Sonoma Ashram

Digital Detox at Sonoma Ashram

I mince garlic and ginger. I slice onions thin. I chop potatoes, green peppers, cauliflower.

Large pots sizzle, burp and spatter on the six-burner stove. Cumin seeds roast in olive oil, then onions, then coriander, garam masala, fenugreek leaves.

Demetrios says fenugreek grows wild many places in India, but not so much here in the US. He’s a stout Greek septuagenarian. He laments that his best cooking days are behind him, but he is fully in command of this meal for ten.

I clean, I wipe, I observe. A large handful of cashews and hot water into the Vitamix form a creamy base, to which Demetrios adds sizzling spices, onions and a big ladle of crushed tomatoes. He pours the sauce into the sautéing green peppers and adds the paneer.

This dish joins gobi aloo, toor dal, basmati rice. A common meal in India, he says, but impressive to those coming in for their workshop.

He says to me, “you’re a good sous chef,” as we wrap up. How nurturing it is to be of service in this way, mincing, slicing, chopping, cleaning.

A prayer is said, om’s are uttered. We sit cross-legged around low tables, the portrait of the guru’s guru above the glowing wood stove. Those with the oldest knees sit in chairs with TV trays in front of them.

We mostly eat in silence, with a few whispers of appreciation. The thali trays are taken to the kitchen. The cycle is complete.


I’m at Sonoma Ashram. Day 2 of a four day personal retreat. Ostensibly a digital detox, I’m here to let something go – what that is I’m not yet sure.

My days are usually filled with LED screens of various sizes. From morning to night, devices in front of me. On the nightstand, at the desk, on the couch. It’s been this way for years, decades even.

I needed a break from it. Forced exile as I take an exit ramp off the information superhighway.

And so. My days have been filled with different things. Reading, writing, yoga, a six-mile walk down a country road. So much space and time when there is nothing digital to distract.

AliSun said we could do a digital detox at home. I was called to come here first. Now I’m ready to weave this into my life.

The morning’s light showers have passed and now the afternoon sun illuminates the garden. A man carts a wheelbarrow full of weeds. A woman collects some greens for the evening kitchari. Two others dig a bed as spring takes hold after a dry, dry winter.

I breathe and follow my breath. I have the precious commodity of time. I believe I will go to the temple and do some yoga before I gather my knife and return to the kitchen. In serving others, I serve myself. In this moment, it is enough.

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