Who We Are
The Ahimsa House is a center for practices of peace & mindful living. In the heart of West Philadelphia we are center for conscious consumerism. Our pillars are ahimsa (non-violence), dana (generosity), metta (unconditional love), and mindfulness.
We serve as a bridge between the Eastern and Western wisdoms. Having gained so much rich philosophy from teachers of the East, the Ahimsa house tries to ground these philosophies in daily practice in the west.
The Ahimsa House is a project under The Pureland Project, a nonprofit dedicated to empower grassroots movements for environmental sustainability and community wellness through experiential education. The project serves to give voice to underserved communities using the principles of compassion and non-violence.The Pureland Project originated in Tibet and funds Garchen Rinpoche’s communities and three schools there.
Chair: meg ferrigno
Vice Chair: Kellie Berns
Secretary: Chelsea Clofer
Ah-Him-Sa is the sanskrit word for nonviolence. The Ahimsa House is a center for practices of peace & mindful living. In the heart of West Philaldephia we are center for conscious consumerism. Our pillars are ahimsa (non-violence), dana (generosity), metta (unconditional love), and mindfulness.
What We Do:
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word meaning non-violence. The Ahimsa house is a center for the practice and cultivation of non-violence located in West Philadelphia. The practice of non-violence depends upon the philosophy of interdependence, mindfulness and compassion towards all living beings.
Our goal at Ahimsa house is to create a safe space where all people are accepted, nourished, heard, and loved. The center is a venue that promotes and offers practices of peace, sustainability, creativity, justice, conscious consumerism and healing. In all of our endeavors, living from the heart is our underlying message. Instead of fighting what we don’t want to see, we are creating that which we do want to see in the world. We are a non-discriminatory space that welcomes everyone, and deeply encourages those who are victim to systematic oppression to use our space to teach, organize, express, and seek refuge. Ahimsa is a place that draws all people together to celebrate our differences while also focusing on the essence of our being, that which is the same in us all: the one breath, the one awareness, the one energy that pulsates.
A main objective of Ahimsa house is to combat injustice and heal our violent system through our values and choices. We offer our space to be used by individuals and groups to exchange ideas and inspirations around resistance, resilience, justice, and mindfulness. We believe that greed and capitalism are a part of the inherent flaw in our system. Therefore every class and offering at ahimsa is just that, an offering, free of charge. We encourage people to use Ahimsa as a space to organize and create the vision and actions for the positive change we want to see manifest.
The classes and offerings at Ahimsa seek to encourage the cultivation of harmony and peace first with oneself, which in turn creates balance and healing in our other relationships with community, nature etc. We have found that joy and peace is in part largely nurtured through a connection with the earth and the forces of nature. In the city this connection can feel less available and accessible at times. At Ahimsa we have an entire city lot we have dedicated as a green space/community garden where we teach everything from organic gardening, herbalism, to sustainable living practices. We aim to educate people as to how they can incorporate sustainable living practices into their daily lives, and why and how it can affect everything from their health, happiness, and finances to the longevity of the world’s precious resources. In the middle of the city, Ahimsa is a venue that reconnects people to the natural world and reminds us that we are nature and not separate from her. We seek to create an understanding that by making a relationship with and caring for the natural elements we are in turn taking care of ourselves.
Ahimsa is a healing space. Social justice begins with how we take care of and nourish our own individual body, mind, heart. In today’s world it is more important than ever to strengthen one’s own center and tonfiy the nervous system to combat daily stressors. Some of our classes include meditations, yoga, art, dance etc which aim to demystify spiritual practice, offering it in a way that everyone can use and benefit from in their daily lives. As the world shakes, changes and transforms it is essential we all have a center within to return to. At Ahimsa we seek to offer classes free of charge so everyone has access to personal practices that promote internal peace and steadiness.
It ALL started with a smile & some handcuffs...
The King of Pop, Michael Jackson died on June 25,2009. Devastated as we were, my friends and I decided to celebrate his musical genius by going dancing. Afterwards friends wanted to re-fuel with cheese steaks on south street. Being a vegan, I stayed outside. When a bike patrol officer came past saying: “f*** move it”. My friend & I continued talking and smiling thinking she was speaking to someone else until she approached me & cursed at me directly. I told her i could not move because her bike tire was pinning my foot down. She only removed her bike to throw me against the wall to cuff me, slamming me down on the curb to wait for my ride to the jail. The rest of the police squad locked the doors to the restaurant and arrested my friend when she inquired what happened. we spent the night in jail- without explanation of why & without being read rights.
At our trial, the policewoman lied under oath, but my friend and i were still found not guilty. Being a white-ish employed UPenn grad student it was easy to get pro-bono representation for the case. I informed my lawyers that I was not interested in a monetary settlement, rather I wanted drug testing and training for that squad who had wrongfully arrested dozens of people, costing the city at least 11 major lawsuits in the last decade. My lawyers said that I had no chance of getting that type of settlement, rather I should take the $23,000 settlement that the city offered to keep the case out of court.
After the lawyers took their cut I had a $15,000 check from the city of philadelphia. I give most of my savings every year to my friends in tibet through the nonprofit that i began- the pureland project, but it didn’t feel right sending this money to Tibet. My high school students at the time kept telling me stories how they were wrongfully arrested, harassed and beaten by Philly cops. It’s my whiteness that was easily found not guilty. I looked at organizations to donate the settlement to but none seemed to get at the core of the issue: that violence has saturated all levels of our society in philly. From our economic to our food system we are working, eating , breathing violence. the small taste of violence and racism that i felt that one night is nothing compared to the inequality that many Americans face.
I had just moved back from seven years of volunteer work with Tibetan people in 2008, this experience snapped me back into American culture and I decided not to run back to the himalayas, I decided that to try to make something positive from the experience. Slowly I decided to practice the teachings I was blessed with from Asia and begin a center for nonviolence to counteract the more subtle violence in the city.
By 2011 I spotted 5007 Cedar, I saw this big red house in the form of Amitabha Buddha. After years of visualizing Amitabha, the buddha of light, it’s pretty easy to see him everywhere, but when we went inside I knew it was the spot. I could imagine the space cleared out and opened up. When the neighbors told me hesitantly that I would have to care for the vacant lot next to the house- it sealed the deal! I offered $140,000 for the house that was listed at $250,000. the selling agent laughed at my realtor and we had to beg her to even tell her clients that I made an offer. I told her that all I had was $15,000 to build a center of nonviolence and that I would really love their property and it will benefit the community. The sweet family told me that they actually really needed to get rid of this second house and would accept if I could add $10,000 for back taxes. I was extremely grateful. I spent everyday after work and every weekend for 6 months tearing up layers of flooring, breaking down walls, reconfiguring bathrooms and kitchens, and painting. We got a few tons of compost/soil mix to amend the side lot and transformed it into a garden with the neighbors. Kellie moved to Philly to help open the house with a teaching from one of my spiritual teachers, Lama Gursam on September 11, 2012.
Our goal is to spread the notion of ahimsa- nonviolence. allowing people the recognise the violence and injustice that is inherent within our society and giving people alternatives.
Practice presence rather than engaging in emotions,
practice generosity rather than greed,
practice conservation rather than consumption,
practice growing rather than slaughtering,
practice compassion rather than fear,
practice contentment rather than self hatred,
practice life with UNBOUND love.
All of our classes are based on dana- or the gift economy, to counterbalance our consumer culture values that tend to undervalue things of great importance. We offer all classes free of charge, in exchange for whatever dana students see as appropriate- a half hour of cleaning, fifteen minutes of turning the compost, teaching another class-or simply attending classes!