Winter Snow

Snow on the ground here at the retreat. It won’t stay. We want to let you know that we also maintain a Facebook page. You can find it by searching “Vivekananda Retreat,Ridgely page”. Yes, the word’ page’ must be included. We have started an Instagram account: @vivekanandaretreat. Please follow us if you are interested.

A Thought for the New Year

I am wishing everyone a wonderful new year! I decided not to write about new years or Kalpataru Day and instead, think about the word ‘vairagyam’, translated into English as ‘renunciation’. Sri Sarada Devi named renunciation as one of the main messages of Sri Ramakrishna. This concept, vairagyam, is going to mean something a little different for every person in the midst of their own life. The word vairagyam is derived from the Sanskrit root ranj. It has many meanings coming from the original meaning, to color and particularly, to color red. We begin to see the picture it paints by recalling the English saying ‘to see red’. The word ‘passion’ describes this saying, but there are several meanings to this word as well. And that is the source of misunderstanding. Passion can describe an emotion that is almost or completely out of our control. It can also mean a feeling of motivation or enthusiasm. To understand the meaning of vairagyam we need the first definition of passion, NOT the second. The prefix ‘vi’ designates the opposite, so ‘viraga’ means w/o passion. Vairagyam is a noun derived from that verbal root. To renounce, to practice vairagyam, means to be completely without that kind of strong emotion that is out of our control. It does not mean to be disinterested, indifferent or downright aversive! So many people believe that to practice renunciation we need to be indifferent, unconcerned and uninvolved, throwing off everything. I believe what we really need is to install a mental app of discernment (aka viveka), which examines all our experience and asks “ Is this true? Is this important? Is this necessary? Am I acting selfishly?” We may think that vairagyam is for monastics only. Certainly monastics, theoretically, practice a more external kind of renunciation, but the truth is, the same discernment applies to all people in all walks of life. Friends, we can renounce and still care. We can renounce and still help. We can renounce and still be interested in the welfare of every being. In fact, if we ‘take the red out of the mind’ we will be in a much better position to do so!

Winter at Vivekananda Retreat

PLEASE NOTE: We are now in the winter season here at the retreat.During these winter months we do not schedule programs or events. We will remain open for visitors and retreatants until snow and ice make it impossible/unsafe to park or walk on our internal roads. PLEASE CALL AHEAD BEFORE YOU GET IN THE CAR TO COME HERE IF YOU WANT TO VISIT.IT’S BETTER TO CALL AT LEAST A DAY IN ADVANCE. We are happy to schedule tours but not when the retreat is closed. Overnight guests need to make reservations at least 5 days in advance. Please go to our Visit page and fill out the overnight retreat form at the end of the section.

Please be aware that we are not a museum.It is not possible to just walk in and see the place without one of us acting as tour guide. We live here as well. We do enjoy giving tours but please be aware that the people here have many other responsibilities and may not be available. That is why we ask you to call ahead to schedule a time that works for all.

We will begin our programs again in the spring as soon as the snow and ice disappear. Our first program of 2019, as of now, will be a retreat given by Swami Sarvapriyananda on April 6. Topic to be announced. If you wish to sign up for our email newsletter, there is a link here on our website.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Retreat w/Swami Nikhileshwarananda November 24 10:30-4 Vedanta In Everyday Life

We are happy to welcome back Swami Nikhileshwarananda, the Head of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission Center in Rajkote, India. He will be giving a one-day retreat. Here is a tentative schedule:

10:30-1 Morning session
1pm. Lunch
2-4pm. Afternoon session

All are welcome to attend this program. If you wish to stay overnight, please go to our website, ridgely.org and fill out the overnight application. You will find it in the Visit section. We do require that reservations be made at least 5 days in advance. Please be aware that we do not allow children under the age of 17 to stay overnight at the retreat.

Please be aware that we are now experiencing winter conditions here at the retreat. If there is a snowstorm on the 24th we will cancel this event.

Retreat w/Swami Sarvapriyananda October 6 10:30-4:30

We are happy to announce that Swami Sarvapriyananda, Minister in Charge of the Vedanta Society of New York, will be returning to Ridgely to give a one-day retreat. His subject is Waking to Awakening, based on the Mandukya Upanishad- discovering the Self by analyzing waking, dreaming and deep sleep state of consciousness.

We are limiting the number of attendees for this retreat to 50. We have already given first chance to sign up to our local friends. There are 30 spaces left. If you wish to attend you must sign up by emailing me: gitaprana@ridgely.org. Give me your name and your phone #. DAY VISITORS MUST SIGN UP.

OVERNIGHT VISITORS: There are a few spaces left in both the women’s and men’s retreat houses. If you wish to attend as an overnight visitor please go to ridgely.org and fill out the overnight application. You will find it at the end of the Visit section. Once we receive your email application, we will contact you to finalize. Please remember that w do not allow children under the age of 17 to stay overnight at the retreat.

DAY VISITORS, SIGN UP. OVERNIGHT VISITORS, EMAIL US YOUR APPLICATION. DO IT NOW!
Swami Sarvapriyananda is a very well-known speaker and these spaces will fill up quickly. Once the spaces, both overnight and day visitors, are filled we will be placing all others on a waiting list.

