Ananda Family News

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Christmas Collection

This past week was a veritable marathon of Christmas joy. We started on Saturday with our annual all-day meditation, and it seemed especially sweet to have it land so close to Christmas Day itself this year. Those eight hours are a beautiful chance to become more deeply aware of the feeling of Christmastime, and trace it inward and upward back to Jesus and to God.

The Christmas Eve service is always particularly special as well. There’s a feeling of an alternate reality to it: coming to church at night instead of the morning, and having many of the usual elements of a service rearranged with new music — not to mention being visited by angels, wise men, and baby Jesus himself with his family. The feeling of being in a completely different space brings everyone’s attention to a clearer, more present focus, and intensifies the whole experience. (I will take an aside here to put on my East West hat and mention that if you’ve never spent 7 hours in retail on Dec 24th and then gone straight to Christmas Eve service, then you haven’t truly experienced the nature of duality. But even so, the evening’s vibrations were so powerful that I hardly noticed falling off that particular cliff.)

Christmas Day featured an expanded dramatization of the Christmas story, complete with dual-sized kings and angels, and narrated by Rabbi Asha in full storytelling mode. The blessings at the end of the story/service came in two varieties as well: the touch of light and the touch of glitter, administered by the taller and shorter angels, respectively.

The Christmas banquet entertainment managed to fill a glaring hole in the previous week’s caroling. I refer, of course, to The Twelve Days of Christmas, which were dutifully and enthusiastically enacted by assigned tables of piping pipers, golden rings, and apparently a whole family of partridges in a pear tree.

Our Temple of All Religions also got to spend a few minutes being a temple of all (or at least more) languages. We sang Silent Night with four extra renditions — German, Italian, French, and Spanish — with anyone who was willing to take a shot at it welcomed up to join the performers on the language of their choice. (Anybody want to translate this into a few more languages for next year? Sanskrit, perhaps?)

Enjoy the rest of the photos, and may you carry the Christmas bliss with you into the new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Food and Singing, and Vice Versa

David and Asha hosted several Christmas parties this weekend at Chela Bhavan, their home in the residential community. (As an aside, their celestially blue Christmas tree was apparently imported directly from the astral world this season.) The Friday and Saturday parties are “duplicates” so as to be available for as many people’s schedules as possible, though a great many of us just go to both. ’Tis the season, after all, and I do mean for eating. The “sweets and savories” potluck leaned heavily yet delightfully towards the sweet end of the scale, with plenty to stuff all the assembled multitudes.

’Tis also the season for singing, and potluck goodies make excellent fuel for Christmas carols. We spent the remainder of each evening joyfully sharing both traditional carols and favorite selections from Swami Kriyananda’s Christmas music. (More pictures of both parties are here, though sadly, no recordings. Had to be there!)

Left: Two santa-musicians trying to figure out a tricky bit of music.
Right: Singers doing just fine, regardless.

So that was Friday and Saturday. The party on Sunday was completely and utterly different. That night we sang first, and then ate. And actually, we sang all around the neighborhood, so that bit was different, too. It was a surprisingly warm night, perfect for caroling and bringing a little extra music and joy to all our neighbors. Highlights included launching carols at kids in an upstairs window while their parents were busy watching the football game, being joined in “Good King Wenceslas” by a residential trumpet player, and a final song at Master’s shrine that left everybody spellbound in silence afterwards. 

May your holy season be full of tasty treats and sublime sounds!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Concert

Our Christmas Concert last weekend was deliciously prefaced by our traditional Christmas Concert Lunch of vegetarian chili and cornbread, which is a great way to warm up on a winter afternoon.

And after the food to warm our bodies came the music to warm our souls. One of the fun things about our Christmas concerts is that we get to dip into the vast troves of beautiful spiritual music that has been written for this season over the centuries. Some of the new treasures this year included a men’s ensemble performing a couple of medieval and renaissance pieces: a hauntingly beautiful Hayl, Mary, ful of grace, and the lively Spanish carol Riu Riu Chiu. (Yep, those are video links. Enjoy!)

Music, whether you’re singing or listening, is such a powerful tool for uplifting and directing our hearts’ feelings. This concert really felt like it set the stage for the whole Christmas season. Rani put it well in a comment afterwards: “I remembered how it felt last year... having spent December with all the Ananda events, at the end of the season I felt peaceful, hopeful, renewed emotionally and spiritually. Today, as I listened and watched, I knew it was happening again. It was everything I longed for and needed, and though of course many more wonderful events are coming, this one was... perfect. Thank you for all the effort and thought you put into our music. Never doubt that it makes a difference.”

And on that note, we’ll leave you with a bunch of photos, and a few more highlight videos:

I Wonder as I Wander (by John Niles)
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (traditional)
Boston (William Billings)
Thy Light Within Us Shining (Swamiji, of course)
Hallelujah Chorus (Handel)

And if you want to relive the entire concert (or experience it for the first time, if you missed it) you can download the entire thing as an mp3 (59MB).

Happy December!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A December Miscellany

Your news this week comes to you in several bite-sized tidbits. Think of these as appetizers preceding the multi-course gourmet meal of events (and Family News posts) that is a standard Ananda December.

Our beloved Ramani has just recently left Palo Alto to serve in Ananda L.A. Ramani was a huge force behind the gardens and the CSA program here, started a weekly healing prayer group, and has been a very dear friend to many of us. Before she left, we held a lovely “Go With Love” blessing ceremony for her, showering her with rose petals and good wishes for the next adventure.

If you were at Sunday Service this past weekend, you probably noticed a few conspicuous visitors. The movie being made about Ananda (working title: Cities of Light) wanted some shots from the Palo Alto community, and so they spent the day with us, both at church and at the community afterwards (when the sun miraculously came out just before we had to cancel most of the outside plans).

Left: The film crew sneaks up on Asha during her sermon.
Right: They appear to be filming a bush, but someone’s about to walk out from stage left, honestly. 

Sunday was also the date of our annual Ananda Crafts Fair. We had over a dozen artists offering a wide variety of beautiful handmade items ranging from wood worked altar items, elegant hand blown egg ornaments, music, artwork, devotional greeting cards, jewelry, herbal healing products, environmental friendly produce bags, mushroom kits, specialty preserved items, lovely scarfs, and more. Apparently no photographers, though, since I haven’t been able to get a hold of any photos.

And last but not least, advance notice for all you plan-ahead types: Nirmoha and Rosalva’s wedding will be the morning of June 8, 2013 at the Ananda Temple in Palo Alto. All Ananda people are welcome, so save the date! Following the ceremony there will be a potluck wedding reception at the community around noon.

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