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Comprehensive Land Management Project

establishing a sacred trust

November 4, 2010 by Lightwaves
4,777 views

Yasodhara Ashram is located on approximately 50 hectares of land (115 acres), in the midst of mountain forest, bordered by a lake of exquisite beauty. When visitors and guests speak of their experience of this land, they use words like splendor, awe, quiet, stillness, peace, contentment and meaning. The natural elements of this land offer an opportunity for people to feel the balance and harmony of a wholesome environment, an opportunity that has become scarce.

A Sacred Trust

Only a few decades ago, 90% of people in North America lived rurally. That has reversed, and most people now live in urban settings. The impact of that alienation from natural environments is increasingly questioned, as more and more people experience depression and loss of meaning in their lives.

Immersion in a healthy, natural environment, even for a short time, gives an experience of relaxation and sanctuary to body and mind. The efficacy of spiritual practice is enhanced through a natural setting, where the stimulation, demands and distractions of busy lives can be set aside while time is given in a supportive atmosphere to explore our lives deeply.

This ashram exists because of the efforts of Swami Radha and the many karma yogis who gave time, effort and resources to create it. Those who come here now are the beneficiaries of this work offered in selfless service. The land is part of a sacred trust. As human activity expands on site, we recognize more deeply the value, preciousness and responsibility entrusted through this legacy. We are members of a community that includes non-human elements: the water, air, and soil; the forest and plant life; the animals. The land management project grows out of the recognition of this expanded community and the desire to act and interact with this piece of earth in a spirit of compassion, deliberation and respect.

The Land Project

The Land Project Team

The Land Project emerges out of a historical query: what was here before surveyed pieces were sold and named Yasodhara, before this site became an ashram with its buildings, garden and orchard? A lot has been done within these boundary lines, and the time has come to coordinate both a vision and a plan for further development and relationship with the land, especially as involvement expands in the Yasodhara Heights Project (a sustainable housing initiative that allows independent living near our spiritual community).

With timely synchronicity, in fall of 2009, Dr. Cynthia Lane came to the ashram for a yoga retreat and was moved by the potential of this place to integrate the spiritual teachings offered with a comprehensive land management program based on a solid land ethic. Dr. Lane (of Ecological Strategies) brings 25 years of experience in the fields of natural resource management, landscaping and ecological research. She volunteered her expertise and time and visited the ashram again in March 2010 to gather information through site surveys, questionnaires from residents, guests and karma yogis and interviews with residents. From this she created and presented in June 2010 a draft plan titled Compassion, Conservation, Cultivation that outlined observations and recommendations for a comprehensive land management project.

Pileated Woodpecker

During the ashram’s Annual General Meetings in August, discussion groups gathered to explore possibilities for such a project and offer their own suggestions, hopes, and ideas. Laura Lynes, a former colleague of Lane’s on the Yukon to Yellowstone Initiative, offered to contribute knowledge and experience in fundraising. Both Laura and Lane visited the ashram in September for two full days of planning with the now identified Land Project team: Swami Sivananda, Swami Samayananda, Swami Saradananda, Paris Marshall Smith (the ashram’s food flow and garden manager) and Alanda Greene (land project manager). Sonni Greene and Maureen Wetsch joined part of the meetings, two of many people identified as part of the larger land project team who have expressed interest in offering their expertise.

We recognized as these two days progressed that The Land Project is a large undertaking, that it will take time and that the ashram is committed to it. Our discussions ranged from global issues of climate change, food security, species extinction, habitat degradation and pollution to immediate practical steps of what we can do now with what we have. We recognized the potential for this project to link with education programs including local school participation and university internship programs globally. We identified potential funders and projects that would enable guests to engage with this land in purposeful learning activities. With our feet firmly on the ground, now we can determine our next steps.

Land Management Surveying Team

Current Activities

Keeping in mind ashram work principles to use what we have, be efficient and rely on what we know from experience, a thorough topographic land survey began this fall. Sonni Greene had many years earlier surveyed the boundaries and features maps of the ashram and was hired to do the topographic mapping. This includes setting reference points over the entire piece and creating a 3-dimensional map that will form the basis for potential further mapping projects focusing on forests (old growth, veteran trees, state of health, composition), water flow, trails, plants, wildlife corridors. Expanded education projects using GIS systems have been discussed as possibilities for future endeavors.

Currently Sonni works with ashram karma yogis. Sylvie Mazerolle and Alex Archibald have learned to operate the total station instrument: entering data codes, using the measurement and level functions. Sonni observed, “Their work requires a consistent and sustained focus, with attention to detail. They also gain a bigger picture of the purpose and use of collected data, as well as gaining terrain awareness and monitoring and checking the data collection.” The survey is nearly half done with 5000 elevation points already measured. November weather patterns will determine how much is completed before winter conditions prevent further work.

Mapping the Kootenay Lake shoreline


What’s Next?

From the planning in September, we identified the understandings that will form a Yasodhara Ashram Land Ethic. This will be refined and circulated. Out of this and with the assistance of Lane and Laura, a Case for Support document will be created to help focus our fundraising efforts. Assistance in acquiring historical data has been offered and will add to efforts to find out more about the history of this area and about the people who named this property Yasodhara Estates in the early 1900’s. These efforts will be the focus of the coming winter months.

Alanda Greene, Land Project Manager


Stay tuned throughout November as we present a four-part series on this innovative endeavor at Yasodhara Ashram.


8 Comments »

  1. wow, very exciting work!

    Comment by Palma — November 6, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  2. My husband and I visited this past July and I’d use those exact words to describe the area. My Spirit visits often. We look forward to hearing more.
    Love and Light, Sheila Davis

    Comment by Sheila Davis — November 6, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

  3. Here I am in Toronto aching to feel my feet on the Ashram land and with this simple technology here I am… sacred land trust, comprehensive, ethics, history, based on experience, community. These words and images evoke a deep sense of hope and enthusiasm within me and I ask myself: what will my commitment be? Thank you Thank you Thank you. Karuna

    Comment by Karuna — November 7, 2010 @ 7:12 am

  4. Inspiring to read about this project! We have one hectare to look after, an oasis of uncultivated land amongst the arable fields of the Gers in S.W. France. Even so, people who come here appreciate the restorative quality that nature has.

    Comment by Danuta Karpinska — November 8, 2010 @ 6:09 am

  5. It’s very heartwarming to read of this initiative that honors our connections to the earth. Thank you.

    Comment by Sharon Haave — November 8, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  6. I am forwarding this article to the yoga community here in the Crowsnest Pass. I am honored to be connected to this wonderful spiritual caring community.

    Comment by Pat Lundy — November 12, 2010 @ 8:15 am

  7. I am uplifted to read the comments posted here, encouraged to envision a global community that will tend this land, and excited to discuss further the potential of this unfolding project.

    Comment by Alanda G — November 15, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  8. What an exciting, inspiring and responsible project to undertake on this beautiful, sacred land… thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Comment by Jeani — November 17, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

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