Category Archives: Guru

Take What You Like And Leave The Rest by Sheynapurna (Sandy) Peace

foundations_mediumMade familiar from Alcoholic Anonymous, “take what you like and leave the rest” can apply in many situations, particularly Svaroopa® Vidya Yoga & Meditation. Although we are never, in this program, forced to ascribe to a certain philosophy, those yogis who are uncomfortable with alignment of Swami Nirmalandanda as their guru (or a guru, or any guru), can take this message to heart. The yoga you know and love is not changing.

The yoga philosophy offered has always been Kashmiri Shaivism – the same teachings I received during my YTT in 2003/4. Swami Nirmalananda can deepen the teachings, offer Shaktipat and take us further in the Self, but this is not, will not be, and has never been required of Svaroopa® yoga teachers. Take what you like – leave the rest.

Part of the 2013 India trip was held on the beautiful campus of the Himalayan Institute, and most of our fellow travelers came through that organization. The Himalayan Institute has a spiritual leader, but most of our travel mates were not very familiar with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait.

HI offers Meditation, yoga asana, ayurveda, philosophy. Some develop interest in areas they didn’t expect to like at first – and others joined the group simply to experience Kumbha Mela and India. The program appealed to them. Their students take what they like and leave the rest.

To my fellow yogis having no interest in a guru or those who have their own different guru; to my fellow yogis who are happily absorbed in their own religion or spiritual path – you can take a breath and turn to the aspect of Svaroopa® yoga that opens your body and opens your heart. Take what you like, leave the rest.

If Not Now…When? by Rudrani Nogue, SVA Board Member

rosemarynogueMost often my nature is to sit back and mull over any decision I make for a long time. However, as a SVA founding Board Member, the decision to consolidate Master Yoga and the Ashram was a clear and quick decision.

From my perspective, the time had come to end the artificial separation of Master Yoga (MYF) and the Ashram (SVA). Guru’s Grace is the “magic potion” that flows freely through SVA, yet not so freely though MYF.  However, the asana practice originated through Swamiji, by the Grace of her Guru Muktananda. The Svaroopa® yoga asana and Ujjayi Pranayama practice are supported through Grace.   Just as you cannot take the heat and light out of the sunshine, you cannot take the Grace out of Master Yoga. It is an inherent part of it.

For me, the separation of MYF and SVA was awkward, both creating duplication and a sense of duality. Within the embrace of consolidated programs, we continue to train and support asana teachers and therapists. This will not change. With all the programs under one umbrella, the Grace will flow more easily.

We are all family and can live in the same house. As part of the family, asana teachers will have total choice around what Svaroopa® practices to pursue, support and/or receive training in.  As your needs and interests (or not), you will be easily able to follow your interests all within in one organization. Day to day, month to month, year to year and decade to decade my practices have morphed and continue to grow and change. I have been on the path since 1999 when I entered Teacher Training. Today I have a large teaching practice and teach meditation, as well as serving as a Meditation Group Leader.

I practice asana every day.  As well, my readiness for all the other practices available through SVA has grown over time, as my understanding expands. Over time meditation, japa and chanting have become key practices for me as I search for and find my own true Self.

In the end consolidation will simplify things. Importantly, in the end it will simplify things for Swamji so she can return to more writing and teaching.  And for those of us who have been working with two organizations there will be ease in working with just one.  This will be one website, one menu of offerings for training and retreats, and fewer requests for donations (but donating will continue to be very important!).

Even if you have no intention of moving from whatever your entry point into the Svaroopa® Sciences has been (perhaps asana, philosophy or meditation), the consolidation will not inhibit you from choosing what you want from the menu of practices and following your own path.

At the root level both organizations have always shared the same intention of uncovering the true essence of your being….your true Self. Both organizations simply offered different practices that give different access points to the Self. In hindsight it is easy to see that we never needed to be separate. Realigning to be one organization makes perfect sense to me.   I hope it does to you too and that you will come into our joint organization as it develops, with your questions and ideas as well as an openness to your inner Bliss!

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

Twice Blessed By Janice O’Brien

janiceServing the Guru is a blessing. Having the opportunity to learn new things while serving is twice blessed. For the month of August, I have been blessed many times over as I took on the task of creating a new japa webpage for the Ashram website.

