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Maryland Youth Retreat a Success AYUDH Retreat Maryland

The third annual East Coast AYUDH Youth Exchange, held at the M.A. Center in Potomac, MD on August 11 & 12, inspired 34 youth from around the United States to come together under the guidance of Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya. This year’s theme, The Joy of Giving, fostered a transformative weekend of discussion, selfless service, creativity and prayer. View a photo gallery from the weekend ›

At sunrise on the first day, the participants began preparing lunch for a local shelter in Bethesda, MD. Everyone’s personal touch added to the scrumptious meal. Afterwards, a hike along the Potomac River, at the nearby Great Falls Park, gave everyone some time to connect with nature. One highlight was watching Dayamrita Swami feeding the birds who joined them for the picnic lunch.

During the afternoon’s question and answer session, Dayamrita Swami touched upon a variety of topics from overcoming stage fright to how karma plays into adverse circumstances. A central theme also emerged: learning to balance spiritual practices with academic endeavors.

A heart-stirring bhajan session concluded the day with remembrance of the divine. Musical talent filled the room as Sonia Patel sang ‘Every One in the World,’ an English song highlighting Amma’s dream for a peaceful world. Interactive theater games ended the long day on a light-hearted note.

Dayamrita Swami began the next morning’s activities with a thought-provoking discussion about how to deal with everyday social pressures. Participants debated on how to live in the world as members of society, while continuing to hold on to spirituality. Afterwards, Br. Ramanand held an engaging bhajan class. As the group divided into several smaller ones, each composed a paragraph around this year’s theme for AYUDH. What resulted was a melodious, multilingual conglomeration of voices, instruments, and styles centralized around The Joy of Giving.

As a finale to the retreat, everyone traveled to the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center to perform a collection of songs and dances for the elderly residents. As faces filled with smiles, participants shared their numerous talents. Raju Mishra performed a Bollywood fusion dance. Tom Marino choreographed an AYUDH group song. One resident was inspired to sing the 1934 classic, ‘Blue Moon.’ As some were fighting to hold back their tears, others joyously joined in the celebration. At the conclusion of the visit, Swamiji spoke with the residents and thanked them for their time.

With goals set and hearts opened, participants packed their bags and say goodbye.  Yet another inspiring AYUDH Youth Exchange had taken place by Amma’s grace.