Alumni Spotlight: Gijs 'Jazz' Van den Broeck


Jazz is a dreamer and world traveler. He spends lots of time in meditation centers, spiritual places, and ecological communities. He is also studying yoga and Massage Therapy, and is always looking for new ways to keep improving himself and contributing to the world.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to come to Sadhana Forest because I was looking for a change in my life. I was tired of my 9-5 job and city life, being part of a system I did not believe in, coming home by myself every evening with just the internet and the fridge for entertainment. I was looking for an inspiring community to live in.

I wanted to live a more simple life, be more connected to others and nature, and to try to be the change I wish to see in the world.

I heard of Sadhana Forest through a friend, and it turned out to be even way beyond my expectations. I fell in love with the community, the open and warmhearted people, and the way of living in deep harmony with nature. This place is so much more than a reforestation project. Here we are greening not only barren lands but also the barren hearts of our fast-paced individualistic consumerist society.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

You have to arrange your own travels. They can pick you up from the nearest bus stop or can get you in touch with a trustworthy taxi driver. Accommodation is provided, so is food and basic hygiene supplies for 500 INR per day. You get a short tour on the day of your arrival, and they also inform you of all you need to know to be part of the community.

After staying some time, I got the opportunity to make a one-year commitment. Sadhana helped me with my visa and gave me some financial support while being there.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

You have to be a little adventurous to come and stay here. Life is quite basic and comfort minimal. We use dry composting toilets and have limited water and electricity available as we are off the grid for both. You will be staying in a simple wooden thatched-roof hut in the forest.

On the other hand, you will find a very warm and welcoming community of people from all over the world who are all eager to do 'seva' (selfless service) and connect with each other. Just come with an open mind and some curiosity, and you will be fine!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We get up quite early in order to escape the heat. On the weekdays, there is 'seva' (selfless service) in the mornings, and afternoons and weekends are free apart from a few cooking or maintenance shifts. Most evenings, there is a community activity such as our eco film club, open stage, sharing circle, or core values talk. On Sunday night, there is a meeting going over the seva for the coming week.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was not afraid of anything really. Do not let fears rule your life. Don't listen to the naysayers, don't just follow what everyone else is doing. Find your own path. Don't lose your common sense, but do follow your heart. Be willing to serve and do good to others. Do not be attached to material comforts, and be able to let go and live in the present moment. Keep an open mind and an open heart, and don't let your pride and prejudice get in the way. This will lead to a happy and fulfilling life. I have always known this, and my experience at Sadhana only confirmed this!

What makes this place unique?

There are many ecological projects, but what makes this one different to me and why I chose to spend so much time here is that I feel this approach is very holistic.

It is grounded in a very deep and profound willingness to heal our species and the planet, and to live a life of service and non-violence. At the same time, we don't lose ourselves in clouds and rainbows but we make all this practical in every aspect of our lives, from the way we eat our food to the way we wash our hands.

I don't expect anyone to completely take over this lifestyle; I rather see it as a laboratory where everyone can come and explore different ways of life such as veganism, natural learning, low impact living, non-competition, substance-free living, etc. Anyone can come here and take something home.