When the idea was first mentioned to go to live in Austria out in the country on a farm (essentially) for six months in a Shangrila style experiment, where we would live in a disciplined fashion similar to a monastery, and bring people there from different countries with different religious beliefs and see how we all do together working toward common goals, I thought… I’m definitely not going to do that.
It seemed impossible and unrealistic for me at the time. I didn’t have much money, I had an apartment, a job, friends, dreams I was pursuing in Los Angeles. I would have to give up all these things to go do something that I wasn’t exactly sure about. I also knew that there would be a lot of self discipline and hard work involved. So I was doubtful, to say the least, that I would go. It seemed like a nice idea, but just that… an idea. How would you pull that off?
Then one day, I was talking with Lauren Schneider about it, and she told me she was definitely going and that it was going to be awesome. We would have a lot of fun, and it would be this whole it adventure and how great it will be to take a chance on this and step out of the mundane day to day life we were kind of living at the time and just do something outside of the box. We would meet new people and gain a better understanding of ourselves and others.
I got nervous… Deep down I believed what Lauren was telling me, and I started to think maybe I could do this. My life could use a new adventure!
I didn’t know what would come out of it, and in a way that made it exciting and more than a bit scary. I would be completely stepping into the unknown with a sense of not knowing where my life would go from there. I have always liked the idea of community, people coming together to work and live for common goals. So that was appealing. The idea of creating a Shangrila, or at least making an attempt to figure out how you would even do that, seemed like a beautiful challenge. Getting to quit my waiting tables job, meeting new people, living out in nature away from the city. All of this was appealing to me.
This was also going to be a big part of my spiritual journey. Learning to trust God, and my own intuition, telling me to take a chance on this. Experimenting with changing some of my bad habits, learning to work with and be more considerate of others. Going deeper into meditation and my sadhana, even more opportunities that I originally overlooked.
I would also be with friends for the entire journey. Christine and Sonja from Austria, and Warren and Lauren from the US.
So I decided to go. To take the plunge… And I’m glad I did.
So much happened in those six months, and I grew so much as a person and learned so much about my own behavior, and how I could relate better to others. It was HARD. Don’t get me wrong, and my doubt about it all almost won, but to quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “the hard is what makes it great!”
By Jason Whisman