Tag Archives: Ashram

I Felt Torn…by Louise Davis, MYF Board Treasurer

louiseIt was just about a year ago that we got the news that Master Yoga Foundation had considered closing its doors – it was not financially feasible to continue operating the way things had been going.  Like many of you, I was in shock! Master Yoga Foundation, serving as the source of Svaroopa® yoga education for so long, is so important to me – my practices, my business, my life! How could it – even potentially – go away? Luckily, Swami Nirmalananda and a very dedicated Board took on the process of ”Reawakening”.

One of my first actions was to call then Treasurer, Shuchi (Sue) Cilley and say “how can I help?” Quite honestly, I had considered and had been encouraged by others to fill the vacant position of Board Treasurer more than a year earlier but didn’t think I was up for the task (that old “not good enough” issue kept rearing its head). A couple of months later, I was invited to join the Board. How could I say no?

As much as I wanted to serve Master Yoga Foundation, there was a part of me that also wanted to serve Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram – that had been part of my earlier indecision about joining the Board. I receive so much benefit from both organizations. I often felt torn about where to prioritize my time and money. Like many of you, I have a limited budget of both time and money for trainings, retreats, seva and donations. What, several years ago, went to Master Yoga, now had to be allocated between the 2 organizations – and I wanted to support both.

As the Board began to look at options for Reawakening, we kept coming back to the question – why two organizations? There was so much duplication – communications, websites, and administration.  And yet, there is only one source for the teachings and amazing technologies of the of Svaroopa® sciences. Ultimately, the decision to consolidate was easy. We always had in mind “how do we best serve those who serve by sharing Svaroopa® yoga?”

We still have limited resources – so many choices, so little time! But I believe you can feel more confident that the consolidation will eliminate the duplication, streamline operations, and give you more value for your tuition, SATYA dues and donations. Are you excited about the new initiatives ? Still have questions or concerns ? We’d love to hear from you. We are here to serve you!

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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

There or Here – Do More Yoga! by Rob Gold

313There’s not one thing in my life I’d rather be doing this weekend more than attending the conference – but I won’t be there. A decision about something else in my life makes it (seem) undoable. A few months ago, about the time I was asked to write this series of pre-conference articles, I learned that my dog had lymphoma. For those of you who have experienced cancer, you know the only certainty is that you don’t know what, when, where, why or how things will change. It’s the great unknown and in that is an equally great lesson in surrender.

I couldn’t imagine leaving her in the care of others if she was sick or dying, nor can I leave her with others when she’s healthy – she’s just not that kind of dog. So, I decided not to decide, or rather to let her condition determine if I was coming or not. The good news is that, three months after her diagnosis, she is as vibrant as ever, thanks in part to some steroids and dietary changes.

I know I’m missing an incredible opportunity to connect this weekend, but I am also blessed with opportunities to connect in my life just as it is; right here, right now. There are always opportunities to do more japa, more seva, reach more students and know more of the Self. After all, what did Swamiji do when she was the only Svaroopi? Or what Muktananda do when He was not in the presence of His Guru? This is the beauty of the teachings: it’s ALL there, ALL the time. Sure, there are people, places and things that make it easier to connect, to accelerate ones spiritual journey, but we can access it any time we chose to direct our free will in that direction.

Will I miss the bhav of sitting in a hall filled with hundreds of Svaroopis? Yes.

Will I miss being in the presence of Swamiji and all the delicious programming? Definitely.

Do feel regular deep openings and connections to the Self from my life and environment here on Maui? Absolutely. After all, chanting the Guru Gita on an empty beach at sunrise  is an experience beyond what I could have imagined when I lived on the mainland.  So who’s to say it’s not actually the right thing for right now?

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?

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

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