THE FIRST DECADE 1996 – 2006
The land was bought in October, 1996, when co-founders Swami Karma Karuna, Divyajyoti (Swami Karma Karuna’s mother) and other family members first discovered the location for Anahata Yoga Retreat. Swami Muktidharma arrived fresh from India some weeks later. In December 1996, Atmasundari was born during a water birth in Shankaraya (the current guest house), well and truly inaugurating the new land and bringing about the birth of a new vision.
Guided by the vision of Paramahamsa Satyananda, founders, long-term residents and family members the retreat has grown from humble beginnings to its present state. When the land was purchased, two rustic, unfinished buildings, a full outhouse and a very limited water and power supply were in place.
The very first project was to move the outside structure of the outhouse and make our first simple composting toilet, now called a “Loo with a view”!
The beginning days at Anahata were a steep learning curve for all. Unaccustomed to conservation, alternative power and limited water we managed to deplete the water tank and the power within the first weeks!!! Therefore, our next projects included adding more solar panels, a bigger battery bank and a large water storage tank to collect rain water. We also learned very quickly about utilizing our resources in the right way and this has become one of the pinnacles of Anahata and an example that we are proud to share with our guests.
We had a vision to become self-sustaining, but little experience in what this meant. In a bid to grow our own food, we cleared a very large and thorny gorse patch and planted our garden with high expectations and plenty of enthusiasm. We produced enough radishes to feed an army, but not much else! Needless to say, radishes are no longer our favourite veggie.
The next year saw the Shanti family (peace family), as we were called in the early days, taking gardening courses, learning about composting, mulching, soil nutrition and finding out what grows well at this altitude. After being introduced to permaculture, we began to establish the land along these principles.
We began to complete the unfinished buildings and make the living spaces a little more private and comfortable. The first building project was making some walls between the rooms and particularly between the bathroom and kitchen! So we could have a shower in private without the cook peeking in! Brett and Leone Connable also began building Rishidham, one of our almost-complete, straw bale buildings.
During this first year, Swami Muktidharma began planting the seeds of yoga, teaching yoga to the volunteers who arrived and people within the Golden Bay community.
Coming and going from the retreat was an interesting adventure in the beginning. The road had not been properly maintained, and the 8 kilometre, 4WD dirt road had canyons, holes and many other hazards. Nowadays, the Tasman District Council maintains the road in good order making it passable for 2WD cars.
The early days were a challenge, but gave us excellent training in mental flexibility and in perseverance against all odds!
We held our first workshops focused on yoga, permaculture and sacred art. The facilities were basic, the quarters cramped, but the feeling of connection and purpose was high! Our first permaculture workshop saw 25 people living, cooking, eating, sleeping and learning in one building amid 2 weeks of rain. It was a very cosy workshop.
We continued to gradually build, plant trees, evolve the garden, make paths, and we began to work on the internal structure… hmmm… tax forms, desktop publishing, keeping receipts, files, computers, another sharp learning curve!!! Again wonderful volunteers arrived, creating a website, setting up a database and giving us crucial advice on how to run a centre.
We also had a water diviner find an underground river. With a great amount of faith and as many doubts, we drilled 37 meters down to bring up the fresh spring water that now amply sustains the residents, guests and the land.
During this year, Swami Muktidharma received a letter from Swami Niranjanananda, head of Satyananda Yoga and was given the instructions to focus on sharing yoga and to create a space dedicated to that. With Swamiji’s blessings, we began gradually to focus more on the yoga aspect of the retreat. We started to chant the Mahamritunjaya Mantra every Saturday and to hold kirtan sessions regularly, thus beginning to build the regularity and spiritual energy that is the real underlying structure of Anahata.
Swami Muktidharma produced his first meditation tape recorded live in 2 hours. He has now gone on to record four professionally produced meditation CDs that are now sold internationally.
We built Atma Mandir (the yoga practice hall) our round earth yurt and simultaneously, Chakra (the straw bale round house). Many hours of dedication, sweat, straw, mud and plaster, the helping hands of karma yogis from around the world, and the guidance of respected designer and builder, the late Gavin Cedarman, brought us these unique and special buildings.
Our buildings in themselves now attract visitors from far and wide. The gardens continued to receive energy, including a greenhouse, and the improvement of our worm farm and composting heaps.
