Archive for spiritual journeys

Top 5 Spiritual Places in India

Here is a guest post from someone living and traveling in India. This is not a tour group, but the information he describes can be useful if you are adventurous and want to see these paces on your own. I like the fact that he has chosen holy places from all religions.

Sacred and religious places are doorways for spiritual attainment. While spirituality is awakening of the soul, religions and religious dwellings make the process easy. If you too were looking for an awakening, India would be the best place to start with. India is a cornucopia of cultural richness. Not only does the nation boast of varied cultures and religions co-existing but also of the magnificent structures that these religions have fashioned.

Spiritual places in India cannot be confined to a number; every monument, every place has a significance of its own. Here are five spiritual places in India that should be a part of your itinerary.

1. Haridwar

 

Photo by Paul, shared thru Creative Commons

Photo by Paul, shared thru Creative Commons

Photo by -.-Paul-.-, CC BY-ND 2.0

While the name literally means “Gateway of God”, Haridwar translates as the mecca of Hindus. With holy river Ganga adorning the city, it is considered to be one of the holiest and oldest city in India. The temple is nestled amidst the foothills of enormous Himalayas in Uttarkhand. The pious Ganga enters North India from this very place. Go here to join the evening ritual of lighting lamps and floating them in Ganges. Kumbha Mela is the most happening festival in Haridwar that attracts over millions to the city. It happens only once in twelve years and is a rare sight of divinity and worship.

2. Bodh Gaya

Bodha Gaya

Photo by Andrew Moore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Bodh Gaya is the place where the revered Buddha attained enlightenment could also be the one where you achieved yours. Buddhists across the world flock this place to witness Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi tree. It is also celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The two flight of stairs, considered as stairs to heaven will take you to the platform and from there to the inner sanctum of the temple. The best sight is to rest by the Bodhi tree and to gaze at the wondrous vajrasana – diamond throne or navel of the earth.

3. Amritsar

Amritsar

Photo by Arian Zwegers, CC BY 2.0

Amritsar or ‘pool of nectar‘ is the spiritual capital of Sikhs. The city itself was founded by Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of Sikhs. The city’s name was given by the waterbody that surrounds the exquisite Golden Temple. The golden dome sparkling in dim light at night is a sight to witness. Harmandir Sahib (the true name of golden temple) has four doors that invites people from all walks of life and over one lakh people visit the temple daily.

4. Goa

Goa

Photo by Basheer Olakara, CC BY 2.0

Goa being the capital of churches in India is definitely a hot spot for spiritual awakening. The most famous church here is Basilica of Bom Jesus i.e. Infant Jesus. It carries the mortal remains of blessed St. Francis Xavier. The body of the saint who died in 1552 is still preserved here in a well decorated casket and is open to public only once in ten years. While the preserved body itself is a miracle, the architecture completes the beauty and spirituality of this place.

5. Ajmer

Ajmer

Photo by Shahnoor Habib Munmun, CC BY 3.0

The city of Ajmer is a very important place to both Muslims and the Hindus. It is a prominent pilgrimage centre after Mecca for Muslims all over the world. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s Dargah receives people from all over the world answering to their wishes and prayers. The shrine is visited by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs as a sign of communal peace. It holds some magic that people across all faiths come here seeking Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s blessings. The entire place lights up during the festival of Urs. During this festival there are qawwali programmes, where singers sing praises of the saint. The music is so mesmerizing and enthralling that it leaves its audience spell bound.

These cities hold magic, they carry peace and enlightenment that washes over you while you visit them and will leave you coming back for more. These places are also examples of how religion is not the only factor for spiritual awakening. They call out to people from all walks of life, from all around the world to come and experience energy, peace and love. They are like a reflection of “God is present everywhere and in everyone”

Author Bio:

Rohit is an avid traveler and blogger at http://transindiatravels.com. His passion for exploring has taken him to places all around the world. Accounts of his travel experiences often act as a guide to other travel enthusiasts.

Ajmer

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Deepak Chopra on Life After Death

Deepak Chopra with his combination of Western and Eastern thinking is a wonderful person to explore this topic of death and the meaning of life. Here in a conversation with Allan Gregg in 2010 he describes his ideas of what happens after death as he has written in his book, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof. Please enjoy this half hour discussion of what will happen once you die.

For those who are not familiar with Deepak Chopra he “is an Indian-American physician and an alternative medicine and New Age guru known for his view that healing is primarily a mental rather than physical process”, according to Wikipedia. He has published over 15 best seller books and founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. He recently spoke at the headquarters of LinkedIn and Google to instil the ideas that we can heal the world. You can purchase his book or just look inside by clicking on the link below:

Spirit Skies Silent Retreat Center Reopens

Red rocks of Sedona, Arizona

Red rocks of Sedona, Arizona

Some readers may remember a past article about the man Bodhi Heart and his retreat center in the high pine forests between Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona. After finishing a third cabin, the retreat center has reopened and is available for a silence, yoga, meditation, writing, planning – anything you want to do away from the bustle of the modern world.

