With our economy in tatters, an interesting trend is occurring: folks who have been laid off, but even more so, those job-hungry post-grads, are turning to spiritual work to tide them over until they get that coveted investment banking job (that is, if the industry ever recovers.)
Ashrams all over the United States have seen their applications for work/live-in exchange more than double this year. Sara Eckel from the New York Times reports about why Ashrams are in vogue right now in her article, “Hard Times are Jamming the Ashrams” and how one man (among many others) who, after losing his job at Intel, signed up for a year at the Himalayan Institute, since, “in exchange for his cooking duties and an annual fee of $3,000, he gets a private room, three vegetarian meals a day and unlimited access to the institute’s classes, seminars and other events.”
And he’s far from alone on finding Ashrams a sociable, spiritually fulfilling refuge in these economically troubled times:
“The Himalayan Institute is one of many retreats where cash-strapped spiritual seekers can participate in work-study programs in which they pay typically $300 to $900 a month in exchange for a few hours a day of service, like washing dishes, cleaning rooms or weeding gardens. As the unemployment rate has risen and people have sought refuge from the harsh economy, these work-exchanges have become a hot commodity. The Himalayan Institute received twice as many applications for its summer work-study programs this year as last — its August session is full, with 22 people, compared with 11 last year — and so did two similar retreats, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Carmel Valley, Calif., and Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham, Va. (which is better known as Yogaville).”
What do you think? Is this a legitimate way for people to ride out the recession? Or does this sort of soul-searching have a false note about it, with people taking advantage of the situation Ashrams offer, perhaps taking away spots from those who are really serious about their spiritual seeking?