If you need a little 'me' time India is the place to find it.
Start out on the path of enlightenment ...

Are you game for a week of vegetarianism, quiet study and yoga? Or someone who's tired of being a BlackBerry-wielding overachiever, and prefers to spend a few days in search of spiritualism and nirvana? If your answer to these questions is an emphatic "yes", it's time you set out on that journey of spiritual wellness to India. With most of us experiencing a sense of world-weariness in our increasingly hectic lives, there is the need to attain a balance in mind, body and spirit. India, with her centuries-old traditions of prayer, meditation and yoga, helps us find answers to the ultimate questions about life and discover a sense of purpose and meaning in all activities.

Way back in 1938 the English author W. Somerset Maugham developed an interest in Indian spirituality. His consequent travel to India and experiences in the ashram of a maharishi (hermit or sage) translated into one of his most popular books, The Razor's Edge. While Maugham's novel highlighted the principles of "calmness, forbearance, compassion, selflessness and continence," at a time when the West had started to explore and experience spiritual wellness in India, the more contemporary Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited depicts a similar spiritual journey through India's holy places to bring together three estranged brothers. Today 'Incredible India' is also being marketed to the rest of the world as 'Spiritual India', a place where you can view and evaluate life, improve concentration and productivity, eliminate stress and develop an overall wellbeing. The options are plenty – it could be a fortnight practising yoga and meditation, a study of the ancient Vedic texts, a commitment to community welfare or simply trying to understand the principles of ancient wisdom.

Spiritual wellbeing not only promotes positive thinking, positive habits and a positive attitude, but also buffers stress, making us better able to resist and fight disease. The rising popularity of spiritual wellness centres that help achieve the sense of enlightenment can be traced to several factors, including an interest in vacations that help travellers achieve a higher sense of purpose through volunteering, education, culture and art. In India spiritual wellness centres are plenty, offering tourists a peaceful environment away from the humdrum of quotidian life to connect to something spiritual. Here is a lowdown of some of the most popular ones:

The Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, Ladakh: Set up in 1986 to offer both spiritual instruction as well as much- needed humanitarian services to impoverished people in Ladakh, the Centre has become a model for the region through sustainable, ecological development. The centre's other activities include a residential school for poor Ladakhi children, a monastery for nuns, a library and research centre, home for the aged, a mobile clinic and a desert development project. MIMC offers meditation courses to both residents and non-residents, including 10-day Vipassana courses. Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are also taught when appropriate teachers are available. For people who are willing and able to spend some time in Ladakh, working as a Mahabodhi volunteer will enable you to experience the local culture and do something more meaningful. Volunteers are needed for teaching children, assisting in conducting meditation courses and in administrative duties. You can reach the MIMC either by air (50 minutes from India's capital New Delhi) or by bus via the Manali Road. For more information you can e-mail mimc@ndb.vsnl.net.in or visit http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Harbor/5613/

The Vedanta Academy, Pune: Situated 108 kms from Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra, the Academy was founded in 1988 by Swami Parthasarathy and offers three-year residential courses on Vedanta (however, you can also participate in the various short-term courses or programmes offered). Men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 are eligible for enrolment, irrespective of nationality, race or religion. English is the medium of instruction. The curriculum includes an intense analysis of the Vedantic philosophy and this is complemented by select works from English literature and poetry. On completion students are awarded a diploma in Vedantic Philosophy. The Academy schedule runs from 4.15am to 9.00pm and there is no concept of weekends and vacations. Every single day includes individual study, physical exercise, campus work, Sanskrit sessions, group discussions and community singing. The schedule is designed to maintain the traditional spiritual disciplines of action, devotion and knowledge. The emphasis is on controlling the mind and moderating expectations. For more information, visit the website www.vedantaworld.org or email academy@vedantaworld.org.

The Vipasana International Academy, Dhamma Giri, Nasik: This academy, also in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, practises a type of Buddhist meditation technique by which a person is able to control his mind and achieve a sort of tranquility. Vipasana is a technique that enables us to experience peace and harmony as it purifies the mind, freeing it from suffering and stress. The Academy is almost like a hermitage in the lap of nature and a usual day starts at four in the morning and ends at eight in the evening. For beginners there is a ten-day course and each day you will have to sit in silence for ten hours. During these ten days you will be completely cut off from the outside world, even from your nearest family members. The Academy has accommodation for more than 600 students. To reach the Academy visitors can take direct buses from Nasik or use the cabs or bus services from Mumbai. For more information, visit the website www.vri.dhamma.org or e-mail info@giri.dhamma.org.

The School of Ancient Wisdom, Devanhalli, Bangalore: This school, located 32 kms from Bangalore city, is devoted to the spread of Occult Truth and the development of higher virtues that help in the understanding of the Divine. The courses, which are directed towards the transformation of participants, emphasises mind control through meditation, breath control, pranayama and yoga, devotion to high ideals and services, fellowship and non-violence. In order to bring the element of spirituality into the corporate world, the school also organises leadership courses and workshops to improve relationships at home and in the work environment. The school has accomodation facilities, but you can also choose to be a non-resident student and participate in the courses. Individual and group meditation and yoga activities are encouraged and there is a separate library and reading room. While on campus there can be no consumption of non-vegetarian food and alcohol. For more information visit the website http://www.schoolofancientwisdom.org/ or e-mail rammenon@schoolofancientwisdom.org

The Auroville, Pondicherry: This township, a 30-minute drive from Pondicherry in south India, is an international community that operates according to the teachings of renowned Indian scholar and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo. It houses people from all over the world and its spiritual tenets represent the synthesis of yoga and modern science. The main motto of all the people living in Auroville is to convert life into "Supramental Consciousness". Citizens of around 35 countries make up the population of Auroville, a place of unending education and constant progress, devoted to the unity of mankind. This township serves as a model to cities of the future, where people will strive to live in complete harmony. For more information, visit www.auroville.org

The Shivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Ashrams: The three ashrams and four centres around India promote the ancient science of yoga for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. You can opt for a two-week yoga vacation at the three Shivananda ashrams at Neyyar Dam, Madurai and Uttar Kashi that includes the five-points of yoga – proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet and proper thinking and meditation. There are separate asana classes for beginners and intermediates as well. The ashrams welcome seekers of spirituality, peace and happiness from all over the world irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion or nationality and also conduct teacher-training courses, fasting and detoxification courses and children's camps. For more information visit http://www.sivananda.org/india/contact.html
or e-mail guestindia@sivananda.org.

Find peace in Dubai

Art of Living, Dubai – The Art of Living helps individuals have a stress-free mind, a healthy body and the opportunity to maximize their potential for personal and spiritual growth. For details, contact artoflivingdubai@yahoo.com or visit www.artoflivingme.org

Siddha Samadhi Yoga – This introduces you to your super power and gives you the techniques you need to harness and use it.

Siddha means knowledge that is proven or accomplished. Samadhi means a state in which the intellect is equanimous. Yoga means union with one's higher self. This is a dynamic ten-day programme that invokes the true intellectual, emotional, mental and physical potential in each individual. For more information, contact the SSY Centre at Satwa by calling +971-4-3446618.

The Dhammakaya Meditation Centre in Dubai – The institution teaches techniques to control your mind and train it to be the centre of the body. For details, please e-mail Saengmanee_p@hotmail.com or call