Monthly Archives: October 2016

Diwali:  The Yoga-Goddess Sits in a Lotus

By Swami Nirmalananda

Yoga’s goddesses are not just the beauties on magazine covers and in videos.  The Indian roots of yoga gift us with a mythic reality, incredibly rich and fulfilling, to explain everyday as well as extraordinary events.

Lakshmi and Saraswati are among the best-known Goddesses, each of whom is the Ultimate Reality in a feminine, creative, fertile, productive and powerful form.  saraswati-rudraksha-ratna-comMost Goddesses sit on lotuses, rooted in the mud of the earth yet blooming in pristine beauty.

Sunday October 30 is Diwali, Lakshmi’s annual festival.  As a harvest festival, it celebrates the bounty of Mother Earth (Bhudevi), as well as expresses gratitude.  Yet Diwali is not merely about material abundance, nor was Thanksgiving Day meant to be.  In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, establishing it as a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Diwali is a public holiday in India, with celebrations featuring the fireworks of our Fourth of July, the feast of our Thanksgiving, the gift-giving of our Christmas & Hannukah, and the loud and boisterous parties of our New Year’s Eve.  Everyone gets new clothes and dresses in their finest, with family and public events filling the day, even spanning 2 or 5 days in some regions!

It’s a great celebration.  Yet it’s about the “beneficent Author of all…”  Its roots lie in ancient times, the honoring of life itself as well as the way nature’s bounty sustains us.  Lakshmi is the name given to this Divine Energy of beneficence, the generosity that supports and nourishes all, that which makes us thrive.  It seems unfamiliar to the Western mind because we don’t have a name for something that happens every day.

seed sprouting seed sprouts, sends roots into the earth and reaches up for the light.  What makes it sprout?  What makes it grow, flower and fruit?

There is an energy, a power hidden within the seed, something that propels an inert little speck to blossom into a living plant — a plant that gives us the food that we harvest and eat.

This Divine energy produces more than enough seeds, not only to feed us, along with a myriad of insects and other creatures, but to provide for its future generations (and ours).  How many seeds does a pomegranate have?  How incredibly prolific!

The sages of India gave a name to this Divine Energy:  Lakshmi.  They honored all the different energies as Divine Energies, describing this world as a Divine Playground, and gave us mystical practices and teachings that promise us the same seeing.

2010 Lakshmi puja.jpgReligion honors the Divine as though it is found outside of you, being in relationship with you, blessing or testing you.  Thus Lakshmi is found in Hinduism, honoring the Divine Nature of the food we eat and all the blessings we receive.  Yet yogis look deeper.  Yogis look for the Divine within.  Thus it is, on Diwali, that yogis look for that same beneficence within themselves, that same blossoming forth in a spirit of generosity, nurturance and blessings.

When you celebrate the bounty that will feed us through the winter, you naturally prepare a holiday feast and enjoy the company of your nearest and dearest.  You also shop the season’s sales, so you can grab more of the bounty for yourself and your loved ones.  This is how the celebration of bounty turns into institutionalized greed, not only at the dinner table but for weeks afterward, all the way to Christmas or through your whole life.

Yet when you celebrate the Divine source of that bounty, paying attention to something you usually take for granted, you stop to honor the sanctity of life and the holy gift of the Goddess.  Then you truly give thanks, not only to the sun and earth, but to the Divine source.  Opening your heart in gratitude is a Divine experience, hopefully one you can share with others who share your acknowledgement of that Divine presence in all.

As a yogi, you go a step further.  You look for the Divine source inside, not only to experience but to act on, just as Lakshmi does, by sharing your bounty with others.   Thus, for yogis, Diwali is a time for giving gifts, a time to support those they care about the most.  It’s not about receiving; it’s about being the ever-flowing font of blessings.  Diwali is a day to honor the Divine within you, as well as the Divine outside of you and all around.  It’s a time to thank Her for Her great blessings — on a day dedicated to Lakshmi. Diwali.

dress up as Lakshmi you could even dress up as a Goddess for the day!  Not as a sex-goddess, not for the purpose of attracting attention, but as a scintillating form of Divinity.  It’s a day to honor the Divine blessings that give us life for yet another year, as well as to honor the Divinity in yourself, that is your Self.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

Swami hands.jpg


image credits (from top to bottom):

  • Lakshmi:
  • Saraswati:
  • Seed Sprouting:
  • Lakshmi yaj~na (fire ceremony):  Ashram photo from Kerala event
  • Dressing as Lakshmi:
  • Swami Nirmalananda’s hands: Ashram collection (on the cover of Namah CD)


What’s in It for Me?

matrikaby Matrika Gast

Since 1998, I have carefully considered “what’s in it for me” every time I’ve participated in a Svaroopa® yoga class, teacher training course or retreat.  I’ve had plenty of expectations.  “Exceeded expectations” doesn’t really capture my experience either.  It’s that my mind didn’t have the capacity to envision what I was about to get.

