On February 18th - 20th, 2005, the University of Miami Hindu Students Council broke barriers by
hosting the first ever Southeast Regional Retreat. Over 50 students from HSC chapters all over Florida and Georgia gathered to experience a weekend full of learning, sharing, and excitement.
Nikki Aggarwal, President of the HSC at UM and Retreat Coordinator, opened the weekend with introductions of the retreat committee and registration, and continued the evening with ice breaker games and a casual dinner. Mr. Jeffrey Armstrong, a renowned international speaker, Vedic scholar, and Ayurvedic Astrologer, joined the events and engaged the students in discussions on misconceptions in Hinduism, followed by a short question and answer session.
The weekend continued with a talk by Swami Jyotirmayananda, head of the Yoga Research Foundation, on how to incorporate Hindu Dharma in the life as a student. Speaking simply and softly, Swamiji explained how simple daily practices such as yoga and meditation could make a significant difference in the productivity and efficiency as a student. His humble presence and inspirational discussions encouraged students to further read his works and incorporate his knowledge into their lives.
Delving into the topic of spirituality, Dr. Naresh Pathak, a lecturer at South Florida Hindu Temple and professor at Florida Atlantic University, provided a thought-provoking analysis of how spirituality is a critical foundation of stabilizing the mind. Addressing what it means to be Hindu and what it means to be religious, Dr. Pathak touched on conflicting questions many students have attempted to understand for years. Why am I Hindu? How important is faith? Is religion different then faith? He was a great addition to the panel of guest speakers.
Perhaps the most engaging and comedic talk was by Jeffrey Armstrong, also a former stand up comedian and Fortune 500 consultant. Armstrong addressed the issue of Hindu Identity in America, and related it to his journey as an “outsider” coming into the Hindu faith. Many students were surprised by this straightforwardness in addressing the problem about the lack of understanding of the value of Vedanta, especially amongst American-born Hindus.
This valuable knowledge, he explained, is not only for those who give their life for sanyas, but for a householder as well. In his lecture, Armstrong passionately stated: "It is my conviction that enlightenment is meant to be lived in a dynamic and exciting lifestyle. Enlightenment is serving the Divine with your whole being while living passionately in higher consciousness." Jeffrey Armstrong has spent his life spreading the knowledge of Vedanta in Vancouver, Canada.
While the weekend consisted mainly of lectures and discussions, the Conference Committee had a
few surprises up their sleeves. Saturday evening, a beautifully organized cultural show and dinner was held at an outdoor amphitheater overlooking a lake in the center of campus. The evening was especially unique in that the whole university community was intrigued by the arrays of color and delight that pervaded the center of their campus.
The second, and perhaps more distinctive surprise, was the following mornings’ Yoga and Meditation session, held on Miami’s very own gorgeous South Beach. Quoted by many as a very memorable experience, students meditated to the sound of the waves crashing into the sand, and performed Surya Namaskar with the shining sun bathing their bodies.
HSC is an international forum providing opportunities for college students and young professionals to learn about Hindu heritage through various activities, events and projects. HSC presents ample opportunities for self-development at the spiritual and professional level via campus study groups, seminars, lectures, workshops, conferences and camps.
Southeast Regional Retreat
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