Editor’s note (2019): the center and retreat at Laurelwood has moved out of the hands of Ananda after many years. We wish it the best in the next phase of its life!
Workers were out all over the property when we arrived on Saturday. Building a chicken coop, raising fence around garden, hauling trash, building an altar, cleaning, installing windows, and of course, cooking for the 100+ Anandans who converge from all the different communities to add their energy to the growing vitality that is rapidly becoming Laurelwood, Ananda’s newest community.
But this community is different. First while rural, it is only 30 minutes from a major metropolitan town, Portland, Oregon. Second, and more importantly, its focus is “Education for Life” started 40 years ago based upon the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda’s book, published 25 years ago. Living Wisdom schools thrive around many of the communities but more teachers need to trained to use these principles in the education process. I am not going into these principles here as there are many who are much more steeped in this than I. Within this blog, you can find authors, such as Usha McDermond, Lorna Knox, Nitai Deranja, who express these concepts clearly. Teacher training will be a focus here over the coming years.
We had hoped to participate in the “Seva” (or work) day last Saturday, but our travel time was underestimated so we spent the last hour touring around with Devi Novak who should us many of the activities on which our friends had been working. Joy filled their beings even though their bodies grew weary. Everyone pitched in with great energy. As we gathered together in the auditorium to close the workday, Daiva, the Colony leader here, and experienced craftsman, noted to the audience that they were watching “reality TV” as carpenters were putting the final nails in the new altar and cutting the last board.
Later that evening, after a wonderful meal and satsang, we returned to the auditorium for music and theater. 50 choir members from all the different communities formed the Laurelite World Brotherhood choir to sing in the new acoustical environment where the sound was great everywhere in the space. Then, on the, yet to be completed, altar, the Laurelites (as the staff calls themselves) performed one of the best P.G. Wodehouse staged readings I have ever witnessed in 20 years!
For many of us, who came from other Ananda communities afar and those Anandan’s from Portland, this is a much different experience. There are buildings of many different uses, from an Industrial workshop with automotive bays and painting rooms, to a gymnasium large enough to hold 2 basketball courts AND a shuffleboard room. Dormitory buildings and other housing sufficient for 400 people! and a wonderful kitchen common area! The list goes way beyond the scope of this post.
When I first heard that Ananda Laurelwood was purchased I wondered where the people would come from to live here, or how they would live? Underlying physical immensity of the buildings and property is a place already imbued with a sense of service to God for over a century. The grounds are hallowed and it is as if this property were being held for when the time was right. And it is right. Divine Mother brought us this property and is bringing us many willing souls who are pouring their energies into building an educational community unlike anything Ananda has ever seen.
As I wandered around over the past 2 days attending meals, visiting with friends, helping out here and there, attending Sunday Service with the new altar, I found a new energy happening. It is best you all come visit as words nor pictures can describe this adequately. And when you do visit, you will get it, and understand what is trying to happen here.