1 Year of LFT Journey: Gagandeva
When one arrives at Ananda Kalyani, the captivating first impression is shaped by the breathtaking natural surroundings—nestled within the picturesque valley of Serra da Estrela, where the river crosses our land and brings an abundance of flora and beautiful sceneries. Though we hold many projects connected to holistic well-being, one of the project’s initial aims is to give a space for those who want to deepen their spiritual practice and spend time in peace and meditation. Hence, we offer an opportunity to experience the monastic lifestyle commonly referred to as LFT, wherein participants are expected to adhere to specific practices and guidelines throughout this period.
What is LFT?
A Local Full-Timer, or LFT, serves as a full-time volunteer for Ananda Marga who follows the lifestyle of a renunciant (monk or nun). It is designed to deepen one’s practice and aids in the contemplation of one’s future lifestyle. As per the teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, a pivotal decision between family life and the path of renunciation, leading to becoming a Dada, or Didi, should ideally be made. This training serves as a preview into the life of a monk, providing insights to guide individuals in determining the path that resonates most with their inner calling. Structured in two parts, the first part consists of intense training that is usually held for 3 months. During that period, the disciple follows strict discipline that starts from the early morning of Paincajanya*, followed by meditations 4 times a day, regular fasting and consistent study of Ananda Marga philosophy. After the training completion, the disciple continues his training by serving as an Ananda Marga full-time volunteer, guided by the resident monk who is following up the LFT’s daily progress. This year, our LFT Guilherme Weishar (spiritual name: Gagandeva) completed his one-year journey of living the LFT lifestyle. In this blog, we will unfold the experience he had during this year with us.
*Paincajanya – 5 am morning meditation practice.
Gagandeva’s training in Germany
Meditation Instead of Sleep
This new year marks the end of a great chapter in my life: I am no longer an LFT. During this challenging year, I learned so much about myself and overcame many insecurities and fears. I broke many misconceptions about what is possible and not. For example, I always believed that I needed 9 hours of sleep to be functional the next day. Well, the rigorous routine of a monk meant that most nights I only slept 6 hours or even less. But to my surprise, this did not affect my ability to focus. Meditating an average of 3 to 4 hours a day allowed my mind to have plenty of rest. Some researchers even claimed that deep meditation is more regenerating for the mind than sleep (claiming that 20 minutes of deep meditation is comparable to 1 hour of sleep),
Meditation on the Go: Facing Life’s Challenges
Another valuable skill that I developed during this year was discipline and an uncompromising attitude towards one’s duty and daily practices. I travelled to the US and it took well over 20 hours. This meant I had to do all my practices in public. I did my asanas by putting a blanket on the floor of the airport lobby. Doing half-baths in the airport bathrooms, meditating on the plane and even singing kiirtan in a somewhat empty corner of a train station. I have to confess though that I was not perfect, there were probably a handful of days I missed one of the 4 meditation sessions, but most of the time I was very strict and saw directly the benefits.
Surrendering to the Experience
This deepening of my sadhana (spiritual practice) allowed me to develop a greater capacity to surrender; surrender to the divine consciousness. The truth is that not even a blade of grass moves without the will of Parama Purusa (Supreme Consciousness). We all exist inside the Cosmic Mind. To constantly remind myself of this absolute truth made it easier to surrender one’s actions to God. This is particularly valuable when one is overwhelmed by difficulties in life. In these challenging moments, surrendering all responsibility, all outcomes, all results to Brahma permits oneself to be relieved of all pressure. “I am not responsible for the outcome of this action and I trust that the Universe has my best interest and will take care of things in the most harmonious way without me needing to control everything.” This was a true game changer in my life because I tend to overthink things and micro-manage everything. Relinquishing all responsibility towards God makes life very light. Like removing a burden off our back.
Bliss as the Lifestyle
The last discovery I want to share about living the life of a monk is that this lifestyle, the practices, the conduct rules, and the 16 points of Ananda Marga function as a roadmap to achieve a state of bliss. A state of equanimity of mind. Bliss does not mean ecstasy, I was not euphoric, instead, I was perfectly content, in a subtle state of happiness and peace of mind. Very few things of everyday life would rob me of this state. The more I was strict and consistent with the practices, the more resilient and established I became in this state of mind. But alas I did not manage to keep this state permanently, travelling, demanding events that ended late or just letting laziness win over would destroy this blissful state of being. But now I know this state of being is possible, I know all the necessary steps that need to be taken daily and the conduct rules to be followed strictly. It is not rocket science, but it is demanding and requires a considerable amount of effort and some level of sacrifice.
Now, transitioning from LFT, Gagandeva expresses a desire to integrate the monk lifestyle principles into his daily routine. Reflecting on this shift, he shares, “Even though I am no longer a LFT I know I will get back on this way of being (after allowing myself to enjoy some mundane pleasures that I haven’t experienced in over a year).
Gagandeva’s journey as an LFT volunteer with us was truly transformative, and we are looking forward to opening the doors to others interested in exploring the same lifestyle. Before making this decision, we encourage you to familiarise yourself with our project and our philosophy, consulting first with the resident monks about the possibilities of doing the LFT training and later serving through activities with us or elsewhere.
Join us first by applying as a regular volunteer, enabling you to engage in collective meditations and participate in our daily routine. Even one month would give you a glimpse of what our project is about, giving you a clear understanding of whether you would love to continue your path further, becoming an LFT. Explore the volunteering opportunities below.