The website suggests that you can also take a side trip to the Grand canyon or to hike near Sedona in the red cliffs. If you are looking for a good place to experience self discovery or relaxation, this is the place for you. You can contact Bodhi Heart by phone or e-mail, both of which are listed on the website.

Here’s what one of the past guests has to say.

“Of all the wonderful retreat places that I have visited, the private hermitage at Spirit Skies is my favorite. The elk are almost a daily treat to see. And the stillness and sounds of nature are sublime.” ~ George M

“I traveled from Ireland to spend 6 weeks. The retreat experience is an open canvas that one can shape in whatever way spirit seeks.” ~ Oonagh C

“I found myself settling easily in to stillness, taking time to meditate, to walk in the nearby National Forest, to do meditative dance and do yoga in the gazebo, and to talk to Bodhi about spirituality.” ~ Emily M

If you tire of silence, Bodhi Heart will gladly talk to you. Here are some comments about his gentle way of helping others.

A gentle guide, an open heart, a place to find spirit and self. Bodhi Heart offers his land, his haven, his being to those who come to find peace in a fractured world. It is exactly what you make it …and it is beautiful.”   ~ Maggie D

Bodhi helped me clarify my intentions and laid the spiritual groundwork for my personal retreat. What started out to be a week of pure solitude ended up being a time when I wished for a gentle connectedness. Bodhi’s friendship was a gift.  I didn’t just stay at Spirit Skies; I brought it home with me.” ~ Dawn D

“Bodhi Heart supported my process and fearless intention with integrity. He mirrored my spirit and helped me to release some fears and illusions and have a deeper experience of my true self and following the heart.”     ~ Grace K

“This retreat was life changing. Time did not seem to exist while I was there. Bodhi gave generously of his time to help guide me in my purpose”       ~ Michelle B

Check the website for availability of the cabins. They do fill up so book one soon and enjoy this unique spiritual journey.

Sacred Journeys: Spiritual and Pilgrimage Travel

There are of course different types of spiritual journeys. Some people head off to explore ancient historical sites or to have an experience with others seeking some sort of spiritual enlightenment. Others are looking for answers or at personal direction. There is another group seeking more knowledge of a certain religion or spiritual path. These are the pilgrimage travellers. Here is a great article about these sites with suggestions about how to best benefit from these journeys as well as some recommended spiritual tour companies. The article, “In Search of Sacred Places: Spiritual and Pilgrimage Travel” is written by Peter Scheer, himself a tour company director, and is posted on the website Travel with a Challenge.

First, let’s look at the suggestions to help the traveller get the most benefit from the journey. First, prepare yourself mentally and physically. Many of these places are not easy to reach and it’s a good idea to do some research about the site as well how best to arrive there. In times past, people fasted for days or even took hallucinagenic herbs before approaching these sites. It’s important to approach with reverence and respect for local customs. They are places that are very important some people.

 In the European Middle Ages, most pilgrims to Canterbury, Santiago de Compostela and other Christian sites went there on foot which allows one plenty of time to prepare mentally. Travel to sacred sites required planning, persistence and often great sacrifices. No wonder arrival created such excitement!

The second suggestion is to leave room in your travel schedule for unexpected events to happen or time to visit with people you meet. This will leave you time also to just stop and soak up the incredible energy of these places that has built up over the centuries. There is not only the energy of the place itself but layered on top is the energy of all the other pilgrims who have come and gone away again over the centuries.

In ancient Greece, sages built an Earth Goddess shrine at Delphi because of the abundance of plenum, an energy they believed bubbled out of the slopes of Mount Parnassus. In the Chinese tradition there is a similar life force called chi. Sufis call it baraka and Hindus know it as prana. If this invisible energy seems fanciful to you, don’t forget that is how people felt about radio waves a mere 100 years ago. Perhaps 21st century establishment scientists will verify earth energies, but regardless of official endorsement, many travelers are creating their vacations around visiting places of power and spirituality.

American folklorist and mythology expert, Joseph Campbell once met a woman going to Greece to discover the spirit of the Goddess. After she showed him her elaborate, highly-detailed itinerary, Campbell said, “Dear lady, I sincerely hope that all does not go as planned.” He explained, “Unless you leave room for serendipity, how can the divine enter in? The beginning of the adventure of finding yourself is to lose your way.”

