I’ve had quite the journey over the past few years. My past life 5 years ago was filled with drunken nights on a college campus, financial literature and endless number crunching on exams and in the office. This lifestyle didn’t last long as I finally saw through the illusion of happiness the American Dream portrays…yay!
Flash forward to now and I look back on these past few years in amazement. I’ve backpacked through Europe for two months, road tripped on several occasions up to three months at a time with all of my belongings (mainly camping gear) in my car, lived in a ski resort town in Colorado, and pretty much lived life to the fullest. And yet, I still wasn’t in that place of complete peace and contentment.
It wasn’t long after reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” that I had a vision of the great master and guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. I thought nothing of it at the time but continued on my spiritual journey. I got to a point where I was reading books on gurus and sincerely asking for guidance on this path, with a focus on satsang (spiritual community) and a true guru.
I found out about Ananda Permaculture on a website called WWOOF, where workers find farm work and a place to stay. I was looking for a spiritual community where I could also learn about permaculture and farming.
I arrived at Ananda Village at night and upon getting out of my car saw a shooting star (I haven’t seen one since!). It felt right; the people, the location, the teachings, and of course, Devadasi & Alex– the Permaculture masters.
I didn’t realize Ananda was a guru-based ashram, but I soon discovered that all of my prayers about a guru and satsang had been answered. I immersed quickly, opening my heart and eventually becoming a disciple. Words cannot describe the feeling one receives when opening his/her heart in pure devotion to the higher presence (God, creator, whatever you label it as!).
My work with Alex & Devadasi on the Permaculture farm has been amazing. They are truly great souls with so much positive energy directed towards consciousness expansion and the respect for nature. Being outside in the California weather and serving their needs in whatever capacity has been a blessing. I’ve learned a lot about the difference between conventional farming and working with the natural layout of the land (permaculture).
From landscaping, composting, seeding, planting, land prepping to helping them out with their internet and social media marketing efforts (we’re launching a new brand called “Beyond Organic” to help promote their farm-to-table, handcrafted products!)– my time here has been well spent. I consider myself graced by God to have landed in this moment with these people, this place, this energy. It’s all so uplifting and helping me remember who I really am at the deepest parts of my being.
I really respect how Devadasi & Alex have a desire to serve others by providing them with food and health products that derive straight from the source– their permaculture food forest! It’s a great feeling to know that my hands have assisted in cultivating a movement that continues to grow. A movement towards healthy decisions, conscious actions and overall well being.
My time as an intern here is almost over as I move onto other life events, but I know that it won’t be my last time here, or with Alex & Devadasi– we’ll always be together in oneness!
Love & Light,
Written by one our interns, Jeremy.
Blessings for the new year, dear friends!
What is it like here in the Karma Yoga program at Ananda? We’re up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in a deeply spiritual place, meditating and doing yoga all the time. There’s so much I love about being here, but the most profound aspect the peace and stillness of this place. It cuts to the core of my being.
Outwardly, I can give you a sense for what I do each day, told through the tale of the gloves I wear.
I wake up at 6:00 every day to attend the 2-hour morning practice (called Sadhana). It includes energization exercises, yoga postures, and meditation. No gloves here, just a yoga mat.
Energization – This is a technique Yogananda (the guru in this line of masters) created. It’s not vigorous exercise, but it will wake you up more than a morning run and give you more lasting energy than a cup of coffee. It involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group of the body in a certain pattern. The idea is to actively draw energy into the body. When you’re done, every cell of your body is vibrating and awake. It only takes about 15 minutes to go through the whole series.
Yoga Postures – I emphasize postures here to differentiate the postures (that most people just call “yoga”) from the full yogic tradition itself which includes, postures, grand spiritual teachings, meditation, and ultimately, union with The Divine. The postures at Ananda are very gentle. The purpose is not to get your workout for the day, but rather to relax every part of the body, removing any tension, blockages, or toxins, in order to sit in stillness for meditation. Each of the postures has a corresponding affirmation that you repeat mentally while in the pose. For example, the affirmation for downward-facing dog is “Calmness radiates from every fiber of my being.” Each of the affirmations helps you tune into the divine energy that you’re moving through your body.
