Swami Durga Das, CEO of Kashi Ashram in Florida, attended his first Centers Gathering in 2017. Inspired by the people he met, the following year their Groups Manager, Swami Babarama, attended the Gathering as well. “The first year it was hard to convince my community that attending the Gathering in Hawaii was actually work! The second year with two of us attending it was easier to share the value with everyone at home,” said Durga Das.
Earlier this year, I felt called to join the month long Kashi Immersion, experiencing daily life in the ashram, living in a community house with long term Kashi residents, joining daily yoga classes and evening satsang. Kashi describes itself as an “Oasis for every heart” and embraces each visitor with love and care, deeply grounded in over 40 years of female spiritual lineage. With the strong connection with HCN, Kashi is the ideal place for our first regional gathering in south-eastern USA.
The gathering is an opportunity to connect with leaders of other holistic retreat centers and strengthen your network of support through peer to peer learning. For a relaxing and intimate learning experience this is a small scale retreat style gathering and we’re anticipating about 20 people. Participants will include Christine Lines, HCN Executive Director and Network Weaver of the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, Ralph White, co-founder of the Centers Gathering and the New York Open Center, and Carol Donahoe, Program Director of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
The community of Kashi are excited to welcome us all as they evolve from being a guru led ashram and the passing of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati in 2012. Ma Jaya grew up in Brooklyn, just a short walk from the famous Coney Island Boardwalk. The homeless people who lived under the Boardwalk taught her “There are no throwaway people,” and inspired her to begin a life of service. When she was in her thirties, a weight loss class led her to learn a simple yogic breath that would ultimately bring about her spiritual enlightenment.
From there, her personal spiritual journey moved quickly and at times chaotically. As a modern urban woman, she tried to live a normal life and raise a family; at the same time, as a person of rare spiritual gifts, she daily opened to a series of mystical visions and experiences. Her teaching expanded to express many spiritual lineages, going beyond religious differences to give a contemporary voice to the great truths that underlie all spiritual paths.
In 1976, Ma Jaya moved to Florida and founded Kashi Ashram. In the 1990’s, she became known especially for her passionate advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS, and for her support of the LGBT community. Among her other accomplishments are developing Kali Natha Yoga, a modern yoga system drawn from ancient roots; founding By the River, a model community for low income seniors; and creating a large body of sacred art and writing including her recent book The 11 Karmic Space: Choosing Freedom from the Patterns that Bind You.
Spiritual activism is in the DNA of Kashi and they joined the recently formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Group within HCN, as we dive deeply into the next era of this expression. Some of the other themes we’ll be exploring during the Gathering include Spirituality and Sustainability, Pathways to an Awakened Life, as well as Programming and topics of interest that emerge from the group present. A balanced schedule has been planned which includes the option of yoga, meditation, kayaking and sound healing. This is an opportunity to ‘Drink as you Pour’ – pausing from the fullness of our lives in serving the centers we represent, experiencing the rhythm, people and place of another center, and nourishing ourselves as we relax, learn and connect.
If you’re from a retreat center in the south east region of the USA or from a spiritual or lineage center further afield and feel called to join us, please click here for more information and to book your place.