Imagine a place where you could escape from all the stresses of the world. A place where you would learn about the mysteries of the mind and the art of taming this unruly beast, for respite from the anxieties of modern lifestyles. Now imagine that this unique place is located in truly hallowed grounds – on the very ghats of the Ganga in Haridwar. Sounds too good to be true? Fortunately, this is reality we are speaking of. This haven is Ekaanta: Mindversity on the Ganges which recently opened its doors to public. On the occasion, co-founders of the property and the visualisers of the concept, mother-daughter duo Shradha Lohia and Saumya Lohia Agarwal join the Sunday Guardian for an exclusive chat. Excerpts from an edited interview:
Q. What exactly is Ekaanta: Mindversity on the Ganges?
A. Shradha Lohia (SL): Ekaanta is a unique learning destination for the mind and holistic health. Our key focus is to ensure that you can take all our knowledge, learning and way of life back to your lifestyle in your city.
It took us very long to draft our communication strategy to differentiate ourselves from a resort or a spa or a detox centre or a meditation centre. We realised that there was no other institution focusing on learning about the mind only and hence there was no comparison set. Physical health has been India’s core focus and strength but for mental well-being there was no destination where one could go and learn. Hence most people didn’t know what to expect.
We have frequently been asked if we are a meditation centre or a vipassana centre and though we incorporate meditation in our workshops, it is only a subset of our programs, not the focus. We incorporate moments of silence and we encourage you to stay in silence while watching your thoughts but again it is a subset of our workshop.
Most wellbeing centres in India have a passive engagement of self-discovery and we create an environment that offers you immense knowledge. The way you interpret and interact with it allows you to be very active in your journey with us, even after you leave.
Q. When and why did you come up with the idea for Ekaanta?
A. SL: I have practised awareness and been spiritual for over 20 years now. I believe I live a full life and I see the power of mindfulness to bring transformation in people. Ekaanta: Mindversity on the Ganges is a way to share this knowledge with people to allow them to feel transformed. We hope that they can accept the boundless energy within each of us and the innate ability we have to control our lives, no matter the chaos thrown at us.
The idea of Ekaanta has been with me for over ten years. The word itself has been dear to me. Ekaanta means solitude but not loneliness. Ekaanta has been my own philosophy of life, one that allows me to believe in the Pauses.
Q. How long did it take to implement the idea?
A. SL: Ekaanta took shape about 3.5 years ago. It took a lot of time to ideate the curriculum and the masters. We wanted master teachers who would be able to take participants through this journey of learning and discovery to make the knowledge adapt to today’s circumstances and events.
The location was obviously a very critical element. I believed that a knowledge centre should be associated with a seat of learning. Haridwar is the ideal place, as it has long been associated with learning and knowledge. By the Ganges, and at the base of the Shivaliks, the atmosphere is transformational.
Over three years (interrupted twice by Covid) we have worked with amazing partners (from our intellectual advisors and marketing advisors) and faculty to make this place come alive.
We wanted the curriculum to be fluid and relevant in today’s time. We wanted to give a holistic education that combined the ancient wisdom of the east with the science of mindfulness from the west and do it in a way that the knowledge could be used easily in one’s day to day life.
Q: How does it work?
A. SL: With revered and renowned Masters across the globe who exclusively impart their teachings over a carefully curated two night/three day course, each program is designed to integrate indoor and outdoor learning that provides a holistic experience. The Masters, of the likes of Shantum Seth, an ordained Dharmacharya (Dharma Teacher) in Buddhist Mindfulness, Dr. Christopher Willard (PsyD) a clinical psychologist, author and educational consultant at Harvard Medical School, specializing in Mindfulness and Dr. Reena Kotecha, who is trained in the therapeutic use of Mindfulness Meditation at the British Mindfulness Institute, among others, bring their well-researched teachings and effective practices to Ekaanta. The courses at Ekaanta have been designed keeping rejuvenation and transformation in mind while also focusing on a nutrition enriched diet. These measures empower learners to unlock their true potential.
Q. How did you identify your core team of master teachers?
A. Saumya Lohia Agarwal (SLA): The process of identifying our masters was very thoughtful. We wanted those who had knowledge and could interpret that knowledge and make it relevant for today. Masters who had experience of over 20 years of practising mindfulness or any form of it.
One critical point was that our masters had not renounced the material world. It was important for them to be living in this world with normal responsibilities and still be mindful and be able to experience calm in the midst of chaos. For example, Dr. Willard teaches at Harvard while being the President of the American Mindfulness Network. He also has two young children and is now a Master of Mindfulness at Ekaanta. We can relate better to masters who have an objective approach to life while being mindful.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com.