Monthly Archives: October 2019

Getting Closer to Enlightenment

By Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Life offers me many opportunities to test my inner equanimity.  It’s like my mind sits on a perch, ready to swoop down and rattle my cage with the littlest irritation.  Yoga rightfully calls these “opportunities” nothing more than “experiences.”  The more experiences you have, the more opportunities you get to work on your enlightenment.

In her October 2019 Teachings: The Experience and Experiencer, Swami Nirmalananda offers a profound, yet obvious, quick fix to settle back into Self.  In the midst of activity, or even in the middle of a thought stream, ask yourself, “Who is the one having the experience?”  Well, that would be me, of course!

But who’s “Me”?  The experience can be so captivating, I can get lost in it.  Continually pondering this question leaves me very little wiggle room: am I my mind or the Self?  Would I rather be trapped in identifying with my experience, good or bad?  Or would I rather recognize that I am the Self while having the experience?  I decided to stay in the question, as often as possible, for a couple of days.

While making supper, I asked myself, “Who’s the one experiencing this?” Immediately, my field of awareness expanded beyond what I was doing, into who I’m being: Shiva, while chopping vegetables.  I know in theory that the Self, Shiva, is closer than my own breath, but asking the question opened me to the experience.  My breathing shifted inside and I felt more grounded, more embodied.

Recently, I looked at my son’s face while he was talking with me.  In the past, I would have had my story, featuring an identity for me to “become” — “concerned Mom.”   Instead, I questioned, “Who’s the one looking through my eyes, and his, while having this experience of being together?”  I settled into a sweet spaciousness.  There was only the One: Shiva, manifesting in a multiplicity of forms, in order to have the experience of Self while being each and both of us.  What a divine play!  I know who I am, while having the experience.  In this way, the outcome of any experience hardly matters.

Swamiji describes, “This practice makes you able to distinguish between mind and Self.  Your mind is the servant of the Self.”  It’s not the other way around.  Of course, it can feel that way when my mind is bothering me.  My mind gets distracted, or easily bored, and tries to figure stuff out.  I suppose my mind is trying to help me.  Instead, it sure makes things harder, especially in meditation. 

In meditation this week, I was able to question my mind: “Who’s the one having the experience of meditation?”  I clarified, “Not the one who is trying, but the one Being, while in the meditation?”  Shiva.  Immediately, I deepened inward.  I became the experiencer, and my mind receded into the background of my awareness.  Om Namah Shivaaya reverberated as if on its own.  Instead of “doing my meditation,” I experienced That which is always being me.

As Swamiji describes, “This practice makes you able to distinguish between mind and Self. Your mind is the servant of the Self.” Whatever the experience, when my mind is serving my Own Self, it feels neutral, open to possibilities.  I am less caught up in good, bad or even challenging.  It just is, because I just am.  I am the One Self, being all, even when I forget!  Swamiji has often given the guidance to “experience the experience you’re experiencing while you’re experiencing it.”  Now I add, “Who’s the one having the experience?”  Then I know myself as embodied divinity.  I become present in my own Presence.  I get that much closer to enlightenment.

Ayurveda for Oral Health

By Maureen (Bindu) Shortt

Paying attention to the hygiene of your mouth is important.  Of course, you’ve been trained since childhood to brush your teeth and floss daily.  You see your dental hygienist for cleaning and polishing twice-yearly.  You get regular check-ups by your dentist.  Yet from the viewpoint of Ayurveda, there is more to your oral health than cavity-free teeth.

Your gut starts at your mouth.  The “tube” of your digestive tract, your gut supports about six cups of bacteria.  These bacteria work to keep your immune system strong.  They participate in digestion and detoxing.  They also produce energy and mood balancing substances.  Your mouth has its share of bacteria.  These bacteria are exposed to air moving through; food being chewed; liquids passing through.  What goes on with the bacteria in your mouth sets the stage for the health through the rest of your digestive tract.  And its health is vital to overall wellbeing (see my June 2019 blog).

