Ananda Family News

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Open House at the Farm

This past Saturday we had a fantastic Open House event up at Ananda Valley farm. This was a chance for us to open our doors and have hundreds of friends, neighbors, and community members come in an find out what our Farm and Ananda in general are all about. The welcome crew estimated that we had 400 visitors, not counting staff and volunteers, which makes it very possibly the largest event Ananda has ever put on that did not have Swami Kriyananda physically present. (He was definitely present in other ways, though, along with all our gurus!)

Guests got to tour the farm, enjoy a vegetarian cookout, practice yoga and meditation in the temple yurt, play children’s games, sing songs, get their faces painted, dance to live music, and visit with our flock of chickens. There was even a display of paintings by Galen Wolf, an artist who lived on the property for many years, including a painting of the farm itself in the 1930’s. The weather was gorgeous, spirits were high, and the energy was delighted and joyful.

Some comments from our visitors included:
  • “Great to see your operation today. It is definitely one of the jewels of the coast!” 
  • “Thank you so much, my kids, husband, and I are so excited!! We absolutely loved your open house and are considering volunteering on Saturdays with our boys.” 
  • “I am so inspired here. I would like to come out with my easel and do some painting.”
  • “We had so much fun! The kids don't even want to leave.” 
  • “I am signing up for your CSA because I went on Yelp and you had the best reviews ever!”
You can find more photos of the whole day here. Jai Farm!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Healing Waters: Bernadette of Lourdes

This year’s Living Wisdom School play was their 23rd annual production, presenting the life of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes.

Bernadette was a poor, uneducated peasant girl, living in Lourdes in the 19th century. When only a teenager, she beheld a vision of a beautiful lady in—of all places—the town dump. Though no one else could see these visions, they continued for a few weeks, and even in the face of severe opposition and interrogation by city and church officials the holiness of these occurrences shown through.

It’s a short story, and Bernadette spend much of the rest of her life in a convent, leaving very little “plot” on which to base a full play. But that simplicity allowed for a greater focus on Bernadette’s actual experiences of the Divine, and also illuminated one of the qualities that make the LWS plays into magical experiences themselves.

It’s hard not to love all the children on stage, and every single student in the school is involved, from kindergarten through 8th grade. The little ones are so adorable, the older ones so beautifully sincere, all of them putting everything they’ve got into their performances. The opening of the heart that we strive for in all our devotional and meditation practices is a natural, automatic reaction with children.

In any other, secular, school play, we may adore the children, but there’s nowhere further to take our devotion. What makes an LWS play special is that it also offers us something sacred. We open our hearts to the children, and a vision of the Virgin Mary enters along with them. And there were times that you would swear the actors were seeing her. That’s when it truly becomes “Theater Magic.”

Keep an eye on the LWS Vimeo channel, where the video will be posted once it’s ready.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas Celebrations

On the weekend leading up to Christmas, we celebrated inwardly by following Yogananda’s tradition of holding an all-day meditation. Some hundred or so meditators filled the temple for eight hours, meditating with occasional breaks for chanting and listening to recordings of both Master and Swamiji, and their music. The photos capture the lovely, astral quality of the day.

Our Christmas Eve service is the bridge that connects our inner observation of “spiritual Christmas” with the outer events and celebrations that the season honors. In an extended Festival of Light, we watched the whole Christmas story unfold before us in glorious pageantry, but the bhav throughout was one of deep and reverent devotion. Photos of Christmas Eve are here.

Then finally, Christmas Day itself. Our “family service” (well-loved by all ages) enacted the story again, narrated by Asha, in a more exuberantly Christmas-morning mood, with various children, parents, and friends taking part as shepherds, angels, wise men, and even musicians.

And to top it all off, our Christmas banquet followed the morning service. For entertainment, Steven and Tandava enacted a rather different but nonetheless entertaining story: “The Amazing Hat Mystery,” by P. G. Wodehouse. (If you missed it and are wondering how we solved a mystery like those hats... well, it was either the fourth dimension or a Christmas miracle.) All the Christmas Day photos are here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Music

It’s December! And, as always, our Christmas season at Ananda comes with an almost continual soundtrack of glorious music.

