Every now and then, you visit a place so different from what you’re used to, so out of your comfort zone that the end result simply blows you away. Sadhana Forest was without a doubt one of those kinds of places!
70 acres of ex-barren land, located in South Western Auroville, the universal city next to Pondicherry, India. One main goal : Water conservation and Reforestation of the endangered Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest in the area. I could go on and on about what the project is all about, but that is much better explained here.
My brother and I volunteered here for one week. A week full of a radically different lifestyle, in the middle of the forest with some amazing people, all in a closed knit community based on love and caring: for each other and the non human life around us. Life in the forest begins and ends with the sunlight. So, we wake up about 5:30 AM everyday, meeting at the Morning Circle, the warm up to the work to come. It ends with a really cute “Sadhana Stretch” wherein everyone hugs everyone good morning! This is followed by the first seva ( selfless service ), breakfast, second seva, ending with lunch at 12:30 PM.
Hearing about the different kind of sevas I could do, I realised the amount of work that goes into running a community. Almost everyday, I had the option to do something new and ofcourse I sprang at the opportunity! Owing to a new seva everyday, I learnt something new everday, ranging from all kinds of survival skills : how to chop firewood, to healing skills like how to properly plant and care for a tree. In retrospect, I can now feel my view of what I receive and take for granted expanding. I can understand better what goes into the food, water and shelter that comes to me. This realisation is a beautiful feeling. It gives a certain emotion to everything that I do and eat, a strong feeling of love and thankfulness to everyone unknown who had a hand in making it happen.
Another beautiful aspect is the No Waste Policy. We recycle everything that we can. That involves human waste too. It just makes using the toilet slightly tricky, but all’s well that ends well. Haha! Everything ranging from toothpaste to soap here is biodegradable. Now isn’t that something!
Oh, but it isn’t just about the work. There’s so much more to the community! Post lunch, is the free constructive time to use however one wants to. There’s a small technology area with wifi for the connection to the outside world, and a main technology free hut for all activities! This gets translated into loads of workshops and community events, ranging from Sharing Circles to Non-Talent Shows.
There also exists the ultra famed mud pool. Mud so smooth and soft it can put silk to shame. I enjoyed using this shamelessly as soap all over my body and hair. Anything to get out of taking a proper shower!
We rented bicycles to travel to and fro Auroville and Pondi ( I’ll cover Pondi in a different post), which is the less popular idea compared to renting mobikes, which seem much faster and effortless, but boy did we have the time of our lives on the bicycles! The road leading to Sadhana Forest is all downhill, so we almost cried getting the bicycles to the mainroad enroute Auroville from Sadhana. This was during daytime. Things get much more interesting at night, when there is absolutely no light at all. We were at the mercy of the measly light from our headlamps. Coming back to Sadhana at night, with visibility reduced to 2 meters, it felt exactly like playing NeedForSpeed at nightmode. You have no idea whether the road curves left or right. At this point, on this rocky mud road leading downhill, our bicycles’ speed and adrenaline both shot up through the roof! Braking wasn’t an option. Oh, what a feeling! Riding in the middle of the night in pitch black darkness on a bicycle with nothing but a headlamp? Off the bucketlist!
This is just the tip of the iceberg! I can’t fathom how I could possibly write about everything in this one short post. So, I’ll just say you’ve got to go there to experience it. It’s one hell of an experience! Crazily enough, I got to practice my French, German and learn some Japanese and Hebrew, all in the small community of 40-50 people.
Thank you to every person I met and had a conversation with. It truly shaped my experience at Sadhana Forest.
There’s Aviram, the founder of Sadhana Forest, quietly sitting on the left ( in the blue tee). What a down to earth person! Funnily, his shirt says “Le retour à le terre” which means “The return to the ground” 😀