Having been born and raised in Ananda Village my entire life up until my college days, it has been a delightful journey back to Ananda this summer to experience the Village through an entirely new light as an intern. My interest in intentional communities was sparked during my senior year at Ananda’s Living Wisdom School. Over the past several years, while attending Berea College in Kentucky for a degree in Business Administration (concentrating in Marketing), I interned first at Cité Écologique in Quebec and New Hampshire, participated in the Sullivan Foundation’s summer Social Entrepreneurship Program in Tennessee, and was enrolled in Berea’s Entrepreneurship for the Public Good (EPG) summer program in 2012. A great blessing for me is that EPG provided the financial and academic support for me to intern at a nonprofit of my choice this summer, which has led me back to Ananda for this internship experience.
Ananda Village is an uncommon structure to begin with, being an intentional community based on a unique spiritual path inspired by the Indian master Paramhansa Yogananda. However, as an intentional community in rural northern California, Ananda Village must deliver adequate housing, water, utilities, and the other essentials of daily life, as well as maintain a membership process that ensures members are properly initiated into the spiritual teachings and life in an intentional community. My task this summer is to grasp both subtle and seemingly obvious functions of the community, many of which I tended to overlook or take for granted while growing up in the community, and help assemble an internship curriculum that Ananda will ideally be able to use in future years to teach people about communities.
One might say I am a “guinea pig” of sorts for what will likely become a coordinated annual internship program to learn about communities through Ananda. Up until now, there has not been much in the way of sustainable outside interest to intern in Ananda specifically to learn about the community’s structure and management; the existing programs in Ananda focus primarily on the community’s spiritual path and teachings, not so much on the community itself. Because of my new “position” within Ananda as a “communities intern,” I have the opportunity to communicate and interact with the broad spectrum of individuals and groups that contribute to the daily functioning of the community.
What has changed, you might wonder, to cultivate a renewed interest in learning about an alternative structure like Ananda? I believe there are two primary factors that will bring more people to Ananda initially and primarily to learn about structuring and managing an intentional community. First is the feeling that my generation is the closest we have seen to the Sixties generation in terms of interest in alternative structures and yearning for something more in life than typical cultural expectations. Second, Ananda seems to be entering into a new era of expansiveness, with Finding Happiness (a movie about Ananda Village) slated to premiere this year, opening the door to promote Ananda and the idea of communities to a wider audience. However, the impact of these factors can expand further with an internship specifically intended to teach about the structure, management, and procedures of an intentional community through Ananda. For Finding Happiness’ message to really “stick” as an idea, it is sensible for Ananda to offer practical tools for those interested in spreading these ideas of communities and cooperative living.
What form an annual communities internship might take in Ananda remains to be seen. Presently, there is a great deal of interest and momentum toward offering Ananda’s model and history as a template for other pioneers looking to develop and expand new models of alternative and cooperative living in a community setting. Ananda is not a conventional setup by any means (I am especially reminded of this with my internship underway, as if growing up here was not enough to reinforce this point), but it has been successful beyond what anyone likely would have expected when the community started in 1969. The model for cooperative communities expressed by Swami Kriyananda, and wonderfully exemplified by the Ananda communities, sure seems to be heading toward a new phase of expansiveness. Whatever my role may turn out to be, I feel blessed for the chance to work within Ananda this summer (yes, even as an intern guinea pig) and look forward to sharing my experiences with you.