Mundane Pilgrimages

kristineBy Kristine Freeman, SVA Board Member

Dragging my suitcase up Lokananda’s steep stairs, I feel abundant joy. I am arriving on sacred ground. How happy I feel is just crazy! Swami Nirmalananda explains, “People travel great distances on pilgrimage to many famous places including Mecca, the River Ganga, Jerusalem, Rome, the Pyramids, Ayers Rock in Australia, and more. Whatever you find there is simply a finding of the sacred inside yourself.”

stairs-1At Lokananda I am steeped in bliss as well as Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings. This experience increases my capacity to find the sacred within myself even when I am in everyday spaces and places. On my daily walk in the woods, I turn my phone off and no longer listen to music or use a step counter. Having eliminated these distractions, I see the Divine and sacredness all around — and as my own Self within. With my attention turned inward, the sights and sounds of the outer world register in me differently. I can hear and see sacredness in birds, a deer, the river and trees. I experience the joy in them. That’s a direct result of having been at Lokananda. The lasting power of true pilgrimage is to imprint Divine Consciousness on your mind.

Of course, I find myself in plenty of situations where the Divine can seem far away. For example, grocery shopping can be a challenging trial. You navigate a maze of distractions in a buzz of activity, dodging other shoppers’ carts and finally interacting with a hyper-focused, stressed cashier. How about standing on sacred ground as you wait in line at the post office? It’s so easy to tune into your own sacred Self at Lokananda with its light-filled spaces, and saturated with the Grace and Shakti of our Guru. It takes an advanced state to find that sacred ground at the grocery store or post office. I’m not there yet. Yet now I am aware of not being there.

IMG_20160205_205505 - CopyThe awareness itself is priceless. It shows me the value of regular practice of yoga asana, meditation, seva, and dakshina — “giving back.” They all support me in an ongoing, transformative process. They outfit me for the daily journey wherever it takes me. Inside, the yearning to know my Self pulls me ever deeper within even as I move forward. I am grateful that Swami Nirmalananda makes the sacred teachings so available at Lokananda, in satsangs there and in local communities, and via her free audio recordings of discourses and contemplations.

No matter where I am, through her teachings, I stand on sacred ground. I can perceive the Truth in everything — it’s all Consciousness. The Divine is never far away. Everyday life was always sacred, I just couldn’t see it that way. What a gift to be able to appreciate the sacredness in everyday life.

In gratitude, I practice dakshina, contributing financially to the Ashram regularly. Offering dakshina changes you, just as do the other yogic practices. The amount of money does not matter. Any amount is beneficial to the Ashram in spreading the teachings widely. Giving back in gratitude for the gifts you have received feels just wonderful! You honor your own Self as you allow yourself to act from your generous nature. Click here to donate.

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