During a five-day retreat from November 14thto 18th– held on picturesque Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands – spiritual seekers spent quality time with like-minded people and immersed themselves in Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and the Bhagavad-gita.
Balarama Nityananda Das organized the retreat as part of Krishna Wisdom, a team at the UK’s Bhaktivedanta Manor aimed at introducing local Westerners to Krishna consciousness.
“Most of our previous retreats have been held at Buckland Hall in Wales,” Balarama says. “This time, I was thinking that people have limited budgets and like to go on both vacations and spiritual retreats – so I decided to combine the two and go to Tenerife!”
Fifteen people from the North London and Cambridge area participated, many of whom were already interested in yoga and wanted to learn about Bhakti too.
The group stayed at a hotel near the beach, with most activities taking place at ISKCON’s New Jagannath Puri temple in Playa del las Americas, a lively resort on the south coast of the island.
Every morning participants would wake up at 5:30am, practice japa meditation and eat breakfast prasadam catered by the Tenerife temple’s Govinda’s restaurant.
They’d then attend workshops by spiritual guide Kripamoya Das, who discussed the Patanjali yoga sutras and took them through the different themes of the Bhagavad-gita.
On day one, he spoke about obstacles in spiritual practice, including seven deadly thoughts that can pollute our consciousness, and provided a spiritual maintenance manual.
On day two, he presented a hierarchy of nature, explaining the gunas, or modes of material nature: sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance). He also touched on purusa and prakriti, or spirit and matter, as well as karma.
On day three, Kripamoya talked about the Vedas, yoga as a path of freedom, and four different kinds of yoga – karma, jnana, dhyana and bhakti. He discussed how to make our lives, whether at home or at work, spiritual.
On day four, he outlined impersonal and personal conceptions of God, explained what an avatar is, delved into Lord Krishna’s message, and spoke on how Bhakti-yoga is ultimately about how to love and be loved.
On the final day of the retreat, the group hiked and meditated on the dormant volcano Mount Teide, reflecting on what they had learned and admiring the incredible views.
Throughout the retreat, everyone also participated in many kirtans, offered lamps every day to New Jagannath Puri’s beautiful Jagannath Deities, practiced hatha yoga with a local yoga teacher, and visited the Playa de las Americas and Playa de los Christianos beaches.
“They absolutely loved it,” Balarama Nityananda says. “Everyone’s already asking when is Tenerife part two!”
Balarama aimed for the retreat to achieve three key things. The first was to help people break old habits and develop new ones, such as regular chanting.
The second was to give them the opportunity to bond, talk about deeper subjects, and develop strong spiritual relationships.
“And the third was to find some purpose,” says Balarama. “To find out why we exist, why we live; to understand that our real purpose is service. Hopefully people took those things back home with them.”
Since the retreat, some participants have started to visit Bhaktivedanta Manor more often for Krishna Wisdom’s regular reading, philosophy and kirtan nights.
“We hope some will try our mentorship program and take on Krishna consciousness seriously in their life,” Balarama Nityananda says.