Life at Sonoma Ashram

After completing the Interfaith Studies program at The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley,  I committed to living for a year at the Sonoma Ashram to deepen my spiritual practice and to be of service to those who come here searching. Part of the practice is to remain awake, aware and mindful even after the freshness of a new experience fades. On May 15, at Sunday Satsang, I read this poem sharing my early impressions of daily ashram life with the community (sangha). Almost two months in, the freshness remains alive as change occurs moment by moment, one breath at a time.

To Be Sacred

Frogs squeak, quail scold, heron startles, dragonflies dance,

The symphony of spring gives way to summer.

Cabbage heads grown to full glory laugh because we can’t bear to pick them.

We are in awe of their beauty.

Yet roses, marigolds and gladiolas compete for the altar.

Did you know that you can eat kale EVERY single day,

And that Basmati rice stands at attention when done?

Teacher asked, “can you hear the water boiling?”

Cooking requires the awareness of all our senses

The silence of kitchen dharma turns food to Prasad.

In one day two full-grown palm trees are planted,

Three holes and one trench were dug… and filled in…

“Life here is like living on a sand mandala,” said teacher.

Can you be that unattached to outcomes?

Are you willing to embrace this life with open arms?

To be here, it’s best to arrive open, even empty

Willing to drink in the endless possibilities,

The fullness overflowing that is offered.

No need to be like Kabir’s fish in the water who’s thirsty…

This place brings you home again and again to your Self.

Like a mobius loop the sacred surroundings reflect

Our sacred Selves infused in them through our Sadhana and Seva.

One feeds the other in a never-ending cycle of gratitude.

Teacher said, “what ever you expect, it will be totally different.”

Stillness is only a mental construct. Watch and see.

Sweep the floor, prepare your meals, make your bed

As if the Divine were coming for a visit.

Whether she arrives as the wind whispering on the chimes,

the placement of a flower just so, a restless guest,

or the inflection of a word – the Shakti, is always with you.

Sacred is as sacred does. Space, time, place, being, beyond.

We are one with the Divine, and this is the Divine play.

So talk with the squeaky frogs, admire the cabbage heads.

Infuse your thoughts, words, and deeds with love. Ride the breath,

and come home to the sacred sanctuary of your Self.

Poetry and photos ©Lisa J Winston 2016

Click on any image to scroll through the gallery

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