My first Svaroopa® yoga class was at a teachers’ conference focused on another yoga style.  I thought I was going to get a little time out, but I got noticeable release in my spine, for the first time ever.  A few years later, Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama) gave a Heart Opening weekend in the studio where I taught (a different style of yoga).  I enrolled in the workshop to “support” my colleague who was hosting Rama.  He needed no “support” as the studio filled with nearly 30 participants.  I was the only teacher in that group.

supported fish - Copy

In Supported Fish, everyone was in bliss.  Except me.  My memory still presents me with the sensation of flames licking my sacrum and lumbar spine.  That was my first taste of awakened Kundalini, because a few months later my life started to change exponentially.  My granddaughter was born in Idaho and I soon found myself migrating to live there.  That move put me close to Swamiji’s 2004 Core Opening2 (squared) week-long immersion in Montana.  I signed up, expecting to “find my center,” since my move had unraveled life as I had known it.

What I found in Core Opening2 was not merely a sense of center, but the beginning of amazing expansion and transformation.  That week-long title’s resonance with E = mc2 should have tipped me off that it was time to fasten my seat belt.  It has not been what I expected.  Instead what I have found is being supported by “that for which I have always yearned” — Self.  Wonderment after wonderment has unfolded at the speed of light.

I took Foundations about a year later, and then entered YTT. After full certification as a Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher, I took Meditation Teacher Training and then opened my own studio.  That granddaughter is now 16 AND she seems to actually like hanging out with me.  After a yoga class with me, her word for her Shavasana feeling was “contented.”

It’s such subtle, even seemingly insignificant events that blow my mind.  Flying home from our annual SVA Board retreat last August, I had a layover in Phoenix.  Waiting at the gate for my flight to Boise, I conversed with a woman flying on to Spokane WA.  I don’t remember how we started talking about yoga, but when she mentioned back pain, I told her about Svaroopa® yoga and our “deceptively easy, amazingly powerful” poses for spinal release.  I also told her about Francie Light, CSYT, who teaches in Spokane.  I had no expectation that the woman would remember our conversation even five minutes later.  But today I received this email from Francie:

I wanted to tell you that a new student started yoga on Tuesday.  She met you in the Phoenix airport and said that there was just “something about her” that attracted her to you.  So you talked to her and she found me, and here she is taking Svaroopa® yoga!

alignment-with-graceSmall world, so amazingly miraculous and beautiful.

In the end, that is “what is in it for me,” witnessing the impossible-to-imagine miracles that unfold along this Grace-filled path.

How Much Is Enough?

mati-sandy-gilbertBy Mati Sandy Gilbert

Rehoboth Beach Yoga hosted Swami Nirmalananda for a free satsang.  Imagine how special that was for us! Approximately 50 people attended — some yogis, some not — all listening with rapt attention.  Everyone seemed to understand her theme: “How much is enough?” I have always marveled at how her words touch each and every one, no matter what is going on in their lives.

During my closing remarks, I asked “How Much is Enough?”  Everyone tittered — even Swamiji.  I don’t know if anyone heard my next comment: “There is never enough Swami.” Even once we are truly, fully living in our own Divinity and being able to sustain it, we still need Swami.

rehoboth-beach-yogaMy personal high was when Swami presented me with a beautiful crystal from her own puja.  I remember reveling in her praise.  Afterwards, others told me I beamed.  How could I not?

While others were leaving after the satsang, I went up to Swami to express my personal thanks for her accepting our invitation and for her words of wisdom.  She graciously acknowledged my words.  But then she asked me, “Are you still doing the poses I suggested for you to do?” I am not sure what I answered, but she knew.  I wasn’t.  Gently, she reminded me.  I was in awe.  How could she remember what she told me many years ago? Needless to say, I have been doing those specific poses every day since.  Hopefully, I know enough now to continue doing them.  “How much is enough?” Each of us should keep that phrase in mind all through our lives.

Each of us experienced Swami Nirmalananda profoundly.  Deb Norton emailed me, “The discourse renewed my awareness of ‘What is measure?’ in my day-to-day existence.  Also, Swamiji’s talk led me to appreciate the importance of regular yoga/meditation practice and its positive, cumulative effects on my beingness.  In that regard, I strengthened my Yoga Score[1] by going to class today (1.5 hrs).”

_mg_4438Ishvari (Terry) Gardner agrees that Swami Nirmalananda’s visit was a great experience for all.  She recalls, “I couldn’t help watching the attendees’ rapt attention to Swami’s discourse.  She deftly wove the question of ‘How much is enough’ through life itself as well as elements of yoga.  She encouraged us to become aware of our own Yoga Score and how it can affect our life.  Following her discourse, we all chanted the mantra of our lineage: ‘Om Namah Shivaya.’ Then we settled into a very still, silent, deep meditation.  Afterwards, there was a lighthearted joy in the room as individuals went up to kneel at her feet and share a few private words with her.  Each received prasad, an orange cord bracelet, tied on by other yogis.  The group chatted together about their experience.  I believe everyone left a little — or a lot — changed.  I am certain that all were inspired to ‘do more yoga.’ I am profoundly grateful to have Swamiji inspire all of us in so many, many ways.”

[1] Swami Nirmalananda explained how to calculate your Yoga Score in her discourse.  Click here to hear the recording.


matrikaBy Matrika Gast

In thinking about a Svaroopa® retreat or professional training , do you ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” The well-known acronym is WIIFM. Marketing professionals look for the WIIFMs that attract in potential customers, before ever talking to them.

When I first took Svaroopa® yoga classes, easy access to my own Self was on my WIIFM list, but I didn’t know it. A stack of other WIIFMs, like relief of low back pain and a more balanced life, obscured my awareness of my deep yearning. I yearned for my own essential Divinity.

sunshineWhile one set of WIIFMs got me to Svaroopa® yoga, in the process I discovered that deeper motivation to know my Divinity experientially. The paradox is that both WIIFM goals have been fulfilled again and again. And even more keeps coming. An endless stream of Grace reveals the Divine woven into all things.

Through Svaroopa® yoga and meditation, the MORE fills us to overflowing. Likely you will find, as I have, that MORE turns out to be different than what you thought you wanted.  Better than anything you have imagined! It’s almost as though your DNA begins to shift toward compassion, generosity and benevolence full time.

Love for yourself begins to arise from within your Self. From that place, an immensity of love for everyone and everything flows forth. The paradox is, asking “What’s in it for me?” regarding our Svaroopa® Sciences leads ultimately to gifts of love and service for your family, your community and the whole world.


Being a Role Model

yogeshwaree-up-to-date-copyBy Yogeshwari Fountain

While standing at the sink doing the morning dishes recently, I felt just the slightest lift of my left heel.  Normally I’d read that as a cue to relax my tailbone, pull in my abs and get back into my body.  However, having just read “Being a Role Model,” Swamiji’s and Vidyadevi’s Contemplation article, I had a different awareness.  “Ground your Shakti,” I murmured to myself, feeling a surge of joy and fullness arise from within.

In that moment, I knew it wasn’t just me at the sink, doing, but Consciousness Itself, being me, while doing the dishes.  Simply by feeling my feet again, I experienced my fully embodied spirituality: present in my own Presence once again.  I think this is what Swamiji means by “yoga is about getting beyond theory.”

_MG_4685.JPGIn “Being a Role Model,” she points out the “Truth” that I am “perfect and divine,” always, no matter how I feel, or what my mind says, no exceptions.  To live this, I need all the practices of Svaroopa® yoga to keep re-aligning myself to the Self intentionally.  But to know I AM Living Truth itself is an inner shift that develops over time.  While I have blissful experiences of it, clearly I am not established there.  But the Guru is, and because of this, she is the ultimate role model, manifesting the revelatory power of Grace.

All my life I emulated others, looking for mentors and role models to show me how to achieve worldly success, as limited as that was.  But when I met Swamiji, I knew I was in the presence of “Living Truth,” and the road ahead was going to take a sharp turn inward.

yogeshwari-ytt-2-copyThe glory of this tantric path is that you must then turn outward, and shine your light back into the world.  While Swamiji continues to model this for all of us, she exhorts every Svaroopi to do the same for others.  I’m often asked, “How many hours of yoga do you do each day?” If only they really knew! Still, being a role model is humbling, as I’ve never felt “better than” anyone.  I’m simply grateful to be on this path of discipleship.  I trust that if I cooperate with the process, and watch my motives for any given action, I will become progressively more uplifted.  I will understand what I am truly becoming, not in a worldly sense, but as embodied Consciousness, Living Truth.