Ananda Family News

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LWS Play: George Washington Carver

In Living Wisdom School’s 22-year run of exceptional performances, this year’s play was a first. As always, its subject was an inspiring spiritual figure, but for the first time it was also a scientist: George Washington Carver. As the introductory scene acknowledged, science and religion have not always gotten along well together, but in today’s society it’s important to be reminded that they can, and indeed, should. The fusion of the two also paralleled the post-Civil War struggle for racial integration that was another major thread throughout the play.

Students portraying the teachers as they
discuss the subject of this year’s play.
The music throughout the production featured two songs as its main themes: “How Can I Keep from Singing?,” a beautiful hymn in tune with Carver’s optimistic and indomitable spirit, and “Amen,” a joyful, hand-clapping gospel classic. This year also included a number of dance choreographies, among them an adorable ballet of nature devas healing sick flowers to the music of “The Blue Danube,” one of Yogananda’s favorites. Dance was also used very effectively in some of the action scenes — a Civil War battle and a mob scene — to soften the scary moments for some of the younger children while still conveying the intensity of those events.

“How Can I Keep from Singing?”
performed by the all-school chorus.
The play excelled not only as entertainment, but as a history lesson, with the events coming to life before our eyes. Anyone who grew up in the United States probably remembers reading, for instance, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in school. But hearing these words in context, recited by students putting their hearts into it, conveys the power of that speech at that moment in a way no textbook can. We’re lucky to have many original quotes from George Washington Carver himself as well, conveying his consciousness all the more directly.

“The Blue Danube” ballet.
Far beyond mere rote memorization, participation in the play develops deeper skills in the students, including flexibility and grace under pressure. An example: For the final evening, several children were unable to perform. With the entire school already fully involved, there had been no bandwidth to assign or train understudies. So just before showtime, the director simply asked who else in the cast knew the missing students’ lines. The volunteers stepped into their new roles with all the confidence of actors who had paid complete attention in rehearsals even to scenes that were not originally their own.

Singing of the many uses of the peanut
(in peanut hats).
More photos from the dress rehearsal can be found here, and keep an eye on the LWS Vimeo channel for the official performance videos (coming soon)!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Enchanted Tea at the Farm

[Guest post by Karen B. Check out the Ananda Valley Farm website to keep up with the latest news from the farm!]

While yogis are no strangers to moments of delight, beauty and surprise, the Enchanted Tea fundraising event on the farm this past weekend may have set a new standard for experiencing such divine gifts amidst the clucking of nearby chickens, the insulating charm of greenhouse surroundings and the fresh, earthy scent of a recently enhanced straw floor.

The nearly 35 guests (and an equal number of volunteers) who attended enjoyed a lovely afternoon of tea, various courses of delicious handmade foods representing different countries, and the splendid musical entertainment of a talented vocal quartet.

While refinement was in the air, and a cadre of waiters was on hand to serve guests in sit-down fashion, the order of the day was the much-anticipated opportunity to offer support to our beloved farm, and the many projects that await funding in order to proceed.

What began as an inventory of 30 items in need of sponsorship, quickly transformed into a list reflective of the true generosity of spirit that has accompanied the Ananda Valley Farm from its inception.

Many projects were fully funded; among them a mobile chicken coop, equipment to expand seedling production, funding to expand the accommodations at Seva House, new fruit trees for the orchard, solar-powered valve controls for watering, landscaping and a wishing well for the Temple yurt, and even the addition of an espresso machine for the Seva House kitchen. And, lastly, the entire room erupted in cheers and applause at the announcement of the funding of the final item on the list: a horse.

Stay tuned for the many seva opportunities that will arise as these upgrades to the farm are purchased and become ready to install.

For now, we would like to express gratitude to all of those whose willing service contributed to an exquisite experience at the farm, and to God and Gurus for the abundant blessings that continue to grace the life of Ananda Valley Farm.

[You can find more photos of the event here!]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Master's Birthday & "Meeting the Master"

Master’s Birthday Celebration, 5th January


One of our most sacred days - our Guru Paramhansa Yogananda’s Birthday - reminds us of the very reasons we are here and what our purpose is.

Master mentioned (The Divine Romance, p. 398) that it is beneficial to meditate on the birthdays of any of the Self-realized gurus, as these days are auspicious and filled with blessings. Thus, we started Yoganandaji’s birthday with a two-hour meditation and followed with chants, songs and music.

We then listened to Swami’s recorded story how Master’s book Autobiography of a Yogi affected him deeply and changed his life. This reminded many of us of our own unforgettable experiences we had while reading this sacred book.

Asha then continued to talk about the essence and importance of the guru-discipleship relationship, pointing out how the guru has the power to “unravel our karma for us” and how he guides and protects us. She ended her talk by encouraging us to pray to Guru and God to “give me the grace to love you and give me the grace to know how you love me.”

After the sermon we had a beautiful devotional ceremony renewing and reaffirming our vows and supporting others in their reaffirmations. We had a group of new initiates into the Sadhaka as well as Sevaka orders.

