As the US Ashram heads toward its 30th anniversary, it may be of interest to note that we have been ‘off the grid’ since its inception. This means instead of fossil fuel electricity supplied by an electric company, we have used the sun as our major source of power. We have solar collectors to produce electricity, heat the water and warm our floors. In addition the sun enables our straw to grow which insulates our buildings.
We are so appreciative of Surya, the sun. When He shines, we can do our laundry, vacuum, warm our buildings, use our lights, computers and printers, and heat our water. We are located in an area known as the solar capital of North America since we receive over 300 full days of sunshine a year. For our many visitors we become educators about solar power. They learn just how much power is used up by heat-generating appliances like rice cookers, hair dryers, toasters, microwaves, clothes dryers and heaters – they are unusable in our Ashram. Despite this we are a flourishing Ashram with many visitors, and we have everything we need.
We also have our own gravity-fed water system from the Spanish Creek that flows through our property. We are fortunate to have a water rite to tap this water and equally fortunate that one of our early residents had the engineering knowledge and stamina to create this amazing system where the pipes in our winter weather need to be 7 feet below ground. The end result is delicious, pure water with no pumps or other gadgets. But it requires constant maintenance; raking the intake area so it does not get clogged up with leaves, flushing the system, and monitoring the water levels. It is the same with ‘living off the grid’; daily checking the pumps, invertors, batteries, cleaning off the solar panels after every snowfall, constant mindfulness of energy usage, and repeatedly reminding our many guest to turn off lights and to use their electronics sparingly when we do not have much sun. Babaji’s teaching on simplicity calls us to this simplified living. We do sometimes jokingly call it ‘voluntary complexity’, but it is worth it. This simple form of living is a rare and beautiful thing and an excellent reminder for our minds to be simple and uncomplicated too.