By Nayaswami Naidhruva
Many Hands Make a Miracle: A History of Ananda, 1968 – 1976 by Sadhana Devi Helin
Serving the Larger Community
Ananda’s first business was its Meditation Retreat, which was started in 1968 and attracted the people who would eventually become the nucleus of the future community. A number of other businesses followed, both privately and community owned.
Ananda’s most enduring businesses have been its two guest retreats and its two markets. In addition to the Meditation Retreat, these include The Expanding Light Guest Retreat at Ananda Village; Master’s Market, a natural food store and cafe that serves Ananda Village and neighbors; and Earth Song Health Food Store and Cafe in Nevada City, which Ananda owned for more than 20 years before selling it in 2002.
The temptation to put personal advantage ahead of principle is possibly greatest in business transactions, which makes them an important testing ground. In these settings, Ananda’s commitment to its ideals is expressed in relationships characterized by integrity, respect, and friendship. Here’s what two food industry sales reps have said:
I interacted with the manager of Earth Song once a week by phone for about three years. I also visited both Ananda Village and Earth Song to try to arrange for speakers connected with our products. On such occasions, a lot of people I do business with will try to get something out of me-a dinner, perhaps drinks, something for themselves. There was never any of that with Ananda. I never had the sense that Ananda was trying to “use” me in any way.
I was impressed by the integrity with which Ananda operated. Once, when Earth Song was going through a difficult period, the manager was very up-front about it and asked if short-term payment terms could be arranged. This is something my company never does, but I agreed because I knew Earth Song would pay. And they did. They made every payment, even before it was due.
Ananda people treated me as a friend. My salespeople loved visiting Ananda Village and Earth Song and always had positive things to say.
—Jack Burke, National Sales Manager for a national health food distribution company.
When I talked with people from Earth Song, it was different from any other health food store. They treated me as a friend. I felt from them a warmth and a caring that I’ve never experienced with any other client. They really seemed to enjoy serving others and were always very positive and upbeat.
It was wonderful to deal with people who seemed genuinely interested in learning about the products I was selling and getting them out to the local community.
—Janet Planet, former sales representative for a national company that marketed new products to health food stores.
Community Health Services
In 1982, in a run-down trailer two miles down the road from Ananda Village, Peter Van Houten, a medical doctor and Ananda Village resident, started a rural clinic (Sierra Family Medical Clinic) for an area totally lacking in medical services. Staffed initially by Ananda members only, the clinic served not just Ananda Village but the entire local area. Twelve years later, when the clinic was self-sustaining, Dr. Van Houten donated it to a local non-profit corporation. He continues to serve as medical director and CEO.
Today the clinic staff and governing board are made up of both Ananda members and area residents. Housed in a new, up-to-date facility and offering dental and behavioral therapy services along with medical, the clinic is considered one of the best of its type in California. It is one of the few clinics that accepts patients regardless of ability to pay. Asked what they most appreciated about the clinic, most patients commented on the loving, caring attitude of the staff:
At the Sierra Family Medical Clinic my son and I receive loving care from Peter Van Houten and the staff. When I am receiving care, I feel like my concerns and medical condition are of the utmost concern to my doctor. I don’t feel like I’m being rushed in and rushed out. Dr. Van Houten takes the time to explain in detail what is going on and what I should expect. The receptionist makes me feel like she is glad I am a patient here.
—R.C., Downieville, California
Sierra Family Medical Clinic has never refused medical attention to anyone I know. I myself have done plenty of walk-ins with my kids, and I’ve always felt welcome. They’re more than just doctors, they’re friends and they really care about their patients.
—K.M., North San Juan, California
I love that the clinic is always clean and uplifting and that everyone is kind and serviceful. I especially appreciate that my two practitioners, Lennie Martin and Dr. Van Houten, are extremely bright, perceptive, and up-to-date on the best ways of treatment with the least side effects.
—M.C., Nevada City, California.
If it weren’t for the clinic and the sliding fee scale, who knows what shape I’d be in with my medical problems. I couldn’t afford ANY medical attention. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.
—C.C., Camptonville, California
Fire prevention is a key concern in the Sierra Nevada foothills where forest fires are a normal occurrence during the long, dry summers. For many years Ananda members have been actively involved with the local volunteer fire department. They have served as fire fighters, on the fire department board, and, occasionally, as fire department staff. The head of the department comments:
There’s been a lot of support for the volunteer fire department from Ananda. The Ananda community really got behind the workdays for finishing the new fire station, which was a big project for our district. Of the fifteen people who showed up for the workdays, ten were from Ananda. We worked two very long weekends and it was great fun.
In the area of fire safety, Ananda is doing all the things that should be done-installing fire hydrants, creating an incredible water system, storing water, clearing the brush, and getting rid of buildings that are potential fire hazards. From time to time, the department holds training sessions for volunteer fire fighters at the Village.
The people I’ve met and gotten to know from Ananda Village are wonderful people.
—Bruce Boyd, Chairman, North San Juan Volunteer Fire Department
An interest in serving the larger Nevada County community has prompted some Ananda members to seek service opportunities at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley — 35 minutes away by car. While working as manager of Earth Song, Ananda member Eric Glazzard ran the hospital’s annual Health and Safety Fair and expanded its offerings to include yoga, meditation, vegetarian cooking, and sports.
Other Ananda members teach yoga and meditation to patient groups, and some have participated in the hospital’s interdenominational chaplaincy program. Their hospital contact person comments:
The Ananda people I’ve worked with were very friendly, helpful, and cooperative. They have a community spirit and aren’t parochial in their outlook. They realize we’re all connected and see the larger community as their community. Eric Glazzard loved to showcase Nevada County and its many health offerings at the hospital’s annual fair.
Whenever Ananda people have taught meditation or yoga at the hospital, they’ve always abided by our requirement that their presentation be non-denominational — they’ve never tried to push their religious orientation.
—Debbie Wagner, Director of Occupational Health and Wellness, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital