By Ellan (Shanti) Catacchio,
interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast
Ellan (Shanti) Catacchio enrolled in the Deepen Your Yoga Retreat because it fit her schedule. The theme was coincidentally “Peace,” which is the meaning of her Sanskrit name, Shanti. She says, “I would have gone to a retreat no matter the program title.” A long-time practitioner of Svaroopa® yoga and meditation, she took advantage of some time off from family responsibilities.
She says it was a personal indulgence that “did turn out to be a great gift for me. Opened to inner peace, I received great support from the program and Gurudevi Nirmalananda. Sitting with my Guru ‘pressed a reset button.’ I gained new insight to bring back to my family. I returned home refreshed in all dimensions of my being.”
Each day begins with chanting and meditation. Midday sessions feature yoga pose classes and group vichara (guided self-inquiry) sessions. In the Peace retreat, all the practices were aimed at uncovering the deep peace beyond imagining, the peace that passeth understanding.
Shanti compares her experience of these practices to dying white cloth, making it blue. “Every time the cloth is dipped in the dye, it’s bluer and bluer,” she explains. “At home I can listen to audio recordings of Gurudevi’s wonderful discourses. Yet being in retreat at the Ashram elevates the experience. Gurudevi is so generous with her time in these programs. That’s why I went. I get recharged. I’m saturated like a deeply dyed cloth.
“The Ashram lunch was an opportunity to be with the Guru. Always so accessible, Gurudevi’s more casual interactions with us at lunch added to that whole experience. It was a lovely, fulfilling interlude. The vegetarian food was so good! And chanting the food mantras with Gurudevi and fellow yogis began the meal, blessing the sacred act of feeding our bodies.”
Shanti also loved the pose classes and vichara sessions. She recounts, “Vichara is always helpful for me. In this retreat, as a group we inquired into peace. Presented with questions about the things that bring us peace, we journaled our responses and then shared with others. I found great benefit in thinking about the things that open me to that unshakable inner peace.
“When I left home to attend this retreat, I was facing a low point in a family situation. For me it was a dark time. Yet the Deepen It Yourself Retreat was so powerful that I was able to stay in the inner peace that my experiences had uncovered. I was able to bring the Ashram vibe home.
“How did I change? I settled deeper into my own Self. I was a “deeper blue,” the inner of Consciousness that can be seen inside in meditation. I went home more grounded and better able to support the family. At home, I wrote of my experience:
This is my first morning home from Deepen It Yourself, and I continue to ride the wave of Grace rekindled and deepened during the retreat. I have a new daily asana practice that is serving me very well, reaching into the stuck places in by body to help release the stuck places in my mind.
Discourses from Guruji, anatomy of the spine, asana classes, vichara, chanting, meditation, japa, Ashram lunch and Swami Sunday. I got everything I needed and everything I didn’t know I needed. I am beyond grateful for Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s generosity, grace and teachings. Again and again I bow 🙏