Retreat center offers meditation, relaxation, self-reflection

Sometimes, people just need a place to get away from the stress of the corporate world and find themselves.
When they get that feeling, the Ishaya Foundation's retreat center outside of St. James may be an ideal location for them to visit, according to Mahadeva Ishaya, the foundation's president.
Ishaya said finding inner stability, removing stress and healing the mind and the body are some of the goals of the non-profit organization, which has connections around the world, but also has a presence in Phelps and Maries counties.
The foundation's retreat center, which opened in 2010, is located in the former Bear's Den Retreat down Highway 68 outside of St. James.
Meditation, relaxation and self-reflection are all big parts of the group's curriculum, according to Ishaya.
“With the many thoughts people have per day, there is little room for creativity,” Ishaya explained. “We help people to get in touch with themselves and what they really want in life. People are often too worried about what they're supposed to do — not focused on what they want to do.”
Ishaya said he has not always had such a deep spiritual connection and was not always so knowledgeable on “The Art of Ascension,” which is what his organization teaches.
“Before learning of this life changing method, I was a tool maker for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle,” he explained. “I was always worrying about myself and the security of my job. I felt like I was seen as a number, not a person, and really started looking for some sort of security in personal value.”
That quest in self exploration led Ishaya to explore a variety of texts and speak with a variety of people, which ultimately led him to a man named Maharishi Sadasiva Isham, who has since passed away.
When Ishaya met Isham, who founded the now defunct Society for Ascension and reintroduced ascension meditation to the west, he said he found “something that stuck. A permanence within the changing thoughts and beliefs.”
“At age 40, something just came over me,” he explained. “It was sudden, like a light turning on.”
From that point on, Ishaya has been studying ascension meditation and “exploring the practical methods and the science in the stability of thought and emotions.”
When Isham passed away in 1997, Ishaya said his teachers “sort of spread out around the world,” and that was what eventually led to the formation of the Ishaya Foundation.
Ishaya, who recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong and Malaysia, said that, throughout the years, his experiences with his lifestyle have taken him all over the world.
“I did my training (for ascension) in Fiji, lived in several of the states within the U.S., and we eventually found this place,” he said, referring to the St. James retreat center. “We thought this location was ideal for our programs, and is centrally located within the U.S. for travel. It also suited our needs since there is plenty of room to expand.”
Ishaya said the 75-acre property currently has two buildings for their programs and an office building to coordinate travel and business.
He said retreat-goers can expect information related to meditation and unique ways for people to explore themselves.
“Yoga plays a part in our retreat programs, but it may not be the type of yoga most people would think of,” he said. “Yoga is an interesting word. People connect it with postures and not the scientific aspects of improved health, or the inner exploration and meditative processes. It is not only physical. It is deeper than that.”
Ishaya said that, over the years, he has seen a wide array of people from every background learn about self reflection and the mechanical techniques of ascension meditation.
“There is not one particular type of person that we have taught or spoken to about ascension,” he explained, “and people come from a variety of reasons. Some come for peace of mind, some to relax, some to help them sleep.”
Ishaya also stressed that meditation and the others parts of the Ishaya Foundation’s programs should not interfere with any personal beliefs.
“What we have here is not about any belief system,” he said. “It is simple and mechanical.”
Ishaya said the foundation currently has 10 teachers in residence that help facilitate the program schedules.
He said that the St. James retreat center has kept busy, and that people usually learn of their organization through word of mouth or through the organization's website,
He said the Ishaya Foundation is also known for publishing the late Maharishi Sadasiva Isham's books.
“When (Maharishi Sadasiva Isham) passed away, we obtained the publishing rights from his surviving family,” Ishaya explained.
Ishaya said he wanted any exposure for the Ishaya Foundation to be more about its programs and teachings of ascension, and not about personality or opinions.
"Every individual is unique in their own experience of life and self exploration,” he shared. “However, ascension offers something that is in itself unique and also common to the individual. Deep rest, clearing of stress from the mind and body, better sleep and improved health are the common reports in finding a more relaxed approach to the daily routines of living.
“Though we are interested in bringing an awareness to our presence in St. James, our focus is in promoting the benefits of meditation and self-awareness through the programs we offer,” Ishaya said.
For more information about the Ishaya Foundation, check out its website or call 573-699-4049.