Category Archives: Celebrations

Japathon! Seva – by Ellen Mitchell

When I came back from India, I knew I wanted to do seva.  I quickly filled out the application form and sent it in.  I was offered the opportunity to lead the team organizing a Japathon!  How very exciting!  Grace flowed at the very mention of it.  The Grace continued flowing throughout.  What a gift.  Were there bumps in the road?  Yes, there were.  Were there uncertainties?  Absolutely!  Were there questions?  Tons!  Were there answers?  Always.  Throughout it all the Grace flowed and love swelled within me for all.  Tears come to my eyes just writing this.

Swamiji's hands

Swamiji’s hands

I want to thank Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati for the idea, for guidance, for making this the Year of Japa, for all the beautiful recordings about japa, for her superb editing skills, for being.  I thank Devapriyaa Hills for her wise words and fielding all those questions!  Rukmini Abbruzzi for her steady responses and guidance.  Janice O’Brien for her work on the web site Japathon! page and Glen Christensen for helping me figure out how to play a recording clearly.

Thanks to Sharada Macdonald and Kanchan Mohn, who were called to other services; although your time on our team was brief, you made an impact.  I thank the Meditation Group Leaders who so quickly responded to our requests and those who led the Japathon! — Rukmini Abbruzzi, Vibhuti King, Rudrani Nogue and Niranjan Matanich.  I especially want to thank the Japathon! team — Deborah Woodward, Gayatri Hess, and Vicharinee Chafin.  I could feel the Grace coming through every call and email.  Your words brought me to tears on more than one occasion and inspire me to do more japa — thank you.

To those who participated in the Ashram’s fourth birthday — thank you!  The Japathon!, our gift from the Ashram, to the Ashram and to each other, will continue to resonate with Grace, love and joy through us all.  Om Namah Shivaya

A Note from Swamiji

Nirmalananda 2 croppedI echo Ellen’s thanks along with so many others who had a great experience on the call.  Your shares onFaceBook keep trickling in – each one touches my heart deeply.  This is truly the type of birthday celebration I like!  Instead of candles and cheers (as fun as they are), the event is another opportunity to experience your hidden Divinity, your own Self – and an opportunity to express it into the world.

Congratulations to the whole Japathon! team, who really picked up the ball and ran with it.  Behind the scenes, we were served by  Ellen Mitchell (coordinator), Deborah Woodward, Gayatri (Barbara) Hess and Vicharinee (Su) Chafin.  Our phone japa was led by Niranjan Matanich, Vibhuti Courtney, Rudrani Nogue and Rukmini Abbruzzi.  And of course Baba – without whom none of this would exist.  I owe it all to my Guru!

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

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Our Song of Self – by Deborah Woodward

Forty-six hosts sponsored our Saturday Japathon!, celebrating the Ashram’s fourth birthday.   Across the US, Canada and Europe, Svaroopa® yoga teachers and students joined in our great japa event!

maureenshorttBindu (Maureen) Short reports that in Buckingham PA, following the teleconference call, japa flowed into meditation as part of the regularly scheduled monthly satsang.  Two students who each had recently had surgery both credited japa with helping them through the anxiety before their operations, as well as with being immobile afterward.  Japa comes to them now naturally and automatically.

SandyCourtneyKingThroughout September, Vibhuti (Sandra) Courtney King of Hopedale MA led her weekly meditation groups into meditation with japa. Some of her students purchased mala beads and began doing japa as preparation for their home practice.   This is what some of them said about japa:

 

When we went from repeating aloud to repeating the mantra silently, the mantra continued on its own, leading me to a very deep place. It was so effortless.

I have never experienced meditation in this way! My mind was still very busy, but the mantra was front and center and very compelling. For the first time, the mantra was more interesting than my thoughts. I feel like I am just beginning to understand what meditation is!

What IS the mantra?! It feels alive!

Yes, the mantra is alive! In our Japathon! celebration, our mantra became a mighty river of Grace, flowing through each and every one of us.

Swami has given us, in 2013, The Year of Japa. Allow this great gift to unfold fully, allow the Grace of the mantra to bring you all the way to your own Self.  Our beloved lineage — of Nityananda, Baba and Swami — is pointing the way: Meditate on your own Self.

Chant Loudly – Everyone Benefits – by Pooja Erica Andersen

Pooja_Erica_AndersenAre you joining us for the Ashram’s birthday Japathon!?  The phone conference call is Saturday September 28 at 10:00 am Eastern Time, beginning with Swami Nirmalananda’s talk followed by a group japa session. With technology to connect us, physical distance doesn’t stand in the way of our coming together in celebration. This event may end up being the largest group of Svaroopis chanting together to date. You won’t want to miss it!

