Monthly Archives: April 2019

Seva’s Unending Grace

By Deborah (Shivaani) Woodward

I was resistant and stubborn about seva at first.  I couldn’t see myself doing anything but the kinds of editing work I’d done professionally for 35 years.  This was in 2009, before Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati founded the Ashram.  At the time, I did want to serve our Master Teacher as well as her Master Yoga organization and community.  However, I wanted to serve from my identity as an editor only.  In this way, for several years, I proofread Svaroopa® yoga course catalogues.

Then my body said, “no more.”  I pulled back, unwilling to spend more weeks, hours and years sitting at a computer.  I realized I could drop the editor identity.  This shift was freeing and came as a delightful surprise.

In 2018, when I was asked to do seva again, I came to it with a desire to be in closer connection with our beloved Swamiji.  I use a computer again, this time to manage a publications subscriber list, not editing.  It takes a short while, just right for me.  Even from the first, I did the work aware of Swamiji’s presence.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to serve.

One day, I opened the list and felt an instantaneous surge of our Sadguru’s unconditional love.  My eyes rested on the list. Then, in that moment, love filled my heart and expanded it.  I recognized this as our Guru’s Light and Grace.  I realized in a new way, she is right there.  The closer connection I sought is always within.  I feel a similar sweetness each time I interact with Ashram staff.  The Grace of the Guru flows through every aspect of my seva, and through each person with whom I talk or email. With a stripped down, simple seva, I open to the fullness of ultimate interconnectedness.  The sweetness, joy and continuing revelations and realizations bowl me over.  This is at the heart of the Self that She is — unending Grace.

I Am Not Normal

By Janet (Janaki) Murray

“As a yogi you are not normal.” I have heard Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda say this during her talks many times.  It’s true.  I remember this when I listen to people conversing.  I find it most noticeable in conversations about wicked or corrupt things happening around the world.  I notice how upset and agitated people get about these things.  I notice how I often do not.  It is not that I don’t have feelings about it or don’t care.  It just doesn’t affect my inner state.  Since this yogic way of seeing things is not “normal,” I often stay quiet and just listen.

I do find that the closer to “home,” the harder it becomes.  Very recently two people lied to me.  It was not exactly wicked or corrupt.  But to me, as a yogi, this was not satya (truth).  The first was someone I barely know.  They were doing some work for me, and I discovered the lie quickly.  Interestingly, my first thought was some karma was catching up with me.  

Beginning to reflect on the situation, my mind got caught up in a whole big tangle about it.  I got annoyed.  I felt taken advantage of.  I thought about whether I should confront the person.  My mind churned with whole range of thoughts and emotions.  I particularly noticed how all this coloured my opinion of this person.  I became skeptical of their integrity and their capacity to complete the work satisfactorily.

Two things came from this: firstly, it’s likely that my thoughts undermined the worker’s efforts.  Secondly, and more significantly, it destabilised my inner state.  Not a great result.

The second person who lied to me recently was a close relation.  It did not escape my attention that I had discovered two lies within a few days.  Bearing in mind the tangled web I created in my mind previously, I took a different approach.  I was not going to fall into that trap again and let my mind become a tangled knot. 

A bit miffed, I did have a whinge to my husband about it.  However, I recognized that the relative told the lie because she was in her own mind “stuff,” yet I did not have to go into my “stuff.”  I was able to untangle the two.  This really was about me and my reaction or response.  

So I picked up the phone and called the relative.  We had a lovely chat.  I made no reference to the lie, choosing to ignore it completely.  Needless to say, she was fine, I was fine, my mind quiet and my inner state was still intact.

In her April Teachings: A New Normal, Swamiji talks about “indifference to vice” as one of the practices recommended by Patanjali.  Even though the article arrived in my inbox too late to assist me with the situations, I did apply some yogic skills to the latter.  And Swamiji’s April Teachings have encouraged more reflection.  

I have been able to see some of the ways I get entangled in my mind.  Dealing with vice in others is clearly a difficult one for me especially when it affects me directly.  This one is going to take more work.  As Swamiji says in the article about her journey with these practices, first you have to remember to apply it.  That is the first challenge.   Having become skilled at that, then you can apply it to yourself.  Unsurprisingly, I notice dealing with vice in myself is even harder.  I look forward to practising indifference to my own vice — what a freedom!

Blossoming Forth from the Heart of Your Being

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi, SVA Board President

It’s a delight to see the burgeoning plants in spring.  They seek externally for sunlight, while deep inside is their inherent capacity to bloom.  You are the same.  You contain the inherent capacity to bloom and grow.  

Like the sun, your yoga practices, filled with the Grace of the Svaroopa® Sciences, shine the light inward and call forth your inherent, eternal Self.  This is the “heart” of who you really are.  It is magical!  The deeper you delve, the more your heart opens.  YOU blossom forth and carry all of your fullness into the world.

This spring, we ask you to blossom forth, and we have an exciting way to help you do it.  We ask you to share your heart, your joy, your hope with those nearest and dearest to you.  We ask you to share the love by donating to the organization and the practices that give you so much.  And there’s more….

