Thirty-Five Years of BMCM Retreats


As we continue to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, we’ve been reflecting on the strong foundation that Easwaran built for all our work in the BMCM, and all the ways in which his organization has continued to grow and evolve as a result of that foundation. One important example over the last year has been the development of our new online retreat offerings.

The retreat calendar for the rest of 2021 is now live at You can read more in this article about the history of our BMCM retreat programs and about our current online offerings, including reflections from recent participants. We hope you will feel encouraged to explore the retreat offerings to see if there’s a program that’s right for you!

BMCM Programs

Learn more about retreat offerings and sign up!

The Early Days: Meeting the Man Behind the Books

In the earliest days, Easwaran’s students found him by attending his in-person talks in Northern California. However, by the 1970s and 80s Easwaran’s books on meditation and spiritual living were available to students around the world. As the books made their way into the homes of spiritual seekers, Easwaran began to get letters asking to meet “the man behind the books.” In February 1986, Easwaran enlisted the help of some of his close students and began to offer meditation retreats to a much wider audience.

Easwaran wrote:
We are beginning a series of meditation retreats to draw the brightest minds from all parts of the country to learn to meditate, follow our disci­plines, and change the world for a better, more beautiful, more worthwhile place.

No amount of technological achievements, however impressive, no amount of political and economic changes, however beneficial, will ever succeed in establishing a world order founded in love, living in love, until and unless we give our­selves what the Upanishads call the “supreme education” – meditation – and through our own personal example pass this education on to our children. It is because children do not have this education that when they come to the threshold of youth they find themselves facing so many problems which they not only don’t know how to solve but don’t even know how to understand.

Like our publications, like our medical projects, these retreats are a humble attempt to serve God through the hundreds of people who have re­sponded to us so deeply. What we are attempting is actually service of God. I want you to let these words go like arrows into your consciousness. In all our retreats, this is going to be my message: If you want to live to your full capacity, if you want to give a great gift to life, if you want to love in a manner that will never change, meditation is the supreme education for the art of living.

After a little experimentation, Easwaran settled into the pattern of offering occasional weekend retreats at the Santa Sabina Retreat Center in San Rafael, California. In this setting he began to train his longtime students in helping to teach his eight-point program, laying the foundations for the future of his work.

Over the years, retreat offerings continued to evolve, with different types of programs designed to meet the varied needs of the growing worldwide passage meditator community: intensive weeklong retreats, retreats for families, and Setu retreats especially for those facing the realities of illness or death. All these programs were expressions of what Easwaran had described as the “humble attempt to serve God.”

In the last years of his life, and after years of searching, Easwaran and his students finally located a property to serve as the BMCM’s own retreat house, located just a mile from Ramagiri Ashram. Easwaran named the retreat house Gokulam, after the place where Sri Krishna spent his childhood. He wrote:

I would like to extend to each of you the same invitation: Come here often, as often as you can. Renew your commitment. Come together to support each other and rededicate your lives to this supreme ambition. This is a waystation on your pilgrimage. This is your second home.

Since its dedication in 1997, thousands of retreatants have come to the BMCM retreat house, taking the opportunity to step away from their busy day-to-day lives and give their full attention to deepening their meditation. When the retreat is over, they go home with new motivation for their practice and plenty of tips and practical advice, ready to live out Easwaran’s spiritual teachings in communities all over the world.

Today: Bringing the Retreat Into Your Home 

After the pandemic hit in early 2020 and in-person retreats were no longer feasible, the BMCM Programs team launched a series of new online retreats starting with the first pilot program in March 2020.

The focus of the online programs is exactly the same as it has been always in our retreats – we turn to Easwaran and his teachings for inspiration and instruction through readings and videos. But the online retreats combine this inner work with practicum time, so that retreatants can apply their learnings directly to their own unique home environments. We’ve heard from friends that although they miss the retreat house and all the in-person contacts with fellow meditators, they’ve experienced surprising benefits from working to strengthen their spiritual schedule right in their own homes.

Virtual retreats are also more accessible to meditators who have difficulties traveling to California, and our international retreatants have been adept at juggling time zones to attend our synchronous online sessions. 

With introductory weekend retreats, free online webinars, and returnee weeklong retreats among other options, there is something for retreatants at all stages of their passage meditation practice. To get a sense of how it is to “bring the retreat into your home” we offer these reflections from retreatants around the world who share their experiences in attending online retreats over the last year.

From Liliana in Portugal, who attended an Introductory Weekend Retreat

It was May 2019, and I wanted to read and go deep into the Bhagavad Gita. Without any special reference, I looked for a good copy in an online bookshop. The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran “found me.” I read some lines about the author and the references seemed quite appealing. So, I got the audiobook, and some days later, the book.

Really impressed by the beauty of the text and by the interpretation and practical orientation given by Easwaran, I became curious about Passage Meditation and the eight-point program. So I also got that audiobook, and then the book. I can find no words to express how passage meditation resonated (and resonates) inside me! As I knew by heart the Prayer of Saint Francis from my education at a Catholic school, I immediately began daily meditation, chose a mantram, and started trying to practice the eight-point program.

