Imagine the Possibilities

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Back in the early ‘70s, I was a huge fan of the comedy troupe known as Firesign Theater. Satirical, insightful and very funny, those four guys pilloried our systems and behaviors across the entire spectrum of our social customs and beliefs. Everything You Know Is Wrong was one of their best record albums. Its title was right on the mark.

Those pilloried systems and behaviors have hardly changed since then. Fresh names replace the old ones in the news as years go by, but the news itself stays much the same. With satellite technology, reports of our unlearned lessons simply arrive a lot faster.

One of those unlearned lessons is revealed in what and how we teach in our schools. Because of an obvious disconnect between the basic outline and its outcome, our schools continue to let us down, failing to provide an education that translates into a higher level of consciousness. We see today in the conduct of government and business, and also to a great extent in the arts, a self-indulgent bias that subverts the health and healing of our planet and ourselves.

Thankfully, for those desiring a more effective learning experience, one that teaches abstract thinking in pursuit of real solutions to persistent problems, not merely the memorization of soon-forgotten equations, dates and events; and that cultivates essential inner skills as well as career abilities; a brilliant alternative is at hand. Having already found its website, you are doubtless beginning to grasp the opportunity it offers.

In today’s educational landscape, Ananda Center at Laurelwood is unique. To understand why, it is helpful to look more closely at the reason so much of what we presume to know turns out to be false. The power of our social conditioning is a good place to start.

Living in today’s Western culture, in particular under its daily assault of news, hype and minutiae, it is no surprise that people lose sight of life’s true purpose and meaning. Society’s movers and shakers, claiming to know what is best for us – a Coke or a luxury cruise when we need a break, a numbing pill for chronic depression or pain – have persuaded us that happiness lies in outward, materialistic answers to our problems. Thus, we tend to find ourselves strapped to the seat of a rollercoaster car as it speeds up, down and around on a ride that does not stop. Where is the meaning?

What we need is a whole new approach to living, learning and being: organic, holistic, sustainable and solution-minded. It has to be all-inclusive. And now, at last, that approach is coming into focus. Ananda Center at Laurelwood, an Education for Life campus, nestled in Oregon’s beautiful Laurelwood Valley, is being designed and developed as a college, conference and retreat facility that addresses the individual in body, mind and soul.

These are not marketing declarations or pie-in-the-sky projections. Over the past year the Laurelwood campus has shown itself to be a tremendous example of what can be accomplished when a small community of people choose to live, work, study, serve and share in harmonious commitment to the principles and practicalities of cooperative living.

As one of those participants for the last few months, I cannot say enough about the environment of spirit that has been created here, and about the results that have been achieved. Beginning in September, the Ananda College of Living Wisdom will inaugurate the Laurelwood campus with its first class of students. Unlike at other colleges, where the intellect is fatted with facts, Laurelwood’s youth will experience an immersion of consciousness in a full range of creative programs that nourish the whole person, from the sciences to the arts, from meditation and yoga to permaculture gardening and community building, from directional psychology to overseas travel.

If I were of college age, or the parent of someone who is, I would beat a path to this place and see for myself the promise it embraces.

The question comes down to what we want for our children and ourselves in tomorrow’s world: a higher-tech version of the rollercoaster car we are pinned into now, or a vehicle of smooth transition to a quieter, healthier planet? If we are going to advance into a new era of expansive healing and wellness, it will be on the strength and visionary ideals of educational centers like the one taking shape at Ananda Laurelwood today.


Surendra James Conti is a freelance writer and teacher. He and his wife Tushti are also the former managers of East West Bookstore in Mountain View, California. The two of them moved to the Laurelwood campus in January, where they are helping to meet its educational and renovation needs. They also serve Ananda’s  work in India, living most of the year in Gurgaon, a district on the perimeter of Delhi.

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