Vanavas means to take abode in the forest and those that do are called Vanavasis. Vana draws inspiration from the qualities of a forest—a place that protects, nurtures and nourishes, providing space to discover and flourish.
‘Taking refuge in the forest’ has always been an important act of personal evolution in Indian culture. Retreating from one’s usual material existence allows us time to contemplate and reflect; one is equal to all other beings in the forest. This may mean developing a fresh perspective; for others, it is overcoming a physical hurdle. It is an opportunity to reconnect with oneself or with something greater. The great masters say that to retreat is to simply create a boundary between past and present thought. In other words, to be in the present.
Vana is a refuge for all beings. Harmony, nourishment and wellbeing are here for all on the Vana journey and the ultimate truth lies in perceiving all beings, people, plants and animals as equal. We hope you too share our feeling of equanimity for all. From this philosophy arises a sentiment that Vana is a leveller, where material differences are left outside, and people connect to each other and nature without hindrance. When we become truly aware, we recognise our interdependence.
At Vana, each human being is important. We do not conform to political, cultural or social stature or benchmarks. Our guidelines apply to all and our vision, mission and values take precedence over individual beliefs. We encourage Vanavasis to step out of their social personas as they retreat into Vana.
Experience tells us that it takes time to settle into Vana. Getting adequate rest and catching up on sleep is encouraged. Don’t fear missing out, because this slowing down is important. Surrendering to the experience of being at Vana is rewarding; control can be renounced without hesitation.
Our approach to each Vanavasi recognises their uniqueness, with a personalised program, that is open to iteration. While treatments, sessions and activities bring healing, vitality and learning, it is also important not to do too much. One must find time to just be and let things settle.
Shorter retreats allow one to rest and restore depleted energies. After a fortnight, one might achieve tangible wellness benefits and greater awareness. Three weeks onwards, transformation begins and deeper goals can be addressed. Beyond four weeks is when the layers really begin to unravel and wellbeing arises from within. Transformation then takes root with new habits and we find clarity through learning and practice, inspiring action towards greater realisation.
Vana follows the six traditional ritus or seasons – Vasanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharad (autumn), Hemanta (pre-winter) and Shishira (winter). Each brings its own unique character, energy and grace, to which we adapt as best as we can. Our endeavour is to exist in equilibrium within nature. This takes effort but benefits Vanavasis, our team and the Retreat as a whole.
Any opportunity to work on one’s wellbeing is precious. Therefore there is no ideal time to come to Vana other than when one has the time. Experiencing Vana in each season also brings its own joys and pleasures. Our weather in general can be described as being temperate and we do not get North India’s infamous summer temperatures. Even the warmest days are not too hot and evenings are always cool.
The monsoons are the most lush and beautiful time at Vana, the best time to be on retreat as per Indian tradition. They begin in late June and end in early September.
Vana lives and breathes all year round.
Vana almost seems a contradiction – a forest touching it on one side, nestled between the city of Dehradun and the hill-station of Mussoorie. Over the years, the outside world has crept nearer to our 20-acre Retreat, and yet just inside its boundaries, one enters a different world. The Retreat’s neutral coloured walls are seen amidst its trees and orchards, with pebbled paths and stone walls cutting through, bamboo gently swaying in places. Vana’s spaces are sometimes vast but always humble, seeking to evoke a sense of wellbeing. Held together by its skilful team, the experiences at Vana reflect its sincere intentions and generosity. Trees, plants, birds, monkeys, butterflies and insects all coexist in peace at Vana. Know more…
Vana can only point to the truth and give you a taste of it. We can provide healing, opportunities to learn and glimpses of a better life. But sustained health and a present mind can only come from personal effort. Working on the mind and the wellbeing of others should also form part of this effort, with some dedication to develop it into a practice. Understanding the dependence of our wellbeing on our mind and the interdependence of our wellbeing on that of others, is vital to our peace and happiness. Results might come slowly but positive imprints can be lasting. Shifting one’s focus away from oneself, to genuinely benefit others, will make this journey easier and more fulfilling.
This is all that you need to know…to ‘take Vana home’.
Vana wishes to be both a journey and a springboard, as do its initiatives. It is not an end in itself. So we urge you to discover, wander and wonder. At home, in India, elsewhere and back at Vana too. Wellbeing is sometimes found or deepened at the most unexpected of places. Positive motivation, renunciation, awareness and compassion are helpful qualities worth developing on this journey.