Almost two years have passed. Reading several other books by Easwaran and following the activities and work of the BMCM have helped me to understand his message better. An important contribution from the BMCM was the six-week online course “Introduction to Meditation.” Listening to the clear, essential, and moving introductions to each point given by the BMCM team, reading the testimonials, doubts, and struggles of other seekers, developing the notion that I am part of something much bigger than myself, that I’m not alone in this life of trials and errors, sharing our efforts to “do it right”, and  getting light and orientation from Easwaran’s life and writings, it was indeed a powerful experience!

Last January, I participated in a three-day Introductory Retreat. I had never done an online retreat, but we were very well oriented in the previous weeks and I did my part in preparing the place and time, free of all duties that could be postponed, and I told family and friends why I needed those days alone. The experience was unforgettable: the BMCM team orientation each day, group sharing with our successes, difficulties, and questions, meditation three times a day, reading, walking with the mantram, videos from Easwaran and from the BMCM, and a beautiful moment with Christine Easwaran.  As a group experience it was lovely! The final session, in which each one of us dedicated to the others a passage from the book God Makes the Rivers to Flow, was so moving that my only regret was my inability to remember all the contributions. I will continue reading as many of those texts as possible as an expression of my gratitude. Those days changed me for better! I need to return to that Source from time to time!

Each day I feel more devoted to Easwaran’s guidance. I listen to his audiobook, Spiritual Teacher, Earnest Student and the flame of his love in my heart wants to shine “like a thousand suns.” My deep desire is to be worthy of his blessing.

From Katrien in Belgium, who attended a Weeklong Retreat

I have attended a few weeklong retreats so far and they have brought me many benefits. I love the spiritual companionship and feeling Easwaran’s presence while he draws us all closer to him. It is also a great opportunity to share experiences and to get inspiration for trying out new strategies to weave the eight points into daily life.

When the online session is over, you step right back in your own home environment and can start practicing with renewed motivation and enthusiasm.

A retreat always refreshes me; it makes me eager to continue on my spiritual path.

From Nisha in the UK, who attended a Weeklong Retreat

I have been part of the Satsang group based in London from 2009. It has been a real life saver for me. My “soul brother” Sandy got me the book God Makes the Rivers to Flow, and got me involved in the group. It all happened at a time when I greatly needed support. Through Easwaran's teachings I feel I cope better with life. Meditation and the mantram have become essential tools for me, and the allied practices. 

Recently Sandy gifted me with a place on the Feb 2021 Weeklong Online Retreat. It was the best birthday gift ever! Every moment of it was precious. The whole structure of the retreat was conducive to spiritual growth: wonderful fellowship with fellow participants, reading passages together, discussion, videos, reflection time, BMCM Satsang, and independent practicum suggestions for “own time” practice during the day. Seeing Christine and others from the Center on-line was amazing! 

Meditation at the end of each session after turning off our devices was very powerful. Just knowing that the whole group, irrespective of being in different countries, states, and regions, were all sitting “together,” virtually connected by our meditation vibes across the world... it was truly beautiful, and the best meditation I've had in ages! Thank you BMCM... the retreat was fabulously facilitated and a real tribute to Easwaran's teachings!

From Sandeep in the UK, who attended a Weeklong Retreat

Mantram art made by Sandeep

In the past, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to attend BMCM retreats. The weeklong retreat was my first online retreat and I approached it with a little anxiety as how it would all work. However, I had forgotten that whatever the BMCM does is with Sri Easwaran’s love and blessings and it always works out well.

Participating in the retreat online from home brought its own new challenges but also new opportunities. I recall on day two I was having some personal challenges at home. However, when Christine’s recital of Swami Sivananda’s “The Way to Peace” was played over Zoom, it refreshed the words of this passage deep in my consciousness. I was able to deal with the challenging situation with poise, peace and serenity and since that day, the words of the passage feel deeply embedded in my consciousness.  

I have been meditating for many years now, but the addition of an evening meditation has eluded me. I live in the UK so when the online session ended at 12 pm PT, it was 8 pm UK time – perfect for an evening meditation. Since the retreat ended, I have managed to continue my evening meditation with Sri Easwaran’s blessings. So far so good! It made me realise that this has been achieved through the online retreat, as it enabled me to implement changes in my spiritual practice in my home instantaneously.

Take a Retreat in 2021

We have published our retreat calendar for the rest of 2021 with a variety of offerings:

  • Free Online Webinar
  • Introductory Online Retreat
  • Returnee Weekend Retreat
  • Returnee Online Webinar
  • Returnee Weeklong Retreat
  • Senior Online Retreat

You can learn more about each of the programs and register by visiting We’ll leave you with a reminder of Easwaran’s message when he first began offering retreats to interested spiritual seekers:

If you want to live to your full capacity, if you want to give a great gift to life, if you want to love in a manner that will never change, meditation is the supreme education for the art of living. 

BMCM Programs

Learn more about retreat offerings and sign up!