Retreat with Swami Yogatmananda Sept.1-2. Kahlil Gibran’s THE PROPHET

Swami Yogatmananda’s topic for the retreat is “Kahlil Gibran’s THE PROPHET”. THE PROPHET is a series of wonderful prose/poetry tales in which the prophet Almustafa discusses topics which address life and the human condition. Perhaps many of you have read it or have seen the animated film.

Here is the schedule for this retreat:
SATURDAY, SEPT. 1
10:30-1 Session 1
1pm Lunch
2:30-4 Session Two

SUNDAY, SEPT. 2
10:30-1 Session 3
1pm Lunch

The overnight spaces have been filled for this retreat. If you would like to place yourself on a waiting list, please let us know. We often have cancellations at the last minute. All are welcome to attend all or part of this retreat. As you probably know, we do not limit the number of day visitors. If you will be attending as a day visitor you do not need to sign up. We hope to see you at the retreat!

Retreat with Swami Sarvadevananda Aug.2-5 Vedantasara

We have changed the retreat subject from the AVADHUTA GITA to the VEDANTASARA at the request of Swami Sarvadevananda. The Vedantasara is one of the basic texts of the Vedanta philosophy.
Here is the retreat schedule:
Aug. 2. 7pm Session 1

Aug. 3 10:30-1 Session 2
1pm lunch
2:30-4 Session 3

Aug.4 10:30-1 Session 4
1pm lunch
THERE IS NO AFTERNOON SESSION

Aug.5 10:30-1 Swami Sarvadevananda, Swami Atmajnanananda, Pravrajika Gitaprana-satsang/questions and answers
1pm lunch
THERE IS NO AFTERNOON SESSION

All are welcome to attend all or part of this retreat. There are still a few spaces for overnight guests (must be over 17 yrs. old) in our retreat houses. Reservations need to be made at least 5 days in advance. See the Visit section to apply. Day visitors do not need to sign up.

Online is good but keeping holy company is better!

Ask yourself-what are the most meaningful memories that come to your mind again and again to serve as inspiration for your spiritual life? I am willing to guess that they aren’t memories of something you read, or watched online, or even heard in an abstract talk on Vedanta or any other spiritual tradition. Most likely your most meaningful memories involve some kind of personal contact with a teacher, a friend, or a group of people. Maybe you heard someone else tell a personal story or reminiscence that you find very inspiring.

That is certainly my experience. I have been on a spiritual path since I was 13 and now I am 60.
I have always loved reading, loved to learn. I have read literally hundreds of spiritual books, studied Sanskrit so I could read the scriptures and study them without relying on the translations. Like everyone else I am online reading and watching. All of that is important, but what I keep returning to for inspiration is memories and stories, particularly the ones that happened to me or someone I know. In fact, hearing the stories of others might be more inspiring than reflecting on my own.

You can’t get that online. The most important ingredient for spiritual growth is personal contact with great souls, teachers and spiritual friends. The current trend and fad to think that everything one needs can be found online is alarming. The thought seems to be that , if there is cyber-darshan, why set foot in a spiritual center? Ask “Google Maharaj” and all you need for your spiritual life will be given! Even more alarming is that personal contact is being sacrificed in some ashrams and centers to the unseen online millions of potential viewers.

Human contact is critical for spiritual growth. As Sri Ramakrishna said, one of the most important practices is to seek and keep holy company. I hope we are not forgetting that. Stories told, examples set, by those we respect and love-their power lies in personal contact. Let us always ready to keep holy company and to cherish the stories that are born there. All company is holy company.

Ridgely’s 2018 regular schedule (not the weekend retreat schedule)

As always, we consider our weekly schedule at the beginning of our spring season-what is working for us, what is not. Here is the schedule that will go into effect AFTER April 15.

SUNDAYS 10:30-12 Bhagavad Gita class
12-1` Chandi chanting and reading

SATURDAYS (The schedule will alternate activities. You will need to consult the Ridgely calendar on our website.)

VOLUNTEER SATURDAYS

Now that spring might be around the corner, we will be starting up our outside work and we need volunteers to help us. What are we doing? We have a large organic vegetable garden and many flower borders, all maintained by Gitaprana with the help of volunteers. We have a shrine trail complete with labyrinth that needs regular care. We have 3 houses that take a beating during the winter and need paint touch-ups. We also have inside cleaning jobs.

This year we are considering training some volunteers to be tour guides for the many day visitors we have during the warm months. Every year we are happy to have more and more visitors and we love giving tours. The “downside” to this is that, with the increase in visitors, we are, more and more, pulling our own staff members away from work that needs to be done.
If you have an interest in Ridgely and it’s history and would like to share it with our guests on tour, please let us know.

WE WILL BE DESIGNATING 2 SATURDAYS PER MONTH AS VOLUNTEER DAYS BUT YOU MAY VOLUNTEER ANYTIME. JUST GIVE US A CALL.

MEDITATION SATURDAYS- please check our calendar for these events.

We are going to try to bring back our silent meditation retreats in modified form. Once a month we will hold a silent meditation morning from 9:30-1pm followed by a silent lunch.

e are also going to try a new kind of meditation-a forest hike. One Saturday a month, we will gather at Ridgely (with a bag lunch and hiking clothes) and go for a hike somewhere in the area-the Catskills, Minnewaska etc. Don’t worry-we will choose hikes that aren’t too strenuous ! The idea is to spend time in quiet reflection in nature.