Monthly Archives: June 2015

Sharing My Yoga – By Vicharinee (Su Lee) Chafin

vicharblog4I recently learned an important yogic lesson when I taught a graduate counseling course. I was poised to teach potential school guidance counselors about the role of ethics and multiculturalism in their counseling sessions. I usually use this topic as a platform to give a political dissertation on all things being equal with humanity. I have always loved the sense of standing on a soapbox to deliver that lecture. However, I have been led to deeper understandings through my Meditation Teacher Training, as well as Swami Nirmalananda’s Satsangs, including her online audio recordings.

So this day, with my deeper understanding, I was moved to deliver a deeper teaching to my class. In this very conventional environment of a college classroom, I followed the format of Swami’s talk, “The Religion of Man,” and I wanted to credit her Baba as well as Swamiji herself. I wanted the Grace to have the credit. I didn’t want what I was saying to be confused with me, the professor. I wanted the counseling students to think bigger than that.

They are used to me showing videos, as I constantly use TED Talks to make points. So I brought up a video of Baba teaching in America, to show where the information on my talk originated. Initially, I had some fear and reservation about “religion” and spirituality talks in this environment, as everyone in my class is employed in public schools where the separation of church and state can be a big issue. But I tried to just settle into that fear and to move ahead with my plan. Swamiji and Baba talk of something beyond church and state, and I felt this was the perfect way to address the issue I was to teach. How better to assist these budding counselors in seeing equality and non-difference, in order to help those who walk into their offices?

After all, I know what it has done for me. Swamiji’s teachings, passed to us from her Baba, have done much more for me than has my academic and professional training. Those trainings did not open my heart.

Although I had some concerns, I felt completely supported by Grace and I knew where to go. I was just so moved, and I did what I felt called to do. Before I began my talk I did japa. Then I introduced Baba as a swami, describing what yoga is, and explaining why I chose to talk about him. I talked a little about the lineage and Kashmiri Shaivism and mentioned our modern Swami, who is near where I teach counseling. I also said if anyone had an interest in learning more about these teachings, I would be able to provide more information and direction.

In my talk, I used much of what Swami talked in her “Religion of Man,” including her examples from genetics, archeology, religion and the ancient sages of India as well as Baba to discuss the common ancestry of humans.

Grace, of course, did what Grace does. Faces opened, hearts opened. The comments of the counseling students were so sweet. They said they really liked looking at religion and humankind that way. Most of them said it really resonated with them. Of course it did! Why wouldn’t it? It is the truth.

They said the talk should be a TED Talk. I had joked before that it was my goal to do a TED Talk this year.  TED does university versions of their talks; the organization comes to my university.  I said, however, “This isn’t my talk, but I am thinking the world may be ready for a Swami Nirmalananda TED Talk!”

I think I was surprised there wasn’t more resistance or less understanding. Perhaps all of that is really just my small “s” self bubbling up and my fear about teaching yoga philosophy. But I felt I needed to test the waters of the conventional public or something. I know if I had been in a class of people gathered at an institute for studies about Consciousness I would have felt differently. But I was talking about yoga philosophy in a normal old graduate school offering coursework toward certification for guidance counselors in Delaware public schools.

It’s true that many of these students are there to change the world, but some want a master’s degree for the pay raise. So I was just amazed at their openness. I felt a different level of openness in this younger generation than I have in the past. I was excited by that and excited by the thought that the world may be more ready for the Guru than I expected. I am grateful to Swami Nirmalananda for being in service to the world as well as for guiding me.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

Today! International Yoga Day!

EXCERPT from Swami Nirmalananda’s discourse 

USA, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Kenya, Cameroon, South Africa, Phillipines, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Belize, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico, and more…

The International Yoga Federation says there are 300 million yoga practitioners worldwide.  So of course there is an International Yoga Day, as declared by the UN.

I was at a recent yoga conference and an Indian yogi spoke of the value that American has added to yoga, saying that in India, yoga has been made a mainstream practice, instead of something that the naked guys with the matted locks do.

So the world needs yoga.  I claim that, if every driver in PA did yoga once a week, we’d have safer roads – maybe even kinder roads.  What if everyone in the world went to one yoga class a week?  Could war continue to exist?  What about rape and murder?  What about poverty and discrimination?

Yes, it’s good to have an international yoga day.  Even though the western idea of yoga is quite a variation on what the ancients offered – the benefits are undeniable.

Let’s look at why yoga gives these benefits.  How does it work?  The scientific studies have compared yoga to other forms of exercise, as well as how it helps people with various conditions, like stress, depression, blood pressure problems, insomnia, diabetes, HIV, arthritis, MS, PTSD and stopping smoking.

But they haven’t studied how yoga provides peace, or happiness, or better relationships, or how it gives you inner strength.  They haven’t studied the spiritual state of yoga practitioners, or of meditation practitioners – they don’t even know how to study these things!

When you look at yoga as purely a physical process, your studies will give you results similar to other physical processes.  But when you include some “yoga” in your yoga:

  • You include the purpose of yoga: to quiet your mind,
  • the potential of yoga: enlightenment,
  • the process of yoga: turning inward,
  • the practice of yoga: cultivating awareness,
  • the effects of yoga: to make you more whole,
  • the promise of yoga: that you will live in the experiential knowing of your own Divine Essence, svaroopa.

What if you want to follow yoga’s path to realization?  What if your goal includes health and happiness, but it’s greater — you want to know God.  You want to know your own Self.  What you seek is technically called mystical.  The mysticism of the sages, the mysticism of the ages.  The mystery, revealed by the mystical sciences – which are not religion but are the science of the Divine.

Yoga doesn’t hold a patent on mysticism.  While yoga’s roots are Hindu, it’s not Hinduism.  Yoga has more in common with other mystical traditions than it does with Hinduism.  Sufism is the mystical tradition that comes from Islamic roots.  Hasidim is the mystical branch of Judaism.  There is a mystical Christianity, practiced in monasteries and convents through the centuries, documented by Saint Theresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen and others.  Native cultures use various substances as well as drumming and dancing to attain mystical states.  One neurologist has become well known for her mystical experiences as a result of having a stroke.  And Ram Dass started with LSD.

But yoga has a certain way of doing it, substance free, healthy living, respect for all that exists, heart opening, mind expanding, inward deepening processes – all for cosmic consciousness.  For cosmic consciousness that you don’t fall down from.  For the experiential knowing of your own svaroopa.

Happy International Day of Yoga!  [click here to listen to the whole discourse]

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

Graduation! by Swami Nirmalananda

IMG_9779My heart is deeply touched – again – yesterday, by the amazing and committed yogis who completed YTT Level 4, now trained in 12 teaching themes, 108 poses and over 350 adjustments for their students. We held their Completion Ceremony in the afternoon, after they shared the teaching in a grand finale yoga class, with each of them teaching part of the class.

While they still have DTS (DTS (Develop your Teaching Skills)) to complete before they become certified, they have completed a grand undertaking, a milestone, a great accomplishment in their life. And they will serve the world, offering others what they have themselves received through their studies: healing, transformation and illumination.

Thank you to our new grads!