A few days ago my dear friend Savitri and I were comparing the latest changes in our lives, and all of a sudden she asked me to write something about a most unexpected event that has animated these past summer months (and only God knows how we dreamt and hoped for this to happen!).
In order to talk about this I must go back a year to a very dim and a particularly troublesome winter. We were right in the middle of the pandemic, there was a lot of fear around us, various restrictions from the government, and the ban to move around to which, however, our Ananda Palermo group reacted as we continued to stay united. We explored nature and organized small retreats in the woods and in other Sicilian cities – wherever it was possible to go. It was to our great pleasure that we realized we were reacting to the planetary challenges with the right attitude because even though we were respecting the ban, we never forgot that it was only together that we could get through this, practicing and living the Master’s teachings, and reminding ourselves the whole time who we truly are.
And how can we forget the retreat in Syracuse last December which took place thanks to our wonderful friend Cettina Bramante, an Ananda Yoga teacher and supporter of the Ananda Movement in Sicily.
We spent the Christmas holidays mostly at home, and I gratefully remember New Year’s at the home of Maria, a Gurubhai who welcomed us into her lovely home where we were able to follow the celebration online at the Temple together with the ever-present Jayadev and Lakshmi.
In February we also gathered for a meditation with just a few friends and again connected with Ananda online. By chance – if we can say it was “by chance” – we found out that our association “Yoga Ananda Palermo: the path to joy” was admitted in the ranking to participate in a municipal competition for the temporary concession of a villa that the municipality of Palermo occasionally grants to associations.
Finally after years of searching, it seemed that having our own residence for gatherings could actually become a reality, and there wouldn’t be an exaggerated rent to pay either. Was it a daydream or was it perhaps a “divine” possibility that the Masters were inspiring us to search for from the beginning?
So all the “faithful” members of our group get together, and we decide to get to work to outline, for the competition, the kind of activities we would be doing at the villa, the resources that would be developed, and what our positive contribution to the whole of Palermo would be. Maria, Giulia, Dora and I, choose our specific skills we can offer at the “House of Joy”, this being the name given to the project at hand: spiritual counseling, art, meditation and yoga, the traditional teachings of Master and his disciple Swami Kriyananda. We did not leave out one single detail and we tried to use all the “know how” that we assimilated at Ananda Assisi these past ten years that we assiduously spent there. It was a question of combining the requirements the Township of Palermo requested and our resources which seemed not only readily available but tangible, solid and real. We were tired by the time the project was finished, but happy because the experience brought us closer together – we could feel something was stirring all around us and within us. I kept repeating to myself and to the friends involved not to expect anything, but at the same time we were open to whatever grace we would receive! Only now can I say that in my heart I could feel that something was about to happen. One night in July when, strangely, I couldn’t fall asleep, I picked up my phone and typed in the name of our association to do a Google search. An absurd thing to do, you may say, and I wouldn’t blame you. Don’t ask me why I did it, but as soon as I wrote the words…Yoga Ananda Palermo…I was on the Township’s page with a hypertextual subtitle that read: “Temporary concession to Associations for social purposes”. It was 2:00 in the morning and I’d like to think that Swami was next to me urging me to see this at just the right time! What a wonderful feeling to see our association next to the highest score. The next day we called each other and couldn’t believe it. We were blown away, joyful and a bit overwhelmed to say the least. What will happen now! What can we do henceforth to spread the Masters’ message of Kriya Yoga?
Thanks to the unfailing inspiration that we received from our friends at Ananda during the month of August (my thanks go to thank Lakshmi, Shivani, Darshan and Arudra), we went back to Palermo with the enthusiasm we needed to get this adventure going.
We had some delays moving forward, but today November 4, 2021, the day Diwali – “the festival of light” – is being celebrated, we finally have lighting inside the building, and tomorrow we can finally begin the various jobs we need to do in order to get the building back in shape so we can use it as soon as possible. Our hope is that these rooms can be a source of light through our service, by sharing the teachings, with the joy of being together with those who practice, with the teachers from Ananda, and with small and large experiences of bliss that our spiritual practices grant us.
With the Ananda Assisi community as our model, our small reality in Palermo will always find sustenance thanks to the incessant inspiration from the Master, Yogananda, and from Swami Kriyananda.
Gradually and calmly we are realizing that “in the midst of life’s storms”, the calmness within ourselves – thanks to the Seva of our brothers and thanks to our personal and group sadhanas – can truly help us to remain centered, as Yogananda says, “in spite of the crash of breaking worlds”. And this is enough to thank the Masters of Kriya yoga for the time we have available.
In joy and divine friendship,