The kickoff this year was the choir’s Christmas Concert, which we held after service on the 6th (lunch provided). Along with some of our favorites of Swami Kriyananda’s Christmas music, we also  enjoyed pieces by Bach, Rachmaninov, Holst, Billings, and more. So much good music has been written over the centuries in honor of Jesus’s birthday, which makes this a fun way for the choir to branch out a bit and learn some new pieces. And it’s pleasing to think that someday perhaps there will be an equally broad and illustrious repertoire written by devotees of Yogananda.

If you’re looking at the photos and wondering what’s going on there at the end, we’re singing “Lord of the Dance.” So naturally that requires some dancing, and the choir can hardly be expected to do it all themselves. Check out the video of the entire concert if you want the full effect.

This past Sunday, a number of families came on stage and led us in singing “Joy to the World.” They’d been practicing this recently at our monthly Family Service. (If you’ve got kids and aren’t coming to this already, you should definitely check it out on the first Saturday of each month.) More pictures of the kids are here.

Also this weekend we had our Members’s Christmas double-party (double because it takes two nights and we still barely squeezed everyone in). What portions of Chela Bhavan weren’t packed with devotees were filled with food, and then we poured Christmas carols over the whole thing to fill in the cracks. Which of course got us all warmed up for next Sunday’s caroling trip that we’ll take around the neighborhood. (So if you’re still up for more singing, that’s your next chance!) Party photos are here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Guru Day Retreat

This past Saturday we held our annual Guru Day Retreat. Guru Purnima is traditionally held on a full moon in July or August, and in this case just a day after a blue moon, the second full moon in July. As the sun went down over the course of the long summer evening, its light shone back into the night from the rising moon and echoed again from the hundreds of candles gradually gathering around each master’s shrine.

All five in our line of gurus have permanent shrines now on the community green — four gazebos, with Sri Yukteswar’s as the latest, and Babaji perched as always in the open air off on his own little mountain. Beginning with Jesus, we gathered at each one in turn, with Asha helping us focus our minds and hearts on the facets of our path that each one represents. Then a song, a chant, and a meditation, ending with everyone individually offering a small candle at the guru’s feet.

We had a remarkable turnout this year — about 120 people. The ranks of folding chairs spread so far around the shrines that when the time came to move from one to the next, some of us would simply turn our chairs around and already be part of the new crowd. But even in spreading itself out, an Ananda crowd creates a beautiful focus of energy and devotion, and this one carried us deeper and deeper into its vibration throughout the entire evening.

You can find more pictures here, and the audio and video recordings should be available soon on this page.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Midsummer Night's Concert

Swami Kriyananda wrote so much music (over 450 individual pieces!) that much of it unintentionally tends to fall by the wayside, even with all the music we enjoy during service and at other events every week. Every once in a while, we try to correct this by putting on a concert full of little-heard and lesser-known songs and instrumentals. Plus, it’s a good excuse to enjoy more music!

This time around we had the concert in the evening, which helped give it a sweeter, more intimate feel, compared to the afternoons we often do. Another difference was that there were fewer full-choir pieces this time, with the bulk of the songs going to solos, with a few duets and trios as well. There’s a certain clarity and connection that comes through when a soloist sings a favorite song that they particularly chose to share with us, and we could feel the experience of these songs one after another building throughout the evening. Many people, even those who have heard dozens of Ananda concerts, commented on how special this one felt.

In addition to all the singing, Janice performed an instrumental from The Mystic Harp, Rita and Karen B. performed a dance duet to “Emerald Isle,” and Rita danced to “Farther Away than the Stars.”

If you missed the concert, or just want to ever-newly re-enjoy it, the video is already posted! (Due to technical difficulties, the last couple of songs are missing, and “Dublin Town” is off in its own separate video.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fourth of July Celebration

This Saturday we held our annual Fourth of July Celebration at the community, with swimming, water balloons, potluck barbecue and picnic, and music. With 50+ people, we had plenty of tasty salads, side dishes, and desserts to go with our veggie burgers and dogs. See all the photos here!

The water balloon games this year started with the standard water balloon toss and gradually developed into a new invention in which one group of players tossed water balloons around in a circle, while an interlocking circle threw their balloons in the opposite direction. Increasing numbers of both balloons and participants kept things increasingly interesting.

The music included a couple of Mary Poppins classics (rewritten for yogis) and sing-alongs of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Brothers.” Yogananda actually used to include “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in his Sunday services, and so we decided to give it an encore at church the next day, ending with Master’s version of the lyrics:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
That the light of God within Him might enliven you and me,
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
His love is marching on. 
Happy “True Freedom Day” to all!

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