Showing posts with label Solstice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Solstice. Show all posts

Friday, June 17, 2016

Why We Need Community

Note to friends: Ananda Community Open House: Tomorrow! Stay tuned for a follow up article with some reflections about American society. "Just sayin' "

Our nation mourns for the latest victims of violence in our country even as calls go forth for finding preventative solutions for the future. Could this Saturday’s annual Open House and Solstice Celebration held by Ananda Community in Lynnwood  be relevant to the serious challenges in our time?

We certainly think so. The modern trend of globalism is neither all “good” nor all “bad.” It is complex and besides being an historical fact and a cultural fait accompli, it is, among other things, a trend that is bringing people of every race and nation in contact with one another.

What we see in decline, however, is a sense of community. Our urban and suburban neighborhoods tend to be a transient admixture of people and families with little in common, and their paths rarely cross.

On July 30, 1949, at a speech given in Beverly Hills, Paramhansa Yogananda proclaimed that “I am sowing into the ether” the seeds of the community ideal for the future. He predicted that a new pattern of conscious, intentional and sustainable living would “spread like wildfire.” The “wildfire” part still awaits a future ignition but the increasing violence in the world will unquestionably be one of the sparks. Economic challenges, no doubt, will be another.

The stage is being set and Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, who was present in the audience that fateful day, vowed to do his part. Before his passing in 2013, Swami Kriyananda had founded nine such communities throughout the world, including the Ananda Community in nearby Lynnwood.

The concept of intentional communities is not limited to its residential forms. Virtual communities or associations of those inspired and committed to serve their own local area or the world at large, all count as “communities.”

Our invitation to you, therefore, for this Saturday’s Solstice Celebration and Open House is an opportunity for all of us to register “our answer” to mindless violence by coming together to affirm our kinship with one another and all life. The power of harmony and friendship will always win, but it takes conscious efforts on our part. 

Since time immemorial, the Summer Solstice has drawn people together, recognizing intuitively that the powerful rays of the sun at its diurnal zenith symbolize the healing and energizing rays of the Divine Light within and without.

Blessings to all,
Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway

Note details of the Open House:
Come rain, sun, thunderstorms! It will be fun and memorable no matter what!
Saturday, June 18, 3 to 7 p.m. 20715 Larch Way, Lynnwood 98036
3 p.m. Grounds are open; parking in the back. Tours, refreshments, childrens activities, music, summer fun faire booths with food, organic produce, clothing, gifts, books and healing services!

5 p.m. Solstice Celebration : a theme of family featuring music & ceremony
6 p.m. Vegetarian dinner (free)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Preparing the Cradle of Your Heart for Christmas!

If ever in recent years has the need to purify ourselves to become more Christ-like, this is certainly it. The world we live in is so connected that who can hide, and why would they? If spiritual awakening includes a growing awareness of the totality of reality (and the hidden, divine essence of all things), then our hearts should be expanding and sharing.

Yogis and other traditions teach us to face east for meditation. Also: to meditate at dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight. And, other subtle "tricks" as well. Even if I cannot say definitively how much these tricks add to the depth of meditation I can say for sure that I need all the help I can get!

So it is with the Winter Solstice season: the annual period of outer darkness is ideal for seeking the light within, where, in fact, it can always be found. Whatever month Jesus Christ was actually born in is not the real point. The inner, Christ-light of our innate divinity is always born in the humble manager of our softened heart.

There is a universally accessible "worm-hole" of divine consciousness that descends during this darkest season. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, "To the yogi, day is night while to the worldly man, night is day." What this means is that material consciousness that attaches such value to possessions, sense experiences, and ego recognition is like a smothering, dark fog to the soul. By contrast, the state of humility, devotion, and openness is anathema, like darkness, to the ego.

So when the outer light of the sun is partially obscured, the inner light of the soul can be more easily seen with the "third eye" of intuition (in meditation, at the point between the eyebrows). There the light, like a 1,000 million suns, can appear. This is the light that gives light to the outer world.

