How to write a “Volunter-Review” about Ananda Valley? That’s a tough one I would say.
In my opinion Ananda Valley is a place you need to experience in person to feel and understand it. It is really hard to put the magic and energy this place is radiating into words. But I will do my best here.
So what are the ingredients of a normal day in Ananda Valley if we want to stick to some facts?
Kiirtan and Meditation:
Every day there is the opportunity to join a group meditation (scheduled 2 times a day) with Live-Kiirtan before. This offer is completely voluntarily. What makes this offer so great’ at least for me because it gives you a frame to discipline yourself and to get your ass up to do your spiritual practices. Notice that it doesn’t matter what kind of meditation you do. It is no problem, if you have your personal spiritual practice (like I have). You don’t have to follow the Ananda Marga tradition to be equally welcomed and treated. That’s actually something I would like point out. Even though the Ananda Marga tradition is super strong in this place and the residents take it very seriously, there is always space or an open ear for discussions, being critical about it or openly just saying “I have a different opinion”. Again you are
equally welcomed and treated as everyone. That struck my eye very quickly and gave me conformation:
This is a good place with good people who really walk their talk! Loving and serving the world!
As a Volunteer you will work 5 days a week on the so called “Master Unit”, what is basically a farm.
Workwise you will encounter classic garden work I would say. That means a lot of weeding, mulching, preparing beds, carrying things, picking berries (in summer) and so on. That can be a bit monotonous at times but as the work atmosphere is super friendly that’s not to big of a deal. Notice that if you are a skilled worker (for example gardener, carpenter) you are welcomed with open arms and people will really take your opinion seriously. If you have your own ideas that you would like to put into realization people will have an open ear and support you.
Ananda Valley is a Community. That means you will live together with many different people. It’s hard to say how many people actually live here. It’s constant coming and going and as the Ananda Marga Community is a global community and is very well set up in Portugal in different locations it’s not so easy to tell. While I was staying here, we were around 15 people in the main house with maybe another 15 people living in their own places nearby. For me the format of a community proved itself to be a super strong catalyser for my inner processes. Learning to get along with different people on a daily basis,
learning to respect one another even though they seem so very different from you, being confronted with many socially related fears, staying in touch with my inner self etc. Next to the daily things of living together like working, eating and meditating together there are also different weekly group “activities”.
There is a “Sharing Meeting” once a week, where everybody can share what is moving or bothering them at the moment, there is the so called “Dada-Class”, where the resident monk is explaining some Ananda Marga philosophy, there is the “Public Meditation” in the nearby town Covilhã, and of course “Friday Movie Night” (my favorite!). Once a month there is also the opportunity to go in a hike, mostly in the nearby mountains.
Well I think I could write on and on, but then I would probably loose you as a reader. So to sum it up:
I am very grateful, that I found this very special place. It turned out to be just the thing I needed. I met so many people who have become friends, learned so much about myself. It provided a frame for me to honestly face myself, overcome my inner fears (still working on that one 😉 ) and to learn to love myself and others more. I will leave this place with a feeling of overall inner healing.
Just keep in mind that your learning field here probably won’t be gardening or farming (even though it also is), but most likely it will be yourself! At least it was for me.