It is hard to believe that this week brought about the end of November and the final stages of our itinerary here in India, but there is no where I would have rather spent it than in Sadhana Forest.
Our group spent 10 days sleeping in tree-house bamboo huts under mosquito nets in a small community outside of Auroville that is based on forest regeneration, water conservation and sustainable living. At Sadhana Forest, the daily routine was something we quickly learned to love, value and respect as it was based around the concept of “sevas”, or selfless service aimed toward benefitting the land and community around oneself. Our days began before the sun started to shine, and we were awoken by a guitar, harmonica or any other instrument played by the volunteers here at 5:30am.
We got dressed, filled water bottles, and applied copious amounts of bug spray under the gleaming beams of headlamps to make it to morning circle by 6 am. There, we stretched, went around hugging the other community members and signed up for our first seva. First Seva could be anything from cooking breakfast, cleaning the main hut or kitchen, or a personal favorite, heading into the surrounding forest to plant trees. That is the main Seva at Sadhana Forest, as their goal is to strengthen the ecosystem by planting trees. It is something really special to see and be a part of, because the land here used to be dry and uninhabitable from deforestation, and now because of Sadhana it is a dense, lush, Forest.
After about two and a half hours, we headed to the main hut where we have a satisfying vegan breakfast worth 3-4 types of fruit, porridge with jaggery and banana pancakes. During breakfast we signed up for second Seva which usually last around 3 hours and happens after breakfast. Second Seva can range from chopping firewood, separating and recycling trash at the Zero Waste hut, cooking lunch, repairing holes in the wood formed by bees, or any other duty that needs tending to in the community. This week, I did some Seva time at the Zero waste hut, where I completely disassembled a suitcase and recycled as much of it as possible. I never thought of something like a suitcase as a source of waste and it blew my mind seeing how much effort went in to trying to recycle it. It was very eye opening and has been making me think about my impact on the planet regarding waste. The conclusion of second Seva brings the beginning of lunch. All the food here is completely vegan in a communal effort to reduce environmental impact and conserve water in the food growing and producing process. This point in the day brings a few hours of free time, where the group takes time to shower, does laundry, catches up on schoolwork, or, our favorite, bathe in the Sadhana Forest mud pool!
Dinner time comes around 6pm and post dinner time is activities: like documentaries, jam sessions, informational talks or the “untalent show”.
Finally we trek back to our huts and collapse onto our beds after brushing our teeth with bio degrade-able tooth powder. As we melt into a deep forest slumber we listen to nature sounds around us, lulling us further to sleep.
Exhausted, sweaty and happy we inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, inhaling our gratitude to be here and exhaling the energy devoted to tomorrow’s sevas. Life here at Sadhana Forest may be hard, but it’s been increasingly satisfying and rewarding. Leaving here will be hard. But our next adventure awaits and will be exciting as well.
Thanks for reading,