For the past 6 years I have spent the better part of my year touring, traveling the world and offering Bhakti Music (devotional or heart opening musical medicine). This often makes seeing my family challenging and requires creative planning! The most recent visit with my parents was perhaps the ultimate thus far: “Jane & Mel come to The Yoga Vidya Ashram for the annual Music Festival in Horn-Bad Meinberg, Germany” (a.k.a. the middle of nowhere).
My Jewish New York parents, happily retired and living in Florida, have come to enjoy traveling by cruise ship. An economical leisurely way to travel half way across the world to see their daughter while taking in some extraordinary sights!
When discussing when and how I would see my parents next my mother’s heart had become set on a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona. Their dates do not always coincide with mine so when their boat docked in Europe I would be working in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium with no more than 2 days in each location! Staring at the calendar I saw 4 days at The Yoga Vidya Musik Festival. This is a place I have grown to enjoy performing at over the last 4 years but it took time!
Yoga Vidya is a traditional Ashram associated with the Sivananda Organization, where I did my teacher training only I was in The Bahamas. This place is also a converted hospital facility complete with handicap bars in the bathrooms and a reception desk that greatly resembles the soap opera set for ”General Hospital”.
This would be indeed the strangest place to bring my folks. In their eyes I was bringing them to an all-German speaking, new age going freak fest at a hospital and I would be right up in the middle of it all. It was a risk! Not their typical vacation experience. Could they see the beauty?
YES! Lucie Beyer, the beautiful and lovely festival organizer, kindly arranged for a room for my folks. They were perfectly happy and enjoyed the daily vegetarian buffet. My mother’s response to the 8 AM concert mirrored mine when Lucie originally proposed this time slot 2 years ago. “8 AM? Do people actually come?”. Not only do possibly more people show up for the 8AM than the 8PM concerts, they dance and sing like there is no tomorrow! By 8:15 AM the place was jumping with everyone smiling and singing their hearts out. I could see my father crying with pride and my mother’s jaw hanging open in shock. The next time I caught sight of them they were in front singing and dancing. The energy they experienced was contagious and delicious.
They began to wonder about and question this Ashram living. We discussed the similarities of Ashram to the Kibbutz - an Israeli version of communal alternative living. The gap of these realities began to narrow. My folks were now engaging in conversation with many of the Germans who also spoke wonderful English.
My assistant Sita is a bright, interesting woman who has been living here with her 10 year old daughter for the past 6 months. As an economist and a single mom she began to feel life was about more than making money. She wanted and needed a change. She visited the ashram (place of hard work) for short stays with her daughter to audition the experience before making the big move. Her daughter, she explained, loves music and being surrounded by it at the ashram is making her thrive. She has many friends her age at the ashram and attends the local school happily. For Sita it is a welcomed new reality, simple, sweet and more joyful. Will it be forever? The average stay for most residents here at the Largest Ashram in all of Europe is a year or so
Whilst this information is not yet clear, what is clear is that there are wonderful alternative places to come to when one needs to drop OUT of society and IN to their soul. A place where one can get clear, clean and back in touch with their heart if they have lost this connection.
I am so proud and honoured to be able to contribute to healing with music! To be able to share this experience with my parents is a great blessing. My well educated and well-travelled parents returned home to their gated community in Delray Beach Florida, even more educated with a journey into the soul they did not expect. We each take with us this expansive and rich experience and are better individually and collectively for it.