This time of year is the time for reflection and deeper meditation. The world around us does not tug as persistently upon the sleeve of our attention. (I find it interesting, however, that the world of egos has created such "buzz" and frenetic activity around Christmas in a desperate attempt to eclipse the soul's more natural inclination to go inward.)

Paramhansa Yogananda did not spurn the joyful and social aspects of Christmas. He enjoyed giving gifts, singing carols, and having a Christmas banquet. Rather than put the one thing "down," he added a day-long meditation as the true, and spiritual Christmas.

The Ananda communities throughout the world have continued this tradition. In the beginning, Yogananda (his disciples addressed him as "Master" in the way Christ's disciples did: master of himself!) held the 8-hour meditation on Christmas Eve. But this made it difficult for the disciples in his ashram to prepare the Christmas banquet (which took all night).

So Master moved the meditation day back to December 23. Some Ananda Communities continue this latter tradition; others, like Seattle, hold the Christmas meditation on the Saturday preceding Christmas Day. For 2015, for example, the Christmas Meditation takes place on December 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell. (

Don't see this meditation as a standalone feature of Christmas. NOW is the time to prepare yourself to receive the blessings of the Christmas / Solstice season. Here are some tips to spiritualize your holidays:

1.  Get up a little earlier each morning to sit in prayer and meditation. The amount of time is less important than the heartfelt effort.
2.  Take time, at least once, during the day to pause, internalize, pray and be still. Jesus may have been born in a humble stable long ago, but the Christ (immanent in each atom of creation) can be born in your heart at any moment, and indeed, in every moment.
3.  At night or at the same time every day, offer prayers for peace, sending vibrations of peace to loving hearts yearning for peace and willing to be peaceful "warriors" standing up for the light in the face of darkness, crises, and troubles. The Christ light needs lightbearers to combat the darkness of our times.
4.  One day a week do a fast. Some can do a water fast; others should do a juice fast (using ground almonds for protein); others, yet can fast until lunch, eating raw or freshly cooked food for lunch; skip or repeat same for dinner. Fasting is not only extremely healthy for your body, but see it more as a deliberate act of will: an affirmation of your soul's freedom from bodily imperatives; and, finally, as an act of sacrifice to help others. Good for the body; good for the soul! [For some, simply fasting from sweets or junk or processed foods one day a week would be a victory in itself. Choose your weapon, make sure you know how to use it, and then enter the fray!]
5.  There's only a few weeks before the Christmas meditation day. Begin lengthening your meditation periods or at least do a two to three hour meditation once a week. I have a handout we use for "How to take Longer Meditations" I can send you: let me know.
6.  Your gift-giving is important but let it be from your heart. Money is not the measure of value. Goodwill is. Let your gift be something you feel good about giving and let it be not merely a thing, but a container of soul joy: heart to heart. It need not be overtly "spiritual."
7.  Let your Christmas spirit flow out in practical ways: at work; at school; in your neighborhood, church, and while shopping. Give the precious gift of your smile to all (when "safe" to do so, of course!). Good deeds, especially unseen by others, are precious to the living Christ in your heart.
8.  Visualize the infant Christ resting in the cradle, the manger, of your own softened heart. Do this anytime and all the time! Expand this to see the infant in the hearts of others.

Remember: it is not a coincidence that down through the centuries acts of kindness and devotion are received or felt by all, even those who otherwise never express or feel the same during the rest of the year. The "Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens pays silent homage to this reality. Dive deep and consciously, therefore, into the darkness of the solstice to discover the candle light of Christ within you and within all. Nurture that infant light by devotion, kindness and goodwill, and by meditation upon the inner light. It will grow and will light your life far beyond the solstice time.

May the light of Christ shine within you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy Anniversary Ananda Community!

