Day Retreat – BK Meditation Center – Tagaytay, Philippines

Over the Lunar New Year holidays, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a short three-day-trip to the Philippines to warm up one last time before leaving cold, wintry Korea. Three days is not much time in the mass array of islands that is the Philippines so my friend and I did some research and decided to visit a lake district just south of Manila to cut travel time. Just a simple two hour bus ride and we were out of bustling Manila and in the diversely green hillsides of Tagaytay.

In a quick Google serach of yoga in Tagaytay, I discovered that there is a Brahma Kumaris center there, and fortunately for me they were hosting a day retreat on the day of my arrival. It was perfect. I sent my email registration and soon received an acceptance email that outlined the theme of the retreat –  Heal the Heart and Feel “The Circles of Love,” so themed because of the Valentine’s holiday coming around the corner. As Amy wrote before, residents at BK centers refer to themselves and others as Brother & Sister; in my acceptance email, Sister Tim Tim answered my inquiries about the retreat like this: “The facilitation of this event is free as our service to humanity. However, for your snacks, lunch and use of the facilities, there is a contribution of 500pesos per person. You can bring your own notebook and pen with you should you wish to take notes.”

“The facilitation of this event is free as our service to humanity.”

– Sister TimTim, BK Meditation Center, Tagaytay

Getting There

How to get there from the Tagaytay bus terminal, which is more of a gathering of trikes waiting to take customers to destinations, buses don’t actually stop and park at the terminal, but instead stop on the side of the road so passengers can disembark; be sure to tell the bus driver in Manila that you’re going to Tagaytay and he’ll know when to have you get off.

Once you get off the bus, grab a trike and tell him to take you to Magallenes Drive. He’ll know the name of the road but may not be familiar with the center, so keep an eye out for it. It’s a white building on the right-hand side of the road, with a blue Brahma Kumaris sign hanging from a light post. It will take a few minutes of driving on Magallenes Drive to get there. From the bus terminal it should cost about 150 PHP for transport by trike.

The Center

The center is beautiful. The atmosphere is peaceful from the very second that you enter the blue-lit entrance-way after ringing the doorbell. Visit the front desk and inform them of your visit. If you’ve registered online beforehand then that’s great, they’ll have your information, but if you didn’t, or bring a friend who hadn’t registered then ask if there is still space and more likely than not they’ll say yes to having added participants.

My friend and I toured the area after registering and were joyously surprised by the beauty of the center. They took care to display an array of thriving local fauna in the garden and even in the indoor areas. The center facilitates a dining area, a large hall where our retreat was held, a meditation hall, the main lobby with toilets, and even has a residential area for participants and guests to stay overnight. A Sister asked upon our arrival if we had a hotel booked already, which we did, but I imagine that via email you could inquire about the cost of overnight stay.

The Event

The Day Retreat was from 9am-4pm. Before it started we had some coffee in the dining area, then everyone grouped in the main hall to start the day’s activities. For the first few hours we were divided into random groups in which we discussed topics about love – it was a good opportunity to get to know some local Filipinos.

In the afternoon there was a guest speaker who took over for the rest of the event. She was Timmy Cruz, a TV star turned singer, who entertained us with songs aplenty. At times the event felt a little on the long side, due to travel (an overnight flight with only little sleep on the concrete airport floor,) but the vibe of the event was warm and inviting, and the people’s warm energy (and multiple cups of coffee) got me through the seven hour schedule.

The Food

Go for the food, stay for the meditation – it was good. Another energy booster was the frequent breaks for food. In the morning we had a heaping pile of vegetarian pancit (pictured below,) a Filipino staple, and banana for a snack; lunch was veggies, rice, a soy-meat in sauce, and desert of pandan flavored jelly; afternoon snack was a sweet cassava cake (pictured below.) All food at the center is vegetarian and delicious. What a great deal, especially for this budget traveler, to pay the event fee of 500 PHP (roughly $10 USD), get atmosphere, learning, amazing food, and good company.

The People

Meeting local Filipinos was the best part of the event. Previously, the primary interactions that I had had on my past two visits to the Philippines were with service industry workers, who were very friendly, but I didn’t really get to know any locals. Having conversations together during the workshop event and casual chats over coffee was nice and enjoyable, especially after so much time spent in Korea where the language barrier doesn’t allow for conversation with locals as easily.

There was a mix of people who were attending their first BK event like I was, and there were some people who frequented the center often. Of the people who were attending for the first time, many said that they would like to return, and I think I’d put myself in that category, too.


 

Brahma Kumaris is a meditation center that hosts meditation classes, retreats, and seminars and has locations dotted around the Philippines and the rest of the globe. If you get the chance to visit the Tagaytay BK center, take it. The experience was nothing short of delightful: beautiful, natural surroundings; delicious food; and warm-hearted people.

