A retreat to remember: My transformative experience at the Jagah Integral Growth Retreat

Param • Published on October 13, 2023

We all look forward to short and long breaks from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Going through a myriad of emotions, ups, and downs, and dealing with expectations of others and the self, it’s only natural for one to get tired.

To refresh ourselves, we plan a weekend or offsite to chill, relax, sleep, have fun, go places, and indulge in savories, but at the end of that break, don’t you get that melancholic feeling of going back to the grind?

I don’t know about you, but I have been through this cycle umpteen times, until recently — when I attended the Jagah retreat at Auroville last weekend with a group of SaaS founders.

This one was different.

Strangely, after the retreat, there was no sadness. It felt as though we weren’t leaving anything behind, but instead were carrying the essence of the retreat back with us — the newfound awareness, the transformational shifts we experienced in our minds, and all the ‘aha’ moments. We were taking much more energy and clarity back to our routines.

When I came to know about the Jagah retreat happening at Auroville, specially meant for founders and leaders, something inside me clicked.

“I need this.”

And I was right. It wasn’t a typical weekend getaway. In fact, it was the opposite; those two days were all about learning about the tools to connect better with myself and about building habits for the integral fitness of the mind, body, and soul.

I’d like to share the five most interesting aspects of the retreat with you.

1. Sharing circles

There are some moments when we feel certain emotions about ourselves, have self-doubt, or feel uncomfortable. And we brush away those emotions to tend to other matters that require our urgent attention.

This retreat taught me that it is imperative to acknowledge your feelings arising out of uncomfortable thoughts and to let them go by merely expressing them.

There was something magical about sitting with like-minded individuals and being vulnerable enough to share very personal stories in a group or one-to-one setting. I met so many founders, serial entrepreneurs, and to-be entrepreneurs. I formed new friendships, found allies, and realized that it is okay to have insecurities.

2. Being present

At Auroville, the environment was also very conducive to doing a digital detox. This helped me rediscover my love for cycling. I rode around for two days, with childlike enthusiasm.

It was so funny to realize how much my mind chatters. It’s like having unlimited tabs open on my browser at the same time, all taking up tremendous mind space and energy! During this weekend, being able to quiet my mind was such a liberating experience.

The Sound Baths experience helped me understand what ‘being in the moment’ is. It was a very unique experience, listening to different musical instruments, some of which I hadn’t even heard of before.

The music must have lasted for over 40 minutes but it felt like it was for just 10 minutes; the vibrations and the soothing sounds washed over my body and I felt a deep sense of relaxation.

Even our meals sprung up some interesting discoveries. The Silent Lunches tingled my senses. Here, I was taking in the aromas, feeling the flavors and textures pop in my mouth, and enjoying every bite. Mind it we were in a community kitchen, having simple and healthy South Indian food, and not in a resort ordering a la carte.

3. Experiencing my ‘Aha’ moment

You usually never expect to find something unexpected about yourself, something that was right under your nose, but you’d never noticed it.

In a particular exercise, all of us were blindfolded. Each was given a lump of clay and asked to create something out of it. I took to that activity with excitement and made an interlinked-chain type of 2–3 objects which, to my mind’s eye, was beautiful. I loved it.

Then after a brief pause, the blindfolds were removed, and our beautiful creations were reduced to a lump of clay again. They asked us to make something from it. Now this time with eyes open, I saw what others had made, pots, bowls, even Shiv Lings. And I felt under pressure. I spent the next 10 minutes just playing with the clay and not being able to make anything out of it.

And then the ‘Aha’ moment happened when I was able to translate this learning into actionable insight.

When I was blindfolded, I was enjoying myself, trying to make something really cool out of that clay. When I was not blindfolded, I started to subconsciously compare my work with that of others and put unnecessary pressure on myself, which ruined my ability to focus on my work.

4. Hidden relationship patterns

All of us have behavior patterns, and many times these patterns color our perspectives and we don’t even realize it happening.

This retreat helped me uncover some of my patterns, and I was a little blown away by what I found.

I thought of an old friend who I chat with on and off. I realized that over the years, we would end up squabbling over certain topics, and it would leave us both uncomfortable.

I have wondered why it always ended up like that. In the retreat, I dug deep into myself and noticed that in my belief system, I had categorized him as someone who was ‘not an achiever’ because, back in school, he did not do well in his studies.

So my ‘intellectual respect’ for him was missing. Therefore, according to me, he did not have the authority to talk on certain topics. So I kept repeating the pattern of getting into a debate with him, slowly damaging this relationship. This self-discovery was like a light-bulb moment for me, and immediately prompted me to re-analyze not just this relationship but all my relationships in general.

5. Conscious Startups

One of the core tenets of this retreat was also to introduce consciousness in how we build our businesses. Most founders nowadays want their startups to have financial success, the craziest of valuations, and be talked about in the highest echelons of the industry.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

But then after being surrounded by such startup founders, one starts missing a sense of fulfillment. The idea of Conscious Startups may make a lot of sense to such founders.

It is centered on the notion that founders should focus not just on financial success and ROI-driven metrics, but also on finding success in a harmonious way while keeping in mind the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness of all stakeholders involved — people, customers, investors, community, environment and not to ignore, oneself.

At the Jagah retreat, I was able to see through the hollowness inside me but was able to catch a glimpse of infinity within me as well.

I realized there is so much more we can offer by tapping deeper into our intuition and recognizing that many of the answers that we look for are already within us. What an experience to feel rekindled and rejuvenated!

My name is Paramdeep Singh Anand, and in this retreat, I can confidently say that I did experience a little bit of param-anand.

Written by Param