Being a relative newcomer to the fold, I had heard of, but didn’t know much about, japa. I didn’t realize what a deep and meaningful practice it could be. As I searched through blogs, satsangs and other information to include on the page, I began to learn of its richness and many dimensions. I wasn’t aware that japa could be practiced at any time of day, not just as a still and silent meditation. I became intrigued with the idea that I have the ability to still my mind in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. Not just in quiet solitude as has always been my custom.

I also began to acquire new skills as I learned the workings of the Ashram site. While I have helped with the Amaya Yoga Products site in the past, I knew nothing of the software on the ’shram’s site. I have had the pleasure of Skyping with Glen Christensen (another sevite) to learn the basics. He patiently walked me through all I needed to know to get started and left me to create. I slowly began pulling the page together one link, image and idea at a time. Glen graciously answered questions along the way, helping me out of a few jams in the process.

It has been a pleasure working with Rukmini, Glen, Devapriyaa, and the Japathon! committee, especially Ellen and Su for the last few weeks. As the page is nearing completion, only a few more things to add, I find myself contemplating one of my favorite sayings, “Everything happens for a reason.” Have I been immersed in japa for a reason? Can I really still my “monkey brain” as I go about my daily activities? Is it time to give japa a try? Well, I don’t own a mala yet, but now I certainly know where to find one.

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

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

Year-Long Programmes Galore

by Rukmini Abbruzzi

RudraI Am “Siva is beginning soon, a foundational course in consciousness, with no prerequisites.  Everyone is welcomed to experience Swamiji’s magical mix of classical teaching stories, psychology and yogic practices, along with the tangible Grace that reveals your own Divinity to you.

Join Swamiji’s FREE Intro call October 16 from 7:00-8:30 pm (Eastern Time).  Click here to get the phone codes.

And (DRUMROLL PLEASE), announcing the title for 2014’s new year-long programme:

Guru & Self
Kamal and Swamiji  Ganeshpuri, IndiaYou need a Guru, yoga says, repeatedly emphasizing this in the ancient texts.  Why?  Explore the mystery of the Guru with Swami Nirmalananda as she explains the pivotal importance of the Guru in our Shaktipat tradition and illumines the secrets hidden in the traditional ceremonies and practices.   Learn how your Guru serves you as a teacher, as a guide, as a mentor, as a role model, as an exemplar and as a mirror in which you see your Self.

Your stories and experiences are an integral part of this course, through the group discussions with Swamiji.  She helps you discover how to serve as an agent of Grace, uplifting others through your sharings, while deepening your understanding of your own experiences.  With each personal story, Swamiji offers teachings and insights that enhance your inner blossoming.  Extra phone conference calls are included in the schedule so you find a time that works for you.

Two enrollment options are available:

Option #1 — monthly teaching articles, audio recordings by Swamiji, and phone conference calls (about 2 weeks apart)

Option #2 — monthly teaching articles, audio recordings by Swamiji, and phone conference calls PLUS a weekend retreat Oct 24-26 2014

Prerequisite:  Shaktipat Retreat OR Shishya Membership

Eligible yogis may join Swamiji on a FREE Intro call, March 15 from 4:00-5:30 pm (Eastern Time).  Click here to enroll and get the phone codes.

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.

Beautiful Beings on Guru Purnima

By Nandini (Nathalie) Mermet-Grandfille

I shared a ride with my friends to go to see Swami Nirmalananda, our Guru, for the holiest of holy days, Guru Purnima. Always on the fullest of moons, it’s the day that Grace flows the fullest. At the satsang we were 25 people in a small room, everyone’s heart and face so open; everyone acknowledging everyone else.  It startled me to hear my name in welcome from others. There’s no pettiness, jealousy or other insecure emotions I’ve seen around other Gurus. If anyone has any issues with anyone, it’s built into the practices to be compassionate and accept people as they are. We all have a back story and we all are trying our best. It was wonderful to walk into the meditation room at Kashi (Downingtown Yoga), to be seen and greeted with so much warmth, and no one minded me stacking my pile of blankets in front.

There’s no hugging with Swami. She’ll look you square in the eyes with so much love and acceptance, and it’s me, not her, that decides when that look ends. I always have a dialog with her in my heart on my way to visit her, yet everything is always answered to the point where I realize there is no need to ever ask her anything directly. She even ends up clarifying in her satsang talk the very questions I had floating around.

