Grass Valley, California: A Workshop at Ananda Village

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Following in the spiritual footsteps of Paramhansa Yogananda, and under the direction and guidance of Swami Kriyananda, the Ananda Village outside of Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada foothills is a space for practicing the principles of “plain living and high thinking.” Paramhansa Yogananda is best known in the West for his memoir, Autobiography of a Yogi, and for his founding role establishing the Self-Realization Fellowship. Swami Kriyananda, a disciple of Yogananda, initiated the global Ananda Sangha movement in 1968, believing that small communities based on cooperation and high ideals are the social pattern for the future. The Ananda Village offers workshops, self-guided retreat options, and Karma Yoga immersion programs through the non-profit Expanding Light Retreat to assist pilgrims across all spiritual and religious disciplines along their growth journey. 

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Turkeys gather on the trail between the camping area and the dining hall.

I attended a workshop in July, 2017, to explore the spiritual laws of attraction, and to investigate how the energies of abundance were either flowing or stuck in my own life. The workshops are taught by Swamis or monks, and guests are allowed full access to the grounds and retreat center. Accommodations include anything from private rooms with private bathrooms, to shared rooms with other retreat guests, to free form camping with access to outdoor shower facilities. I opted for camping, and slept very well beneath the forest canopy. Three meals are also included, and all options are vegan friendly. Fruit, tea, coffee, and filtered water are available all day. Breakfasts are enjoyed in silence immediately following the morning Raja yoga practice. 

My experience was that all the residents and guests were serious in their studies and in their pursuit of living according to the cooperative and growth-minded principles. During my three nights and four days, everyone followed the breakfast in silence rule, and other socialization was respectful and appropriate. My fellow workshop attendees were surprisingly diverse. I was expecting a group of Nor Cal, New Age hippie-types, but most were actually from the Midwest or the East Coast and worked in corporate executive management.

The Classroom
The classroom.

The practices and ideas instructed through the workshops are non-sectarian. They are inclusive of all religious and spiritual traditions. Every Saturday evening, a storyteller performs mythology from the Bhagavad Gita, and it is the story of the human struggle to choose good over evil. As far as my own cross-religious studies have confirmed, all the traditions can agree that our species confronts conflict between good and evil. The stories are allegory to describe that ongoing struggle. No matter your tradition or lack thereof, this space is worth a visit.

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