Healthy marriages, happy families, strong ISKCON.
That’s the motto of the Grihasta Vision Team, a group of senior devotees who have all been in healthy marriages for over twenty years and work as family life educators, psychologists and social workers.
“The larger society is a microcosm of the family unit,” says member Krishnanandini Dasi. “So if our family units are healthy, vibrant, dynamic and enthusiastic, our ISKCON society will be too.”
The GVT are doing their bit towards this aim with their second annual Couple’s Retreat from September 12th to 14th this year.
As there is only space for 22 couples, they invite devotees to register quickly at http://vaisnavafamilyresources.org for the retreat, which like the first successful event will be held at ISKCON’s 350-acre Gita Nagari farm in Port Royal, Pennsylvania.
With its peaceful ambience, beautiful woods and farmland, the community is just perfect for quality time and introspection. It doesn’t hurt that hosts Parijata Dasi and her husband Gita Nagari president Dhruva Das will be providing meals cooked using vegetables grown in their garden and milk from their own cows.
Like last year, each day of the retreat will focus on a different theme. Friendship-themed Friday will begin with getting-to-know-you activities, as teachers Archana Siddhi and Karnamrita, Uttama and Partha, Chintamani and Jagannath Pandit, and Krishnanandini and Tariq – who will be participants in the retreat as well as facilitators – introduce themselves.
This will be followed by an overview of the retreat and a discussion about what a real Krishna conscious marriage looks like.
“We’ll make the distinction between a Vedic marriage and a Vaishnava marriage,” says Krishnanandini. “As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said, ‘Devotees don’t have Vedic marriages, they have Vaishnava marriages, because everyone serves one another.’ We’ll also talk about what wives want their husbands to know, and what husbands want their wives to know.”
On Saturday, featuring a humility theme, retreat participants will learn about different elements of good communication, and – as the retreat is a highly interactive one – will practice techniques such as reflective listening and respectful speaking.
In another activity, couples will interview one another about what they want most out of life, then say a prayer for their spouse based on the interview. They’ll also learn about emotional bank accounts, and how what we deposit and withdraw affects our relationships.
Other workshops will help couples identify their values and make lifetime commitments to them, discuss the five love languages and how to understand your spouse’s love language, and talk about things that interfere with mutual respect, such as taking one another for granted.
Sunday, the final day of the course, will be themed around compassion. Couples will take the Core Hurts workshop, which helps them address and let go of wounds from the past. They’ll also learn about the steps of forgiveness and how to give truly effective apologies, and will write appreciation letters for each other.
Finally, participants will take a workshop on finances and giving in charity, and will do some exercises from the Grihasta Vision Team’s just released book The Heart and Soul Connection: A Devotional Guide to Marriage, Service and Love.
“There’s also going to be a brief morning class and time for couples to chant together, as well as couples’ walks in the woods and kirtan around a bonfire in the evening,” says Krishnanandini.
She feels that participating in such fun, educational and devotional activities together will help couples appreciate each other more, and that individuals will be inspired to take their loving Krishna conscious relationship with their spouse to another level.
According to Krishnanandini and her husband Tariq, many devotee couples come to them for counseling when they are already on the verge of divorce. Taking retreats regularly to “tune-up” your marriage, she advises, is a good way to prevent this and keep your marriage healthy.
“Taking time often to focus on our devotional marriage, and our devotee spouse, is part of our Krishna conscious development,” she says. “Some couples may be afraid of what the larger community of devotees might think if they go to a couples’ retreat – that it’s some kind of a statement that your marriage needs help. But it isn’t. Going to a retreat is a very intelligent choice by wise couples to keep their marriage healthy.”
“And we can always grow,” she adds. “My husband and I have been doing this work for twenty years, and every time, we get something new out of the retreat.”
Krishnanandini hopes that couples who attend the Grihasta Vision Team’s retreat will be inspired to share their realizations with other couples, and to build a network of couples throughout North America that will connect with and support one another.
This, she feels, will create a culture of focusing on healthy families in ISKCON, which in turn will create a healthy society.
“The Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses really focus on healthy families, and they are growing like anything!” she says. “If we could focus on having healthy families and happy marriages and happy children, I think that it would do wonders to help the movement expand.”
To register for the upcoming GVT Couples’ Retreat, and to purchase the Grihasta Vision Team’s new book, please visit http://vaisnavafamilyresources.org[ family ] [ grihastha ]