Happy 20 Year Anniversary Ananda Community (near) Seattle

Saturday, June 16, Ananda Community in Lynnwood, Washington (USA) celebrates its 20th anniversary. Ananda Community is part of a network of independent but affiliated intentional communities around the world. The first of nine communities was begun in 1968 by Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of the world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, whose life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a worldwide classic. Yogananda was a strong promoter of the ideals of intentional community. He called them “world brotherhood colonies” and decades before the term sustainability came into vogue and into a compelling necessity and worldwide movement, he encouraged audiences to pool their resources, buy land in the country, grow food, and create a self-sustaining way of life. Did he foresee globalization, global warming, pollution, depersonalization of modern society, health hazards of processed food, economic disruptions, and so many other ills of modern life? One imagines so, for the simple reason that his advice fits so perfectly the needs and yearnings of high-minded yet practical individuals.

In July 1992, members of the Ananda in the Seattle area combined their individual resources and purchased a 32-unit apartment complex just outside the Lynnwood city limits (about 10 miles north of Seattle, just off Interstate 5, the main northwest freeway from Canada to Mexico!). Ideally located at the north end of the greater Seattle metropolitan area, near the junction of two major freeways, the property retains the feeling of its rural roots with an abundance of trees on five and one-half acres. It was in need, however, of a facelift and it would take time to renovate and relocate the existing tenants to make room for Ananda members and friends. Within a year, however, Ananda Community was fully engaged as Ananda’s latest intentional community.

There are three rural Ananda Communities: the first was established in the Sierra foothills near Nevada City / Grass Valley in California. It resides upon some 900 acres with some three hundred residents and many others in the surrounding areas. It has a wide range of activities and employment opportunities and includes community-owned businesses, member-owned businesses, professionals, self-employeds, school through high school, a college, a small village, publishing, yoga retreat and much more. A similar community exists in central Italy in the Umbrian hills just south of Assisi, Italy, and the newest community is being built west of the city of Pune in India along the eastern slopes of the so-called Western ghats (coastal hills). In addition, there is a new educational community east of Portland (Laurelwood Academy) and an ashram community in south Delhi, India (Guargon).

There are four urban apartment-style communities: Sacramento & Mountain View, California, Portland, Oregon, and Lynnwood (near Seattle), Washington. It is the latter community whose 20-year anniversary we celebrate this Saturday, June 16. The urban communities are owned by Ananda members in cooperation with the local Ananda organization. The rural Ananda communities are generally owned only by the Ananda organization, but members build their homes either as donations or in the form of an informal, unsecured loan.

For several years the Ananda (Lynnwood) Community has combined a Solstice Service with a Community Open House. We’ve added an art exhibit as the seedling for a Festival of the Joyful Arts which includes live music. We hope that over the years to come this will grow to include art and performances by members and friends whose art expresses a deeper connection with all life and a hope for a better world based on universal values and a Spirit-centered life. But this year we have our 20-year anniversary to celebrate.

It is commonplace among free and progressive thinkers, and people of good will and high ideals, to acknowledge the shortcomings of our materialistic and mechanistic western culture. It is commonplace to view the rising tide of popularity for eastern thought and spirituality as a natural counterpoint to our culture which seems hell-bent on self-destruction. But fewer have identified the human need and value for community. It’s important that we learn to seek quality of life, not just quantity of consumption and possessions. But quality of life cannot exist independent of people and of meaningful relationships with others. Good health, food, job, home, security and personal liberties are all important but, in fact, secondary to personal relationships. Even amidst the horrors of Nazi concentration camps the saving grace for those few who survived was a combination of personal, inner strength and cooperation and sympathy with others. You can achieve fame, fortune, wealth or beauty and yet be miserable, lonely and without friendship and love.

Traditional village or family life has the shortcomings of abuse, gossip, and narrow-mindedness. Intentional community has the advantage of being a conscious choice based on one’s ideals and shared interests. In an intentional community one can find a variety of skills, temperaments and points of view that can enrich one’s own life rather than narrow it. Of course, a community can become self-enclosed and cult-like, but it doesn’t have to be.

The Ananda communities have been established and guided by Swami Kriyananda to be inclusive, not exclusive. While these particular communities are comprised of individuals who are (generally) disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda, they are, nonetheless, open to all who are sincerely interested in the way of life that has evolved in these communities. Residents may invite parents who are in need of assistance and otherwise at least neutral to the ideals of the community. In the urban (apartment-style) communities, there are typically residents who are friendly but not necessarily involved in Ananda as such. It so happens that at Ananda Community in Lynnwood the residents are all members of Ananda, but it is not a requirement, though it is an obvious preference for the sake of harmony and magnetism.

