From Sound to Silence

This was the title of a 5 day meditation retreat I went on at Mandala Yoga Ashram in August 2015, led by Swami Gyan Dharma.  An ashram is described as a secluded place for retreat or spiritual practice and  Mandala Yoga Ashram is definitely that, sitting in a beautiful, remote corner of south Wales fairly near the Brecon Beacons.  It was set up in 1986 by Swami Nishchalananda so next year it'll celebrate its 4oth anniversary.  I recommend it highly as a wonderful place to experience.  See the website  You can register to receive regular bulletins and blogs, not to mention advance information about the 2016 programme.  

The programme for each day began with the sound of a hand bell waking us up at 5.30. The first class of asanas and pranayama was at 6.15 am, followed by mantra chanting and a meditation guided by Swami Gyan Dharma.  Then we had karma yoga, which for me was in housekeeping /cleaning.  As I was alone rather than in a group, it was done largely in silence and was definitely part of the practice.  Formal sessions with Swami Gyan Dharma included learning (or rather trying) the Sanskrit chants for the daily havan, the ancient Vedic fire ceremony.  Other forms of sound-making included learning and practising the Indian musical scale and OM chanting in a circle as a round (that was particularly powerful).  We also experienced seated and walking meditations, an evening satsang with questions, riotous kirtans (Swami Gyan Dharma's serious expression disguising a keen wit and a warm sense of inner joy that had us all laughing) and fantastic food. There were various periods of silence (mouna) as well as the lovely deep reflective silence after many of the practices.  Before lunch and the evening meal we chanted a mantra and ate in silence for the first 15 minutes.  Mouna began immediately after the evening session so we tended to be in bed by 9.30 pm.  I returned to Edinburgh inspired and deeply refreshed, with even more CDs to add to my collection.