The ashram, Ramagiri near San Francisco, was started in the early Seventies by well-educated Americans. How different is a community like L’Arche, a home for the mentally challenged. Yet what do they have in common? Both provide a sense of place to those out of the mainstream, of community, of acceptance, of love. ‘During the Second World War, people were moving all over the country, all over the world. And so afterwards the families began to break up. You didn’t have your aunt or your uncle living with you or your mother or your father to the end of life,’ explains Christine Easwaran. ‘A lot of damage was done to family life, and too we became more self-centred. And I think that Easwaran saw that things had unravelled.’ image from the video.
Family for Easwaran ‘is the very basis for civilization. It is in the bosom of our families that we learn to forget ourselves, to promote the welfare of the family. It is in the heart of our family that we learn to be patient, to be gentle, to be kind,’ ultimately, to be ‘very good citizens.’ Moreover, ‘we find our freedom by being tender and unselfish and putting up with the innumerable discomforts for the sake of adding to the joy.’ And magic. image from selfishgiving.com.
Last night [2013-03-09] we watched The Quiet American (2002) and Coming Home (1978), films about Americans and Vietnam and patriotism. As you know patriotic Stompin’ Tom died this week, but he didn’t use a gun or a needle, he used a guitar and words. He had a very hard life, which he sang about in The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom, but he usually sang about the good times and he thanked us in a final letter. There’s more than the guitar, the hat, and the stomping board to the artist, which you can check out in this radio documentary. There’s also this post on the CBC. image from stompintom.com.
In the wake of helping to establishing Canada’s first urban park, the David Suzuki Foundation seeks to reclaim an urban creek–but it’s more than just a creek. It’s an ecological greenspace, a home for birds, a pollinator corridor, a chance for urban kids to rediscover and reconnect with nature, to meet your neighbours (and not have to buy something, like Tupperware), to garden at home or work (using native species, of course), even for ‘condo residents to plant balcony gardens or create a rooftop garden’. Sure beats tires and graffiti. If you live in or near the proposed park/former creek Toronto area (see map) or know someone who does the David Suzuki Foundation wants your help! image by sherry prenevost.
Back at Ramagiri, here’s an inking of life at the ashram in the early Seventies: Get up at 6:30. Meditate. Eat real food. Do real work. Attend a lecture by Easwaran (‘amazing teacher; entertaining yet profound’). Recalls Barb Zimmerman: ‘We all needed to work together. The place that that came most into focus was the kitchen.’ Says Laurel Robertson: ‘The [issues] that were most heartfelt [seemed most important] … but Easwaran said that the harmony was more important.’ image from the video.
‘It is this constant, unceasing spiritual communion that is the essential mark of a good ashram,’ says Easwaran. Ashram life means not only changes from Berkeley to Ramagiri, but also changes from city to country, from urban rhythms to natural rhythms: overhead there are ‘extraordinary stars’, Tim Flinders remembers; all around is this ‘quiet and beauty and peace,’ Barb Zimmerman says, ‘both because of the physical place itself and because of the environment of deep mental and spiritual quiet.’ image from the video.
In the Sixties as a boy I lived in the country, and again at the beginning of this century. Many times I canoed in summer and cross-country skied in the winter, and biked and hiked nine or ten months of the year, off the beaten path; though I’m now disabled and can no longer hike, bike, paddle, or ski, I’m still off the beaten path. I know something of the ‘quiet and beauty and peace’ that Zimmerman mentions. Still, at times I wish this path were somewhat rutted, because at times I feel so lonely. Maybe I’m missing–like many of us–the ‘constant, unceasing spiritual communion‘. Maybe I’m missing true peace. image from janesfitnesschoices.com.