual tired set routines of looking outwards and onwards all the time. The slowing down of time even as I entered the place was a fascinating experience as also was the surprising quickness with which these three days passed. I cannot wait to return for more of Sehatvan soon.

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