Although our Guru has left his body, he is always with us. Swami reminds us, “we know from our experiences how real his presence is, we know from our experiences how real that guidance is and that’s what has made this community, what it is.”

Here is the video link to Swami’s and Asha’s talks.

Ananda Palo Alto Players Present Meeting the Master, 17th January

Last Saturday evening we witnessed a new milestone in Ananda’s spiritual activities: a way of writing and performing plays on such a deep soul-level which so far has not been seen nor experienced before - as mentioned by many who came to see the play.
The play conveys the experiences, blessings, healing and feelings of the early disciples, when they met Master for the first time, and includes loving anecdotes of their relationship with their Guru.

The stories were presented by Paramhansa Yogananda’s early disciples such as Gyanamata (played by Asha), Dr. and Mrs. Lewis (Marcel Hernandez & Anandaprem), Kamala (Erica Kellogg), Durga Mata (Kristy Norfleet-Andrews, author of the play), Rajarshi (Garth Gilchrist) and Kriyananda (Rammurti Reed).

The play was for all of us an amazing experience: while we listened to the accounts of the disciples, how they met Master for the first time, we could feel through their owns words what an incredible life-altering, blessed experience this was. We were transported to the times when Master lived, how he behaved and acted, how his disciples loved and revered him, how it was to receive his unconditional love and protection.

At some stage of the play we did not only feel part of the play, but we could feel the same feelings as they were expressed by all disciples who were been played and who were playing the part. Here are some more pictures.
This soul-quality and soul-experience which occurred during this evening, made a strong impression on us, but also left a blessed imprint on our consciousness and made us feel, on a very deep level, joyful.

If you have not yet seen the play, you still have a chance to see it this Saturday, 24th of January, at 6 pm at Ananda Sacramento.

Of course, we have also here a recording of the play (Part 1 + Part 2).  Enjoy!


With lots of love, joy & blessings,

Mirela

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas & New Year Celebrations


Already two weeks have passed since we have had our Christmas celebration and we still hold in our hearts, minds and souls the sacred ceremony of the birth of Jesus which we experienced inwardly in longer meditations and outwardly with our families and friends.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve provided us with the opportunity of an inward celebration of Christ with a two hour meditation. For most of us, this was one of the most beautiful and devotional evenings, reminding us of the potential awakening of the Christ Consciousness within each of us. We listened to holy songs, music, chants and to Asha’s sermon guiding us deep into the spirit of Christ. In the latter part of the evening we enjoyed a beautiful creation of Jesus’ birth with a life nativity scene reflecting the devotion and grace of that moment.

The evening culminated in a reverential candle light ceremony at the feet of baby Jesus. Many of us were deeply moved.

Here are some more pictures




Christmas Day

On Christmas Day Asha narrated the Christmas story with beauty, warmth and clarity, which not only touched the minds and hearts of the children present, but also of all the adults.


Some children were dressed up as angels, shepherds and kings, and joined the live nativity scene, having much fun but also acting with reverence throughout the ceremony. For more pictures click here.

Later we enjoyed a delicious banquet while also appreciating and rejoicing with our family and friends this very holy day.

After the Christmas banquet we were shown a scene of the forthcoming play Meeting the Master, which will be shown on Saturday, 17th of January, of how Master celebrated Christmas with his disciples and how he lovingly would prepare and give presents to everyone. Here is the link to the video.

See also here some fun outtakes from Christmas Day (pre-event) pix.

New Year’s Eve


New Year’s Eve started with an inward celebration of letting go of the old year and welcoming the New Year with a two hour meditation. We witnessed and celebrated the taking of the Pilgrim’s Vow of Intention and Renunciate Vow of Brahmacharya by two of our gurubhais.



The evening then followed with a talk by Asha, accompanied by music and songs, and ended with an extended fire and purification ceremony in which we each got to offer ourselves and our aspirations for the new year up to Guru and God. Click here for some more pictures.



House Blessing at Chela Bhavan

On January 3rd we held a house blessing for celebrating the signed agreement to purchase Chela Bhavan for $600,000. The amount of $50,000 has been paid and a debt of $550,000 remains which will be covered through the on-going monthly rent and future donations. We chanted, meditated, prayed and sent out many blessings in every corner of the house. The evening ended with some tea and shared food.

Wishing you all a very special year with many sacred, joyful and blessed moments and gatherings like the ones we just experienced.

in Master's Love & Joy

Mirela

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Highlights of Our Pre-Christmas Activities

1. Christmas Concert, 7th December

Our annual Christmas concert was a most exquisite treat for our soul and heart.

The choir sang old medieval pieces such as Gaudete, British and French Christmas carols from the 16th century, pieces from Mendelssohn, Bach, a new composer Sir John Taverner and, of course, Swami’s compositions.

There were many excellent solos, duets and quartets accompanied by the whole choir and beautifully performed trumpet, violin, guitar and piano solos. Listen here for recordings and video.

Many visitors commented that they felt so much joy, warmth and appreciation for the music, the singers and musicians.

