I left Mount Madonna this morning. As I wait for my flight, I’m wishing I had taken more photographs. Here is a short explanation of what I have been up to for the past 2 1/2 months, and some of the photos I did take.
Mount Madonna is a conference, retreat and yoga centre in the heart of California, a half hour from Santa Cruz, on the top of a mountain, with 355 acres of open meadows and redwood forests.
I participated in the YSC Program – Yoga, Service and Community. My primary motivation for going was for the Yoga. I was looking for a healthy environment and lots of exercise. I quickly learned that “Yoga” on the mountain (that’s insider lingo) refers to the 8 limbed system of Ashtanga yoga as taught by Baba Hari Das, and asana (what I meant when I thought yoga) was one of those limbs. Asana classes were offered daily, mainly in the mornings. I averaged about 4 classes a week. On many days, pranayama (breathing and meditation) classes preceded these classes, and 2 of those classes were a mandatory part of our program.
Classes were held in the Redwood Room. You can almost see it in the back left side of the photograph.
Yoga at Mount Madonna is mainly gentle and slow. The instruction was good, but I sure missed classes with Blanca in Mexico. Though I thought I was coming for the classes, there are many other aspects to Mount Madonna that interested me more and that are pulling me to return for a second session in June.
Service, the second component of the program, included working to keep the centre running. Most of my work shifts were in the kitchen, dish room and dining hall. There were valuable presentations and discussions on the meanings and opportunities in the spirit of service. Here is a photo of some community members, Kelly and Vasudev (he’s an acupuncturist!), in the dish room.
Community, the C in YSC, took many forms. My immediate community consisted of the people who were taking YSC1 together.
KC, Chella, Grace, Ann, Me above. Sarah, Tatiana, Tiffany, Stephanie (Svapna missing- below)
We were each given a private room (some shared a bathroom, but somehow I lucked out and got the only room with a double bed and private bathroom) at Forest View.
We had work shifts together, took classes together, and had some fun times.
Svapna and I took some adventures to parks and beaches in the area.
The larger community (of approx. 50) includes people who have lived at Mount Madonna for up to 40 years. The centre was founded and built under the leadership of their Guru, Baba Hari Das. Babaji, as he is affectionately called, no longer comes to the centre, so I was not able to meet him (he is now in his 90’s) but his influence is felt around the place.
I watched some videos of the early years which were impressive. The community planned and built the entire centre under his direction. One of the buildings, the CB for Community Building, is where the kitchen, dining room,meeting rooms offices and more bedrooms are located.
I got to know some of larger community at meals, at work shifts, and at classes and special events. I loved Tuesday and Thursday mornings because they were the days of the classes on the Gita and Yoga Sutras. I also enjoyed teaching a weekly tai chi class.
Fortunately, in addition to the deer and wild turkeys,
I had some very special visitors. Mijin came for the day with her beautiful family. They were so warm. When I first saw them, Mijin’s daughter, Mina, ran towards me with her arms open wide saying “Nana” even though she had never met me.
Len visited from San Diego and we spent a couple great days in Santa Cruz.
Mount Madonna hosts many retreats (the largest one was Adyashanti with over 200 participants) and some excellent people came through the centre while I was there. I had the opportunity to audit a course by Dr. Vasant Lad (a very respected Aruyvedic Medicine Dr. and teacher).
It was an honour.
After a short visit with Len in San Diego, I will be coming home to Toronto for a while. I am looking forward to seeing family and friends. My plan is to return to Mount Madonna in June for a three month program.
Please be in touch. If you are reading this, I would love to know how you are and what is happening in your world. xoxoxo Dawn