Our Directors

Our directors are long time devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, and the lifelong students of the Self-realization teachings of Raja Yoga. You will find in us a friend and guide for your personal or guided retreat.

Nayaswami Durga Smallen

Nayaswamis Durga and Vidura Smallen are founding members of nearby Ananda Village. They came to Ananda in 1974, after searching for two years for a community that would embrace spiritual principles at the center of daily life. Today they are the Directors of the Ananda Meditation Retreat.

Durga has a natural ability to bring light and comfort to all whom she meets. She has a ceaseless inspiration and drive to make each retreat guest’s stay uplifting and comfortable.

Nayaswami Vidura Smallen

Vidura served for many years as community manager of Ananda Village. Even-minded and cheerful is his motto, I think. Vidura has a knack for seeing the humor in life, he brings a real sense of harmony to the retreat environment. Vidura is also trained as a Sharing Nature guide, leading programs that are designed to open the heart and mind to the fullness and beauty of nature.

With his even-mindedness and harmony that he brings into every thing he does along with his tireless service the benefits of having time spent with Vidura will be a joy that will be remembered for quite some time.

Our Teachers

Nayaswami Nitai Deranja

Nitai Deranja is co-founder of Education for Life (EFL) International. In 1972 he started the first EFL elementary school and in 1997 co-founded the first EFL high school. In his role as president of EFL, he currently oversees a network of six schools in the U.S. and Europe. Nitai has two wonderful adult children, both of whom attended Education for Life schools. He is the author of two books: For Goodness’ Sake: Supporting Children & Teens in Discovering Life’s Higher Values and The Art of Joyful Education.

Nitai graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California in Berkeley with a Bachelor’s degree in Humanistic Psychology, the first degree of its kind awarded at Berkeley. Later he earned a lifetime California Teaching Credential and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of California in Davis. A founding member of Ananda, Nitai has been teaching yoga philosophy and meditation since the 1970s.

Nayaswami Anandi Gray

Anandi lives, serves and teaches at the Ananda Meditation Retreat in Nevada City, California. She has a gift for clarifying the teachings of yoga and making them practical. Her deep calmness helps everyone around her feel comfortable and relaxed. Anandi is a 30+ year practitioner of Kriya Yoga and founder of the Ananda Yoga & Meditation Center in Ashland, Oregon. Before moving to the Meditation Retreat she was adjunct instructor of Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Psychology at Southern Oregon University. She is an Ananda Minister and member of the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society.

Bachelor of Science (Nutrition), Master of Theology (East-West Religions), Master of Science (Counseling Psychology), E-RYT 500. Previous occupations include Feature Editor of The Chronicle, a daily newspaper in Connecticut; Account Supervisor at Ketchum Advertising and Public Relations in San Francisco; Director of the Jackson County Rape Crisis Recovery Team, Oregon; and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

Nayaswami Susan McGinnis

Susan has been a meditator and Kriya Yoga practitioner for over 30 years. She was one of the early members of Ananda’s community in Seattle. Susan helped to start and then manage East West Bookshop, providing the greater community with a gathering space and programs for seekers of all traditions. She served as a Lightbearer Minister for the Seattle Sangha, and taught their popular Raja Yoga course, as well as other classes.

Here at Ananda Meditation Retreat, Susan works with guest services, teaches, leads satsangs and counsels others. Her many years of connecting with people in all walks of life help her to share the transforming teachings of yoga and meditation in creative, down-to earth, and practical ways that anyone relate to and use to uncover their inner joy and live happier, more fulfilling lives on all levels.

Susan also volunteers with OnlinewithAnanda’s Lessons in Meditation Course, sharing with meditation students around the world.


Charles Evans

Charles is the resident gardener of our 5-acre meditation gardens. His list of credentials speaks to a adventurous and curious soul. Author of several landscaping books, he has also been a building engineer, chef, art gallery owner, and even enjoyed a brief stint as a cowboy in Oregon.

Charles is Findhorn trained in the art of intuitive gardening. And this is what the guest invariably feels when he takes them on a tour and gives a talk on this subject. This is how Charles has integrated yoga and nature. He has a gift of tuning into the spirit of plants and trees, so that the love they receive from his care and attention is what the gardens share with you.

He loves to share his experiences of intuitive gardening as well as the history of the land with visitors. His nature and gardening stories will be a favorite part of your stay here.

Brannon Forrester

Originally from Southern Oregon, Brannon holds an Honors B.S. in Entomology Cum Laude from Oregon State University. He has been a disciple of Yogananda and part of Ananda since 2002. He holds a broad view of the world, having traveled to Kenya (to run with the Kenyans), China (to study kung fu), Australia (to participate in a running camp), England and Europe (as a student abroad), Belize (as a ecology student) and Mexico (on a church service trip).

Having worked in Ecological Monitoring and Conservation with the California Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service all over California, he harbors a deep love and respect for the natural world. His private passions include long-distance trail running, rock climbing, and mountaineering. After six months working in Yellowstone National Park, he took a job at Ananda Village at the end of 2011 and eventually came up to the Meditation Retreat in 2013. Currently the Kitchen Manager, he cooks, cleans, leads sadhana’s, and works on the generator-battery system, enjoying the variety of life at the Retreat, as well as the silence of living removed from it all.

Brannon brings his deep appreciation for nature and for Ananda’s spiritual path to all he does, embracing service to the guest as the central tenant of that path, and goes out of his way to make all aspects of the guest’s experience enjoyable and uplifting.