Lesley Marian Neilson, 45, is an environmental writer and communications specialist who first came to the Ashram as a young adult in 1994. While at the Ashram on a Professional Retreat last fall, she talked about the influence that Karma Yoga and the Ashram have on her “life in the world.”
I always describe the Ashram as my second home. I made some of my closest friends here. It’s the Karma Yoga focus that kept me coming back: learning to do what needs to be done and doing it with joy. That relevance – being so real and so grounded to everyday life – is the most valuable part of the Ashram.
Everyday I see how much I’ve learned and absorbed from the practices here. In my work I’m able to approach challenges, navigate difficult conversations, set intentions. I appreciate this foundation of self-awareness that helps me in my professional life as well as personal.
I stayed for seven months in 1994, taking a break from the university culture in which I was embedded. I was 21 and the only person under 35; other young people soon arrived, and so the Young Adult Program was born. Swami Radhananda and everyone at the Ashram were excited to welcome this youthful energy. It felt exciting to be co-creating something with all of this intention.
Now my 15-year-old twin daughters are building their own relationship with the Ashram. They have been coming with me for years, and this past summer came on their own for Shakti Camp. My partner loves coming too; unlike at home, at the Ashram he can focus deeply on creative projects without so many distractions.
Given my work in environmental conservation and community engagement, I admire the Ashram’s commitment to energy efficiency, self-sufficiency and engaging with the local communities. I see individuals’ inner resilience too. There is so much support for all of us here.