If you were to survey the backgrounds and ethnicity of Ananda residents in the nine Ananda residential communities you would find every race and ethnic background in residence. You would find among the residents a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, education, interests, skills, and temperaments. Some are more hermit like; others, more gregarious. Some deeply involved, or leaders, while others are retired or engaged in their own occupations or businesses.

Think of what this world faces: globalization means that your job can be outsourced to another country and all the efforts and education you’ve invested in can evaporate forever. Who can accept such serfdom? Intentional communities are not an effort to go back to an agricultural way of life and abandoning all technology. Rather, it is to establish a cooperative lifestyle that engages the creative commitment of a wide variety of individuals for a greater good. There may be some communities that are self-sustaining in an agricultural context but we haven’t seen that happen at Ananda. We have computer programmers, writers, dramatists, publicists, teachers, and so many skills. That makes more sense to me.

This takes me to a slight but important detour. Paramhansa Yogananda, before his death in 1952, repeatedly warned his audiences and students that great calamities (war, depression, and cataclysms) awaited America and many other nations before there could be an era of relative peace. Just as importantly, it is not possible to separate his warnings from his advice and prediction about communities. The two are inextricably linked. Not permanently, but practically, in terms of what will motivate some people to form such communities in our present age.

Mind you, too, that neither Yogananda nor Ananda foresee that the rapid spread of communities will necessarily have anything to do with Ananda or with disciples of Yogananda. The motivation and inspiration behind the communities movement and the necessity for them is far broader than that. Even to this date, Swami Kriyananda has counseled the Ananda communities to remain independent from each other, cooperating in many ways but not interdependent or under any central control.

So, this Saturday we celebrate our twenty years of cooperative living. We also celebrate the communities ideal and have invited other communitarians to celebrate with us. As guest speakers we have Nancy Lanphear, co-founder of nearby Songaia Community, and John Hoff, co-founder of the well known Goodenough Community based in Seattle. Two other virtual communitarians and guest speakers are Krysta Gibson (founder of the New Spirit Journal) and Brenda Michaels, co-host of Conscious Talk Radio. (See and )

We have two free yoga sessions, tours of homes, gardens, and the subscription farm (“CSA”). There will creative and fun activities for children, an art gallery, live music, and refreshments. At 5 p.m., we will conduct the Solstice Celebration with our guest speakers and at 6 p.m. a dinner (free) for all.

So please come and celebrate this important movement in consciousness. You don’t have to live in an intentional community to live in a virtual community of like-minded friends. There are many forms of communities but the residential form is easier for people to see and to experience, and, by extension, to establish for themselves in whatever form inspires them.

For directions to Ananda Community (20715 Larch Way, Lynnwood, WA 98036), visit and go to the contact info page. Then see the “directions to Ananda Community in Lynnwood.” Or, call (425) 806-3700.

Blessings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy the Heart! Christmas Reflections

I cannot help but applaud the “occupiers,” protestors of the greed that is symbolized by “Wall Street.” Yes, changes are long overdue, and yes, we were not wise enough to make them on our own volition; and yes, we’ve asked for it, deserved it, no less; and, finally, yes, most of the people in western nations would not have made any other choices but to live beyond our means, both in money and in the world’s natural resources!

Whether the protestors cause any political change directly is less the point (to me) than the fact that they symbolize a shift in consciousness. For every occupier there must surely be a million, perhaps millions, of people in support of what they are saying. So there may well be some changes in attitude and policy in the years ahead.

There is a story from the life of Paramhansa Yogananda (see the book, “Conversations with Yogananda,” by Swami Kriyananda, wherein he was being thwarted by the Los Angeles Planning and Building Department regarding one of his properties there. Discussing his frustration with a group of disciples, someone blurted out, “There ought to be a revolution!” Yogananda chuckled at first with everyone else, then paused, became quiet and more serious, and then added, “There WILL be a revolution!”

