What's life all about anyway?

October 15, 2008 by Lightwaves

The Ashram’s Young Adult Program (YAP) has been providing young people with an opportunity to experience community living and delve into the teachings of Yoga since 1995.  Ashram residents and recent YAP participants reflect on the success of the program and what is being learned.

Ariena Dos Reis Chantre is a young journalist from the Netherlands.  While travelling across Canada this spring, she heard about Yasodhara Ashram and the Young Adult Program from a fellow traveller.  She was attracted by the idea of community living, and came to the Ashram in June, intending to spend 2 weeks doing Karma Yoga.  Something clicked for her though, and she wound up staying and participating in the community for over 4 months.  Here’s what she had to say about her time here:

“I have become much more aware of my thoughts, speech, actions, and behavior, and I really feel that all these areas have improved greatly.  I now have a better understanding of Yoga – I feel that this spiritual path is now accessible to me where it was not so much before.  My mind, my goal, and passions are now more organized, and I feel a sense of space.”

Lightwaves asked her interview her fellow Young Adult Program participants to bring forward a sense of how the program works and what is being learned.  This is her Karma Yoga offering!

The ancient question of what life is all about seems to be the main thing that drives young people to the Ashram. The Young Adult Program (YAP) provides young people with the opportunity to experience community living, karma yoga, and as Swami Sivananda puts it: “Means to learn about another way of living early in life and to get to know who you are as a person.”

One of the young people currently in the YAP is 21-year-old Ali Lloyd. When a woman at a bookstore told her about the program, she thought: “This is perfect! This is a place for change in my life. I was unhappy and felt I had failed in relationships. I really wanted to work on making myself happy and function in life no matter what. I wanted tools to start over.” And tools for young people is basically what Swami Radha had in mind according to Swami Sivananda. “Swami Radha had a vision for young people in the Ashram. She wanted to introduce them to other values and ways to find meaning in life. Other conditions than the ones most people are exposed to such as drugs, sex, alcohol and competition. Young people get caught in survival mode.”

Swami Sivananda used to be involved with the YAP and remembers how the program got off the ground. “A lot of older women who came to the Ashram told us, ‘If only I had known about these teachings earlier on in life, my life would have been much more meaningful’. These women later came up with the funding for the YAP, which initially was called What’s Life All About Anyway?”

“We get young people that really ask questions about their existence,” says Janet Gaston. She is the current coordinator of the program and notices that the program attracts a certain kind of person. “We get young adults that don’t fit into the system, have a difficult family background, are often very artistic or have different ideas about life. Here in the ashram they learn that their ideas about the world are fine when a lot of the world is telling them that they are not fine.”

Oliver Giving is a 28-year-old ‘returning youth’ as the ashram calls young people who keep coming back. Oliver has been coming to the ashram for more than four years and has actually lived in the ashram for a year. “I have grown a lot in the last years. The most noticeable thing is that I have a lot more confidence and strength now than I had before and I really think it’s because of coming here. I’ve also met a lot of really awesome people in the ashram and made a lot of true friends.”

According to Swami Sivanada the YAP works. He sees how young people develop and keep coming back. “I see them grow so much. These ancient teachings can enrich lives. They can be used to increase self esteem, self acceptance and to become more aware.” Ali can affirm that. “I have more faith now in my own logic and perspective and I am still open to new ideas without compromising myself and my way of thinking.”

For more information or to register for the Young Adult Program, follow this link.

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