A teenager rang one of the meditation singing bowls that were displayed at the front of East West Books and Gifts in downtown Edmonds. The gentle hum reverberated throughout the store as she glanced at her parents in awe. “That’s so cool,” she whispered.
The bowls are part of many products and resources that offer guidance to spirituality, yoga, meditation and related topics. They also host online meditation classes that are guided by local and international practitioners.
Founded in 1989 by Seattle resident Jamuna Snitkin, the store closed its original location in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. They moved their inventory to the Ananda Community in Lynnwood, and later to the Ananda Temple in Bothell. In October, East West Books and Gifts added Edmonds on 3rd Avenue North as its newest expansion.
“A member of Ananda just so happened to be walking down the street in downtown Edmonds when she came across a statue of a dancer at the street corner,” Store Manager Jaidhara Sleighter said in an interview, referring to the statue by sculptor David Varnau located at the northwest corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue.
“When she looked at the title, the dancer was called Ananda! In that same moment, she saw around the corner an empty space, and when she shared it with everyone,” Sleighter continued. The staff at East West Books and Gifts fell in love with the location. The store opened its doors a few months later, on Oct. 25.
Sleighter joined the store when his long-time friend Rika Rafael, who is the communications manager at East West Books and Gifts, needed help running the Edmonds location.
“I felt inspired to throw my name in the hat and I got the job!” Sleighter said.
“One of Kriyananda’s missions was to help spread Yogananda’s ideal of world brotherhood colonies throughout the world,” he said. “One of which is here in Lynnwood, as well as a place called the Blue Lotus Temple in Bothell, which serves both local members as well as the larger circle of yoga and meditation students in the Seattle area.”
Sleighter joined Ananda in 2004 at age 21 and was “deeply inspired” by Ananda India. In 2005, he bought a one-way ticket to Gurgon, India, and joined a monastic brotherhood where he lived and served the public as a monk for seven years with Kriyananda’s blessing.
“Seven years sounds like a long time, but looking back it went by like a flash,” he recalled. “Being a formal monk within Ananda is a life committed wholeheartedly to service and meditation. I loved it!”
Toward the end of Kriyananda’s life, Sleighter was asked to join the Swami’s personal staff and had then traveled the world with him until he passed away at an Ananda community in Assisi, Italy, in April 2013. While he was there, Sleighter met his future wife and lived there with her for many years.
“After our beautiful son was born, we shifted to the U.S. and eventually came to serve here in Lynnwood,” he said.
For Sleighter, working at East West Books and Gifts is a continuation of helping people with their personal growth and spiritual journey. “Some may come because they simply would like a nice candle or crystal,” he said. “Others may come because they are desperately seeking a deeper meaning in life. Yet despite their reason, all who come are in some way uplifted when they walk through the doors.
“We both are so grateful how welcomed we have been since arriving in Edmonds,” Sleighter continued. “Meeting people, developing friendships, and integrating into our local community is certainly close to our hearts. Before we moved in, the space had been a vacant office space for nearly five years. To paraphrase something a customer recently told me, ‘Simply no one had the vision to see it more than just an office space. Now you walk in and it is something beautiful.’”
East West Books and Gifts opens on Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
— Story and photos by Nick Ng