That birthday delight combined with a deep meditation really seemed to set the tone for the evening. One of the fascinating things about being at Ananda is how there can be such a strong feeling of joy, even with everyone just sitting around calmly. There were one or two times when I felt practically ready to laugh out loud, for no obvious reason, just in the middle of a prayer or a meditation.
Asha gave an excellent talk on attunement to the guru and dedication to whatever expression of the Divine ray we have each been drawn to. At such a lovely event, it's certainly not hard to feel blissfully grateful for our particular Ananda ray.
On Saturday we had our birthday retreat, which had a new format this year. It was structured in 4 segments, each one beginning with 10-15 minutes of a recording from one of Master's Sunday sermons (so that we heard the entire thing by the end of the day). After that, we focused on attuning ourselves with a particular quality of Master's: courage, positive thinking, even-mindedness, and God remembrance. Asha read from and commented on selections from Swamiji's The New Path, and Affirmation for Self-Healing that related to each one, and we listened to several songs that expressed each quality. The music led us into a period of meditation to absorb all this before coming around to the next segment.
The birthday retreat marks the end of our major holiday season with about 22 events between Thanksgiving and now. As Asha pointed out at Sunday Service, the retreat is an excellent way to wrap it all up. We get a chance to pull back from all the busy-ness and be more inward for a day, and really integrate all the joy and inspiration we've received over the last couple of months. May we all carry that forward into a beautiful 2011.
Jai guru, and happy birthday to all!
[More photos are here. Thanks, Karen!]