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On Living Intentionally

Jan 31, 2022

by Sherry Chow

Thousands of youths must go North, South, East and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living and high thinking lead to the greatest happiness!” —Paramhansa Yogananda, Beverly Hills, July 1949

An intentional community is a very special phenomenon, and at its best, works towards a true utopia. The closest analogy I can offer is a string quartet: where everyone is equal in their different parts, yet needs each other equally to realize the glorious whole of the music.

There is no external conductor as in an orchestra, but a mutual agreement between the players, usually dictated by the music itself. Who leads at any given moment largely depends on what the music calls for. And while the members need to practice their own parts individually, much of the practicing is done together, so the quartet can realize the greater music they’re a part of.

In a nutshell, the string quartet is kind of like ashram living: a small group of like-minded individuals who have chosen to be together because of the music they share in common, in this case the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and the promise of Self-realization. We each bring to the table our own unique gifts and inspiration, and when we find a way to work harmoniously together, we become part of the Divine flow.

The challenge is finding the way! As Master Yogananda welcomed disciples with strong wills, achieving harmony amongst a group of strong-minded and willful devotees is a constant work in progress. The strength and will one needs to find God are the very traits that may make living in harmony with others challenging. Thankfully, Yogananda has provided many tools (energization exercises and the path of Kriya Yoga to name a few) to help us, with each other as well as with attuning to God and guru. Use tools as needed and all the time when necessary; if a bunch of strong-willed devotees can make it work, anyone can make it work!

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere…” —Frank Sinatra

As long as we can remember why we chose to be part of an intentional community and retain a sense of humor and gratitude for each other, things will weave together, and the administrative structure will naturally come out of a mutual agreement between peers. Spreading Master’s teachings and vibration is what all Ananda centers are aiming to do, and it starts with our own. The time to know God is indeed NOW.

Everyone has their specific role to play, but unlike a string quartet, we’re all still writing our own parts to some degree. To discover what our true role is is part of the self-discovery that the crucible of an ashram environment can really help with, supporting one another in our individual journeys as well as in the collective journey that is Ananda.

But equality cannot be established by force; it must come from the heart....We must start now, with ourselves.” —Paramhansa Yogananda

To live and work in harmony amongst ourselves is the first step to building magnetism for others to follow. When we walk the talk and support each other in opening to our inner bliss or Ananda, our collective Joy sets the tone for everything else and people feel naturally drawn to the outer manifestations of Ananda.

By the Grace of God and Guru, let our own inspiration and exuberant enthusiasm spark the hearts of others, and the intentional community continue to be a garden cultivating more and more Divine blossoms to bloom. Jai!