This slogan was printed on the t-shirts we received at the Ananda Laurelwood Dedication on Labor Day weekend. It captures the spirit of the dynamic group of people spanning three generations who are building Ananda’s newest community near Portland, Oregon.
On the back of the t-shirt the letters “J-O-Y” were formed by listing the many projects they’d been working on: “J” was made up of carpet-cleaning, spray-painting, pick-up loading, hammering, wrenching, meditating, lifting; “O” was pressure-washing, drywall-hanging, mudding, divinely loving, scrubbing, laughing; “Y” bell-ringing, irrigating, pie-making, cleaning, raking, composting, energizing, and celebrating.
These words tell the story of the great souls who have been working non-stop over the past four months to prepare Laurelwood for the Dedication Weekend. Let them also tell you about their experience in their own words.
First, here are excerpts from a letter that Daiva and Gangamata Glazzard, the Spiritual Directors of Ananda Portland, wrote for guests:
Welcome to Ananda Center at Laurelwood, Ananda’s international home for Education for Life. Inspired by the timeless vision of life-long learning, Ananda Laurelwood resides on a 50-acre campus in the sylvan valley of Laurelwood, Oregon.
The campus has been dedicated to enlightened education since the early 1900’s (it was a Seven-Day Adventist Academy that housed 500 students and 60 staff), and Ananda Laurelwood, in establishing this home for Education for Life, is furthering the spread of understanding, harmony with life, world-brotherhood, and Self-Realization.
We are blessed by fertile grounds, nourished by fresh rainwater and an artesian spring which provides some of the purest drinking water to be found. The soils are excellent for growing various crops, and the gardeners and orchardists are exploring the principles of permaculture to optimize the use of the lands in harmony with the larger environment. Organic, efficient food production is one of the fertile fields of study on this campus.
The buildings and grounds lend themselves to multiple uses. Residential study programs in Community Development, Health and Healing, Diet and Nutrition, Yoga, Meditation, Education for Life, Music and the Arts, Business Principles, Agriculture and Permaculture will all be available.
But this letter doesn’t begin to convey what went on behind the scenes. During a picnic on Sunday afternoon, we asked various people the question: “How has the Laurelwood Experience changed your life?”
Here are some of the replies:
Timothy, 18 Years Old
“It’s given me an opportunity and environment to grow dramatically and unlock who I am — to find my divine potential, and to learn simple, practical skills. I love being useful in a work environment and being able to clean things I’ve never cleaned before. Everyday the circumstances escalate appropriately in relation to how I’m growing. It’s Master — he makes sure his work is done in all of us.”
“It’s great. It’s like a fairy tale — having family around you 24/7. I didn’t used to have so much fun on weekends just hanging out with my friends. Before you know it here you’re involved in some huge project or in a play. I love it.”
“You have to get outside of your comfort zone. It’s been fun seeing how people grow and how the landscape and buildings have changed.”
“It’s the best opportunity for personal growth and development that I can imagine.”
“I’ve been living here the past four months, and Ananda Laurelwood is like a delightful kiln. We’re all like clay pots that were really scared to become porcelain, but have always wanted to be. We were missing that aspect of ourselves, and coming here has given us the ability to jump into that fiery, blissful kiln to find a way back to that divine form that is within us all.”
“I’ve been really frightened and anxious for a lot of my life, and Laurelwood has given me the ability to clear myself out of the way and let God flow through.”
“So many people have become instant visionaries. They used to tell me about the things they’ve been planning, but now they say, ‘Since I’ve come to Laurelwood and have seen the huge project that we’ve taken on, I’ve been thinking…’ Then they spin out a whole new vision they have for their future.”
“A better question is how has the Laurelwood Experience NOT changed my life. I have watched the transformation of people’s consciousness in weeks, days, and minutes that typically doesn’t happen in decades. People are joyful, alive, self-identity is expanding, and limitations are falling away.
“Why? Because people have consciously chosen an environment where they have to face themselves and overcome inner and outer obstacles. There’s no place to hide or to justify your mistakes. By the grace of God, these teachings, and everything that Ananda is, people get the support to choose the highest within themselves.”
Lewis, 62, On-Site Project Manager
“I’ve been living at Laurelwood since we purchased it, and have been doing whatever was needed, helping out, and keeping things together. I live here 24 hours a day and am enjoying it thoroughly, making sure things are running smoothly. I’ve grown immensely and am enjoying being in the center of the vortex of activities that is going on around me. I’ve found that I don’t need to control everything because a lot of things can take place by themselves — it’s just a matter of allowing that decision to come to fruition. I just love it here.
“The future for Laurelwood is something that Ananda as a worldwide community needs. It’s filling a void to create a teaching center where we can train people to spread Education for Life and the Communities movement.
“A group of people have come together here to make this a center of loving, expansive energy that will be sending out rays of higher consciousness and light to all points of the world. It’s a perfect addition to bring forth all the visionary things that Ananda has been thinking about for years.”
And people are stepping up to manifest the vision. Usha Dermond, a trainer for Education for Life (EFL) teachers and former principal of the Portland Living Wisdom School, has turned over the reins of the school to her assistant. Moving to Laurelwood, Usha is establishing the headquarters for the first international center for EFL outreach and training.
Nitai Deranja, founder of the first Living Wisdom School and current head of the High School at Ananda Village, will also be moving to Laurelwood in the summer of 2012. Usha and Nitai will form a team that will make an impact on education unlike anything we’ve done before. (If you’d like to learn more, you can watch this 20-minute video of Nitai and Usha giving a talk from the dedication weekend, or attend the Education for Life online teacher training course.)
We’d also like to mention that across the road from the Laurelwood campus, two long-time Ananda members, Hanuman and Mari Baughman, are starting another new project: Ananda House, a spiritual assisted living facility. This is also a long-time dream of Ananda’s — to provide assisted living for devotees as the need arises so they can spend their later years in an uplifted, loving environment.
Someone asked us during the weekend at Laurelwood what it felt like to watch another Ananda community get started. Without thinking, we replied: “Ever-new déjà-vu.” God’s guidance and sustaining power may be present repeatedly, in fact eternally, but each expression is unique and fresh. We returned home from Laurelwood filled with inspiration and awe in experiencing once again how God, through many hands, can make a miracle.
With love in God,
Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi