What does it mean to “bring Ananda home?” I have been asking myself this question since my first visit to Ananda Village and over the months and years since. Returning home after a visit, I’ve felt a longing for what I experienced at Ananda and the desire to try to recreate it.
I began by looking at what I love about Ananda—the inspiration from people I meet, the spiritually uplifting energy, the solitude and quiet to go deep within. I then looked at the differences between my home environment and Ananda.
Accounting for time and energy
I first noticed how much of my time and energy were outwardly directed, and how little time I spent nourishing myself spiritually. Much of my service revolves around teaching yoga, meditation, and helping others as they explore their relationship with the Divine. It is holy work and I feel deeply blessed by it.
Because my work is joyful, it wasn’t obvious to me that I was neglecting my inner life. I was praying, meditating and reading uplifting books. Yet with each visit to Ananda I discovered that what I was doing at home was not enough. My heart and soul longed for more.
I decided to cut back on some of my classes and this helped. Still, it wasn’t simply about doing less—in fact there were things I added to my schedule—it was about creating a lifestyle that supported me in directing more of my energy within.
Cutting back on social activities
I also looked carefully at my social activities and began asking myself whether my usual activities directed my energy inward or outward, up-ward or downward? I discovered that much of the time I spent casually with others was not always in my best interests spiritually.
For instance, I noticed that after going to lunch with a casual friend I was not as spiritually uplifted as before lunch. I started pulling back from social engagements and watched to see if it made a difference. It did! It was easier to maintain the inner joy I felt from connecting with God through meditation and prayer.
This change also brought loneliness and was very difficult at times. I found myself longing for my Ananda friends and realized I needed to create opportunities to connect with others spiritually.
My husband and I decided to start a meditation group in our home. Eight of us now come together monthly to study, discuss and practice the art of meditation. This has been a truly supportive and inspiring experience, providing the satsang I was longing for. We often share a meal together, to further enjoy the gift of spiritual company.
Our group has been blessed by several visits from Larry and Karen Rider, ministers of the Ananda Rhode Island Center. Karen and Larry have led us in beautiful kirtans and inspiring Sunday services. Many of us regularly visit the Rhode Island Center for weekend retreats or to attend a workshop.
Seclusion is the price of greatness
The next change I felt my heart calling for was more time alone with God. I longed to have a weekly day of solitude when I could concentrate entirely upon God. At first it seemed impossible; there were too many demands on my time. It was easier to find time for half a day, or two half-days, than one whole day—but I did it.
Setting aside a day for God hasn’t always been easy. I’ve been tempted at times to share the day with someone else or use part of it to get work done, but each time I’ve resisted I’ve been deeply grateful. My guidelines for this day are simple: no work-related projects and no phone calls, personal or otherwise. Beyond this, I simply let the day unfold.
I tend to have longer sadhanas, spend more time writing in my journal and reading spiritual books, take longer walks, and in general feel more closely connected to God in all aspects of my life. It’s a day of joy for me, no matter what I end up doing.
Ananda is not just a place
In trying to bring Ananda home, I’ve come to realize that Ananda is more than a wonderful place to visit; it’s an inner experience of joy that I carry with me wherever I go. Bringing Ananda home is about creating a lifestyle that allows me to stay connected to the divine joy within. It’s an ongoing process, a labor of love.
Heidi J. Noh-Kuhn, lived in Annandale, NJ at this writing, eventually relocating to the Ananda Palo Alto community.