Travels - 2016

The Art of Living Retreat Center: A North Carolina Gem

By Divakar Shukla

As publisher of Saathee magazine since its inception in 1998, I have had the pleasure and privilege of conferring with a wide range of people and organizations as well as attending many events and concerts. I now want to share some of those experiences with you. In the coming months, I will have you along as my travel companion, my concert buddy, my yoga partner, etc. In this issue, I want to share one of North Carolina's treasures with you. The Art of Living Retreat Center near Boone, NC.

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend at the retreat, known as “Heavenly Mountain." nestled within 7000 acres of the scenic Appalachian Mountains. I found the retreat to be an excellent place to relax and learn how to de-stress. Being new to the practice of meditation, I found the beginner class both informative and inspiring.

The spa experience was top notch and the hot oil massage relaxing. The freshly cooked vegetarian food was both healthy and delicious. The mountain top views can be awe inspiring but visitors are warned to check the weather forecast prior to visiting (winters can be especially difficult for travel). On this visit, the fog was heavy and therefore the view of the mountains was non-existent but the clouds and fog created an almost surreal, heavenly atmosphere.

The sprawling 381 acres retreat has had its ups and downs. It was constructed by David and Earl Kaplan and completed in 1998. It operated successfully for many years as a destination dedicated to meditation practices for Transcendental Meditation (TM) based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi founded his organization in India in 1958 and continues to operate worldwide.

Around 2005, the retreat was abandoned after the Kaplan brothers evicted all of the community due to their disillusionment with TM. After years of neglect and abandonment, substantial damage was sustained by the buildings and campus.

It is said that the main meditation hall even became an unofficial indoor skateboard park for area kids. In 2011, the property was auctioned off and acquired by the Art Of Living Foundation and was restored to once again be a spiritual retreat. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art Of Living, said “Let this place be a chance for miracles in the lives of millions of people - where tears turn into smiles, desperation turn into hope, dullness turns into creativity and hatred turns o love." Andrew Keaveney one of the staff and a teacher at the retreat says “the Spiritual Center is now used by many groups such as Elon University, Insight Meditation, US Veterans programs, the Red Cross, Sadhu Sanga Kirtan Festival, Chinmaya Mission, many weddings (Indian weddings and vegan weddings) have taken place along with various Yoga workshops. With more than forty staff members, the Center welcomes groups who would like to use the space or individuals who wish to visit. The main goal of Art of Living is to help visitors find relaxation, rest, and renewed energy levels through Ayurveda & spiritual practices."

The retreat in Boone offers Yoga, guided meditation, kirtan, pottery classes, nature walks and the Shankara Ayurveda Spa with guest rooms and ayerveda treatments.

I highly recommend a visit to the Art of Living retreat near Boone, NC, whether for a day, a weekend or a week. Learn more info at

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who founded Art of Living nearly 35 years ago as an international, non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization, was at the inauguration of the retreat and visits periodically. I had the pleasure of meeting Sri Sri in Charlotte for the Charlotte center inaugration and later at Art Of Living Retreat inaugration. In my brief encounter, I found him to be a very peaceful soul and completely content with life. That is the message he seems to want to convey to the world.

In March 2016, Art of Living celebrated 35 years of service with the “World Culture Festival" in New Delhi, India. The festival's focus was on cultural diversity and bringing together people of all nations working toward a common goal of peaceful coexistence. Featured speakers included leaders from around the world sharing their knowledge and experience to further the mission of Art of Living." Read about Andrew Keaveney's experience at the World Cutural Festival at living.

I asked several Art of Living instructors and staff about what they get out of Art of Living.

A lot of events have come and gone in my life, the Art of Living practice has consistently helped me to handle things more peacefully and clearly. ~ Andrew K.

I was in midst of many challenges at personal, professional and financial level along with health challenges. After attending my first courses and after experiencing Sudharshan Kriya, my life changed. Even though I have more than 6 master degrees certification never learned about myself and now I have more clarity in priority and be joyful. Now I am certified volunteer faculty with Art of living to teach Happiness Program, Sahaj Samadhi Meditation and Youth Programs. ~ Ravi P.

After coming to the US from Mumbai, India, it was a culture shock and being away from family, I was trying to find a way to re-connect. I found this simple but powerful breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya on the happiness program helped me uncovered a new level of happiness and I am able to connect more deeply with my own self and others. ~ Venkat S.

Art of Living's educational and self-development programs offer tools to eliminate stress and foster a sense of well-being. Sudarshan Kriya – a breathing technique is the centerpiece of the Art of Living courses and practiced by millions of people in 151 countries.