Ashli has been the regional events coordinator in our home town of Ashland, OR for many years. We were happy that in October of this year we could ask her to organize and run an in-person weekend for Gangaji again.
In practical terms Ashli is responsible for securing the right venue, in this case the Historic Ashland Armory, coordinating the volunteer teams who show up on the day to help staff set up the room, unpack the AV equipment, arrange the flowers, run the bookstore, check covid-vaccinations, and much more.
Ashli is always the gracious host, welcoming everyone personally. She has a knack for making sure new people, or those from out of town, or anyone with special needs feel included and taken care of. Most of all, we appreciate her quiet, thoughtful presence—a huge support in so many events with Gangaji over the years. Thank you Ashli!
Bonny Koeber, M.D. (pictured with her husband Chris (Coyote) and Arkus, their dog) is a retired anesthesiologist who transplanted from Texas to Ashland, Oregon in 2020. Because of her medical background, she was one of our main supports in navigating the important step of keeping Gangaji and all our retreat attendees safe. In her own words...
"Being a physician, I was very concerned about the safety of in-person meetings during the Covid pandemic. I volunteered to play a small role in keeping our sanga safe as we came back to having in-person meetings at Fallen Leaf Lake, and recently in Ashland. The decision, made by Gangaji, to require vaccinations and day-before Covid testing before our in-person meetings was such a relief! I personally would not have felt comfortable meeting in person, without those guidelines. Gangaji and GF leadership making those hard decisions made the effort of helping guide safe practices so much easier.
Being involved in the Covid screening before and often during our retreats was for me a delicate dance. The opportunity to greet and meet so many wonderful people, for someone who is relatively shy, was a deepening experience. So many amazing souls in one place… I was a bit overwhelmed at times meeting love in so many places.
The other side of volunteering for all things related to Covid during retreat, was the possibility of being pulled out of silence or back into reality when a person’s test turns positive or they feel sick. The fear of others becoming ill… of Gangaji becoming ill. The fear of the unknown in that moment. Then to watch the entire Sanga responding with love, understanding of what could happen, and a unified willingness to comply with any medical recommendations that were suggested. A willingness to put other's well-being above their own personal choices and desires. A willingness to be lead by the desire for the best possible outcome. In an age where it seems “ my desire trumps your desire” is more the norm, you were all like a breath of fresh air. Thank you all for just who you are. Volunteering for The Gangaji Foundation has been my pleasure and my great luck!"
Abby Stason is a superstar of our events bookstore team (pictured with another veteran of the GF bookstore team, John Midgley). So of course we asked for her help when we knew we would be doing retreats again this year. Charge up the ipads, layout the books, and we were in business again. (In-person events are the only place that the GF now sells Gangaji, Papaji, and Ramana Books and Photos.)
Here is what Abby says about coming back together.
"What a gift to come back together in person after such a long gap. Most surprising and delightful for me was/is the reinforcement we were never apart. We are always together in such a profound meeting: no space or time or anything is any distance from us, all of us: One Heart. AND the privilege of giving back in person (volunteering) is even more precious in the renewed reminder life is sweet. To be able to share the breath of life at events, share the human hugs, and contribute to events in a very tangible way - indescribable joy. Thank you Gangaji and the Foundation Team for your sustained invitation. PS: there’s even room for my mind to make sure I get AAAA+++++ rating from Cat Rowland for my bookstore tally sheet. LOL"
Our own Tom Hoffman, AV Manager and man behind the camera at all Gangaji's events, is often joined by his brother, Bob Hoffman to play side kick at in-person events. We were so happy to have Bob in our midst again at Fallen Leaf Lake and Santa Sabina this year. As well as supporting Tom in setting up the gear, Bob runs the audio board during meetings and does a lot of the video production on site that enables us to send people home with a copy of their own exchange with Gangaji. He greatly supports our retreat program by leading a daily morning meditation (silent sitting).
Tom and Bob are a great team, falling back on a lifetime (literally) of familiarity to work seamlessly side-by-side. Their signature (often matching) Hawaiian shirts, and shared lifelong love of meditation, are a huge boon to our event production team. Thank you Bob, for supporting your brother! You support us all.
“This is your resting place, your watering hole. Find what supports you, what includes you, and drink it in. Be nourished. Be enlivened. And when you feel thirsty again, drink some more.” —Gangaji
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