You do this through your life as well as your work in the world.  You do this through your practice.  You do this through your relationships.  You do this through your presence.  You do this with all of your heart.

We’re also asking you to share your heart by using social media to raise funds and to raise awareness of Swamiji’s profound teachings.  On our Facebook page (Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram), you’ll find information to help you do both.  Either make a direct donation to the Ashram.  Or create your own Facebook fundraiser for the Ashram.  It’s easy to do – here’s how:

  • For a single personal donation, go to the Ashram Facebook page.  Click on the Donate button on the cover photo.  When asked, designate an amount and a payment method.  Then click Donate again.  One, two three — that’s it.
  • Create your own event, to magnify your capacity to share your heart — with the Ashram — AND with your Facebook friends.  Here’s how to create your own Ashram fundraiser on Facebook:
  • Click Fundraisers in the left-side menu of your News Feed. Then, click Raise Money and select Nonprofit/Charity.
  • Type in Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, and click on the link given.
  • Choose a cover photo, fill in the fundraiser details (we’re happy to provide them) and click Create.
  • When you’re given the opportunity to decide with whom you want to share this fundraiser, we suggest people who know how much you love your yoga, and who love you!  We suggest you NOT send it to your Svaroopa® yoga friends on Facebook.  Let’s avoid sending the same fundraiser repeatedly to our community.

Either way, after you make a donation, an email confirmation is sent to the primary email listed on your Facebook account.  The email receipt shows that you’ve made this donation as a charitable contribution, and that you’re not receiving any goods or services in return.  Facebook sends your donation directly to the Ashram a few days after you make it.

There are no fees to you, and no fees to the Ashram.  It’s simple and effective.

You can also donate directly to the Ashram. Simply click here.

Want some help creating your fundraiser?  Let us know.  We will call your back and walk you through the steps.  Call 610.644.7555 or email  It is very easy. Swamiji says, “Giving and sharing are a mark of personal, and yogic, growth.  You grow by caring.  You grow by contributing.”  Do more yoga.  Open your heart.  Grow by caring.  Contribute today!

In loving gratitude for all of you, with all of my heart,

Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi Heinlein

Still Experiencing the Joy

By Sonya (Sharaddhananda) McNeill
Interviewed by Marlene (Matrika) Gast

The people in Ganeshpuri have this incredible capacity to make you feel welcome.  It seems deeper than general kindness and hospitality.  I first traveled to Ganeshpuri with Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda in 2013.  On the 2017 trip, I was greeted with a personal warmth that made me feel as though I had returned home.  It was as though they had held me in their hearts for four years.  During my stay I was taken care of in a myriad of ways that I could never have anticipated.

Our group stayed at the Fire Mountain Retreat, headed by disciples of Bhagawan Nityananda.  One of their charitable initiatives is training women in impoverished communities in sewing.  They craft beautiful quilts, coiled fabric purses, placemats and various other items.  I had the opportunity to visit their shop. I met the seamstresses and picked out fabric for quilts for my nieces’ Christmas gifts. After a few days, the head seamstress showed me the base square for each quilt.  My nieces cherish the splendid finished quilts —this piece of India that I brought to them.

My most ecstatic memory is two-fold: the yaj~na (Vedic fire ceremony) and receiving my Sanskrit name from Swamiji the next day.  The Brahmin priests lit the fire by wrapping rope around a slender stick, standing in a long wooden tray filled with light cotton fibers.  A priest held both ends of the rope and pulled it back and forth, feet braced against the tray, twisting the upright stick with all his might.  It reminded me of the Shivaratri story of churning the ocean. 

We all chanted mantra as the priests worked ardently to light the sacred fire.  There was a continuous play of process, being present and letting go of outcome and attachment.  All the while, the Brahmin priests, their faces full of joy, were laughing and chanting. 

They playfully challenged each other. The chanting was like a battle of the bands.  They multitasked, arranging flowers, fruit and other offerings for the fire.  They chanted ancient Sanskrit words with specific intonations.  They marked the beat and emphasis of the words with hand gestures.  It was a miraculous blend of cacophony and melody.

Our group participated in the yaj~na, feeding ghee and other offerings to the fire.  I felt like I fed my “small-s self” to the fire.  I was transformed.  The culmination was my exchange with Swamiji when I took my Brahmacharya vow and received my Sanskrit name.  Since our yaj~na, I have felt continuously supported by Grace.  I’m carried in the midst of my life as though seated on an arati tray as an offering to God.  My transformation continues, mentally and spiritually and I am profoundly grateful.

Why I Teach

By Valerie (Dasi) Light Trautlein. Interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

Becoming a Svaroopa® yoga teacher happened to me in stages.  I started practicing yoga at age 20.  In my mid-20s, I had a profound experience that detached me from the world.  I felt there was nothing left.  But I thought, “I’m here, so I’ll serve God.”  Then I realized I wanted to teach yoga. 

