Walking Ashram

From the Druid Path: A Nature-Based Take on the World and Our Place in It

            By Ron Slabaugh, Apprentice, Ancient Order of Druids in America


“Nature is God Made visible.”    

   Amma, living Indian Saint


I was talking to a friend the other day who is involved with a non-profit organization which was the recipient of some beautiful donated conserved land.

Before the wife of the couple donating the land died, my friend had asked her what she’d like see for this exquisite Green Mountain (Vermont) terrain. “Let me think about it,” she said. Several weeks later he asked if she’d thought about it. “A walking ashram,” she replied.

I said to my friend, “I’ve never heard those two words together.” “Neither had I,” he said.

Spirit in Nature could be considered a “Walking Ashram.” While for some visitors it’s just a place to walk (or snowshoe) through the woods, maybe walk the dog, for many it invites a contemplative mood and functions like an ashram: a place away from the daily toil, where the natural beauty of forest and stream invite and encourage rest and reflection, meditation, quieting, centering, silence, connectedness, peace. This framework is encouraged by the sayings on the trees along the way.

I looked up “ashram” in Wikipedia. It’s a combination of the Sanskrit work for work,  

Shrama with the ‘a’ as a negative. So it’s a place away from work (or daily activities).

I can think of many, many places where I have walked in nature with the intention of a sacred walk. That makes them ‘walking ashrams’ for me. This includes parks, forests, trails, rivers, or a wild patch along the rails.

One aspect of my Druid spiritual practice is to spend regular time in nature. The curriculum calls for quiet, open, noticing time as well as some focusing time where the goal is to notice minutia in nature. I also do a daily ritual called the Sphere of Protection which involves some body movement, invocation of the seven directions--North, South, East, West, Below, Above and Within--four elements, gods and goddesses and some mental imagery. While the ritual may be done inside, I find it much more satisfying to be outside, summer or winter.

So, one doesn’t have to go to India, Japan or California to visit an ashram. One might be available just down the block or at the edge of town or in the backyard.

        PS: The quote beginning today’s post appears along both the Hindu and the Interfaith/Peace Path. Amma grew up Hindu and her ashram, amritapuri, in Kerala, South India has Hindu trappings but her message is beyond any religion. I brought the quote back from a visit there in early 2016.