Rachel Johnston participated in the early days of the Youth Program (now the Young Adult Program), and recently returned to the Ashram with her two children.
I first came to the Ashram in the early fall of 1996 to a newly minted Youth Program. I remember walking into Mandala House curious and a bit trepidatious. There was only a small group of us at that time of year. The rest had returned to their studies and jobs at the end of the summer.
That afternoon, in my first experience of Karma Yoga it was suggested that we chant instead of speak. I felt something wake up in me then and pay attention – now this was different. It had never occurred to me that you could chant outside of a meditation hall or temple. I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not, but I stayed. I went to satsang and fell in love with the depth and quiet of the Temple.
I stayed for two months and even when I left and got a job in Nelson, I would return – for a course, a long weekend or even just Sunday satsang. Each time I would reconnect with the magic of those first weeks and the awe that awoke in me as I learned practical ways of staying present and realized what it truly meant to be mindful day to day.
The swamis were amazingly supportive, always trying to find the right balance of yoga, work and teachings for us to digest. There were formal teachings once a week, sometimes even every couple of days. I had been to university. It felt a bit like that but better. This experience allowed me to recognize my own place in the teachings. It encouraged me to look at my inner obstacles in a whole new light.
And now, here I am decades later, bringing my children to the Ashram, not just to share with them this former chapter in my life, but to maybe plant a seed for them. Just before lunch, we took part in a Divine Light Invocation, the boys following along, glancing all the while at me, not sure of what it all means. Later I explained it to them as we went through the meditation again. Afterward they asked me suspiciously: “How do you know all the words, mama?”
“Because it comes back to you,” I say. But maybe what I mean is, you come back to it.