The statue is part of the Ananda community, which follows a path of yoga and meditation in spirituality.

The vision of a local Gaston resident will take one step closer to completion this weekend with the unveiling of an eight-foot bronze sculpture of spiritual leader Paramahansa Yogananda overlooking Laurelwood Valley near Gaston.

On Saturday, June 23, at 3 p.m., people from all over will come together to see the larger-than-life statue placed high up on a hill of the valley, as part of the design of peace gardens by local resident JoAn Steinmetz.STAFF PHOTO: OLIVIA SINGER - JoAn and David Steinmetz have been working for several years to bring JoAn's vision of peace gardens with a statue of Paramahansa Yogananda to life in Gaston.

The Ananda Center at Laurelwood serves as one of the many Ananda communities across the world, as part of a global movement based on the teachings of spiritual leader Yogananda. The spiritual path incorporates yoga and meditation in finding God and inner peace, and it includes people from all faiths and backgrounds, Steinmetz said. The center hosts retreats, yoga programs and conferences.

An already-practicing yogi, Steinmetz said she had a vision in 2014 while meditating in which a statue of Yogananda was placed atop a hillside, overlooking and blessing the people — and she was determined to make it a reality.

"I started getting the idea ... we needed a focus in our lives," Steinmetz said. "We lost our purpose."

She and her husband, David Steinmetz, had been attending retreats and classes at the Ananda Center for years, she said, living in a rural area just outside of Gaston. JoAn Steinmetz realized the open land surrounding the center was a perfect match for her vision of the peace gardens with the statue, and it was an idea one of the center's founders agreed to, she said.

She wanted the gardens to serve as a sanctuary where "people could come and meditate and pray and enjoy the serenity and the views," she said, regardless of their religion or beliefs.

She and her husband have been hard at work ever since, raising funds to bring her vision to life. They have also moved into a home just next to the center, down the hill from the gardens, to be closer to the Ananda community.

The giant, bronze statue was designed by artist and sculptor Gary Roller, who sculpted the full-size Yogananda in standing position, making it the first standing statue of the spiritual leader, David Steinmetz said. The Steinmetzes have raised over $100,000 to make both the sculpture and gardens a reality. STAFF PHOTO: OLIVIA SINGER - On Saturday, June 23, the bronze version of the eight-foot statue will be placed and presented on a hilltop in the valleys of Gaston.

"We've been working on the gardens for these last four years, and we thought we would be dedicating this statue on the (centennial) anniversary of when Paramahansa Yogananda came to America, which was 1920," she said. "But we are getting older, and we decided to step it up a little bit with International Day of Yoga coming and have it that same weekend."

There will be events across the Willamette Valley commemorating the international celebration throughout the weekend.

On Thursday, June 21, a celebration will be held in Pioneer Square in Portland from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Global Peace Award recipients will speak at the Peace Symposium at Portland State University on Friday, June 22, from 7 to 9 p.m.

In Laurelwood, the Ananda community will host an open house throughout the day on Saturday, June 23, including the statue unveiling. The yoga fest will conclude with a day-long retreat at Ananda Laurelwood on Sunday, June 24, with many activities including yoga and meditation classes, brunch and the peace gardens tour.

Thrilled to have made so much progress on the peace gardens so far, JoAn Steinmetz looks forward to people after her and her husband benefitting from it.

"We knew that it would give us not only purpose in our lives, but perhaps something that we could leave for others to profit by, to feel the vibration and to be uplifted by," she said. "What we really see we are doing is helping to promote peace in the world by providing a place where people can come and really go inwards and tune in deeply to nature, and if the Yogananda statue is meaningful to them, well, they will draw inspiration from it."

Editor's Note: The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Paramahansa.

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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