In her talk January 27, Swamiji discussed two types of japa, loud and silent (click here to listen to the audio).  “The mind we are saddled with is stupid. To make it worse we allow it think all kinds of foolish futile thoughts. That is why I insist on discipline and good habits, and that is why japa has such an important place.”  She followed this with, “There are two kinds of japa: loud and silent. In meditation when you are doing japa in solitude the japa is mental.  While in a group chant, you chant loudly and everyone around benefits.”

I love this last statement.  “…chant loudly and everyone around benefits.”   In every Master Yoga and Ashram training or event we chant.  We repeat mantra together aloud as a group. If you have had this experience, think back on it.  How did you benefit?  Did it appear to you that those around you benefitted?

I find coming together with other Svaroopis for japa or to chant is amazing. The chant is so alive.  It’s like a river of Grace that arrives to flow on and deliver me to my Self, right alongside everyone I am chanting with.  It’s so sweet, so joyful and so easy.  Frankly, because of reciprocal adaptation, even if I sat in the group chant and didn’t say a word, that river of Grace would sweep me up into it.  Amazing!

The group chant has 3 unique stages for me:

Stage 1:  The Introduction

In the moments before the chant begins, the attention of the group tends to be scattered. Individuals may be fiddling around with propping or chatting amongst themselves.   Then the leader of the chant provides instruction about the mantra, the individual Sanskrit words along with their pronunciations and meanings.  She or he also tells us whether to chant in unison with them, or in call-and-response (where the leader chants a line and the group repeats it back).

As I practice the Sanskrit pronunciations before we start, the words feel cumbersome and awkward in my mouth.  Everything feels a bit chaotic.  Instruments may be tuning up, like harmonium, tabla (drum) and string instruments (tamboura, guitar, sitar, etc.).  Often, simple percussion instruments are handed out to the group to play along.  Sometimes I will take a simple rattle to play along, but most of the time I don’t as drumming or playing an instrument can distract my attention during the chant.

Stage 2: The Chant

As the chant starts, the group begins to follow the directions of the chant leader.  Other noises quiet, and movement settles down.  The chaos starts to subside, replaced by consistency.   It may take several minutes for the group to get into the groove, but their focus starts to narrow in on the mantra, melody and rhythm. For me, the effort of pronouncing the words falls away and the chant begins to flow through my mouth.

The words of the chant seem to dance through the air in a repetitive sequence. As phrases repeat themselves, it can feel more like they differ than stay the same.  I notice that although I am saying possibly the same line many times, each time I say it, it offers me a different angle in which to view the expression.

Through the chant, I have many opportunities to touch the mantra and feel it penetrate through me.  The opportunity to be absorbed into the chant is deepened and widened through the experience others are having.    I drink in their sound as they float in the same river of Grace as me.  The space around us shifts to something new, something timeless, something pure and Divine.  The chant carries me, along with those around me, into the awareness of the Divine.

Stage 3: The Divine

This is a full place.  This space I feel complete in. There is nothing separate from me.  It’s infinite and timeless.  My deep yearning becomes satisfied. As I recall this experience right now I well up with tears thinking about how special this state, space, place, or knowing is.

When the chanting ends, I open my eyes and look around, I see that each of the individuals around me have changed.  Their expressions radiate this Divine place.  Their presence reinforces the reality of what I am experiencing.

I feel a deep sense of gratitude for everyone in the group.  The space around me has shifted into a sacred space and I feel honored to be in it.  There is no longer chaos, only a sense that all that is, is as it should be.

Swamiji’s also said, “When you’re chanting aloud, the sound of the mantra, which is the sound of consciousness, crystalizes into words vibrating with the wholeness of consciousness, with the integrated force of consciousness.” I perceive this as what I have referred to as a flowing river of Grace.

Our chant this weekend is a group chant without music, called “japa.”  In our Japathon!, we chant because we are celebrating the birth of the Ashram.  Of course, all births are blessed, as life is a gift.  But the Svaroopaâ practices and the Ashram were birthed and they exist to support us in the knowing of our own inherit Divinity.  The river of Grace runs through our practice to saturate us with the knowing of the Self.  How special is that?

As we each chant together, from whatever towns we are in, across the world, we will be allowing that Grace to flow through us — for everyone to benefit.  How could you miss the opportunity to be a part of such a Divine event?

