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.

April 15 Retreat with Swami Chetanananda

We are very happy to begin our season with a retreat given by Swami Chetanananda,a senior swami of the Ramakrishna Order and Head Minister of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis. Many you know him through the many wonderful books he has published about Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and the disciples and devotees who lived and learned from them. His topic will be STORIES OF VEDANTA MONKS (Advice on Spiritual practice).
Here is the schedule:
10:30-12:00 Session One
12:30 Lunch followed by time to read, meditate etc.
3:30-5:00 Session Two

Please note-this is a one-day retreat. All are welcome to attend. If you wish to stay overnight at the retreat, please apply via the email form found at the very end of our Visit section. After our long winter break we hope to see you at retreat!

Vivekananda Retreat is Open, Weather Permitting

It is almost Spring here at the retreat. Currently there is no snow or ice so we will be allowing visitors on a limited basis. If you wish to visit YOU MUST CALL IN ADVANCE. Our weather could change back to snow and ice at any time and, quite frankly, we do not want visitors here when this happens. Our first retreat is scheduled for April 15th w/ Swami Chetanananda, Head of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis. See our blog for the schedule and topic.

Wishing all a joyful holiday season!

I want to wish everyone a joyful holiday season! There are, of course, many kinds of notions and beliefs regarding the ‘holiday season’. There’s one belief I feel is absolutely imperative to hold at all times: YOU MATTER. YOUR THOUGHTS MATTER. You matter because you are the Divine appearing in this conventional reality, uniquely as you. And, although we are subject to avidya, the unawareness of our true nature, the Divine is not subject to that unknowing and has ‘chosen’ to be none other than you. As Swami Vivekananda reminds us, each of us is the whole and not a part. Mind-blowing and inspiring! Life is a gift, not a prison sentence, no matter how much happiness or misery we feel.

We often feel discouraged, especially today when this happening we call ‘the world’ that we want to admire and love seems like it’s teetering on the brink. We assume there’s not much we ‘little people’ can do. We can do something right now! YOUR THOUGHTS MATTER. What you think makes a difference to the world and, of course, to yourself.

In his talk on non-attachment in KARMA YOGA Swami Vivekananda reminds us: “…when I am doing a certain action, my mind may be said to be in a certain state of vibration; all minds which are in similar circumstances will have the tendency to be affected by my mind….Every thought projected from every brain goes on pulsating, as it were, until it meets a fit object that will receive it.” He goes on to say that every destructive act/thought influences and is influenced by other similar thoughts, our own and those “projected from every brain”. Likewise,
every constructive thought we think influences and is influenced by similar thoughts. Thought leads to action. Every action we take, however small, has its effect.

If we feel we cannot contribute in action, we can contribute by examining our thoughts, making sure we contribute to the bandwidth of love, peace, expansion, harmony rather than the bandwidth of anger, hatred, and violence that appears to be in the limelight currently. We cannot choose our experience but we can choose how we perceive and respond to it.

So, for the upcoming year my wish for you (and myself) is CHOOSE LOVE, CHOOSE JOY!

From Gitaprana: About finding inspiration

We hear a lot of teachings and instructions but sometimes the most important ones are simply one sentence.

Some people felt that Swami Swahananda was not specific enough with the instructions he gave to his disciples. He often answered questions about practice by offering a variety of answers and told us to choose. Or, in my case, his main instruction was to exclaim, “Figure it out yourself!” But, he was also a master of the one-liner: a really quick, powerful sentence that had implications for every action, everywhere.

Here is an example that will stay with me until the end of my days:
When I lived in Hollywood I served on a couple of committees. We all know that committees can be exasperating, especially to one without patience like me. One day I made the total mistake of saying (without thinking) to Swami Swahananda, “I think X committee is wrecking my life”. Instantly, within a nano-second, he turned and shouted, “YOU HAVE NO LIFE!!!”

I understood. As a sannyasini, when I performed my own funeral, and took the gerua cloth, I, in effect, gave up my life. The challenge is to identify with the Self, the Divine, the Mother, and to work to eliminate all the mental obstacles that keep me identified with the ego-constructed self. Really, I don’t have “a life”. That is a notion born of believing we are separate beings. And, the individual life that I experience has been given to serve, in the Mother, in Sri Ramakrishna, all sentient beings. That means embracing every experience that arises as coming from the Divine. To me, that’s the essence of renunciation and you don’t have to be a monastic to do it!

Here at Ridgely I have many responsibilities that sometimes seem overwhelming, like a job for some kind of superhuman. To ensure that others find peace and inspiration here, I don’t have a lot of peace. But all I have to do is remember Swami Swahananda shouting, “You have no life!” and I feel inspired again. It reminds me to look at daily events through the Divine lens.

So, one fantastic spiritual practice is to find a memory of a meaningful personal teaching, or even one from a scripture or other book, and use it to reorient yourself whenever you feel life is running crazy without your participation , when your job/family situation is a little complicated or stressful.