Here is the first part of our two part Arizona story. It begins with the story of Paramacharya's work at Canyon Ranch, a wellness center in Tucson. A future Hinduism Today article will bloom out of the current data collection.
"Last night we met with the amazing group of counselors who work with clients at Canyon Ranch in a spiritual way. They are an eclectic group of men and women, among them doctors, PhDs in philosophy and psychology, highly certified yoga and tai chi instructors, healers, body movement experts, mantra initiates and more. The all came to the beautiful little sanctuary to sit with the monks from Hawaii and discuss the interesting topic of SNBR, Spiritual But Not Religious. It was a conversation, not a lecture or even a talk. As we say in Hawaii, it was Talk Story.
Paramacharya started it out with a short introduction about SNBR and said he was there with them to learn more about the spiritual trends they have discovered in their work each day with those seeking "spiritual wellness."
Within a few minutes they were sharing with each other their encounters, their insights into what works and what does not. It was clear that their clients have turned their backs on organized, doctrinal religion, but were seeking Something, often an undefined something in their lives. Many clients have been successful in material life, but still feel empty, feel depressed, unfulfilled inside. They try the tai chi classes, the nutrition classes, the yoga classes, and especially the mindfulness classes. Once in a while a client has an AhHa moment, life changes and new meaning and spirit floods in.
Several stayed after the gathering to talk more, ask questions. They seemed to have learned unexpectedly what each other is doing. It was a topic they do not explore among themselves normally, and thus the evening was a rich discovery, plus Paramacharya left with new insights into the growing SBNR movement in America."
Our two traveling monks concluded their third day at the annual Hindu Mandir Executives Conference (HMEC), the seventh that the monastery has attended. This is certainly one of the most effective of all Hindu cooperative initiatives in America. They work to strengthen the mandirs (temples) and all who worship, study and participate. There were some 200 temples represented in the room.
Three other swamis were present and gave great presentations (we noticed that the swamis always spoke of higher-chakra matters): Swami Paramananda of New York's BSS center, Swami Aksharananda from Guyana, Swami Pratyagbodhananda of the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Pennsylvania and Swami Nikhilananda from the Radha Mahadev Dham in Austin, Texas.
The theme this year was youth and how best to serve and nurture them and keep them on the dharmic path. But lots of discussions around seva and communication, teacher training and community outreach programs. Many of the leaders present already use the Himalayan Academy educational resources and all present got a copy, thanks to Shankar Mallampallai and his family. Shankar drove six hours from Florida to spend the three days with us and help with needed coordination.
After the final group photo was taken, the rush began. One after another came up to the monks from Hawaii, with praise, questions, suggestions (down to editing changes on our history lessons!), requests for travel details to get to Kauai and more. A small group of Bhutanese came forward for photos and to ask how they might better integrate their community of 85,000 into the fabric of American life better, sharing stories of the conversion pressures they are facing as other faiths offer rent and food, provided they convert. It took us over an hour to get from the photo to our room. Off next to Tucson, Arizona....
The traveling monks spent their last day in Chicago with a bang, seeing the Museum of Science and Industry and having lunch with the group. Come along for the ride.
From our traveling monks:
After the jungle outing and lunch with the Malhotras, we were able to have a meeting with a young philosopher named Adina Bezerita. She has been to the monastery to meet to monks and see about the ascetics who know the Self. We discussed future articles for the magazine and had a good time asking the big questions. After that we attended a satsang at Gaurav and Ripla's home. The group was fed a feast and we had trouble leaving we were so full. We immediately felt the love as we ate the food.
From our traveling monks in Chicago:
This morning we grabbed some amazing espresso at the lobby cafe and moved about our way to the garfield conservatory. Satguru recommended we visit and indeed it has been the closest feeling of home since we left.
Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.