Oil pulling is a popular Ayurvedic home practice for healthy mouth bacteria.  This ancient practice, however, is somewhat misunderstood today.  Most people are doing oil pulling are thinking they are killing the “bad” bacteria that would cause gum disease, receding gums, bad breath, tooth discoloration and cavities.  Oil pulling does not kill bad bacteria.  Oil pulling feeds good bacteria.  And it is the good bacteria that keep the “bad” in check.

There is a simple way to do oil pulling.  Before or after brushing your teeth, flossing and scraping your tongue, swish one tablespoon of a good quality sesame oil (plain, not toasted) around in your mouth, squishing it between your teeth, for about five minutes.  While you swish, you can do other activities such as shower and get dressed.  Then spit the oil out in a waste bin.  Avoid spitting oil down the sink or toilet, because it can clog your plumbing.  Do not swallow it, because it is now full of dead bad bacteria.  Rinse your mouth with warm water.  Then take a large sip of room temperature or warm water to dilute and flush any residual bacteria.

Make the practice of oil pulling enjoyable, not prescriptive.  Daily is good, while even three times a week is effective.  

As we are entering the vata season in the northern hemisphere, oil pulling can prepare you for winter.  It can be a beneficial winter practice for stronger digestion and immunity.  Plus, your oral cavity joins the tissues of your nose, ears and sinuses.  Oil pulling benefits them all in the colder months.

Now that you know how to keep your mouth healthy, delight it with energy date balls:


1 cup walnuts

½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 cup of dates, pitted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt


  1. Spin the walnuts and coconut together in a food processor until just crumbly, not oily.
  2. Add the dates and vanilla and salt and mix again until the batter is uniform.
  3. Roll into balls.  You can then roll them in more coconut or more chopped walnuts or some cocoa powder — or all three!
  4. Store your energy date balls in closed container in the refrigerator.

The Promise Continues to Expand

By Rukmini Abbruzzi, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

Teaching Svaroopa® yoga and meditation is an incredible gift.  I am delighted, honored and humbled to be able to offer it to people.

It was the gift of a Svaroopa® yoga class that took me to my first class.  During the final Shavasana, I experienced incredible bliss.  It felt like a promise.  I was amazed.  I had never felt that before.  I felt like I had come home.

At the time, I was a young mom with kids.  I knew I was supposed to be doing something other than being a mom.  One day, I said to God, “Ok God, I know I have been asking this question, but I have not been listening.  I’m ready to listen.  In addition to being a mom, what am I supposed to be doing?”  The answer was immediate and clear: “Teach yoga.” 

Soon after that, my Svaroopa® yoga teacher brought Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama Berch) to my area.  Attending her workshops, I immediately knew she was my teacher.  It felt like a calling.  I began training to teach Svaroopa® yoga with Foundations in 1999.  Now, besides being a yoga teacher, I serve Swami in many ways, as her full-time Teachings Manager.  I serve in any way that she asks me to!  It’s all Guruseva, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.  

I have just finished teaching my first 12-week series of a new yoga and meditation class.  It’s so beautiful!  A lot of the students are very new.  In a combined asana (pose) and meditation class, the purpose of the poses is particularly clear.  Their purpose is to make you able to sit for meditation and go deeper.

One of the most wonderful things about Svaroopa® yoga and meditation is the depth and support of the lineage.  We just do a small part by using our bodies, our minds and our words.  We say, “Pull your knee toward your chest,” and amazing things happen!  People experience their Own Self.  That’s Swami.  That’s Baba.  That’s Nityananda.  So much is offered, and it all comes from the Grace of this incredible lineage. 

That promise I felt during my very first Shavasana continues to fulfill me beyond my mind’s understanding.  There is no end to the bliss and the promise.  It just keeps expanding.  The more I do and the more I learn, the more I can offer.  And then I realize how much more there is to learn.  There is so much wonder and joy in the process of teaching.

