On the last day of August, we joyfully welcomed Swami Radhananda/Mary-Ann back to her home here at the Ashram.
Swami Radhananda was the president and spiritual director of Yasodhara Ashram for 21 years, and she has been working with the challenge of Alzheimer’s Disease. As you may know, last December she had a fall that took her to the hospital and kept her bed bound. Her move to a long-term care home provided the support she needed at the time. Her family, friends and students sat with her each day, supplementing institutional care with our own loving care. She knew we were there for her.
When COVID hit and the care homes closed their doors, we were blessed to be among those who were allowed one essential family visitor. Her daughter devotedly carried the responsibility of being the only loving connection seven days a week for six months without respite.
Seeing that visitor restrictions in long-term care would not end soon, we decided that Mary-Ann had to come home. But the move came with many questions. Would she transfer well? Did the Ashram have capacity to hold her? Could we afford the equipment and care needed? What about COVID? Would she be more at risk, and would we, as a community with a high ratio of elders, also be more at risk?
But all agreed it was time. She needed to come home. We needed to give back to the woman who gave her life to these teachings and who continues to be a living example of facing life’s challenges with courage and surrender.
All fell into place–the planning, the protocols, the hiring of wonderful professional care aides.
Swami Radhananda/Mary-Ann is flourishing here, in her beautiful room looking over the lake. Her care is tender, love is tangible and Light surrounds her. It is a relief to see her receiving the attention she needs and being able to relax, knowing she is home among friends. Five of us residents as well as her daughter are closely assisting the aides and benefiting from her presence. We are focused on bringing out the best in ourselves so we can reflect it back to her, and learning how to tend to her needs with awareness and kindness.
Now she can have her friends and family visit. And when they remove their masks, for even a moment, she is wondrous at seeing their faces, as if they have reappeared out of nowhere. She may not remember names or even relationships, but she knows a heart connection when she feels it.
We wish that all our elders in long-term care could have the same joyful reunion with their loved ones.
What’s Next at The Ashram
Mary-Ann’s return also reminds us that we are aging and will reach a point when our daily life at the Ashram will not continue as it is now–with the swamis and long-term residents leading, teaching, managing and negotiating the Ashram through changing times. We recently gathered to put our personal houses in order, with wills and representation agreements. And we reopened our thinking, both individually and communally: What will our future as elders look like? What are our wishes? What are the options? What could be a new model for aging and care?
And foremost in our minds is what will happen next at the Ashram. Who will help carry this amazing community into the next decades? In 2019 we intensified our focus on strategic direction and succession planning. We continue to develop a mentorship mentality, invite deeper commitments, and we are creating pathways that lead to a future where the teachings will continue to be honoured and the experiment of spiritual community upheld.
Right now we are moving ahead with a full slate of online classes and retreats and we are planning to open the Ashram for the 2021 Yoga Development Course. We are inviting people into the Two-Month Karma Yoga program, Learning Residencies and our new Pathways Program that can lead to living here for months or even years. We are also planning the onsite schedule for 2021, focused on extended programs with different blends of courses, retreats and Karma Yoga.
Also in the air: how can we open this beautiful, bountiful land to different constellations of people—from families, to young people, to elders? And during this COVID time, when work can be done virtually from anywhere, what can the Ashram offer you?
Let’s engage in conversation.
*Watch for upcoming survey & engagement process to gather your input.