Hold up. What exactly is an ashram?
On our way to the airport, Tim (co-owner of Akashas Vedanta Ashram, husband to Char, bundle of happy energy, and super athletic yogi) talked about bringing yoga (as in the conscious way of life, not series of physical postures) back to my own ashram. “An ashram,” he said between bites of his lemon cake, “can be anything. It can be your apartment, your room, wherever you want it to be, as long as it is a space where you live consciously.”
I like this definition. You don’t have to drop all communication with your friends and family, live ascetically and sleep on a pillowless slab of wood, begin chants at 3AM, and be told what you can and can’t eat, wear, or do at all times, while potentially also being pigeonholed into religious rituals (especially problematic if one lacks understanding of the meaning or basis for various rituals). This sort of living or experience may be very tranquil, transformative, and eye-opening, but it is undoubtedly difficult to reconcile with the ways of the modern Western world and arguably not sustainable here, either.
Akashas Vedanta Ashram (AVA) in Ramona, CA, unlike many of the more strict ashrams I have been to in India, is simply a beautiful, verdant plot of land among mountains with awesome vibes, spaces to live and sleep, a vegetarian kitchen, chickens and dogs, and the options to hike, meditate, and do yoga.
The word “ashram” itself is derived from a similar Sanskrit word meaning “religious exercise.” By definition, then, an ashram can be considered a space designated for religious exercise (irrespective of denomination). I believe this could resemble a retreat, a complete removal from society, a yoga mat, or simply a designated mental space or time slot.
Some snaps from AVA:
How I got here:
Truly, I started out looking for warm places to WWOOF. When I realized there were ashrams on the site, I narrowed my search. I messaged the hosts (Char and Tim) and when we spoke, they said I would be able to create an art piece on the property as my work/exchange. They also said the work/exchange included free morning yoga classes at AVA. Art piece? In nature? Creative freedom? For meditation? And daily yoga? It was like my main interests manifested in this one role, better delineated as an artist-in-residence.
21 THINGS I DID IN 21 DAYS
(in no particular order)
1. Practiced yoga + meditation ~30 times, waking up well before sunrise most mornings for a Kundalini kriya (set of poses and breathwork for a given purpose) and often times doing Vinyasa yoga on my own later on in the day
2. Did a lot of random paint work around the property (touching up a fence, making signs for various sites on the land, and some sketching)
3. Worked a bit on the construction of a tiny home
4. Raided Char’s costume bin for a Burning Man themed New Year’s Eve party
5. Cooked and did food prep for various events
6. Taught my first Vinyasa class
7. Completed a few solo projects (details to come)
8. Became a prominent Yelper
9. Painted rocks from Swami’s Beach
10. Journaled in a hammock
11. Asked Char a lot of questions (post to come)
12. Plucked a lot of fresh citrus and sage growing around the area
13. Did a little marketing research and work for Char’s LLC
14. Visualized and hopefully aligned my chakras (future art piece???) at an adorable metaphysical bookstore
15. Made >5 facebook friends and grew close with two fellow nomads (Anna & Joe)
16. Recorded a vegan mukbang after walking from Pacific Beach to University Heights
17. Attended and enjoyed a meditation-based Christmas sermon at Self-Realization Fellowship (after resolutely refraining from any form of organized religion for quite some time)
18. Fed carrots to Sparky the horse
19. Caved in to eager requests for peanut butter from Chewy and Ananda the dogs