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Health Retreat with The Art of Living

Written by Panchajanya Paul, MD
Edited by Pooja Sen, MS
Source: Suprateek Kundu, PhD
Picture by Sai Kalyan

Main Meditation Hall in Boone Retreat Center

Each new year, we make resolutions. One common goal is to improve mental, physical and spiritual health. A healthy way to begin the year is to attend health retreats offered by various groups across the nation. This year I participated in a health retreat run by the Art of living foundation ( ) during the last week of December. The Art of Living Retreat Center ( ) is located at the Boone city of North Carolina. The center is set up high on the Blue Ridge mountains surrounded by 380 acres of pristine forest. The location also hosts a health spa which offers massage, herbs, and Ayurvedic treatments.
Humans are susceptible to their environment. If we surround ourselves with negativity and stress, we become stressed. One way to break this cycle is to travel for a few days away from your work and stress and spend time in a healing environment. That is why health retreats are growing popular, and attract thousands with their promises of health, rejuvenation, and restoration.

'Guruji' Sri Sri RaviShankar

The Art of Living Retreat is the vision of Sri Sri Ravishankar, a world-renowned humanitarian, who is also fondly referred to as Guruji by the followers. The foundation advocates ahimsa/peaceful living, non-violence, a violence and stress-free society, service activities, benevolence and charity. The group is secular and attracts people from all creed and religion in over 150 countries. The basis of most of the teachings are in accordance to the ancient Vedic philosophies. The retreats are run by many volunteers who donate their time and money for maintaining the majestic Retreat Center, to accommodate thousands of people who come to mediate and rejuvenate several times a year. My experience was very positive and I found all the organizers to be polite, warm and friendly, who were more than happy to help and accommodate requests. Although I visited for the first time, it felt like my second home.

Serene Sunrise atop the Boone Retreat Center

The center offers many programs geared toward the health and healing process. The three main programs are the happiness retreat, meditation retreat, and the silent retreat. The happiness course is the most popular one, and the first course taken by the beginners. This course teaches relaxation techniques using breathing techniques like pranayama, meditation, yoga, positive thinking, acceptance, and mindfulness. These courses are designed to help relieve stress on a daily basis and help promote a stress-free and productive lifestyle. The highlight of this courses is the Sudarshan kriya- a powerful and rhythmic breathing technique that is evidence-based and shown to have many positive effects on the body and mind via rigorous scientific research.

These courses are offered around the year at various locations throughout the world by the art of living teachers. Many choose to do the classes at the Retreat during the Christmas weekend because Guruji himself conducts the sessions, and provides a unique opportunity to learn directly from the master.


Audience immersed in a Session with Sri Sri

The retreat of 2018 saw the introduction of two new art of living courses initiated by Guruji. The first one was called Unveiling Infinity. It is an advanced meditation course whose goal was to connect you with our deep infinite power that lays dormant inside. The session focused on letting go of past trauma and getting rid of unhealthy beliefs and baggage that no longer serve us. The second program was the Holistic Health Retreat geared towards health practitioners. Sri Sri conducted two 2hour yoga sessions per day for three days with the emphasis being to discover the secrets of fitness and well being by listening to the body. Besides, there were sessions from Ayurveda experts who gave tips on diet and how to have a holistic Ayurveda lifestyle.

Soulful Music in Evening Satsang

All the classes for yoga, meditation, relaxation were taught during the day. In the evening, there was a regular evening meeting for prayers, singing, chanting, with a brief spiritual discourse by Guruji. One evening, there was a display of the intuition process, which is a workshop where children and teens are taught how to develop intuitive abilities. One high school student was asked to come to the stage, and he was blindfolded. Then he was given words to read from a book cover. He was asked to identify the color. He was also asked to recognize a currency. He was able to recognize the shade, read the words of the book, and recognize the currency with his blindfold.

To skeptics, this may appear more like magic than intuition. The father narrated to the audience that the student has improved in his grades. Previously he was an 'F' student, and now he is an A or B student. Many scientists have started doing research on the intuition process to understand the science and rationale behind such abilities. Being a doctor, I would find a scientific explanation for such abilities fascinating, especially since humans have unlimited potential, and seasoned monks and yogis have displayed more control of their mind, body, and spirit.

Devotees Seeking Blessings from Sri Sri Ravishankar

Overall it was a peaceful and relaxing experience for me. Although I did not do any courses, I attended some of the evening sessions and spoke with people who participated in the classes. Pooja Sen, a Computer Science major, wrote, "I attended three sessions of Unveiling Infinity, it was an astounding and enthralling experience." Another wrote, "I had an unforgettable experience attending the program. Guruji walked us through the deepest secrets of consciousness with deep meditations for the past couple of days." Another participant wrote, "I felt amazing, light, free and transformed with the Unveiling Infinity course."

A Candid Picture of Art of Living Teachers

For me, the best was summed as one wrote, "In this world where loved ones and friends are taken away from us for no reasons, so much negativity in the news, and we're looking for something to show us that there is more to life, and can be happy even when we can't understand the world around us- thanks to Sri Sri Ravishankar- I have experienced unbridled joy, an unshakable peace that remains and faith in the ultimate power of unbridled power".

The ambiance was calm and peaceful. One could sense around five hundred to thousand people in the campus. People are walking, talking, praying, chanting. The whole atmosphere has a positive vibe. Guruji urges the disciples to stay positive all the time, meet new people, make friends, and help each other. It's difficult to maintain this holy spirit all the time, but at least for the seven days of the retreat, most participants looked happy and content.

One disciple asked, Guruji, how to maintain the positivity after the end of the retreat. Guruji said "Be a teacher. When you teach, you to learn deeper and continue to grow!" The teacher's program has different tiers and is very organized in the Art of Living foundation. Many students trained by Guruji and other Art of Living teachers have gone to become teachers themselves, and spread the art of the living values to millions across the Globe.

Author Dr. Panchajnaya Paul & Sagnika Mukherjee Paul

Dr. Panchajanya 'Panch' Paul, MD, ABIHM, ABPN, FAPA - is an American Board certified - Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. He holds an adjunct faculty position at Emory University School of Medicine; University of Georgia, and University of Central Florida School of Medicine. He is the author of two books- Stress rescue and Sleep Coaching available at Amazon.
To schedule an appointment with Dr.Paul at Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals, Call 7704541252 or email