Yasodhara Ashram - British Columbia, Canada
Before my daughter Lorraine passed away in 1984, she had said to me “Mum when I get well, the first thing we are going to do is go to the Yasodhara Ashram in Canada.”
This was something I wanted to do for her. She had told me about the Swami who she had met at Totality House, while he was there caring for his father, and of the many stimulating and enjoyable conversations, they’d had.
Several weeks after Rainey died I contacted Swami Sivananda and travelled by bus, crossing the Idaho/Canadian border into British Columbia. He met me at the bus station, and we drove to the Ashram, along an unsealed road. I instantly liked this gentle, unassuming man and could easily understand why Rainey had held him in such high regard.
He stopped the car at the last bend in the road before arriving at the Ashram. We stepped out of the car, and the view before me literally took my breath away. It is so difficult to explain; all my senses - sight, taste touch, smell and sound were over-powered by the sheer beauty of my surroundings.
I was moved to tears by the majesty of it all, and because Rainey wasn’t here to experience this for herself.
When we arrived, I was warmly welcomed to the Ashram and soon settled into their busy routine. The devotees and teachers were open, caring, and always seemed to have time for a chat or discussion. The visitors there came from all walks of life and for all different reasons; some to attend workshops and courses for self-development, including the major branches of yoga, for beginners and for teachers.
I was impressed with the smooth running of this well organised complex. The days were very full and always busy. I worked in the huge vegetable garden tilling the soil, in the orchard picking fruit, and in the big kitchen helping to prepare meals for the residents and many guests. I also attended daily discussions, lectures and prayer meetings in the main building.
At that time, there was a stand-alone, small circular wooden structure in the grounds, for private prayer or meditation. This was called the Prayer Room, and on the walls were pictures representing each and every religious denomination. For me, it was like walking into a sanctuary; a place of peace and healing – something I had desperately needed since my daughter’s passing; a feeling of serenity, of softening, and an easing of the pain and turmoil of the past year, especially of the past few months.
This wasn’t the only place to find peace, solace. I would take daily walks down to the expansive lake, or along the well- worn tracks into the semi-wilderness surrounding the Ashram. The lake, trees, air and light, all played a part in my healing and peace.
The breathtaking beauty of the natural surroundings, including the wild life, was enough to lift anyone’s spirit. The numerous wild deer and their antics as they wandered around the grounds would make you smile. The occasions when I saw from the kitchen window, a bear and her cub, were wonderful for me. Over a number of weeks, we all watched a clutch of tiny eggs in a nest on a window ledge outside the dining room, being constantly cared for by their attentive feathered parents. One day there they were; three little hungry, squawking chicks. How amazing it was, being so close to nature - food for the soul; mind, body and spirit.
I have so many fond memories of my time at Yasodhara Ashram.
One of my treasured memories of that time was on the evening of my birthday in November. After dinner I was presented with a surprise birthday cake, complete with one fizzing sparkler in the middle, to celebrate my fifty eighth year.
On two occasions during my stay there, the group of permanent residents hired a motor boat for a cruise on the lake. They were days of companionship, camaraderie and fun. I have always found being near, in or on the water uplifting and energising. It was also an opportunity to experience and appreciate this beautiful place from a different perspective. On other occasions, we would take the ferry to the township of Nelson to shop for necessities and to enjoy a day out.
I made many friends at Yasodhara, and my three months stay there, surrounded by these caring, loving people, was the healing time I so desperately needed.