Women’s Retreat attendees gathered in New Vrindaban’s Yoga Shala.
ISKCON New Vrindaban hosted a three-day Women’s Retreat on October 12-15 with the theme “Trust Your Intuition.” The event aimed to infuse joy, rejuvenation, and relaxation into the weekend, featuring an array of workshops, guided meditations, daily yoga sessions, self-care activities, and engaging experiences such as a scavenger hunt, dance lessons, and a distinctive food and drink encounter.
Welcoming over 50 women from across the US and Canada, the diverse audience spanned varying ages, backgrounds, and levels of Bhakti experience – from Srila Prabhupada’s disciples to first-time ISKCON temple visitors, the gathering was a testament to the inclusive nature of our community.
Beyond the enriching retreat experience, the objective of the retreat was to carve out a secure space for open discussions on the beauty and unique challenges of practicing Krishna consciousness as women in ISKCON.
Organized by a younger generation of devotees, the retreat fostered vulnerability, encouraging women to share their experiences and support one another. One of the leaders, Poonam Kapadia, has helped pioneer several youth initiatives within ISKCON for children, teens, and college students, including The Sanga Initiative, Camp Ignite, and ISKCON of DC’s TAG program for high school students. She is also inspired to create safe spaces for women to connect and feel empowered as practitioners of Bhakti.
“Along with creating a unique retreat experience, we wanted to create a safe space to discuss the beauty and unique challenges of practicing Krishna consciousness as women in ISKCON,” Poonam explained, “Yamuna Devi once shared her desire to do more for the women in our movement because she felt some struggles needed to be addressed. After hearing confidentially from women for years of challenges in the movement and the shame or guilt associated with these experiences, we decided to do something about it.”
She continued, “We encouraged everyone to learn and take what they needed from this weekend, knowing others may need something different. Every attendee shared they had a transformative experience. The highlight for me was the multigenerational dialogue that happened throughout the weekend. We truly experienced what a supportive community looks like. We saw how women sharing their experiences in a vulnerable and safe space can encourage an authentic and empowering practice of Bhakti for generations to come.”
While the approach to the retreat was without rigid expectations, the response was overwhelming for the organizers. Poonam revealed, “The retreat surpassed our expectations and highlighted the need for such events. Many told us that the conversations we were having were not only brave but also allowed for generational healing for women in ISKCON. Women who were brand new were also inspired and have plugged into other online and in-person ISKCON communities since the retreat. We want to plan another retreat. Many attendees have expressed interest in helping with organizing in the future!”
One of the attendees, Andrea Falcone, shared her experience, “It was magnificent! There were so many varied ages of people, and everything that we talked about was suited to everyone. The food was delicious, and my roommates were wonderful. There was lots of love, hugs, and shared stories.”
The retreat was openly listed as LGBTQ+ inclusive, a gesture that resonated positively with many participants. Poonam added, “To truly practice Gita’s teachings of sama darsana (equal vision) in the modern age, we also worked to make an intentionally inclusive space across race, age, identity, and experience. We didn’t know what to expect but heard from many that these efforts were meaningful and appreciated.”
She concluded, “We felt the retreat reminded us that Krishna consciousness can be fun and fill our lives with incredible positivity. That can be hard to experience if we are living with shame, guilt, resentment, or negative thought patterns related to our spiritual practices. We hope the women who attended will carry the mood of the retreat back into their communities, creating safe spaces for other women to be accepted as they are.”
To learn more about the women’s retreat program at New Vrindaban, you can visit their Instagram.
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