Lastly, Mr. Scheer suggests that you decide why you are going. What is your goal? What do you want to find or experience? Of course the answer may change during your journey. Are just looking for a special experience or are you wanting to explore religious connections? People will ask you why you are going and also why you are there, so it’s a good idea to have some answer in mind. It will help you get more out of an experience that can end up being life-changing.

To read the original article and check out the spiritual tour companies listed at the end of the article, click here.

In sum then, it’s best to loosely plan your trip, find out more about the place, don’t cram in too much and be open to whatever happens. Remember that teachers come in all forms. The person living on the street might be one of them.

Red rocks of Sedona, Arizona

Red rocks of Sedona, Arizona

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Mt. Kailash, Tibet. Pilgrimage site for 15,000 years.

Mt. Kailash, Tibet. Pilgrimage site for 15,000 years.

Upcoming Spiritual Journey to Peru

Spirit Quest Tours has done it again by providing a well organized and adventure-packed 14-day trip, this time to Peru and Machu Piccu. Here’s more details about this upcoming spiritual journey to Peru.

We invite you to this pilgrimage through the jungle and mountains to connect with the history and energy of Mother Earth. Experience different journeys of archaeological sites and places of various ceremonies through connection with our inner spiritual beings.
Travel along the Amazon River and enjoy rare and unique inhabitants including fresh water pink dolphins and three toed sloths.
Relax with a natural spa treatment in the rich mud along the riverbanks, discover local tribes and connect with the animals that have become their pets.
Awaken your kundalini energy and experience many healing opportunities in the jungle, sacred valley, and Machu Picchu.
Join us for delicious cuisine, extraordinary biodiversity and many rich cultures as you connect to this beautiful, magical land!
To read more about this trip and discover other trips with Spirit Quest Tours, click here. The trip takes place July 14-28, 2013. Call to book a place:  (877) 406-5206  What trip would you like to take? Please leave me a message about it below in the comments box, and I will try to find a good source.

Spiritual Practices through Jewish Spiritual Retreats

Those of you who read my articles know I like to feature spiritual retreats, journeys or pilgrimages once a week. Here’s an entire website devoted to Jewish Spiritual Retreats through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in New York City. Here is what the “About Us” section has to say about their philosophy for spiritual practices through Jewish spiritual retreats.

Spiritual Practices through Jewish Spiritual Retreats

The Institute offers transformative, contemplative programs that help people reclaim traditional Jewish wisdom and deepen their relationships with God. This helps them become stronger, more effective teachers, preachers, and leaders, which in turn helps build healthier communities and enriches everyday life for all Jews.

Our challenge is to reestablish a connection between Jewish practice and teaching, and the lived lives of Jews. We need teachers, grounded in authentic Jewish spiritual practice, who can help Jews connect their own deepest experiences to the language, imagery and compelling power of the Jewish tradition. If we are to inspire our people and sustain our vision, we must tend to our own inner life, drawing from Jewish spiritual tradition.

To read more of this passage click here.

Now back to the retreats, a very complete section of the website with different types of retreats, different locations, even a travel center to help you with that aspect of your retreat vacation. Here is the description of some of the spiritual practices on retreats.

Meditation on Retreat

Our meditation sessions are all guided or with prompts, with the exception of early-morning meditation, which is optional and individual. If you have difficulty sitting for long periods of time (30 minutes to an hour) we invite you to bring a chair-pad, cushion, or to stand as necessary during meditation sessions. Your safety and comfort is our primary concern, and we encourage you to take the steps necessary to have a healthy mediation experience.

Prayer on Retreat

Our prayer practice typically incorporates mindfulness meditation, Hebrew prayers and chants. Hebrew texts will always have transliteration and translations available. If you have a siddur or prayer book that you like to use, we welcome you to bring it (we provide siddurs as well). You are also welcome to bring ritual items such as tallit, kippah, or tefillin – we are not able to provide these.

Silence on Retreat

Institute retreats, even ones that are not specifically “silent” retreats, incorporate intentional silence throughout the program. We offer periods of intentional silence in the form of mindfulness meditation each day, and incorporate periods of quiet during prayer and study. We believe that when we step back from the impulse to speak, we offer our souls the space in which they can more fully manifest. In no way is this silence meant to stifle expression – rather, it is intended to expand the opportunities for greater self-knowledge and more intentional, compassionate expression and action.

To read more, click here.

This site is worth visiting as a good resource for those who want to maintain or strengthen their Jewish ties. It’s well organized and easy to navigate. Some of the upcoming retreats such as the Silent Shabbat Contemplative Retreat on July 13th or the Hevraya Summer Retreat on July 15th look intriguing as spiritual practices through Jewish spiritual retreats. It seems that some of them are attended by the many of the same people each year, a good sign that they are successful. If you find this article useful, please use the “share” buttons below to pass it along. Thanks.