There is a place on this earth where friends come together, live side by side, and support each other in their individual search for God. Not a cloistered monastery or ashram only for those who renounce the world, a place for everyone. In fact, there are several such places. I have the great good fortune of being born into one such place – Ananda Village, the first of now eight Ananda communities around the world.

It all started on a dark and snowy night, just five years after the whole place had burned to the ground. In fact, because of the fire that tore through Ananda Village in 1976, I was actually born in a make-shift ashram in the nearby town of Nevada City, California. It took another five months for my parents to secure one of the newly built dwellings in Ananda Village proper and move our little family of four into the community. 

My early memories are filled with more joy, magic, and adventure than I could possibly share in a single article. Suffice it to say, being raised in a community founded on the principles of Self-realization and filled with the kindness of people seeking a personal relationship with the Divine is a gift that keeps on giving.

Paramhansa Yogananda, whose teachings the Ananda communities are founded, once said, “Environment is stronger than will.” It is a strong statement, and one that has proven true for me again and again. When I set myself in an environment that supports the life I desire, it manifests with greater ease. That’s why I workout better in a gym, sing more beautifully in a temple, study better at the library, and meditate deeper in a sacred place. 

This was such a challenge during the pandemic, right? For years, we had to set our homes up as a supportive environment for work, school, rest, and play.

Today, I live in the Ananda Community in Portland Oregon with my family. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the joy to reside. When you enter from the quiet street, you are greeted by the lush landscapes leading up to home-like apartments, each unique yet harmonious. Smiling faces are often seen, as residents of the fifty units come and go in their daily activities. Many of us eat together on Sundays in the Living Joy Center, many meditate together in our little chapel. We host kirtans on the lawn in summer time and annual work days where we spruce up the community together. And while life continues to do its usual ups and downs, we all know that we are surrounded by a community of souls who care for our highest good. 

Living in community supports my life in more ways than I can count, but today, I thought to share my top five:

  1. Peaceful vibrations: as soon as I enter the property I can feel the shift. A soft peace and a sweet joy are permeating my surroundings. 
  2. Deeper meditations: when I am here, whether in my home or in the chapel, my meditations are deeper. I believe it is a result of 30+ years of meditators who have come before and uplifted the environment here. 
  3. Spiritual friendships: whether on this path or another, those who live here are all seekers. Friendships here are rooted in this shared search for the Divine and it makes for lifelong bonds.
  4. Joyful service: there is nothing more fun or bonding than cooking a meal together for twenty, or pruning fruit trees together, or painting signs. My family loves workdays so much, we treat them like a national holiday! We toss on our overalls, pull out our gloves and tools, and are nearly always early to the coffee and muffin gathering and prayerful opening circle. 
  5. The long haul: for me, life is about Self-realization, the slow and steady journey toward my truest and highest self. To live among others with a similar purpose helps me remember this when I have become distracted, and be inspired when I need a lift. It’s like my favorite African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  


  1. I love this, thank you so much. Today I’m leading a vision board experience with our little Tucson meditation center and I’m going to extrapolate part of this to read to them …you’re the best!


  2. What a inspiring article Gita, thank you for sharing:-)

  3. The small-community solution is the one that really works. You have written about it with delight and inspiration. Thank you.

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