Well, none too soon in my book. But I’m not here, today, to complain about our political and economic troubles. One could write a book about those and yet, for one’s effort, nothing would change. It’s the Christmas (or, would you prefer, Solstice?) holiday season and it is one of good cheer and goodwill toward all.

Instead, I say, “Let’s OCCUPY THE HEART!” By that I do not mean something soupy and sentimental. The heart is the receiving station for intuition and deep feelings, not just the boiling cauldron of ever-changing emotions that most people believe and experience the heart to be.

In the stories of the birth of Krishna in India, and Jesus Christ in Israel, the former was born in a prison, and the latter, a manger. Both were pursued by the local king who sought to kill them, as both were perceived by him to be a threat to his worldly power.

To us this symbolizes that our materially-minded, self-involved, self-affirming ego will fight our soul qualities to the death because the ego knows that the awakening of our soul nature threatens to de-throne the ego. But it’s easier to kill the soul when it’s still an infant and relatively helpless. The reason many children were killed in these two parallel stories is that infant soul qualities wherever located and whatever form they take are always a threat to the ego’s rule of the body kingdom.

In the darkened chamber of our heart, even if but imprisoned by the ego, lives the infant of our divine, soul Self. This calmer, wiser, and kinder higher Self occupies the heart and is the source of our heart’s natural loving nature. Whether we occupy Wall Street or Main Street or 228th Street is less important than the heart that pre-occupies us.  It is “where I am coming from” that counts far more than “where I am going to.”

We all have very different lives and only a few can go out and occupy anything at all. It’s less important what we do, and far more important how we do it. We like to think that what we do is important, and it is to us, or, at least, we may need that attitude in order to summon the will power, energy, and creativity to accomplish our work. But, let’s face it, drop dead today and someone else will take your place. They may even do a better job than you.

It is not my intention to suggest anyone act irresponsibly, just honestly and wisely, as best we can. What I am saying is that the intention and consciousness behind our every word, thought, and emotion, indeed, our essential “vibration,” is the real determinant in the happiness and fulfillment we discover in life.

During the Solstice season , on the shortest day of the year, the sun of God is born and with each passing day thereafter, he will grow in strength and wisdom as he ascends toward the summer Solstice. What a beautiful symbol and what an opportunity for us to be still, resting in the manger of the quiet and humble heart, to witness, pay reverence and adoration, to offer gifts of our intention, goodwill, and devotion to this infant Light.

It is this deeper knowing that brings millions of people out into the cold winter night on Christmas Eve to participate in devotions of all type, even when this may be the only time of the year some people do this.

For as the tiny oak seedling can grow into a mighty tree which gives rest and shelter to all creatures, so too the Light of God, manifested in the spark of divinity which is our own and unique soul, can grow and wrest from the pretender king ego the princely throne of our heart, mind, and body once again!

Christ is not just a human being born two thousand years ago. Christ is the Light reflected in every atom of creation that endows creation with innate intelligence and joy. It is this Christ consciousness that certain souls have fully realized (“Self-realized”) that anoints them as prophets, as messengers down through the ages who come to remind us of our true Self. Christ-mass therefore is the celebration of the second coming of Christ in our own hearts. He comes in the dark night of the soul’s winter, when nothing of this world can satisfy us. It is the Christ, the Kristna, the Buddha that comes to us as a messenger, carrying a Light which shines in our personal darkness and lights our way. That message is the same everywhere: “Know thy Self,” turn within to discover that that light is within us, as well.

Meditation is the priceless gift of India to this age of great change that we might find the inner security and inner peace of our soul. “Give me a light to light my way, truth is the light, so wise men say.” Imagine if this Light were to occupy the hearts of even but a small percentage of humanity, today! It would change the world in a way no legislation, no protest, no funding from a rich foundation, nor any treaty could ever do.

A blessed, bliss-filled celebration of the universal Christ consciousness in you, and in all creation. Occupy your heart of Light.

Nayaswami Hriman