Johnathan Yates and Deborah Michalak
Haidakhandi Universal Asharam
Interview Conducted by: Whitney Conti & Kelsey Gustasfson on Feb. 26, 2008.
Setting: We conducted our interview in the earth house kitchen of the Asharam. We had no prior engagement or appointments for the interviews, but after wandering in to the earth house we found both Deb and John talking in the kitchen. They invited us to stay and talk, offering us tea and treats. The interview was primarily with John as Deb was cooking, but she also chimed in on questions or issues she found interesting or important. John clarified that he wasn’t particularly involved with the drilling issue, but as Deb is a member of the Crestone Spiritual Alliance and local who lives in town, she self-proclaimed to be more involved. About half way through the interview, Penelope, Brittany, and Larissa also came in and sat down. Although they didn’t actively question in the interview, but they were listening and involved. Interview Notes All of these notes are taken from written notes taken during the interview as to what John and Deb said. However, there are very few direct quotes because of the poor recording quality of the tape. Johnathan’s Brief Background with Crestone First visited Crestone in September of 1987, later visited here and there, and then in ’95 he visited for a week and 1/2 , in 96’ he stayed for 7 weeks, and in ’97 he decided to stay permanently and has lived at the Asharam since. He said that he stayed because he had no strong call to be back where he was. Johnathan’s Role and Daily life in Crestone Johnathan described his life in Crestone as being encompassing and busy. He attends 2 daily services, yoga, various festivals, and receives a lot of visitors on weekends and in the summer. Sacred Qualitites of Crestone, Sense of Place
- Initial impression of Crestone: mystical
- Qualities of the sacred: beauty of the area and qualities of silence, which draws guests, visitors, tourists, wanderers and seekers
- The Landscape encourages a more receptive state of mind; all other groups with similar spiritual ends all coalesces and pulls together
- People that come to see us also check out the meditative spirit, ability to go within yourself- people are drawn by that energy
- Spiritual communities generate energy that is pretty palpable; aided by environments, which John thought, was probably the same energy that drew North Americans tribes
Historical Understandings of Crestone
- Spoke of the long history of spirituality in the area before Europeans: Native Americans called it the peaceful and bloodless valley; it was a shared area for the different tribes
- Hanna Strong made land available to those “groups considered authentic spiritual traditions.”
The Universal Ashram and its place
- Upcoming Festivals: 6h March is Shivatra festival, November is Diwali
- The Ashram is a Universal Center: there are various groups but they are very harmonious. Originally the Ashram came from North India as the original religion before that which we would later identify it as Hinduism
- A lot of other spiritualities come to the Ashram, especially for the fire ceremonies, John also attributed visitors to the lack of silent traditions, the karma yoga which they practice is keeping a mantra while actively functioning and doing daily activities
- Spiritual Alliance Came together because of the North entrance to the Baca National Park which would increase traffic through Crestone; Community of many centers
- One of the tasks of the Spiritual Alliance is to educate the people who want to come in and make changes; particularly with the Fish and Wildlife and BLM about the N Entrance issue which is very different
- The N entrance issue will mostly bring in hunters and backpackers with a certain amount of respect and relationship to the environment, where as drillers and oil industry are transient with different motivations
Hypothesized Effects of Drilling
- Drilling will probably detract from what brings people here, especially if it gets into full scale development like 100 gas drills -A lot of vehicles, trucks.. would equal a different focus and energy
- Significant part of interest in Crestone is beauty and purity of environment; gas industry would bring a lot of temporary workers with out a focus on protecting the environment which is at odds with local interest.
- Deb lives in the town, which is vastly different than the town to the meditative areas on the hill
- Being that town is only 5-7 miles away from the spiritual communities on the hill, the noise travels really easily, with the increase in traffic and drilling the town will sound like it is only a mile away
- The whole energy of community would change
- It would deter guests and tourists from visiting
- Spiritual communities generate energy that is pretty palpable; aided by environments, which John thought was probably the same energy that drew North Americans tribes Hypothetical future of Ashram in drilling
- The Temple has been open for 18 years, and John expressed feeling that he couldn’t just pack up and go because there is a commitment to maintain this tradition, not to necessarily keep the shop open.
- There is a need for all the various groups and they blend well together so he plans to stay
ANALYSIS: This interview was really interesting because Jonathan said that he didn’t really know much about the drilling issue, while Deb is an active member of the spiritual alliance. Also, Jonathan primarily lived in the hills at the Ashram while Deb lived primarily in the town and worked in the Ashram. The general sentiment was that the drilling would severely and irrevocably change the atmosphere and energy of Crestone, but Jonathan said that his commitment was to the tradition of the Ashram, and didn’t think he would be driven out. Also Deb notes the flight or fight hypothetical and said that she was much more of a fighter than fleer.