Ananda is a puzzle. From the time I was young, I sought to share with others the best that I knew. That persists to this day. However, the ability to do this has become less obvious.
For some time that sharing consisted of friendship, healthy approaches to food, clothing, natural and organic foods and farming practices, political stands that embraced global harmony and friendship instead of war, alternative sources of energy…tangible things, things that seemed obvious.
These were good things to focus on, but I remained unfulfilled inside, and the world wasn’t all that interested in these, at least to me, obvious choices.
One day a couple of friends suggested that what I was looking for might not be found in outer circumstances. In response to my puzzled look they offered Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda, to read.
In those pages, I discovered a perspective on life that has informed and guided my days since. Simply put, he noted that this world is a school where we come to experiment and, hopefully, learn and grow. He noted that outer perfection is not possible, that the lasting qualities of love, joy, peace…are not available through outer circumstances, but that they are worth seeking and can be found. Inside. In stillness. And when found, they can be shared with everyone and everything around us. Meditation, he said, is the art and science of deep stillness.
Having a scientific nature, I decided to experiment with meditation and found that it had an immediate effect on increasing the quality of my life experience. Simple joy was more accessible, regardless of what was going on around. Mental clarity increased. Physical wellbeing and health became the norm.
Within a couple of years, I realized that basing my daily life in meditation was the most important change I could make, and having a supportive environment would make that pattern of life much, much more possible. Around that time, I moved to Ananda Village in Northern California (the only Ananda Community in the world at that time). I have lived in an Ananda Community somewhere ever since (often moving to help in new communities as they began).
This has been a second most defining decision and has provided often surprising benefits, including the discovery that all the things that were so important to me before meditation became central were still important, but there was a difference. I no longer saw these things as being able to bring me happiness, but instead experienced them as obvious extensions of living in harmony with life. If things were not perfect, I was still fine, and could often act to improve the circumstances around me, for the benefit of myself and others.
I tried for years to help others realize that focusing on the outer changes would not, in itself, be satisfying. When meditation is central, it is so obvious that harmony with life is more satisfying, but it is a bit like trying to describe the taste of an orange to someone who has never eaten one. “Well, it tastes like, well, like an orange…” Other meditators reflected the same difficulty in sharing the wealth.
So what we do now, my friends and I, is create places where people can come and experience for themselves the inner stillness. We build communities where residents focus on coming together for daily meditation, where celebrations and meals and daily life express that harmony and joy that becomes so obvious. And we develop retreat centers, temples and teaching centers, schools, businesses where we can serve and share the essence of a life centered in meditation.
It is contagious. And Ananda (which simply means the joy of our own nature) is spreading around the globe, as people discover that we can only solve things from inside out.
Come explore. Visit your local Ananda center. Take meditation classes and retreats. Meet friends in the “virtual community” Online with Ananda. Discover how, as you begin to enjoy the fruits of meditation, you become part of the change that is uplifting this world.