If you're thinking of taking time off to reflect on life and yourself, you might consider visiting the Desert Ashram.
My friend Lisa Taylor Horn drove me out to the Ashram, at 3403 W. Sweetwater Drive, to meet with two of the eight permanent residents there.
Upon getting out of the car, I sensed the quietness and serenity of the environment around me.
As we walked toward the house we met a woman who told us she had been there for a retreat.
"Really?" I said, noticing the happiness glowing on her face.
"Yes. I needed to get away to think," she said. "This past 10 days has been heaven on earth."
Two of the residents came out to greet us as Lisa and I approached the main house. Following their lead, we took off our shoes as we went into the large, beautiful dining room.
We learned that in 1974 their guru, Swami Amar Jyoti, founded Truth Consciousness, a registered nonprofit corporation that operates two ashrams. The guru's message of essential spiritual unity recognizes the oneness of God or spirit. In other words, he teaches mankind's eternal religion, the personal relationship of each person to the Ultimate Divine, which means there is one God for all of humanity.
Although I don't completely understand his message, I interpret it as a belief that the spiritual universe will take care of us - that no matter what church or temple we attend, we all pray to the same God.
In 1976, one of the guru's followers donated a large piece of property, including a house, to create the ashram. It now covers 26 acres. The swami died in 2001, but his work continues to flourish at the ashram.
The property is rich with desert flora and fauna mingling with abundant trees, shrubs and flowers.
The residents took us on a tour, pointing out the retreat building called Aspiration that can house up to three guests. The tidy rooms each contained a bed and dresser - but no television. Guests are asked to make a donation to cover the costs.
Next we toured the gardens, pecan grove and a building called the Dome. I felt great peace upon entering this small building where one can read, meditate or reflect on life. A tour of the Temple provided a sense of lightness I haven't felt in a long time.
At the Buddha Garden, I sat on a bench for a few minutes, enjoying the beauty, astonished at how relaxed I felt.
The Ashram offers many programs visitors can attend. At 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays, they have Satsang, beginning with chanting and ending with meditation.
Worship called Aarati, consisting of chanting of Vedic mantras, offerings of incense, flowers, food, water and the waving of a flame, takes place daily at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The morning session starts at 6:30 a.m. during the summer.
A women's therapeutic yoga class in the Viniyoga tradition is offered every Thursday at 4 p.m. for a fee.
The Ashram continues to flourish. The residents eat together and help take care of the property. They depend on donations as well as selling books, audio recordings and subscriptions to their magazine, all of which are published by their nonprofit organization, Truth Consciousness.
When Lisa and I left, the noise of the freeway offended my ears.
I will keep in the back of my mind a time when I can stay at the retreat center for a few days to be away from my computer, television and bridge playing. Doesn't that sound grand?
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