2. Members’ Christmas Parties at Chela Bhavan, 13th/14th December

For many members this is their favorite event!

We all sat around a beautiful decorated Christmas tree with “Nayaswami-blue” Christmas lights, chatted, shared the food we brought and sang a wonderful list of old as well as modern Christmas carols.

 We were all deeply touched by the sacredness of the Christmas songs and were filled with the spirit of love, warmth and friendship (more pictures here).


3. Master’s All-Day Christmas Meditation, 20th December

On Saturday we had our 8-hour Christmas Meditation which included beautiful music and talks from Swami and Master. The temple was packed with many people enjoying this sacred tradition.

4. Carol Singing in the Neighborhood, 21st December

With flashlights armed we followed Asha’s bicycle trail and sang one carol after another while walking arm in arm, chuckling and marveling at the Christmas light decorations of our neighbors. At every house our neighbors’ eyes and faces lightened up while they listened to the carols. Some neighbors joined us and some offered us some chocolate and biscuits. At the end of our carol singing tour we stood in front of one house where an old lady seemingly living alone, had just returned from hospital standing in her dressing gown in the doorway with tears running down while we were singing a couple of carols.

What a wonderful blessing that we had the opportunity to touch so many hearts including those who very much needed it.

wishing you all

Merry Christmas
Bon Natale
मैरी क्रिसमस
(Mairī krisamasa)

with Love & Joy in Master

Mirela

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

East West Appreciation Night

On Tuesday, the 2nd of December, we had a special evening at East West Bookshop: we celebrated the existence of this special store and our gratitude to our customers and all members of the staff, with talks from David, Asha, Santosh and Tandava, accompanied by a tasty buffet and beautifully played piano music by Todd.

The talks reflected upon the importance of this special place in our lives, our community, and the Bay Area, and also on it’s nation-wide impact as one of the largest New Age, metaphysical bookshops. For three decades the store has been a platform both to convey Master’s teachings and to be genuinely universal in providing a wide spectrum of spiritual books for those seeking Truth and Self-realization.

Asha and David expressed their gratitude to the store’s dedicated and creative staff who do so much more than just selling books, crystals, music and other merchandise. They continuously have followed Swami’s advice to “just love your customers’’ and have kept creating a bookshop with great commitment and energy to meet the needs of its customers. Thus, they developed a place, where people could come to “know themselves and find their own ray of that true light” as descibed by Santosh, one of the longest serving members of the staff.

The evening included a great appreciation for the many customers who support the store by shopping, taking part in the many different programs, interacting with staff members and discovering Ananda and Yogananda’s teachings. David and Tandava pointed out that the store has been a family and community where people find “spiritual sustenance,” new genuine friends, insights, guidance and healing.

Asha recalled how Swami bought the bookshop in 1980 and how he intuitively knew that this was the right decision, commenting to her that “good decisions do not take time, but they take energy.”

The purchase of the bookshop caused Ananda to move in this area resulting in many more activities and enterprises aiming to “revamp a whole culture, to show how Master’s teachings, creatively applied, can change the entire pattern of society.” Swamiji continued that “I am just one person, and there is only so much I can accomplish by myself. If I can start a movement, however, and many people begin to act creatively from inner inspiration, as I have, then a great work can be done.”*

Click here for more pictures and listen to the talks.

in Master’s light,

Mirela

* P.S. Quote is from Asha’s book Swami Kriyananda: As We Have Known Him, p. 238

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thanksgiving Celebration


Our Thanksgiving celebration was a wonderful treat for our soul, mind, heart and palate.

The morning started with a one hour meditation and followed with a moving sermon taking us on a journey highlighting the history of this auspicious holiday with the speech of Abraham Lincoln declaring this day of “… thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father, to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as consistent with the Divine Purpose to full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

Throughout the sermon Shanti as well as Jyotish and Devi (broadcasted from Pune, India) reminded us of the meaning and feeling of thanksgiving and the importance of holding gratitude in our thoughts and hearts for God, our line of Gurus, Saints, our families and community.

The sermon ended with a beautiful prayer from St. Teresa d’Avila:

“May there be peace within, may you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into our bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing and dance, to praise and love. It is there for each and every one for you.”

We were then treated to a wonderful delicious lunch which included a very tasty salad, nut loaf with golden gravy, roasted vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, cranberry orange compote, persimmon pudding and pumpkin pie.

During lunch we enjoyed a superb, lighthearted and funny entertainment, which included a joyfully performed Shakespearean talk and song, a well-presented reading of P.G. Wodehouse’s “The Fiery Wooing of Mordred,” from the collection Young Men in Spats, and ended with the debut of our own Ananda-“Elvis” with a creative and funny rhymed song instructing everybody to help to clean up.


After much laughter, the heartfelt warm family gathering ended with Asha’s brief talk encouraging us to be open and receptive to participate and engage in the forthcoming Christmas festivities as much as we can, as “there is a special kind of blessing in the air that all of us can really take part in and find our lives significantly changed by it.”

In Master’s Joy & Blessings

Mirela

P. S. The rest of the photos are here.
blueline

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