Millions have visited Art of Living’s Ashram in Bangalore, and the ones in Germany and Canada. Not many know about the up and coming Ashram we have in Texas though.
Guruji visited the property in September 2005 and gave the go-ahead to purchase it as our newest Ashram. It used to be a bed-n-breakfast place called Reagan Wells Ranch, nestled in the Texas Hill Country, 90 miles west of the madding crowds of San Antonio. It came as a package of about 150 acres of land, a large hall or two for us to use as meditation halls, a kitchen, a dining hall, and several buildings for housing. It had enough to start from to make it a world-class home for Art of Living family.
My TTC1 was the first course to start at this Ashram, in December 2005. However it wasn’t the first course to be completed there; there was a 4-day silence retreat over the new year weekend that got over before our TTC did.
At the time the buildings were getting old and some of them were in poor condition. We used a small kitchen because the large one wasn’t in good enough shape. Beds, ACs, heaters, and bathrooms were all showing their age. It was a good-sized ranch but it wasn’t an ashram yet. Facilities were a tad raw, funds were limited, and courses were few and far between. It took a while, but then slowly the transformation got under way.
As more courses happened there, funds trickled in. Volunteer labor came from a few dedicated individuals who stayed on the property (or drove there weekend after weekend from their home cities) to work on it. Truckloads of old junk were hauled away. New materials were bought, like flooring, paint, wood, tile, and tools.
Bit by bit the work progressed. On some weekends there were groups of 15 or more, working on different parts of the property, smiling and singing, doing sadhana together in the evening, sharing meals and songs and stories at the end of the day, nursing tired bones and aching limbs. Some weekends there was just one couple or two, toiling away on their own. Through chill winters and searing hot summers they worked.
Every bit of the Ashram you see today is a labor of love.
Cottages like Beretta, Longhorn and Aspen were worked on. One by one the rooms started to get new paint, new floors, updated electrical fixtures, updated plumbing, new beds, new mattresses, and so on. Some walls were torn down and the meditation hall was expanded. Major repairs were done, like to the kitchen floor. New bathrooms were added.
As these buildings took on their new character, they were given new names. The building formerly called the White House now serves as our main meditation hall, and is aptly named Saraswati, after the Indian goddess of learning. This hall is where our courses happen now. Early morning yoga in this hall with the sun’s first rays shining in through the windows is a divine treat.
Time for a photographic interlude, starting with the view of Saraswati as you drive up from the main road:
The area’s history is summarized in a historical marker on the road outside the middle gate (click through and see it in its full resolution to read all the text). The well with mineral water spoken of in the plaque is also on the property.
I have more photos and stories to share, watch for Part 2 and possibly Part 3 later this week. 🙂
Update: Onward to Part 2