HSA Winter Retreat Reflection

Georgetown students during the Hindu Students Association Winter Retreat at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center in Bluemont, Virginia.

Students during the HSA Retreat at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center in Bluemont, Virginia.

“Are you going on the Hindu retreat?” my friend’s text read.

“I don’t know yet,” I replied. “I’ve never done anything like this.”

Having only just figured out my religious identity after a semester at Georgetown, I was still developing my faith and trying to understand exactly what I wanted from my religion. With some encouragement from my friend and roommate, I decided to go in without any expectations.

At the Calcagnini Contemplative Center, our first activity was to reflect on some passages from the Bhagavat Gita. Part of me was excited to finally get to read religious scripture, something I’d never done before, but a bigger part of me was worried that I would never be able to understand it. Remembering my commitment to keeping an open mind, I took a deep breath, read the card, and let the words flow from my pencil onto the paper. I wrote down everything: how I felt while I read it, how well I understood it, whether I agreed with it, how it related to my life, and anything else that came to mind. To my surprise, I was strikingly moved by that experience as I felt my faith gaining another dimension. During puja, I had always asked Bhagwan—our name for God—for strength, for wisdom, and for peace, but I’d never thought about finding those qualities elsewhere. The advice I encountered in the scripture empowered and comforted me.

But I still felt the weight of my past actions on my shoulders as I sat there and reflected on Hinduism in my life. I felt the buildup of guilt, disappointment, regret, and loneliness. During our personal time, I curled up by the fireplace with a mission to dissolve those weights on my shoulders. As I sorted through these issues in my life, I felt the power of seeking peace from Bhagwan and strength from the values I chose in Hinduism. I felt the support of community reflection and my faith encouraging me to make the right decisions.

After we returned, we held our usual Hindu puja on Sunday. During the meditation portion, I thought about what I’d gained overall. The HSA retreat had brought me closer to my faith by allowing me to participate in new ways of understanding Hinduism, by connecting me emotionally to the Hindu community, and by giving me the opportunity to improve myself and reaffirm my values.

Piyusha Mittal (new window), SFS ’18