Updated: Oct 2, 2018
Growing Food for a Sustainable Future: Al-Kauthar, The Sat Yoga Greenhouse
Years ago, even before my time at Sat Yoga, the initial idea for a permanent Greenhouse was imagined. For years, we have been using a temporary structure that has been a constant challenge. We experienced everything from collapsing roofs to wild turkeys flying in for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Although at times it was very frustrating, we were able to learn great lessons that helped prepare us for the design and building of our new Greenhouse. With patience and perseverance, all the pieces finally fell into place.
The exterior of Al-Kauthar, The Sat Yoga Ashram Greenhouse
Because the ashram is in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest, the ultra-high humidity and long rainy season make it nearly impossible to produce all of the varieties of food we eat all year long without a roof. That is why it is essential for us to have a greenhouse that will provide a shelter that is as warm, sunny, and as dry as possible.
Don Sergio, Hanuman and Roylan, the Al-Kauthar greenhouse team.
Ultimately, here at the Sat Yoga Ashram, we are studying how to live sustainably at every level. Sustainability is about finding and maintaining balance, to be in tune with the subtle information exchanged among all of the creations of the natural world. When it comes to growing food, three areas, in particular, have helped us to explore sustainability:
Food Production Food Production is where I first learned to love working with plants. There is nothing more satisfying than bringing in a big beautiful harvest of vegetables full of nutrients, vitamins, and vital energy straight out of the soil. Our number-one “customer,” the Ashram kitchen (called Ruchira), takes these bountiful harvests and works their pure magic! A few elements of the food production world include; soil making, weeding, bed and plant care, watering, and harvesting. Most of our daily routines are focused on these five key elements.
Plant Reproduction Plant reproduction is a subtle area that requires a lot of patience and excellent observation skills. We are currently exploring who in our region, and in Costa Rica as a whole, is cultivating plants for seeds. Recently, a group of us Sat Yogis took a field trip to Tinamastes, a small town near San Isidro, that hosts an annual Seed Festival. There, we discovered that there are some staple crops like beans, ayotes (pumpkins), and corn, that are being widely grown and reproduced by harvesting seeds. But what we also discovered is that most growers are buying seeds for staples like lettuce, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, to name a few. These findings reinforced the importance of developing our seed saving capacities. One veteran Costa Rican grower, Ed Bernhardt, told me that seed saving is what separates the men from the boys!
With Yogiraj and Tara at the Tinamastes Seed Festival, 2017
Experimentation Experimentation is an enriching part of the process if one can let go of the perfectionist who wants everything to appear as if there is only the healthy part of the plant cycle. But in reality, there are rotting parts and stunted parts that we would just get rid of rather than “harvest” the valuable information this offers. Some of our experiments have led us to learn about soil building, growing containers, wild/forest varieties, and propagation by “hijos” (Spanish for children, meaning they grow a new plant from the stem of the parent plant).
Observing this in the plant world has allowed me to recognize the same situation in my inner world. I must refuse to ignore those parts of myself that I avoid and defend against. I work diligently every day to recognize, purify, and sublimate the information trapped in my unconscious mind. This heroic work is allowing me to move from stagnant suffering to True maturity and adulthood.
In conclusion, the most essential part of life itself: the Divine Dimension! Most locations, buildings, and beings here at the ashram receive a spiritual name. Shunyamurti has given the greenhouse the sacred name, Al-Kauthar:
This is the name of surah 108 in the Holy Quran. As all know, the number 108 has deep spiritual significance. The word Al-Kauthar means God’s Abundance. It is also the name of a river in Paradise, according to Muslims. Along the river there is a community of holy beings who live in tents made of hollow pearls. This of course can symbolize the level of consciousness attained, which is that of the Pearl of Great Price. This is the ultimate sign of God’s Abundance. It is because of the level of consciousness here that the ashram becomes Paradise (the greenhouse is built in Paradesh). And because of the divine love that the sangha radiates, the food plants grow large and filled with nutrients and extra pranic life force. We are indeed receiving the river-like flow of God’s great abundance. Let us be thankful for Al-Kauthar.
The dance is the union of all the subtle life force energies of the phenomenal world upon which our bodies rely, and the Source from which all originates. With our hearts and minds open to Love and in humble recognition, all the elements that create a sustainable life miraculously flower, fruit, (and veggie) in Abundance!
Hanuman and Roylan, the ashram Short-Cycle Crop team.