Slate Branch Ashram
“It is so quiet at Slate Branch,” said the late Jane Gentry Vance, former Poet Laureate of Kentucky and Dr. Jones’s colleague in the Honors Program at the University of Kentucky, “that you can hear yourself being.” Dr. Vance enjoyed overnight accommodations at Slate Branch after her JEFI-sponsored reading and signing at Watershed Arts Alliance.
Slate Branch Ashram is, foremost, a meditation retreat. Guests from all over the United States as well as Canada and the United Kingdom have attended retreats in the house designed and built by Mrs. Elva Jones, Sw. Shraddhananda’s mother, in the mid-1980s. The all-wood house is situated on a 95-acre farm that once belonged to Sw. Shraddhananda’s paternal grandparents.
Sw. Shraddhananda spent many delightful hours here as a child, and it was to Slate Branch she returned upon taking early retirement as a full professor from Allegheny College.
“Slate Branch is my Yeola,” said Sw. Shraddhananda in reference to a village in India where a great saint from her lineage did hours and hours of spiritual practices.
“Slate Branch is where I offered a very intense period of sadhana, or spiritual practice,” Sw. Shraddhananda said, so “it is no wonder that people experience and comment on the wonderful energy here.”
In 2007, and for several years afterwards, Slate Branch hosted the Somerset Interfaith Alliance’s “Healthy Foods Day.” People were invited to Slate Branch for a delicious, vegetarian meal, and Sw. Shraddhananda (then Dr. Jones who taught in the World Food Issues track in UK Honors) delivered lunches to the business community.
The Somerset Interfaith Alliance was formed when Dr. Jones was leading a book discussion group on Karen Armstrong’s text entitled Transformations at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
Patricia Nadim, a Muslim woman, and Rev. Randy Butler, pastor of Pisgah Presbyterian Church, did not want the group to stop meeting, so they proposed creating an event where people of all religions and cultures could come to the table together.
Dr. Jones offered Slate Branch Ashram as the place to host “Healthy Foods Day.” Barty Bullock, then County Judge Executive, and many other area citizens escaped from their offices to enjoy lunch at Slate Branch and partake of the peaceful atmosphere.
In recent years, Slate Branch Ashram has been the site of monastic initiations. Sw. Shraddhananda serves as Preceptor for The Community of the Mystic Heart (CMH). See The Community of the Mystic Heart website. She is also authorized by the Mahamandaleshwar to give Sannyas in Saraswati, a monastic Order dating back to Shri Shankaracharya who organized monks into four “maths,” or groups, in 8th century India.
Currently Sw. Shraddhananda is in the process of cultivating an organic garden and orchard at Slate Branch Ashram in the space across from where the original farmhouse once stood near the tobacco patch.