The Importance of the Ashram’s Birthday, by Swami Nirmalananda

10-close-e1297979380284-150x150I have two birthday celebrations every year: the day I was born into this world and the day that I was born into the Self, my Shaktipat anniversary, plus on Saturday I will be celebrating the Ashram’s birthday.  This is the second time this year I’m celebrating the birthday of a yoga organization.  Master Yoga’s 21st birthday in May was a big event, yet I’m hoping our Saturday event is even bigger — our Japathon!  You can participate from wherever you are… [click for more information]

I also celebrate other birthdays, including my Guru’s birthday and Shaktipat anniversary, plus the birthdays of those in the family I was born into, as well as those wonderful beings I birthed and raised.  I’ve also birthed four not-for-profit organizations (working with many other dedicated yogis):  Yoga Alliance and YES (the San Diego yoga teachers association) as well as Master Yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.

Consider what happens when you tell others, “It’s my birthday!”  People get excited and want to take you out for a decadent-something, or maybe create time to share some enjoyable pursuit with you.  On birthdays, people want to pursue their favorite pleasures, usually with other people joining them so it is more pleasurable.  About 30 years ago, all this stopped working for me.  I now realize why — I was no longer pursuing pleasure.  Yoga had showed me a greater goal than mere pleasure.  For years I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I ignored birthdays (mine and others). It was frustrating to those close to me.

Now I delight in birthday celebrations, mine as well as others.  The difference is that I now understand what we’re celebrating — we’re celebrating life.  In celebrating an individual life, we are celebrating the whole of life, which is the dance of “Siva being “Sakti, being this world and all in it.  As great as that is, birthday of a yoga organization is different.

The birth of a person is into limitation, the exploration of individual identity.  Shree Guru Gita says it this way:  “Birth is into not-knowingness, spellbound by Maayaa’s worldly dance…”[1]  But the birth of an Ashram begins the liberation, a process that benefits not just one individual but all who yearn to know the highest.  For this reason, the Ashram’s birthday is deeply meaningful to me.  Regardless of the level of practice you choose (poses only, meditation only, a mix of both or more from our many offerings), the whole banquet is available to you.  Whether you come to one of our three locations or you dial in from home, you are stepping through Ashram’s doorway.  Ultimately, this is a doorway to your own Divine Self.

birthday bright candles-wikimedia.orgI find a birthday to be a great time to consider, “How am I doing?  Am I accomplishing the purpose of my life?  Am I still on target?”  This turns my attention to purpose for which the Ashram exists.  This an annual evaluation looks back to see how we doing are so far, and looks forward to see how will we fulfill our purpose in the future. Our purpose is eloquently stated in the Ashram’s founding documents:

to engage in & teach the worship of Parama”siva, the all-pervasive Divine Reality, focusing on finding and experiencing the Divine within the individual human being.

Now housing the consolidated programs for Svaroopa® yoga and Svaroopa® vidya, we are even more able to help you find and experience your own Divinity.  Whether you are focused on the poses and breathing or on the meditative practices, you are focusing on finding and experiencing the Divine within you — which is you.

Thank you for your Birthday Gifts, the donations that support the Ashram’s work.  Click here to donate.

Please join us in our Japathon! on Saturday morning at 10 am (Eastern Time)!  You can do it independently or join in our conference call — click here for more information.

With love and blessings,

Swami Nirmalananda


[1] Shree Guru Gita, verse 10, rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Four Years Old! by Swami Nirmalananda with Vicharinee Chafin and Deborah Woodward

I have more reasons to celebrate the Ashram’s birthday than to celebrate my own.  Shrii Guru 146Gita says, “Birth is into not-knowingness, spellbound by Maayaa’s worldly dance.”

While everyone celebrates a new baby’s arrival, the baby is taking on the pain of separation from God.  The birth of an Ashram is different; it is the birth of something that will free many from the seeming separation that had kept them bound.  Hundreds, thousands or more will be freed through this Divine Work.  That’s my goal.

On your birthday, you want to party.  On the Ashram’s birthday, I want you to have a Divine Party – something that brings you closer to your Self, something that brings you closer to your enlightenment.  So we have created a Japathon!

Japa has great powers inherent within it. All the great Masters obtained their state through japa, but they did 6, 8, 10 or 20 hours a day.  When you do even 5 minutes, your state is expanded.  You are uplifted. You are instantly settled deeper into your own Divinity.  What if you actually did many hours every day?  Wow – what amazing possibilities!

For this event, if we all lived in the same area, we could get together in one room and do japa together.  When yogis chant together, not only do the yogis benefit, but the whole world receives blessings.  Plus each yogi gets great openings, even levels that would be very hard to open on their own.  Since so many of you live at a distance away, we’re doing a virtual event – on the phone together on Saturday 9/28 at 10 am (Eastern Time).  Or you can do japa anytime on the Birthday Weekend, for minutes or for hours, whatever works best for you.