Meditation – This is the main act of the show! The meditation technique we use here is called Hong-Sau (which means “I am Spirit”). The purpose is to concentrate all your energy on the spiritual eye (the point between the eyebrows) because that is the doorway to experience God within yourself. As you breath in you mentally say “hong” and as you exhale you say “sau.” I’ve been amazed how much my concentration has improved after 6 weeks of practicing this technique. Not only during meditation, but throughout my day, I’m able to direct my will, my focus, and my energy with much more ease than before. More than concentration, I’m beginning to experience an actual connection with Spirit during my meditations. I’m cross from theory into experience, which inspires my devotion to this spiritual path even more. I’m looking forward to growing my meditation practice once this adventure is complete.
After breakfast in silence and a morning meeting where we have lively spiritual discussions, we start our Karma Yoga shifts for the day.
Karma Yoga means “service to God through action.” The Karma Yoga program here is about doing service for the retreat center while being in spiritual immersion. We spend 30 hours a week doing different cleaning shifts: cleaning the dining room, the kitchen, the dishes, the bathrooms, and preparing breakfast in the morning. It truly is service, rather than “work.” It’s a kind of meditation in it’s own way. We’re all using the service as an opportunity to uplift the energy in ourselves and in those around us. I usually feel as relaxed after doing a shift as I did before.
On Mondays and Fridays I have the privilege of serving at the permaculture garden run by Alex and Devadasi. Permaculture is a way of designing systems (often gardens/farms) so they can last longer than we do. I love getting to roll around in the dirt and learn about natural systems. For the first time in my life I can identify a couple dozen plants by glancing at them. I’ve spent most of my life in front of a computer programming (or more recently, on Skype with my coaching clients), so this is a wonderful change of pace for me. As an environmentalist, it’s fulfilling to have more direct experience with the natural environment.
I’ve planted young trees, started seeds, transplanted the starts to greenhouse beds (this winter we’re growing chard, kale, mustard greens, arugula, spinach, carrots, radishes, and more). I’ve chopped wood, pulled blackberries and scotch broom (invasive species), and accidentally come in contact with poison oak a few times.
Alex and Devadasi are generous teachers, sharing the reasons behind why we’re trimming a certain plant back for winter, or the idea behind a particular location for a new garden, or how the rainwater swale system collects water and releases it into the terraces where the plants are. I wish I could be here for a full year to see a whole cycle of planting, growing, and harvesting. It’s so new for me to even be thinking in terms of cycles! Being indoors in a city shields me from most considerations of each part of the year.
There’s more to the days here, like eating meals where we cram way too many karma yogis around one table so we can all connect and chat. And the classes we have a few times a week where we learn about the spiritual teachings of Yoga, and of Yogananda, and expand our minds along with our hearts. In the evenings you can often find a group of us by the fire playing games or chatting. There’s also meditation at noon and energization/postures/meditation again before dinner. I’m working my way up to two 30-minute meditations a day. One of the best blessings of this experience is that two days a week I am doing 4-6 coaching sessions with clients via Skype. What a joy that I get to be immersed in this experience and continue serving my clients!
I’m blessed to be in this place as we pass into the new year. My commitment (not intention) for the new year is to maintain and deepen my meditation practice, and find new adventures as I build a community in my new home in Oakland! What is on your horizon for the new year? What would make 2014 extraordinary for you?
Abundance and Aums at Ananda
This is about a month out of date but here’s how my trip began:
After 27 gruelling hours of buses, tubes, planes and immigration issues I arrived at Ananda Village which is a small spiritual community at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California. Here I am taking part in a permaculture intership and working part-time with the Karma Yoga program which is like doing a work/exchange in an ashram.
The permaculture garden is beautiful environment to visit. It is the visionary work of two inspiring mentors, Alex and Devadasi. They nurse the land with a combination of permaculture, biodynamic and organic farming methods which will ensure sustainable soil and will motivate future food growers for years to come. Spiritual practices and plant communication may seem a bit wacky to some but it’s evident that the garden responds positively to all the extra intentional TLC. It’s hard to believe it’s level of abundance having only sprung up 6 short years ago.
Once a week we visit the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm to help with the harvest. CSA’s are fantastic! The community gets wonderful organic produce from the farm in exchange for a morning or afternoons work each week. Everyone involved learns basic permaculture gardening principles, they understand the effort that goes into organic produce production and appreciate the fruits of their labour from seed to table! I love this concept, especially for those who can’t afford to buy land or don’t have the time to tend to a garden everyday.
The Expanding Light Retreat Center: