Education for Life: Look for the Light

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A Simple Concept

Essential to the spiritual path and a part of our beginning meditation instruction, we learn to relax and focus on the light. It’s amazing how trained our minds are to look for problems and how our culture, especially educational culture, often supports this focus. Something about that has never felt quite right.

I never felt like I was being my best self as a teacher even if I was able to clearly identify and understand a problem in my classroom. It often left me feeling overwhelmed, like there were always more problems and never the time or resources to handle them all. A feeling all too familiar to the average teacher.

When I finally found Education for Life (EFL) and took my first class, my first thought was, “Where has this been all my life?!”

What really resonated with me was how the other educators talked about children. They considered all aspects of the child’s being and were not only willing but determined, to see the very best in each child. Even the “difficult” ones.

Our assignment between sessions was to “look for the light.” As our instructor explained it, we were to look for moments of “child-likeness” in our students. Moments of natural excitement, enthusiasm and joy.

I quickly found that the more I looked for it, the more I found! I began to enjoy teaching and see and enjoy my students in a way that I never had before.

Focusing, on the Light

When focusing on the light, somehow the problems seemed more manageable. I felt more energized and connected by seeing what was working and what we were doing well. I even found ways to use those strengths to solve some of our problems. Finally, I’d found an approach to education that could show me the way to bring the wisdom of my yoga and meditation practice into my teaching!

Since then I’ve had the privilege to teach at Living Wisdom School (LWS) Portland. That one simple technique of looking for the light has allowed me to become more curious and open to learning from whatever was unfolding in my classes, rather than trying to control the outcome.

I’ve learned more about EFL and how to work with energy in the classroom. How to help each student balance and develop the four main aspects of their being: body, feeling, will and intellect. And it turns out, my class feels much more peaceful and connected as a result.

This Is Education for Life!

When I talk to people about EFL, especially non-educators, there’s a sense of “that’s nice but not for me” that tends to come up at some point. Living Wisdom School of Beaverton building a bright future for your children

Couldn’t we all benefit from looking for the light in this world? Focusing on solutions and seeking the very best in each other and ourselves?

This approach to education really is for life and our mission at LWS Portland is to share this with as many children, families and educators as possible in the hopes of creating a better world!

To find out more about our school, Education for Life and our expansion project visit Living Wisdom School of Beaverton.


Erin Vinacco, educator at the Living Wisdom School of BeavertonErin Vinacco, an educator for nearly a decade, has had the opportunity to work with students of all ages and abilities through various non-profits, community organizations, and public and private schools. Erin found Ananda in Rhode Island, then in 2016, moved west to join the Living Wisdom School staff.

She fully believes in the Education for Life approach with its practical application of universal spiritual principles. And is enthusiastic about sharing these uplifting teachings with everyone, to aid in contributing to a better world.

Erin also serves on the development committee for the new LWS Building Expansion Project and offers teacher training, parent education and community outreach.

Ananda at the United Nations

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When something this amazing happens, we want to share the joy! Taken from a recent email.

Sharing the Light Throughout the World

As we were thinking of creating ways for Ananda to Be the Change, we came up with the idea to ask the United Nations to declare an International Day of Meditation.

The next day, a man named Shomik Chaudry, the leader of the Institute of International Social Development contacted us and asked if Ananda would apply to become a consultative NGO [non-governmental organization] to the UN.

The National flags flying at the United Nations

[Chaundry] is a Babaji devotee, and wants to have Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings spread throughout the world via the UN. Of course, you know there is no legally registered organization that is Ananda’s worldwide work, but they told us to just describe what we do—and so we did. We submitted the application for Ananda to become a consultative NGO to the UN.

On July 20, Kyle MacDonald (Director, Ananda Rhode Island) will present the essence of Kriya Yoga to 700 people at the United Nations in New York City for the International Day of Yoga.

Jacqueline Debets
Director of Public Relations
Ananda Sangha Worldwide


What Comes Around

Posted by & filed under Inspiration.

Does talk of death make you a little uneasy?

Most people look for ways to change the subject.

Everyone since childhood has been aware of death, but as long as we’re alive, death is that which happens only to others. We tend to ignore its presence until, in failing health, we end up cramming for peace of mind just as we crammed for exams in our school days.

What are we afraid of, a sudden plunge into the vast unknown? No doubt about it. Catering to our anxieties, we press for material comforts, financial cushions, career titles, and countless other ego-driven rewards. What could be less prudent? Comfort and ease invite the very attachments that extend our delusions. They prevent us from dealing with why we are here and in what condition of spirit we will depart.

Death is entered in nakedness, alone. We are swept into its realm, unsupported by the props that reinforce who we think we are: our families and friends, our collected things, our self-definitions. Death reminds us abruptly that we are not, and never were, the portraits of ourselves that we project.

Our masters have counseled us that patience is the shortest route to God. In hearing this advice, however, we seem to interpret patience as procrastination. Instead of using these precious years to probe and embrace the inner, eternal wonders of our being, we are apt to spend them, in large part, chasing visions of permanence which ever and again dissolve. Until, that is, we perceive that our days are few. Until we are anxiously cramming for our final exam.

I hold in my hand the everywhere neverlasting.
I see in my head the dance of changing forms.
Now is what there is,
And then it is gone.
Now is what there is,
And then I am gone.

The trouble is, it is death instead of desire that people dread. We fail to see the connection, that dying is mostly a function of dying for more. To want is soon to need, and as need demands, one devolves from free spirit to slave. We long to be happy, yet so many of our emotions, beliefs, and behaviors lead us astray of the goal.

Thankfully, though, after lifetimes of getting it wrong, we start to get it right. We begin to look inward for answers to the meaning of life and death, and as we do, we redeem death of its dark disguise, discovering that its purpose is to show us how to live. The peace we long for comes from letting go of our worldly attachments. That is the lesson of death, and we don’t have to wait to die to gain its reward.

Jesus, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, said: “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” In today’s language: He who persists in his ego’s self-interest is destined to remain in delusion, losing the chance to move beyond its material limitations. Delusion dissipates only as one overcomes the pull of such desires, breaking away from his tether to selfish pursuits. Then does he reap the ultimate freedom of divine reunion with God.

In the ending lines of his beautiful prayer-poem, St. Francis of Assisi takes us back to the truths we tend to forget. He beseeches the Lord to “make me an instrument of Thy peace,” concluding:

For it is in the giving that we receive;
It is in the pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in the dying that we are born to eternal life.

What are we afraid of, a sudden plunge into the vast unknown? Not if we get to know it while we are here.

Nayaswami Surendra manages Ananda’s Temple and Teaching Center, serving the greater Portland area. As a Lightbearer and previous resident of Ananda colonies in Seattle, Palo Alto and Pune, India, he is pleased and honored to share with us his wealth of teaching, counseling and leadership experience.

About Nayaswami Surendra

Nayaswami Surendra manages Ananda’s Temple and Teaching Center, serving the greater Portland area. As a Lightbearer and previous resident of Ananda colonies in Seattle, Palo Alto and Pune, India, he is pleased and honored to share with us his wealth of teaching, counseling and leadership experience.

Conscious Living for Conscious Aging

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Tools for Conscious Aging

This body is 66 years old. It has served me well and I appreciate its concern for my soul’s existence while traveling through this earthly plane. But I also realize that both this body and mind are only tools given to me by God for a finite period of time.

Like any other tool, it wears out, needs maintenance, and eventually will end up in the scrap yard. But while I am here, it is my nature to want to expand my consciousness to serve and feel that I have, in some way, made a positive difference in the world around me.

