Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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July 5, 2013
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Ananda family manages priorities

Cullen Lewis’ priorities aren’t that rare. The Colorado native and his wife, Krishnabai, are trying to adhere to a routine, but with their first child, 9-month-old Bodhi, teething, that is easier said than done.

“His schedule changes every week or two,” said Krishnabai Lewis.

Much of the daily duties of child rearing are in mom’s hands while Cullen Lewis, 32, tends to his business enterprises: contracting and agriculture.

But, as a resident of Ananda Village, an intentional spiritual community on the San Juan Ridge, Cullen Lewis tries to start each day with some spiritual practice, he said, before he tends to his animals.

“I like to be up by 5 a.m., start my day with meditation or energy exercises,” he said.

After he’s done all that, he puts on his Cullen Lewis Construction hat and works with his seven full-time employees, about half of whom are from Ananda, on everything from residential and general contracting to electrical and off-grid solar systems.

Lewis’ business is one of about 30 owned by Ananda members in Nevada County and is also part of that community’s business cooperative, Fairness Integrity Resources Service Trust, or F.I.R.S.T., whose members strive to uphold Ananda’s principles in their business practice.

Those principles include making decisions based on dharma ­— the belief that a just action is the path to happiness and fulfillment and that people are more important than things.

Cullen Lewis has always been interested in intentional communities, he said. When growing up in Colorado, he even considered starting one with some friends. But after living in Ananda communities, such as Palo Alto’s, Lewis believes that intentional communities need more than an agreed preference of lifestyle.

“Anyone can have a huge garden or live in a sustainable way, but you have to have a reason to stay together when things are tough,” Cullen Lewis said. “We are here because the foundation is knowing God.”

Ananda businesses run the gamut. Christian Allen Luthiery makes guitars by hand and repairs them, too. The cooperative also includes woodworkers, photographers, accountants, interior designers, massage therapists, an investment consultant and various holistic health practitioners.

Krishnabai Lewis, whose maiden name was Kretzmann, was born and raised at Ananda. She went through its school system until high school, when she studied in a home-school program through a Placer County charter school, she said.

She would love to find the time to play the violin again, which she taught for a number of years, but helping run her family’s business and her duties as a mother have postponed that ambition.

Along with caring for their infant son, Krishnabai Lewis works with her brothers, Peter and David Kretzmann, operating the family business, MeditationBench.com, after their father’s 2012 death following a bout with cancer.

As the name indicates, MeditationBench.com sells an assortment of benches to be used for meditation, as well as a plethora of meditation and yoga accessories.

“It’s pretty fun to see our benches and pillows go out to places all over the world,” Lewis said, highlighting Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan as some of the farthest-reaching orders.

In addition to processing orders, Lewis added pillows, pads and tote bags to the company’s product line. Her brother, Peter Kretzmann, built and worked on the company’s website as well as helping in the woodshop. The youngest brother, David Kretzmann, studies business.

He currently is on a summer internship in the community in which he was raised. He wants to be an entrepreneur, he said.

On top of all that, the Lewis’ also manage MooShine Farm, an agricultural herd share where they maintain cattle for 80 families, Cullen Lewis said.

“We are custodians of other people’s animals,” he said.

Every night, after spending time with his family and eating dinner, Lewis heads out to tend six cows; four calves, two of which are bulls; and a donkey, which acts as the herds’ guardian.

They used to have chickens, too, until they learned that the local coyotes are not as vegetarian as the Ananda residents with whom they share the land, Cullen Lewis joked.

“I’m trying to train myself to work on only five hours of sleep a day,” Cullen Lewis said.

Recently, the couple tried to head down to Roseville but got sidetracked while investigating an agricultural opportunity, which turned out to be farther away than they thought.

“It was a nightmare,” laughed Krishnabai Lewis.

Ideally, Cullen Lewis aims to meditate once more before bedtime, he said. Given his jam-packed schedule, he said he values the chance to decompress and quiet his mind.

On weekends, the family tries to attend Ananda’s Sunday service.

When they want to go out, one of their favorite places is Bullards Bar Reservoir, and they are looking forward to an age where they can take Bodhi to restaurants.

“It’s pretty normal stuff,” Cullen Lewis said.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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The Union Updated Jul 5, 2013 11:26PM Published Jul 9, 2013 09:52AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.