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Intro to Raja Yoga – BK Meditation Center – Luzon, Philippines

I found the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center in early December of last year. I was in the middle of a solo trip around Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines, and after a week or so of hiking volcanos and wandering museums, I felt the need to stay put in the city of Baguio for a couple days, dig a little deeper, and figure out my next steps.

The Baguio center had a five-star review on TripAdvisor, but with only three reviewers, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect on my visit, other than the peaceful experience and beautiful views that had been written about. I liked going into it this way, without knowing too much.

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The grounds of Baguio’s Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center

Before my visit, I wasn’t sure what kind of vibe the center would have or even what kind of meditation classes were offered, but I was crossing my fingers that I’d at least meet people there who could point me in the direction of some Baguio yoga classes.

Up until then, I’d assumed anything called “yoga” had to do with the joining of movement and breath. The Brahma Kumaris Center was my first encounter with a different kind of practice – the practice of raja yoga.

I showed up on a Sunday afternoon, at the end of a weekend gathering of Filipino Brahma Kumaris practitioners. The Baguio center is a gorgeous, small green space with one of the best views of the city, near the top of a hill overlooking valleys, homes, and farms.

I was warmly welcomed there by everyone I met. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to find the kind of yoga I was looking for, I scheduled a Brahma Kumaris introductory class with Sister Salud, a self-described “content spirit,” for early the following Wednesday morning.

Lesson 1

The first lesson offered a detailed background of Brahma Kumaris, or BK, a worldwide learning community that practices raja yoga meditation. Literally translated, raja means king, ruler, or highest. Yoga is a union, link, or connection. Raja yoga was described to me as making a connection to a higher power.

Some takeaways from the first class:

  • Practice self-love. We should try to achieve self-love through understanding and appreciation of the self and by doing the best we can to make ourselves happy.
  • Create a link to our inner selves, and work to maintain the following:
    • self-respect – knowing that we are intrinsically good
    • self-esteem – valuing our own uniqueness
    • self-confidence – contributing to the betterment of the world by bringing benefit to ourselves and others
    • self-sovereignty – ruling our kingdoms by being independent and making our lives and ourselves worthy.
  • Meditation is a tool. Use it to discover the self – to contemplate, reflect, and focus on one thing. Still the mind, and actively create a thought to focus on.
  • Take what we want. Relegate old knowledge to the side, and go into new knowledge. There’s a lot to discover. Come to our own realizations and find our own truth. Once we find the truth, experience it and take what’s beneficial.
  • Feed the mind with goodness. Focus on positivity and healing during meditation. Take the dirty, muddy water of our negative selves and run clear, pure water over it until it’s clean.

We ended with a guided meditation, which was the raja yoga practice, and set a time to meet for the next session.

Lesson 2

The second class focused on the soul-body connection and discovering who we are spiritually. Sister Salud said the commonality of every human being is the soul – a living energy of light – within the body. We discussed the location of the soul, what some might call the third eye.

Some takeaways from the second class:

  • The soul gives life to the whole body. The soul is like the driver of the body, which is the vehicle. The body is for expression and experience.
  • Be soul-conscious. We should find a direction and a purpose for what we’re doing. Put the energy of our soul there and focus on the qualities of the soul. This is our energy. It’s intrinsic.
  • Seek peace from within. If we’re aware of our soul energy, we can get support from within. Choose peace, and direct our minds to be peaceful.
  • Drive energy into positive qualities. Remain aware of the type of soul we want to be, and manifest it.

So, how do we manifest a positive living energy of light? According to Sister Salud, that’s the question to be answered through raja yoga.

Again, we ended the class with a guided meditation. My time in Baguio was coming to a close, so she pointed me in the direction of other BK centers along my travel route. While I haven’t taken the time to attend a third session, I’m so thankful for my experience learning about the practice of raja yoga, and I’ve started to incorporate some of the ideas into my meditation practice.

Directions by cab:

Tell the driver to go to Dominican Hill. Once you get a bit out of the city and start heading up the hill, you’ll pass Lourdes Grotto. Keep going up the hill but not quite to the top. You’ll see the sign for the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center on the right, as you approach the top.

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It may be difficult to catch a cab back, but start walking down the hill, and you’ll probably get lucky with a cab, tricycle, or jeepney around the bottom of the stairs at Lourdes Grotto.

Brahma Kumaris has over 8,000 centers across 130 countries, and it’s been around for 78 years. Its brochure explains: “Through meditation, we seek to help people rediscover their goodness and develop their spiritual awareness, attitude, and behavior.” For more information, visit BK on the web at www.brahmakumaris.org.