Master Yoga celebrated its 21st birthday, with celebrations in so many studios around the world from Brisbane to Stockholm and across Canada and America.  Teachers decorated with balloons, made yummy treats, lit candles and sang “Happy Birthday” with their students.  Marjane Vitaletti described how meaningful it was, “As we sat in a circle and talked about the gifts that [Svaroopa® yoga] has given us, we actually laughed and cried at the same time. It was an overwhelming sense of joy to talk about the healing that occurs with this practice.”   Click here for articles and photos.

Now we are having another birthday event, just like every family has lots of birthdays to celebrate.  Only this time we’ll do spiritual practice together, and you can have a party afterward if you would like!  Celebrate the Ashram’s birthday by participating in our Japathon!

Register to get the phone codes for our conference call and join us for my opening talk, followed by 20 minutes of japa, mantra repeated aloud together with Svaroopis from around the world. With an opportunity like this, please try to imagine the impact our japa will create:  on ourselves, our loved ones, our whole kula (community) and the world.   We need your help; we need your voice.

I thank our Japathon! sevites for their hard work and their contagious enthusiasm — this is going to be a great event.  The Committee members are: Ellen Mitchell (coordinator), Deborah Woodward, Gayatri (Barbara) Hess and Vicharinee (Su) Chafin.  Our phone japa is being led by four Certified Meditation Group Leaders: Niranjan Matanich, Vibhuti Courtney, Rudrani Nogue and Rukmini Abbruzzi.

The Japathon! is a gift from the Ashram, to the Ashram, and to each other.  Happy Birthday to all of us!  Get ready to receive the greatest gift of all, your Self.

Resources:

Japathon! web page with articles, recordings of Swamiji’s talks on japa, event details

Poster for our phone event on Sat. 9/28,10 am Eastern Time

Register for our phone event and get the phone codes

Share your experience or your event on our FaceBook page

Give a Birthday Gift to the Ashram.

Shop for japa malas (beads) and meditation supplies


 

Growth and Change and more…The Ashram is 4 years old! By Kusuma (Karobi) Sachs

133Living at the Ashram is a unique and special experience.  I started by thinking, “What is it like to live there?  I wonder if I could live there?”  Well the answer came to me over a year ago, after the Ashram had already been open for over 2 years.  I got to spend some time with Nirmalananda in India; then one day I saw the next step clearly.  Now I have been living in the Ashram long enough to participate in its fourth birthday celebration. It’s hard to believe it has been four years!  We are so blessed to have this beautiful space dedicated to the development of each of our own Divine Essence, which is all the same Consciousness. A truly revered space for this unfolding of our own Self.

I clearly remember the first time I came over to dinner during the initial construction, looking at walls coming down and going up, bathrooms and bedrooms being expanded and moved and trying to visualize how it would all turn out.   Now it is part of my daily life, the meditation room, the kitchen and of course the delicious sunroom!  I look at how my life has been in the past 18 months, quite a mix, which is not surprising.  I am living in the fire!  Nothing goes unnoticed, every single thing contributes to the knowing of my own Self as Consciousness-Itself.  This is what living in the fire means (at least for me!).  We each get what we need to nurture the growth, sometimes gently and sometimes with a bit more heat!

One of the things I love about living in the Ashram is being able to spend time with so many yogis who have similar interests, who visit from near and far.  People whom I have known as students in the trainings at Master Yoga are now sharing the same love and joy of the exploration of Consciousness which the Ashram provides.  Sharing meals, meditations and informal conversations bring a new depth to already established relationships.  Sometimes I stand in the kitchen as we chant the food chant, seeing how blessed we all are to have the Ashram to support us and our practices. I silently thank Swamiji for her vision in creating the Ashram to carry on her work and share it with all of us.

Birthday Celebration & Japathon!

By Gayatri (Barbara) Hess

337Let’s set our community ablaze through japa, the repetition of the enlivened mantra of this lineage, the mantra that imprints your mind with Consciousness.

Together let’s make this the largest Japathon! event and Ashram birthday celebration ever imagined.  Register for our Japathon! and  host your own local event; dedicate the month of September to igniting your and your students’ japa practice.

The Japathon! Team is asking all Svaroopis to participate in this mind-changing event.  Swamiji declared 2013 The Year of Japa.

Click here to register.  You can also learn more about how to participate in our Japathon! and weekend celebration, download the Japathon! poster, access Swamiji’s japa talks, order mala beads and post on Facebook.

We hope you will share about your practice and group gatherings on our Facebook page.  Your events can make japa repetition fill every minute of September 28 – 29, our Ashram birthday weekend.