Strengthening Through Shaktipat

By Kim Zikmund

I honestly didn’t know what to expect in the Shaktipat Day component of my Level 2 Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).  I was inexperienced, both as a student and as a teacher.  I didn’t even recognize the profound changes that were happening within me.

A year later, I again received Shaktipat from Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda in YTT Level 4.  From her teachings throughout the four levels of Svaroopa® YTT, I had a better understanding of the physical and mental changes that need to happen within me.  I welcomed those changes. 

I knew that I wanted to stop looking externally for things to make me happy, whole and complete.  I yearned for the teachings, the chanting and the physical changes.  I knew deepening these personal practices would bring me to know my own Divine essence.  I just couldn’t get enough.  My second Shaktipat experience was a profound one, making me realize all I needed was right there inside of me.  I didn’t need to look any further.  Rather, I simply needed some help to go deeper.

I received that help a few months later by attending a full weekend Shaktipat Retreat.  From many other students, I’d heard about the beneficial effects of Shaktipat.  I was overwhelmed with excitement to attend, and the retreat exceeded my expectations.  It helped me delve deeper into my Self.  It was a rich, fulfilling experience that made me realize I’d changed.  Yet I didn’t actually change.  I was just reacquainted with ME!  This lovely revelation presented itself at the opportune time.  I left that retreat knowing who I was and how that flow of Grace is always there for me anytime I need it.

Two weeks after leaving the retreat, my father became very ill.  He has a chronic disease, and I truly thought this was his time to leave this earth.  I didn’t have the opportunity to savor that Shaktipat flow of Grace.  I was thrown into long driving trips, early mornings and late nights.  I was supporting my parents, emotionally, physically and spiritually in any way that I could.  During this time, however, I noticed how I was just floating through the crisis.  Not attaching emotion to everything happening around me, I became present in every moment.  I was fully aware and watching things through a very different lens.  I was tapping into an inner source of strength.  It flowed from within and gave me the opportunity to be there for my parents when they needed me the most.  That flow of Grace didn’t need to be savored.  It was there, and I tapped into it.

“When I say, DO MORE YOGA, I mean that your yoga doesn’t stop when class ends.  Yoga pervades life.  Life becomes yoga.”  This is one of my favorite quotations from Swamiji.  With deep gratitude I thank her for helping me on my journey and look forward to attending many more retreats.

Gratitude to My Guru

By Peter Gallagher

What brought me to Svaroopa® Yoga was physical pain and mental exhaustion.  What kept me coming back to my local classes was the relief that I was getting.  Some 18 years ago, I went to a weekend workshop with Swamiji, then known as Rama Berch.  Besides the wonderful hands on instruction in the poses, she reawakened my keen interest in the spiritual.  From the beginning, she presented “Truth” with clarity, consistency and love.

Trust is a funny concept.  On one hand, it is earned; on the other, it is given. For me it is the reaching out from what I know to what is unknown.  When life falls apart, as it sometimes does, I retreat from the edge of trust back towards center, to what I know experientially.  By following Swamiji’s oft-repeated advice to do more yoga, I have an action plan to once again move towards Inner Source.  With time and practice, I do not retreat as far as I used to.

Fear and, less often the lack of fear, tells me where my boundaries lie.  Utilizing Swamiji’s many gifts to us enables me sit with the not-knowing and soften into it.

Often, it seems to me that what she has written was specifically written for me.  For instance, in her September Teachings, she writes, “You don’t have to change your life, merely add a new dimension to it – your own Self.”  She gives me permission to travel at my own pace. 

Simultaneously she reminds me of all the benefits that I have received from the practices and teachings she has given us.  Ladling more yoga into my life has improved the quality of my life…outside and inside.  The call to do more yoga is not shouted or demanded.  Rather, it reaches into me as a loving reminder that it is time to turn towards home.

