As part of our Natural Resource Management class we had the option of staying at Sadhana Forest. Sadhana Forest is a sustainable community focused on reforestation. They have four basic principles 1. veganism, 2. gift economy, 3. community, and 4. sustainable living. Their view is that meat is unhealthy and causes deforestation, which is a huge impact on the environment. Gift economy looks beyond exchange economics. This idea is that helping someone out now will benefit you later. Community is an important principle because there are no exclusions or discriminations. Unschooling, the idea of letting kids learn what they want when they want, and no competition (i.e card games) also falls under community. Lastly sustainability, this is a low impact community so everything is reused or recycled. There are composting toilets, everything runs entirely off the gird, and only organic food is served. I arrived a few days late because of my PADI certification course but I was welcomed and fit in quickly. Anyone who stays at Sadhana must do sevas. Sevas are jobs to maintain the community and reforest. You have two a day and twice a week you have three a day. My first day I only had one seva which was lunch cooking. During this time I cut up veggies for lunch and helped get ready for the meal. I had the afternoon off and got settled in some more. The next day we were woken up by singing volunteers (just before dawn) and my first seva was watering the planted trees. This consisted of filling the wick bottles next to the trees. At Sadhana they use wick irrigation, which involves cutting a hole in a bottle then placing a wick in the hole. The bottle is then filled with water, the water is slowly released due to the absorption from the wick. My second seva was making these bottles. It was really cool doing the “yin and yang” of the wick irrigation system. Because we were only there for the week we only had one third seva. This was dinner cooking which is the same process as lunch cooking. On Wednesday my first seva was in the forest, planting trees. This was fun but exhausting. We had to carry two (rather large) buckets of water on a stick to the forest. Talk about a workout! I really struggled but was able to do it. My second seva was folding cards for tour groups. It was nice and relaxing after a hard morning in the forest. The next day I was back in the forest, this time mulching. We collected leaves and put them on the growing trees to help hold in moisture. In the early afternoon I signed up for gardening. I thought it would be similar to things I do at my parents garden center, wrong! We did plant some papaya trees but we also cut grass. The grass was up to my shoulders and we attempted to cut it with a small and very dull scythe. It was awful and VERY exhausting. To make matters worse we were in the sun the entire time! Friday out final day, we had the morning off (we were checking out) then our second seva was lunch cooking. It was perfect for our last day.
We ate lunch with the community then headed back to FERAL. I really enjoyed my time there and wished I could have stayed longer. Eating vegan was also very refreshing. I learned a lot about health, the environment, and sustainability. The people I met there will also stay in my memory and heart forever. I hope to one day to make it back to Sadhana Forest.
There were many people at Sadhana that I am thrilled that I met but three in particular really impacted my point of view. The first person was Jamey. He has been a vegan for 12 years and living at Sadhana for 4. There was a veganism workshop at Sadhana and he told us his story along with answering any questions we had. Jamey really opened my eyes to how many hormones are in animal meat and how negatively impacted the environment is because of it. He also recommend some books for more information about health and veganism. I read one book while I was there called “Gristle” by Moby. It was really interesting and provided a great introduction to veganism.
The next person I met that had an impact on my stay was Jon. Jon is from England and had been at Sadhana for 5 weeks. We talked a lot about trees and planting techniques. Jon is a well-versed person and I enjoyed talking with him. We had long conversations and it was nice sharing opinions, challenges, and achievements. The final person who had an impact on my experience, I only had one conversation with. His name is Harry and he is a true gypsy. He doesn’t even own shoes. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a picture of Harry because he was in town with his family when we left, him and Olga, just had a baby (three weeks ago). During my one conversation with Harry I asked him if the baby had a name. He replied, “no, there are too many wonderful things going on right now, a name is not on my mind.” I really appreciated this answer because I could tell it was honest. The next, and final, topic was about how he walks barefoot, everywhere. I asked how he does it and if it hurts his feet. He said, “most people cannot walk barefoot because they are always in a hurry and don’t pay attention to what they are stepping on.” He told me the key to walking barefoot is to lightly step with your toes then feel, with them, before fully stepping down. And that’s it. That was our whole conversation. He was hold his baby the whole time and I could tell everything he said was genuine. I hope I never forget how Harry looks; with his dark, curly shoulder length hair, beard, mustache, and kind eyes, only wearing an orange long skirt. I am so happy I met him and his family, a true traveling gypsy.