Monthly Archives: August 2011

Seva: Making Pillows for the Ashram. Posted on August 18, 2011 by Debbie Mandel

Creating new pillows for the Ashram is a story of connection and reconnection, on many levels. It began in May of this year when I was fortunate to spend eight days with Swamiji at Kripalu Yoga Center. When I returned home there was a seva request for persons who were handy with a needle and thread. I love to quilt and I was looking for anything Svaroopa® yoga related to help me to not relapse, so I sent in my name and quickly heard back from Sri that there were pillows that needed recovering. “Oh no, not pillows” I thought as I felt my relapse accelerating., “Anything but pillows.” I have always found pillows extremely difficult to make as they demand a type of perfectionism and patience in sewing that my mother and my grandmother had, but that I do not. There is no room for error in making a pillow, or so I thought.

A few days later Sri told me that there was another woman from my area working on the pillow project – Jana. She wondered if we knew each other. Ironically we did. I first met Jana in the spring of 2002. She was renting a room from my mother, and my mother was dying. I had the unpleasant task of telling Jana that she needed to move out. A few months later she spoke eloquently at my mother’s funeral about how she appreciated my mother and all that they had shared together. That was the last I saw of Jana until a few years ago at a Svaroopa® yoga workshop. I walked around stunned that weekend that someone so close to my mother was at the same workshop I was, as I did not voluntarily choose to see people from my mother’s life. I saw Jana again at the workshop this May. This time it was less startling. Then we volunteered for the same project.

I do not believe in coincidences. Jana was close to my mother in a way I never could be. Sewing with my mother was one of the few ways we had connected—for example, when I was stranded at her house for three days during the blizzard of ’76, she and I made pillows. Jana told me she began sewing when she was living with my mother. A common thread, pun intended.So I worked hard on the pillows. I tried to do them perfectly. I did not succeed. But I did succeed in having some lovely memories of my mother, and was able to let go of my perfectionism identity and send them off to the Ashram, flaws and all.

Swami Nirmalananda reports that she was overwhelmed with the beauty of these pillows, which are for her darshan room, where she meets with people personally when they come to Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center. “They radiate love,” she says.