I can tell you that it was only when I was over 50 that I began to realize the deeper nature of what making a positive difference might look like. It wasn’t what I was doing that was making that much of a difference but how I was going about the whole thing. In other words, I had a certain amount of attitude that was negating much of what I was trying to do in this world. Read More.

It wasn’t until Mari and I founded Ananda House, that I began to take more seriously how I wanted to live. Some years earlier, Swami Kriyananda had written a paper called “Evening Hospice.” It contains twelve precepts that he recommended every elder work on towards the end of their life. These twelve precepts are the foundation on which Ananda House was founded and upon which I pray daily.

Even with these precepts, I was finding that I was still making the same mistakes that had plagued me for years. I hadn’t learned to control the reactive process that negated many of the positive action I was taking.

Changes Can Happen in Our Lives

It was then that I stumbled upon a two-year, Zen-based End of Life Practitioner Program. Through this program, I gained new tools and training from Frank Ostaseski, founder of the Zen Hospice Center in San Francisco during the horrific AIDs epidemic. The two main tools that I attempt to master daily are Metta–which means loving kindness–and mindfulness.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I have not yet mastered these tools or all that my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, has given me to help me along the way. But it all seems to be what I need in this lifetime, to have any hope of attaining Self-realization.

In the last year, I came across a book called Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny. My first thought was “drat! That was my title for a book I have been writing for decades now!” In it, he explains what the difference is between growing old and growing into Elderhood. It gave me direction and tools to understand and move into my own elderhood, consciously and with integrity.

My intention in this 3-class series is to explore with you how each of us can move from adulthood to elderhood in a conscious way, using the tools given to us by Swami Kriyananda, Frank Ostaseski and Ron Pevny.

We will take it one step further. During Ostaseski’s Metta Program, he would have world-renowned guest speakers come and share their wisdom. One such speaker was Kathleen Dowling Sing. In her book The Grace in Dying, she puts forth the six phases of the “Nearing Death Experience.” Together we will explore what it might be like to have such an experience.

About Nayaswami Hanuman

Nayaswami Hanuman, along with his wife are the founding directors of a progressive assisted-living home, Ananda House, which is focused on conscious living for a conscious transition. Hanuman received his degree in nursing from Washington State, Vancouver, and has worked in hospice for the last 12 years. With over 30 years of practice in Kriya yoga, he brings a unique blend of introspective inquiry and focused attention to whatever he does.

Happy Birthday Swamiji!

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91st Anniversary of His Birthday

Swami Kriyananda, PronamSwami Kriyananda, J. Donald Walters, was born on May 19, 1926.

Swami spent more years of his life in search of God and in the development of his attunement to God and Guru. Reading The New Path is a wonderful way to get close to Swami. Or listen to the music of Ananda, to know him more deeply.

There are three occasions featuring Swami that stick out in my mind as I write this.

The first is when Swami returned from India to visit the Ananda colonies, ending up at the Village for a portion of the summer months, when it was too hot to be in the East.

During these months, Swami would host weekly barbeques at the Crystal Hermitage. We would be sitting in groups around the patio, balancing plates with veggie-dogs and chips on our laps. Toward the end of the evening, Swami would read to us.

How he loved reading PG Wodehouse. He would laugh and laugh, sometimes bringing tears to his eyes. It was a joy-filled time. A great blessing.

The second time, was during those same summer months at the Village, there would be a concert at the amphitheater. Swami loved music. Our Ananda Choir as large as possible, ready to sing.

Towards the later years, Swami would sit directly in the center of the stage, with the choir surrounding him. As they would sing out with joy, Swami sat there with his eyes closed…in pure bliss.

The third, and last, was after his passing. I think of this often during the springtime, as the heralding for the tulip weekends begin.

My daughter, then seven, was walking down the side entrance steps into the Hermitage. She stopped, looked out over the sea of tulips. She raised her arms out and encompassing the gardens whispered, “Momma, Swami is in all the tulips.”

Happy birthday Swamiji. Master’s blessings on you.