Observations From Sadhana Forest: a Hippie Reforestation Commune

  • I haven’t done this much manual labor since I was working in the fields of Nicaragua
  • Throughout my time in Sadhana I, along with everyone else, was completely covered in cuts, bruises, bites, scratches and other annoying things
  • Vegan breakfasts at Sadhana Forest, Auroville, India
    Serving a vegan breakfast of fruit salad, porridge and jaggery, which is a local and organic sugar substitute

    A side product of all these cuts and scratches is that many people suffer from infections. I can’t even count how many people had some form of bandage or bag on their foot to try and keep a wound clean.

  • Since all food served at Sadhana was vegan, I pretty much was a vegan for two weeks. It was very hard at first (I didn’t actually like anything until our until our fifth meal) but as time went on I learned to love the grub.
  • Before every meal we had a moment of silence.
  • On our last night, Auroville was having a dance party filled with people of all ages rockin out to the latest in hip hop, trance, electronica, Ace of Base and 1980s Madonna.
  • I take back a previous this and that…I am NOT used to flies, still feel them every time the land on me and would like to eliminate them from the world.
  • No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake my farmer’s tan. On days when I roll up my sleeves, no tan or burn. On days my sleeve is down, beet red skin!
  • Bunding at Sadhana Forest
    This is me bunding. The shirt and pants I found…and left…at Sadhana

    All clothes left behind by previous volunteers were put out for grabs one day and I got a ridiculous pair of pirate shorts and a stretched out Ireland shirt that became my daily work gear.

  • We saw Yorit and Aviram’s one year old daughter take her first steps. When the community started clapping in joy, they told us not to as their philosophy is not to encourage things that should come naturally.
  • While no one batted an eye when the one year old was naked all day, you could hear muffled snickers and uncomfortable eyes shifting away when their 8 year old daughter shed her clothes on a regular basis and ran around.
  • For whatever reason, Americans were the majority nationality during our final week at Sadhana. There was even another person from NYC. Say what you will about hanging out with people from other countries, it’s sometimes nice to have all the same background as those you interact with and not to have to play the “do you have XYZ in your country?” game.
  • Right outside the gates of Sadhana was a giant mud pool that everyone jumped into to cool off or for a mud bath. Some areas of water were icy cold, some super hot and some in the middle. All areas were muddy at the bottom.
  • Since one of the rules of Sadhana was no competitive games, we made many jokes and even found a way to play non-competitive water polo in the nearby mud pool. (basically just throwing around a ball and trying to see how many catches we could make before dropping it)
  • Sadhana Forest, Auroville, India - mud pool
    Every time we all went into the mud pool by Sadhana Forest, locals came to watch what the crazy white folks were up to

    Speaking of the mud pool, it was always awkward because the girls would go in there in bikinis and the locals would always stop by and sit by the edge of the pool to watch.

  • Carrie and I were surprised to get huge hugs from everyone we said goodbye to (and even some who found us to say goodbye). We honestly didn’t think we made that much of an impression, but I guess we were wrong.
  • Our friend Heidi who we met on the bus from Kodaikanal and who learned about Sadhana from Carrie has now changed her life plans to return to the forest in the fall.
  • It’s weird paying attention to days of the week on a vacation, but when a weekend is a time for no work, you better believe I know if it’s Tuesday or Friday.
  • A rat ran over Carrie’s foot in our hut
  • It’s amazing how many people travel with laptops. Sadhana offered free wi-fi and there were always at least a few people taking advantage.
  • As always, we had an adventure getting to Sadhana Forest from Puducherry (about 10km away). The rickshaw driver looked at a map we showed him, agreed to take us there, agreed on an inflated price and proceeded to drive us 5 blocks before telling us we were there. Needless to say, we got a different rickshaw to actually take us.
  • Painting signs during second work - Sadhana Forest, Auroville, India
    Painting signs during second work

    Carrie took a Reiki course and is now level one certified

  • Carrie also got a drum made in Auroville and I bought some weird PVC pipe instrument that makes an outer-spacey type sound.
  • There were frogs EVERYWHERE!
  • During one of the workshops I heard a great quote, “the earth was once molten rock and now it sings opera.”
  • Filtered water was provided at all times free of charge, which was great because we all drank at least five liters of it a day. However, in addition to having to pee ever 10 minutes, it also really made us miss flavored beverages. Often times our outages from the forest were just to get a tea or soda.
  • We had our first rain since arriving in India. That ended 2.5 months without…the longest drought I’ve ever experienced.
  • Sadhana Forest bike power
    When it rains we had to cycle here to create power

    When it rains, it pours. In this case, it rained for 1.5 days straight. Bunds became muddy, the solar power didn’t work and we had to bicycle for power, normal work couldn’t go on and everyone was in a great mood.

  • I can’t imagine what it’s like there during the monsoon…no thanks.
  • I rotated a solar panel. Cool!
  • There was great, fast and free wi-fi at all times. Finding a time when there was power to charge my laptop, on the other hand, proved far more difficult.
  • It’s amazing how fast our two weeks flew by.
  • As Sadhana is vegan, one of the rules is no non-vegan food from outside is to be brought in. However, all too often we would get food outside and save it for later. Then we forgot about it and would joke with other offenders as we ate our contraband in silence.
  • One weekly job was to wake up the community and the waker upper could do so however he/she liked. Some favorites were: singing, hugs, bells, scripture, music and, of course, the local temple nearby blaring prayers and music starting at 4:30am. OK, that last one was not a favorite…but it did happen twice.
  • Photographers from Green Peace came by to snap some photos for a feature article in an upcoming newsletter. I wonder how the exposure will effect Sadhana.
  • Saying goodbye to Sadhana
    Taxi waiting for our goodbye to Sadhana Forest

    We had to use all biodegradable soaps and hygiene products that Sadhana provided. These were no problem except the toothpaste powder that was literally the grossest thing ever that made your breath stink. Many of us also doubted the cleaning strength of the powder.

  • We met an actual stable boy who worked at a pony farm. Hilarious!
  • The entire experience was so different from anything I have ever done before that even writing this blog entry has taken me longer than any other ever. How do I even put the two weeks into words while succinctly summing up a way of life so unlike that back home.

Be sure to check out Carrie’s entry on our experience at Sadhana for a completely different view.

Lastly, I just want to thank my mom for being so supportive in whatever I do and wherever I go. It really does make a difference knowing that.