Tag Archives: India

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.

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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

Seva Is Yoga by Rob Gold

My introduction to seva came from an Indian professor I had in college. She taught on the

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topic and the responsibility of and value in serving one’s community. It was lost on me at the time.  However 20 years later, I remember what she looked like, subtleties of her accent and even the spelling of her Hindu name; clearly she had an impact on me.

The second time I encountered seva was at my Foundations training at Kripalu. Swamiji divided our large group into teams of sevites and sent us out to help with the housekeeping, kitchen and operations of the Center. Who knew vacuuming could be such

bliss! Gone were the superficial and selfish reasons for doing things; for that one hour my job was to vacuum carpet and focus on why I was doing it. Time flew by and I was amazed at how full I felt and how much I had accomplished in such a short time.

My third and deepest encounter with seva came from readings in the Bhagavad Gita during Swamiji’s Yoga Business Skills course. Time and time again Krishna provides the teachings and illuminates the path for Arjuna until finally he gets it. I often feel like Arjuna:  lost, confused and without focus, but once I recognize my state (with a small “s”), I have these collective experiences to draw upon and apply to my life. My version of it is this:

  “When you are stuck on yourself, go be of service to someone else.”  It works every time, usually in ways and to a degree I could never have imagined.

Such is the case with the upcoming Conference, now just 1 week away. I feel like Arjuna slumped in his chariot, burdened by my churning mind, caught in the turmoil of why I can’t go — and why I need to. But what if I went not for me but to serve others and assist with the event? Swamiji always builds in ways for us to be of service and the Conference is no exception. Vacuuming the halls of Kripalu was a profound experience before my spine opened, before I knew about seva and its power, so by becoming part of the Conference I’ll get more yoga, more Swamiji, more community and more Grace, all by doing more for others and less for me. Sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it?

So Much Choice, So Little Time by MYF Sevites

349Learning, laughing, chanting, eating, shopping, and doing yoga — what more could you ask for? The Svaroopa® Yoga Conference has it all! It’s only a week away, and it’s not too late to register and find that inexpensive last-minute airfare!

As with all things Svaroopa®, choices abound. You have a choice of workshop tracks: a blissful yoga weekend, meditation in the Ashram track, continuing education updates in the Teacher and Foundations tracks. You could also chose a full-day Warrior Vinyasa pre-conference workshop on Friday and/or a half-day Inversions post-conference workshop on Sunday, both with Vidyadevi.

Choices abound in the shop, with everything that Master Yoga and the Ashram have to support and inspire your yoga practice. Find DVDs, CDs, posters, books, tee shirts and NEW exclusive items only available at our Conferences and special sales on items from Conferences past.

More choices in the popular Silent Auction! Cast your bid on sacred treasures donated by the India 2013 participants, purchased during their pilgrimage: colorful shawls, sweet murtis, Ganga-dipped items and much more. Take home a bit of the Kumbha Mela and Ganeshpuri if you were unable to attend the trip this time.

Photos from the India trip will be projected onto a screen in a side-dining room, and you may well feel as though you are there.  To enhance the visual experience, India trip participants will be on hand to describe their personal experiences. Swamiji will be announcing her plans for the next trip. Perhaps a visit to the “India” dining room will propel you and prepare you to make the journey.

Another side dining room calls out to all Mentors and Mentees. Could you pick your DTS Mentor out of a crowd?  You spent some intense hours together by phone.  What is your Mentor like in person? Don’t you want to put a face to a voice? If you are a Mentor, imagine sharing lunch with the Svaroopis that you have coached into full-fledged teachers!

After seeing photos of India, get a new photo of You! As a Svaroopa® yoga teacher, you should have a new “head shot” every year. This year’s conference makes that easy with a booth featuring a professional photographer. Ladies, pack a scarf in your favorite color!  Gentlemen, don’t forget your favorite teaching shirt!  Then sign up “attendants” to fix your hair and to converse with you during your photo shoot.  Swami Nirmalananda says she always does this to ensure photos with a natural, spontaneous quality.

Yoga is all about you.  This conference is all about you, and the ways in which your yoga organization serves you. It’s all about the choices you make in deepening your experience of yoga, and of your Self. All the choices lead you back to You. Shiva is always having fun being You. Have fun!

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.

Comings & Goings

by Swami Nirmalananda

Goings

Last Saturday night’s ceremony was deeply meaningful to all who attended, featuring Swami Nirmalananda’s head-shaving to celebrate her departure from being President of both Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram’s and Master Yoga Foundation.