She talked about what a Guru is in her lineage, the responsibilities along with the discipline of the path. She talked about her Guru and her Guru’s Guru. We chanted to Nityananda and Muktananda, then we meditated. After we could come up and get a blessing: people knelt before her, bowed down in child pose, or laid on the floor in a full pranam. Rising to the gift of a flower and those eyes.

Those beautiful eyes which miss nothing, yet hold everything in the soft warm light of love. So personable and so approachable; how blessed and privileged I feel to have access to her teachings and her presence. And how blessed I am to be a member of the Svaroopi family. What beautiful beings each and every one of you are. Om Namah Shivaya… Namaste!

Shaktipat

by Theresa Morrison

Swami DarshanWhether concrete or subtle, yogis receiving Shaktipat from Swami Nirmalananda experience a range of openings, expansions, and revelations that are real and profound.  Please enjoy these yogis’ descriptions of Shaktipat from recent Retreats with Swamiji.

Robin Blankenship describes her experience of Shaktipat as the movement of energy through her body:

“My Shaktipat retreat was a very deep and intense experience. I now feel Kundalini go all the way up into my head during yoga practice and meditation. It used to be blocked at my neck and shoulders. [I] experienced Shakti in my body as a source that is ever changing and moving. I experienced it as a moving part that is now unstuck.  I continue to have access to this experience of Shiva as constant change.  It is helping me to accept change… in my life and not be afraid of it.”

She summarizes that the experience of Shakti moving freely throughout her own body had a direct effect on her spiritual practice and allowed her to have new insights into the nature of movement and change in her daily life.  This has allowed her to become unblocked and unstuck.

France de la Fontaine shares some particular experiences of blissful from her recent Shaktipat Retreat:

“On Sunday morning, I woke up and I felt pure joy and peace, no fears. I imagine bliss this way — since, in meditation, I can have a glimpse of this state… the other thing that I felt on that Sunday morning was the impression that the world was in my belly. It was very special.”

France goes on to describe that Shaktipat opens her heart and helps her to “progress on the path of illumination.”

Beth Richardson recounts her own experience of progress.  She writes, “I feel my meditation is clearer, and I am happier, more patient and more at peace.”

Whether momentary or enduring, these experiences of clarity or Self offer glimpses of what is possible. They encourage further seeking and practice.

Susan Daniel shares, “The Shaktipat Retreat continues to provide motivation to prioritize a daily meditation practice.”

Dhananjaya King says that he has found a new “willingness to stay in the present rather than constantly looking toward future events.”

Shanti Ellan Catacchio describes a beautiful transformation that she attributes to the effect of Shaktipat in her life:

“We have taken down a fence that was in front of our cottage, and I have moved from hiding-out in the back yard, out of sight, to the front yard, enjoying the view and people walking by.  My Mother put that fence up 50+ years ago.  I am more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.  I am more aware than ever before. [I am] closer to Self.”

The particular effects of Shaktipat manifest differently for each individual, but there is an undeniable power in this transfer of energy from Guru to disciple.  Swamiji gives Maha-Shaktipat, the awakening of your own energy of transcendence, Kundalini.  Whether direct (in person) or indirect (through an intermediary, such as a photograph), this transmission of Shakti is a life-changing experience.  It deepens each time you receive it, all through the loving act of Grace, given by the Guru.

The Shaktipat Retreat, offered several times each year by Swamiji, is an intensive, nurturing experience designed to prepare each individual to receive this initiation most fully.  Through chanting, meditation, and a series of teachings each student is given the tools they need to understand and open to the Grace.

Swamiji confers Shaktipat three distinct times over the course of each retreat weekend, likening the energetic transfer to that of a burning candle sharing its fire with one still waiting to be lit.  Amongst other things, this powerful gift leads individuals to a fuller realization of themselves, empowering them to live in the experience of their own Self as Shiva.

The Grace-full Moon

By Kanchan (Connie) Mohn

Guru Purnima 130722Guru Purnima, the full moon of the Guru, is celebrated as the day the world got its first Guru (Shiva). This was the day that people first came to know that through the Guru, through Grace, they can be Self-Realized.

On this night every year, the moon is at its fullest and Grace is at its fullest. What a perfect night to make a pilgrimage to Satsang!

This past Sunday, our meditation hall at Downingtown Yoga Meditation Center was filled to the brim with yogis bearing flowers, gifts and hearts full of Divine Love; wanting nothing more than to honor their Guru, Swamiji, while she honored her Guru, Baba Muktananda. Self honoring Self.

Swamiji offered illuminating commentary on Shiva Sutra 2.6, “Gururupaaya.h” — the Guru is both the path and the goal.  “The Guru has done what you are doing,” walked the path you are walking.  The Guru is “the embodied reality who shows your future to you… the goal.”  She went on to promise, “My Guru freed me, so that I could free you.

With these words lingering in the air, Swamiji led the crowd in chant and deep meditation, followed by an invitation to greet her personally.

Then slowly, ever so gently, sweetly, one by one, the yogis in the room approached their Sadguru, bowed and offered their gift, their gratitude. In turn, Swamiji honored and celebrated everyone who came forward by offering a flower and a soft “Om namah Shivaya.”  Self honoring Self.  Profound silence filled the room, palpable and timeless.  Grace-filled hearts were opened wide.

Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay!

A Missed Opportunity

by Swami Nirmalananda

chanting in turbanI once skipped bowing to my Guru on Guru Purnima.  It is the biggest holiday (holy-day) in the yoga tradition, not only because it is the full moon dedicated to honoring the Guru but also because Grace flows most fully on Guru Purnima.  I was living and serving in the Ashram, and several thousand people came to see Baba, understandably!  I worked in food service, helping to feed them, so I and my fellow sevites were very busy.  I bowed to Baba in my heart, skipped taking a break, and went on serving.

I went forward in the darshan (reception) line to greet Him the next night.  He tapped me with the peacock feathers.  I lowered my head below my heart in the classical pranam (bow).  I looked up at Him as I came up and He looked at me in His usual way.  It was all perfect and it was all incomplete.  I knew that I had blown it.  I had missed my chance.  His Grace was there, certainly — but the night before would have been something else.  If only I had prioritized my relationship with Him instead of the work I did for Him.  Tricky!

I thought of the New Testament story of Mary and Margaret.  I began to understand what it was like to be the one bathing His feet instead of the one bustling around getting things done.  I’d always been the “bustler.”  I have bustle karma, that’s for sure.  It’s true that things must be done.  There’s a lot to do in order to support those who come to the Guru, in person or through the teachings, in books, online, etc.   But what does the Guru need?  Nothing. That’s the point.  The Guru is the only not-needy person you’ll probably ever meet.  That’s the reason to be in this relationship.

This relationship, like any relationship, needs some TLC.  When you do your part, you get more out of what was always available.  It’s like being in relationship with the sun:  when you go out to soak up some rays, you get the vitamin D.  When you don’t, you don’t.  But the sun is always there.  It’s always shining.  It’s always giving.

In India, Guru Purnima is the day when people pilgrimage to see their Guru.  This is no small feat!  The full moon in July is the middle of the monsoon, which makes travel precarious at best.  They bring gifts and donations, usually providing enough financial support to cover the Guru’s and His or Her Ashram’s needs until the next Guru Purnima.  Thus the Guru doesn’t have to go out with a begging bowl every day, nor charge for the teachings.  The tradition of providing the teachings for free comes from a land where they know that they must support the one who gives the teachings.

Buddha gave His first teachings on Guru Purnima.  Veda Vyasa was born on Guru Purnima.  Thus Buddhists, Hindus and yogis all celebrate this holy day every year.  Personally, I used to take this time to go to India to be with my Guru, visiting His samadhi shrine, a meditation room in which His body is interred under a marble slab.  Since I’ve been appointed to serve in this way, I stay in America for the celebration, so that I can be available to everyone who wants to come.

In India, it’s hard to see the full moon on that July night due to the monsoon clouds.  My experience has been that, somewhere in the night, just when I’m looking up, the clouds will part just a little so I can see the moon.  It is the biggest full moon of the whole year, which is why the sages dedicated it to the Guru.  It is the biggest because it is the point at which the moon is closest to the earth.

So if you cannot join me for Guru Purnima, go out and soak up some moon rays.  And chant “Guru Om.”  At least for the evening.  And meditate.  What’s the Guru for anyway?  To help you turn inward.  To help you know your own Self.  That’s the point.