Monday, August 26, 2013
Padma and I have returned from Spiritual Renewal Week refreshed and recharged and ready to greet a long list of "to-do's". We, too, perhaps like you, are slightly reluctant to bid adieu to summer just yet. Maybe this next, Monday (Labor Day), we can enjoy the day as a day of rest and simple enjoyments with friends.
Every year we and many others from the Ananda Sangha in the greater Seattle area fly or drive to Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA. Hosted by the public retreat there (the Expanding Light, www.expandinglight.org), we enjoy a week of classes, yoga, meditation, good conversation, delicious vegetarian meals, sunshine, starlit nights, concert, kirtan, play, walks in the forest, cooling breezes, and inspiration from within or without! People come from all over the world for this annual event. There are Ananda centers, communities, groups and members across the globe. To see so many gathered together, chanting, meditating, sharing meals and inspired entertainment, and seeking inspiration together is itself rejuvenating and inspiring.
Generally the key talks of Spiritual Renewal Week eventually get posted by ananda.org or the expandinglight.org at some point, [here's the link: http://www.ananda.org/video/series/spiritual-renewal-week-2013 } What made this year (Aug 16-25) special was that Swami Kriyananda left this earth just a few months ago. Since the founding of Ananda, this was the first "S.R.W." without him (at least somewhere on the planet). Hence the week was dedicated to his memory, inspiration and ever living spirit. It was well attended and especially so from the Seattle Sangha. There were about 24 of us from the Seattle area.
One might have expected that the week would have had a pall of unspoken sadness, owing to Swamiji's passing. Instead, there was, at times (early morning or late at night), only the pall of distant forest fires. Ironically, the whiff of smoke reminded many of us more of Delhi, India (on a good day), than of the ever present summer threat of forest fire in the Sierra Nevada mountains and hills of northern California.
Instead, we felt Swamiji's presence even more strongly as we came together as his spiritual family blessed and guided by Paramhansa Yogananda. Swami Kriyananda is now free of the burden of his aged body which, despite its troubles, he transcended so gracefully with the power of divine bliss. During that week, the only moment I felt something "missing" was the Monday night outdoor concert. In past years, Swami used to always be present and lent a vibration of inwardness. That vibration was there but he wasn't there in the usual way. The feeling passed quickly, however, for the music itself, composed by him, lifted us on the wings of his living spirit.
The main feature of each day are the morning classes. Two or more speakers (on Wednesday, there were eight) share inspiration on the day's topic. The general theme was lessons from Swamiji's life. Sub topics such as discipleship and creativity and kriya yoga were special features. All of the speakers shared stories from their experiences with Swami Kriyananda: poignant, humorous, or inspired. Padma and I heard some stories from "old timers" and friends that we'd never heard before! There were afternoon workshops, three levels of kriya initiation, walks on the ridge (which looks to the west across the great central valley of California), engaging conversation, and much more.
Padma and I stayed with our daughter, Gita and her husband, Badri, and our two grand-dogs! Gita is pregnant and due in a few weeks! A newlywed couple live there also so the house is a busy and fun place to be.
Summer at Ananda brings generally warm to hot weather. The nights are generally cool. Even the day's heat, if any, is softened by cool summer breezes, shady trees, and gentle forest paths. Somewhere in August the weather begins to shift toward hints of Fall. Overall, it was delightful, in fact.
Every morning Padma and I attended the in-Community meditations at Hansa. The meditations were deep, quiet and filled with God's presence. We participated as blessers in one of the kriya initiations, and each of us were among the featured speakers during the morning talks (she on Friday; I, on Saturday).
Personal retreats and seclusions have their benefits but there's no substitute for the power of what we call "satsang," or the fellowship of like minded truthseekers. There is a power, a joy, and a celebratory sense of divine presence and connection that emerges from the events. It tends to build day after day. At Spiritual Renewal Week it culminates on Friday night with the kriya ceremonies and reaches a peak of celebration with outdoor Indian banquet and starlit entertainment which follows the banquet on Saturday night.
Maybe you can attend next year! Look for it on the website of expandinglight.org!
Joy and blessings to you,