I tried all different kinds of yoga and took a Svaroopa® yoga class.  I fell in love with Svaroopa® yoga and wanted to incorporate it into my home practice.  I borrowed The Primary Practice DVD that first day!  First, I went through the whole DVD, doing the poses.  Re-watching the DVD, I paused it many times to take detailed notes on each pose.  Thus, I could practice them after I returned the DVD.

In 2008, I realized that Svaroopa® yoga was what I wanted to teach.  This happened when my mind quieted completely while I lay in Jathara Parivrttanasana (Rotated Stomach Pose).  Less than a month later, I was off to take Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga.  My local Svaroopa® yoga teachers had opened the door.  Inside was the Guru.  Once I met Swami Nirmalananda (Rama at the time), I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  She had knowledge I wanted.  She had a deeper presence and a capacity to impact so many people so effectively.  In my Foundations course there were 65 people.  She was impacting all of them.

Over the years, I had tried different kinds of work and odd jobs.  I’d kept thinking, “There must be a career for me out there.”  I tried social work in group homes and being a chiropractic assistant and managing the office.  I cashiered and managed a store.  I taught preschool and people with developmental disabilities.  For a time, I was a self-employed healer.  Nothing worked until I gave myself to teaching Svaroopa® yoga.  Teaching Svaroopa® yoga gives me everything I’ve ever wanted, while I’m doing my job.

Teaching makes my own path easier.  My understanding of the teachings increases.  I understand now that when Swami Nirmalanandaji repeats something it’s really important.  Teaching deepens my experience of the importance of releasing tension around the spine.  And More — teaching brings me closer to my Guru.  The Grace of the lineage is flowing through me as I’m teaching.

But, bottom line, I teach Svaroopa® yoga because I have been blessed with Sadguru Nirmalanandaji as my teacher.  As my Guru, she opens me teaching in a deeply rooted, spiritual lineage.  In Yoga, Sweat and Mysticism, she writes:

…if you read the ancient yogic sages, they say yoga is about who you are, deep inside…  This is yoga — pure mysticism, meaning it is about the mystery of life, the mystery that is hidden inside every human heart and being.

Svaroopa® yoga offers upliftment, freedom and choice.  You learn how to live in a new way.  You honor yourself and your own Divine Self (svaroopa), inherent within you.

Living in the “AND”

By Ruth (Rama) Brooke

“Yoga” can be defined as ‘and’,” explained Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda in a recent Shaktipat Retreat.  This definition is my favorite takeaway from that weekend.  It led me to realize how I’d been living for so long in the “either/or.”

I would berate myself for slipping out of yoga (capital-S Self) and into life (small-s self).  Then I would retreat from life (self) back to yoga (Self) to recover.  I felt like a hamster on a wheel, never getting anywhere.  With all the yoga I do, I thought I shouldn’t experience intense emotional pain.  I shouldn’t have a bothersome, busy mind.  I would become frustrated.  I didn’t know it was possible to live in the “AND.”  The Shaktipat Retreat gave me a whole new perspective.

Swami Nirmalananda gives intentional shaktipat three times during a Shaktipat Retreat.  Other time is spent in blissful preparation, with discourses, meditations and chanting.  Meal breaks nourish the body with blessed food.  Our Guru designs the menus.  The whole experience is thus prasad, Guru’s sacred gift.

On Saturday, Swamiji leads us in the pre-dawn Sri Guru Gita chant and meditation.  After breakfast, as well as a discourse and ecstatic preparation chants, Swamiji gives the first intentional shaktipat.  Although there are three levels of shaktipat — mild, medium and intense — she always gives intense shaktipat.  What a recipient gets depends on their ability to receive. 

At first, I thought that not much was happening for me.  I knew that meant I needed to make myself more available, more vulnerable.  I needed to let go of anticipation and judgment.  As soon as I did, I began to feel the familiar power of Grace.  I felt the shakti rippling through the room and Kundalini rippling through me.

In repeated Shaktipat Retreats, I have learned to let go of expectations.  I’ve experienced similarities and differences in my shaktipat experiences.  I’ve stopped comparing my experiences to that of others.  Shaktipat gives us just what we need.  Our individual experience is customized.

For me, shaktipat is more about what happens when I return to daily life.  Integrating my shaktipat experience there, I am more reliable and more present.  This happens because shaktipat has cleared internal blockages.  My inner knowing of Self deepens.  I feel more secure and stable, even during tumultuous times.  Storms swirling around me do not change who I am on the inside.  I can be in the discomfort that life sometimes puts forth, AND experience my Self simultaneously.

My mind can be busy, even multi-tasking to accomplish what needs doing.  AND I can be present and aware.  My priorities are clearer.  I dive deep and do more yoga.  AND, at the same time, I fit life (and my many small-s selves) in around my Self.  When I notice the disturbances in the atmosphere around me, I know to look inward.  The answers are within. I am grateful beyond words for the power of shaktipat, revelation, Grace and the great Being in our midst, Sadguru Nirmalananda Saraswati.  They are all the One, who shines the light upon us so that we may see the light that we are.