Swami Muktidharma and Swami Karma Karuna started to travel internationally sharing yoga wherever they went. In this way they began to spread the word about Anahata and also procured funds to continue building the retreat.
With the completion of our eco buildings, we began to work on the promotion of Anahata through mail outs, newsletters and posters. We began to host more workshops and people started to come specifically for yoga therapy training with Swami Muktidharma.
In this time period we also built an office, which allowed for more accommodation in Surya (the main house) and shifted it from over-activity to a more comfortable space to relax, including a library of inspiring books. The new office gave the office team a fresh ‘head space’. During this time we continued to get a flow-through of volunteers helping with building, maintenance, office, gardens and grounds.
Swami Muktidharma was invited personally by Paramahamsa Satyananda to bring groups to India, and in 2002 we ran our first Yoga Lifestyle course at the Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, presided over by Swami Niranjanananda. This strengthened our link to India, and it has given Anahata a way to keep on growing in order to better serve the needs of the people who come. Many of the volunteers and guests who have come through Anahata have joined us on these trips, transforming and inspiring their lives. Some have gone through the full Satyananda training and are now establishing Satyananda centres, classes and groups in other places in the world, thus promoting the international web to which Anahata is connected.
2001 – 2005
Many projects, seemingly small, but always requiring a lot of energy and finances continued to happen in these years. We removed the old fire place (a 44 gallon drum nicknamed ‘the Pig’, for its overuse of wood and its round shape) from Surya. We put in a new efficient fireplace, a beautiful wooden floor and Tibetan carpets. We plastered the outside of Rishidham building, built a bathroom at chakra and a big wood shed and tool storage area. We landscaped, gardened, mowed lawns, weeded, painted, hammered, chainsawed, cooked, chopped, watered, answered e-mails, phone calls, typed (gasp) and you name it, we did it! All the while continuing to do our best to be present, in the moment, serve our tradition and plant the roots of Anahata into solid ground.
Each year, we have increased the number of workshops that we run and have had the great fortune to attract visiting Satyananda Swamis and teachers from around the world, who each bring their own unique way of sharing this rich science. Rather than permaculture workshops, we began to share Yoga Ecology, which is working equally with the micro-cosmos (our internal world) and the macro-cosmos (the environment outside). This approach better reflects our visions and purpose.
2006 – 2007
We have a covered section to the garden to protect it from pests, and we have planted firewood trees to further enhance sustainability. We have continued to work on Rishidham and there are high hopes that it will get completely finished soon! The biggest project of late has been to replace the old deck of Suryia which was on its last legs, with a new one designed to enhance the views and create step seating for outside lunches.
The Anahata gardens are flourishing (only a few radishes these days!) providing much of the nutritious organic produce for guests and residents. The Anahata grounds continue to take a lot of effort to maintain, and the gorse and grass are persistent, but as Swamiji says, the purpose is not the end result, but what you learn during the journey. So we have a good focus for the wieldy mind.
We FINALLY got fast Internet via a satellite, bringing us well and truly out of the dark ages (12kbs per sec on a bad day), freeing up the phone line and
revealing a whole new world of efficiency and Internet possibilities!!! This allowed us to launch or first website and a brochure.
We have also been working on establishing Anahata as a charitable trust, which will allow us to better serve our mission. In addition, we have produced two new CDs, and we continue to travel internationally and bring groups to India. It is a busy little hill considering its remoteness!
When the trust is approved by the Charitable Trust Commission, we look forward to being able to better serve the community and the people who wish to come here.
We are currently working on a waste water treatment plant, looking into ways to officially conserve the native bush of which we are the grateful caretakers, establishing emergency plans, and making plans to complete Rishidham with a bathroom and shower unit.
In the near future, we also plan to increase our alternative power supply, by adding hydro and/or wind generators. Anahata is growing and aspires to help as many people as possible through yoga. To further this aim, in the next five years we have plans to significantly expand current facilities, intending to install a commercial kitchen and a gravity-fed, rainwater ablutions block, as well as additional accommodation.
Thanks with all our hearts to our Gurus, Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, without whom none of this would be possible. The vision is always becoming ever more clear and grounded. We have received much support from our sister centres around the world, and the continual flow of people volunteering at Anahata has made it possible to grow to this stage.