IMG_7177 cropped

We’ve been fortunate to benefit from her continued teaching for the Ashram, even while leading Master Yoga’s Reawakening.  She’s led the February India trip as well as our Year-Long Programme and Shaktipat Retreats, and continues her many free programs and calls.  Yet we’re looking forward to having her return to Shrii Guru Gita project and other projects that have been on the back burner.  The Ashram Board has asked Swamiji to continue as a Board Member.

Monthly Donors & Shishyas may request a lock of Swamiji’s hair from the ceremony.  Simply mail a SASE to Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, 1400 Hampton Drive, Downingtown PA 19335. We will send the care packages out on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here for information on how to become a Shishya member.

Comings

Sharada

Sharada

We are happy to announce that Sharada (JenMarie) Macdonald is now serving both sister organizations as Business Administration Manager.  She is assuming many of Swamiji’s Master Yoga administrative responsibilities to provide needed support for their hard-working staff while continuing to lead the Ashram staff and sevites.

Sharada has worked closely with Swami Nirmalananda for more than two years, as well as providing assistance with some key projects in Master Yoga’s Reawakening.  With Sharada serving the Ashram as well as Master Yoga, it means we are deepening our collaboration between our two sister organizations, providing cohesive leadership as well as economies of scale, recognized as necessary by both Boards.

We are very excited about Sharada’s proven skills and dedication as well as her ability to build a team, with both staff and sevites, and how this will support our community.  If you have any questions, concerns or congratulations, please contact our new Board President, Amala Cattafi at amala@svaroopavidya.org or Sharada at sharada@svaroopavidya.org.

 

What’s New–Plants & People

by Sharada Macdonald

Comings & Goings

Many of you have already noticed that I have a new name (Sharada). Now, I now have a new title at Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, too: Business Administration Manager. This new name, just like my new Sanskrit name, is to make the outside match the inside. I started at SVA as an assistant helping out with the Amaya® Yoga Products and Downingtown Yoga Meditation Center.

Working at the Ashram every day, I saw how much Swamiji did (and continues to do) to serve Baba by supporting and serving all of us. Her dedication opened me to want to do anything I can to support her vision and mission of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. Every time I have seen her (every single time!), she is working to serve and support us. So, any time I could do more, I did. And being steeped in the flow of Grace makes doing anything easy! As SVA has continued to grow, I’ve been blessed with many new opportunities to serve Swamiji, the teachings and you. This new title names these specific ways that I am so blessed to serve.

As spring continues to unfold into the promise of summer, I am pleased to welcome a new gardener to SVA, Greg Hesselton. It’s easy to see how much he loves the earth—I have yet to see Greg (whose first day at the Ashram was on his birthday!) in shoes. Sweet & gentle, he appreciates the beauty of the native flora & fauna. He even asked if we could leave flowering weeds an extra day or two before pulling them so the bees could enjoy them. A camp counselor who lives in a minimal cabin for half of the year, Greg spends his mornings with camp kids and most afternoons caring for the Ashram grounds. Thank you, Greg!

Veggie Garden

Surprise! Wintered-over carrots

Surprise! Wintered-over carrots

Greg, who I mentioned above, has spent the last two weeks preparing the three raised garden beds that went in last year and has been planting baby veggies in them (more on that soon including a picture of Swamiji with a wagon!). Deep gratitude goes out to Dean Cilley, who helped build the beds, planted seeds and cared for last year’s veggies. Dean’s agricultural background and care has resulted in lots of delicious Ashram-shakti-filled veggies last year and—surprise!—a crop of recently discovered wintered-over carrots that were planted last fall. Much to the Ashram residents’ and chefs’ delight, they will be ready to harvest and enjoy soon! Thank you, Dean!

 

Now, here’s that picture of Swamiji with a wagon that I promised:

Swamiji loads the wagon with baby veggies.

Swamiji loads the wagon with baby veggies.

Baby veggies in their new home

Baby veggies in their new home

Swamiji sent me an email last week asking if we could play hooky for an hour or two and go get baby veggies from Jane’s Flower Patch (“Isn’t that a cute name?” Swamiji remarked. “She has 27 different kinds of vegetable starts!”). Swamiji and I pulled a wagon in between the rows of plants, and Swamiji loaded it with zucchini, yellow squash, green & yellow bell peppers, onions, a jalapeno and a banana pepper, Early Girl and Roma tomatoes, basil, flatleaf & curly parsley, cilantro, green & red lettuces, and swiss chard. Finally, Swamiji selected marigolds to ring the beds (in addition to being holy in India, they keep away pests and bunnies). You’re not playing hooky if you don’t get a treat, so we ended our veggie trip with a mango water ice (a Mid-Atlantic delicacy) and took the babies home for Greg to plant.

Now that Greg has finished planting all the baby veggies, he will build a fence around the raised beds to protect them from critters. Stayed tuned for pictures of the fence and Ashram harvest later this year!