I came into Ananda about the time the lawsuits began, in 1991. Thus, I have never known Ananda, or Swami Kriyananda, without the tension that the lawsuits generate. When I hear old-timers talk, I wondered how it might have been different before the SRF lawsuit began.
I met Swami through an Episcopal priest. I had been attending a meditation group in Seattle for a few years where someone suggested that I go hear Kriyananda speak at the local Unity church. I had been meditating off and on since 1971, having discovered many different techniques over the years. What struck me most about Swami was how genuine he was, and how his talk of the love of God seemed to simply radiate from him. He had an energy about him that said this man knows what he is talking about he has experienced it. He also spoke of Paramhansa Yogananda and Autobiography of a Yogi. I couldnt help thinking about all the charismatic people I had known in my life and comparing them to this man. None of them transmitted what Kriyananda did that night.
After the lecture, I went up to the podium to thank him for coming to Seattle, and to tell him how much I appreciated his genuineness. I told him I could feel Divine Love emanating through him. In a very warm but impersonal way, he simply looked into my eyes, took my hand in both of his and said, Thank you. I started going to the Seattle Ananda Church shortly after that.
I have been through a lot of challenges regarding my relationship with Ananda since 1991. I have felt a lot of the angst that has filtered through former Ananda members as each one redefined his/her relationship to Ananda vis a vis the lawsuits. I have been asked by many why I stayed involved. Why would I chose to buy a home and live in an Ananda intentional community for four years, through the very core of the legal issues? The answer I received when I asked myself that question was this one: It presented spiritual growth.
I met my husband through Ananda in 1993. Since that time, we have offered each other the opportunity to learn new ways of expressing unconditional love. We do this through demonstrating forgiveness and compassion. We have also learned how to trust, uphold and honor each other. We have become each others best friend in the process. What a gift!
Last summer my husband and I did move out of the Ananda intentional community in Lynnwood back to our rental home in Edmonds, Washington. We brought with us experiences of immeasurable worth. We have been focusing on the best of what we learned and how to integrate those lessons into our larger world: family, friends, work, and school. I came away from this experiment in living with a lot to draw from.
I learned many years ago, back in my early 20s when I first tried to meditate, that the spiritual journey is a constant challenge, and to expect otherwise is foolishness. I also learned that an unquestioned life is not of much value.
Every three weeks I teach a meditation class in an inpatient alcohol and drug treatment center, where I work as marketing director and family interventionist. I am so blessed to see individuals who are barely drug-and alcohol-free, show up voluntarily to learn about meditation, and to be given a basic technique to take home and follow.
I incorporate this class into the 11th Step of A.A. – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
I always end my class with Swamis tape Meditation for Starters, the second side that has a guided meditation. Many people ask afterwards where to get it, they are so touched by the peacefulness and tranquility theyve experienced.
I believe Swami Kriyananda is a dear soul; I learned about Autobiography of a Yogi and Yoganandaji, through him. I believe Ananda is full of sincere people trying their best to live a spiritual way of life, many with great results, but some with challenges that spill over on others. The human condition is an opportunity for spiritual growth, as its always imperfect.
What have I learned from living in an Ananda intentional community for four years? I have to continue to be of service to God, and I have to be ready always to take the next step toward self-realization.