Search our website

Karma Yoga Retreat for Compassionate Living (7-18 Nov 2017)

Event: Retreat-workshop (residential)

Topic: Holistic exploration of compassionate living and the path of service, incorporating Himalayan culture and philosophy, meditation and conscious movement, the organic gardening, healthy cooking, natural building, personal development, and more

When: 7-18 November 2017 (must attend from the start)

Language: English (with Hindi translation if requested)

Facilitators: Mark Moore, et al.

Description: Residential programme in a hybrid retreat-workshop format, exploring both the inner and outer aspects of a compassionate and sustainable life oriented toward the service of others and playing our humble parts in the creation of a better world. This holistic programme will combine elements of a meditation retreat with workshop-style activities related to sustainable and compassionate living, with hands-on work undertaken as karma yoga (mindful service to others as a path to personal and community development). There will be group meditation sessions in the mornings and evenings, plus daily explorations of traditional Himalayan wisdom for developing ourselves as compassionate global citizens and being the change we wish to see in the world.

Overview of the Retreat

Explore a more holistic and inclusive experience of what yoga and meditation can be, by making every activity in life a meditation and a practice of yoga. Learn to grow, cook and eat tasty and nourishing, plant-based (vegan) meals. Get your hands and feet in the mud to help with our earthen construction projects while contemplating ways to reduce our negative impact on the natural environment and increase our positive choices and actions. Examine your heart and brain activity during meditation with computer-connected sensors that bring your fascinating inner world into clearer view. Embody your meditation with conscious movement (yoga/chi kung) in the inspiring Himalayan outdoors.

Purpose and Focus of the Retreat

What is a ‘Karma Yoga Retreat’ and who might want to participate?

Meditation is not only for the cushion, and yoga is not only for the mat: These practices are meant to permeate our lives and suffuse all our activities with warm-hearted presence, kindness, generosity, patience, skillful means, and the other positive qualities of our innate basic goodness. Thus, this retreat is for anyone who wants not only to deepen your practices of meditation and/or yoga, but also to take them beyond the cushion and the mat into all spheres of life and all its activities. This retreat will provide opportunities to practice ‘meditation in action’ — mindful engagement with life’s activities — through the vehicle of karma yoga (service to others, offered with warm-hearted presence and without any expectation of benefit for oneself).

The meditation practices (both formal cushion practices and informal ‘post-meditation’ practices) will be focused on training the mind to abide in relaxed-yet-attentive presence to whatever we are experiencing. This will begin with sitting meditation, then expand to include walking meditation, and gradually expand further to include all of the activities we engage in during the retreat, including (especially) a variet of hands-on work activities.

These hands-on work activities will include various projects around the Dharmalaya campus related to sustainable and compassionate living, including work on several earthen structures that are in various stages of construction, as well as ongoing cultivation of our organic gardens. We will provide training in various techniques, and then step back and give everyone time and space to practice these techniques by working with the support of our village artisans. We approach this work as ‘meditation in action’ and provide support for staying mindful and relaxed while working (such as ringing the ‘mindfulness bell’ periodically as a reminder to stay present).

The process of alternating between sitting meditation and active meditation supports us to soften the distinction between formal meditation and the rest of life, allowing that warm-hearted presence that we feel on the cushion to be part of all of our activities in life. And approaching all of our work activities as karma yoga helps expand the heart and deepen our practice of altruism and spreading loving-kindness in the world.

Structure of the Retreat

After the introductions, orientation, and general overview of the programme on the first day, the rest of the first week will focus primarily on instruction and training, with hands-on workshops during the day and then theoretical/philosophical explorations (including presentations and discussions) in the evening.

The evening sessions in the first week will include practically-oriented presentations and discussions on a variety of concepts related to sustainable and compassionate living, including meditation and philosophy, sustainable living, earthen building, food and water issues, ecological sanitation, waste management, energy, and more. 

The second week of the programme will open up to facilitate deeper exploration of practices and concepts of particular interest to the participants. Those who are more interested in, for example, earthen building, organic gardening, or permaculture landscaping would be able to focus more on those areas of interest, and likewise anyone with interest in other aspects of compassionate living, such as healthy plant-based cooking, meditation, etc., could choose to focus more on those activities. And, of course, anyone interested in all of these activities could continue to do it all.

Evening sessions in the second week of the programme, likewise, will allow for deeper exploration of the philosophies and practices of compassionate living, according to the interests of the group.

Specific activities will include the following (depending on weather and circumstances)

  • Group meditation sessions in the mornings and evenings
  • Conscious movement (yoga or chi kung) in the mornings (usually outside with inspiring views)
  • Hands-on education in the neo-traditional earthen architecture of the Himalayas, which may include:
    • Making adobe bricks (sun-baked earth blocks)
    • Earthen masonry (building adobe/cob walls)
    • Earthen renders (mud plasters)
    • Other natural building materials and methods (e.g. stone, bamboo, wood, etc.)
  • Natural landscaping and organic gardening, which may include aspects of permaculture design
  • Other activities that vary with each programme

What to expect during the retreat (What am I getting myself into?)

There are a few important points for you to consider before applying, and to prepare yourself for mentally before arriving.

1. Dharmalaya Institute is a remote and rustic place with a simple, clean, community-oriented lifestyle. The Dharmalaya Institute’s campus is set on a hillside in the middle of the forest, a ten-to-fifteen minute walk uphill from the nearest road. It is a rustic setting with traditional earthen buildings and very basic facilities. Please do not expect to find modern conveniences. Rather, this is a place to let go of all of our attachments to the various comforts and indulgences of modern life and to get back in touch with nature and explore the joys of voluntary simplicity.

2. This is a ‘closed retreat’ programme, meaning that all participants will remain on the Dharmalaya Institute’s campus deep in the forest for the entire duration of the programme, and all of us will take a break from contact with the outside world in order to immerse ourselves completely in the experience of being present with our experiences here. There will not be any opportunities for going into town until the retreat concludes. This also means no calls, messaging, email, social media, or other forms of communication with the outside world from 8-18 November, so please inform your loved ones and colleagues accordingly, and also make all of your travel arrangements before you arrive at Dharmalaya Institute.

3. There will be a lot of silence. To help create a peaceful environment conducive to inner reflection, all evenings and mornings of the retreat will be silent, usually from 8:30pm until 8:00am. Some days will have longer periods of silence (usually two half-days of silence plus one full day of silence). Please note that ‘silence’ doesn’t mean speaking softly; it means no communication with others at all, in order to give each of us the opportunity to look inward and connect with oneself with minimal distraction. Those of you who have done silent retreats before and enjoyed them will love the peaceful environment at Dharmalaya. But if you haven’t spent much time in silence before, then we advise you to prepare yourself mentally for giving yourself a wonderful new gift of discovering the value of silence. 

3. There will be a lot of physical work. Most days of the retreat will include between five and seven hours of physical work, ranging from gentler work like gardening to strenuous tasks like digging earth, carrying stones, etc. We strongly recommend that all participants exercise regularly for at least a few weeks before the retreat so that you arrive in the best possible physical fitness. You’ll be glad you did.

What else to expect:

  • Waking up early for meditation, karma yoga, and a healthy breakfast. 
  • A blend of practice and theory, with emphasis on deepening understanding through practical experience.
  • Opportunities to learn the basics of traditional building methods by working alongside village artisans.
  • You will be working with your hands and body (including plenty of honest hard work!) for approximately six hours per day on most days of the programme, so you should bring work clothes.
  • Beautiful, rustic, village setting with a simple lifestyle.

For those who are serious about learning and practicing the techniques of earthen building, we recommend applying for the Sustainable Living Workshop immediately after this one, and/or returning during one of our posted Volunteer Work Periods to volunteer for a while, so that you can deepen your understanding and improve your skills by doing real-world, hands-on work here on the Dharmalaya campus. 

Important Information

Before you pack for your trip to Dharmalaya, please read the very important information on our Visitor Info page and our FAQ. If you have a specific question that is not answered there, contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer.


The fee for the workshop is Rs 12,000/-, inclusive of tuition, healthy meals, and comfortable accommodation in shared tents or dormitories (and a private room may be available at additional cost, subject to very limited availability). Transportation costs are not included. For participants with financial hardship, a limited number of work-study positions are available (please contact us for details).

Application, Registration & Deposit

Enrolment in this workshop is by application only and space limited, so advance registration and 50% nonrefundable deposit (Rs. 6000) are required. Registrations are confirmed only after receiving the deposit, on a first-come-first-served basis. To apply, use this form. If we approve your application, we will reply with further instructions and information. The remaining balance of Rs 6000 will be payable upon arrival at Dharmalaya Institute (so be sure to bring enough cash with you).

For Participants with Indian Rupee Bank Accounts:

You can make your nonrefundable 50% deposit either by in-person deposit at any HDFC branch, or electronically by bank transfer (intra-bank transfer for HDFC accounts, or NEFT for non-HDFC accounts). We will send bank details once your application is approved.

For Participants without Indian Rupee Bank Accounts:

After we have approved your application and requested you to make the deposit, you can make your non-refundable 50% deposit securely by credit card, debit card, eCheck, or Payal. Just click the button below:

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« Sustainable Living Workshop (21 Nov - 2 Dec 2017) | Main | Meditation Retreat with Ellen van Iersel (30 Oct - 5 Nov 2017) »