Getting older is an adventure.  The gradual loss or sudden decline in physical abilities can be disconcerting.  Doing my Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices positively affects my physical wellbeing.  More importantly, they enable me to become aware of capital-S Self and my small-s self simultaneously.  These practices reliably and consistently quiet my mind and allow joy to arise. They are a gift from Swamiji that keeps on giving. The pace I travel is my own. Fortunately, the quality of Grace is unchanged.  It is fully given, never pulled back.  I benefit each time Swamiji through her words and actions calls me back to the Source.  For the gifts that I can perceive, and for those not yet unwrapped, I am truly grateful.

Time Was Short

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

I always knew that my time with him would be short.  I felt that if I didn’t go right then, I wouldn’t have another chance.  I was unfortunately right.  I had almost 7 years with Muktananda, though I’d still be there if he were there.  He’s not.  Instead, he lives in my heart and soul — and sources me from deeper within. 

That day, October 2 1982, I phoned my roommate in Madrid, where I’d been setting up a yoga program for Baba’s Ashram.  I was on a weekend trip to a small Mediterranean town and called in from a public phone booth before heading home.  Maruja said to me, “Baba ha deja su cuerpo.”  I knew enough Spanish to translate it, but I told her that I didn’t understand.  Really, I didn’t want to understand.  She repeated it twice, then finally said it in English, “Baba has left his body.  Baba died.”

I knew it was true because, the night before, I’d experienced him filling me like never before.  I sat and watched the Mediterranean sunset for hours.  Mostly it was orange, then finally purple and black.  I watched on the outside but something phenomenal was happening on the inside.  I knew he was speaking to me.  I didn’t have words for it then but now I know, he was becoming me.  Except I had always been him, although I hadn’t known it.  There is only One.  You are that One, too. 

I rode the mantra all the way back, with it upwelling inside as the bus made its way through the picturesque countryside.  It was beautiful, but I didn’t need beauty to fill me up anymore.  When I got back, we chanted 24/7 for a month.  I didn’t need the chant to fill me either.  I was already full.

Baba had prepared us.  Again and again he had explained that, when a great being leaves his body, he merges into Consciousness and abides in the inner space of the hearts of his devotees.  I hadn’t been able to imagine it, but now I was experiencing it.

With time, I forgot.  I never forgot Baba, of course, but I forgot to look inside for him.  I chased sweet memories as well as the painful ones.  I visited other Gurus, who were wonderful, but they weren’t Baba.  I cried sometimes, screamed into my pillow a few times, and finally found my way back home, inside, where he was already and always present. 

I am never lonely now.  Because I am not alone.  Even when I try to think I am different from him, he keeps me on track inside.  Because there is nowhere else to go.  There is nothing else to be.  There is nothing else to do but to serve him.  Life is so beautiful.  I serve you in order to serve him. 

Jai Muktananda!  Hail to Muktananda!

What is an Ashram?

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

An intentional community, based in shared spiritual practices, is an extraordinary place to live. The support of scheduled practices, communal meals and like-minded housemates is  wonderfully intensified by the energy of the tradition and the teacher who leads it.  I’ve lived in Ashrams under different spiritual heads, each with their own personality and quirks, yet found them all to be a catalyst to powerful transformation and spiritual advancement.

When you do yogic practices alone, you get guaranteed results, but they are much more powerful when done within an engaged community.  I know because I’ve lived in Ashrams for almost 30 years.  It’s actually the time that I’ve lived outside of an Ashram that makes it clear how purposeful Ashram living is.  Each time I’ve found myself “out there,” living on my own again, I missed the energetic support the Ashram provided, even more than the familial interactions and social structure.

The energetic support comes from the one who leads the practice.  Traditionally, the head of the Ashram must be authorized to serve in this role, due to their mastery of the teachings and practices.  In Buddhism it’s called “dharma heir,” with many of the classical traditions now acknowledging Western-born teachers at this level, both men and women.  Similarly, the paramparas (ancient lineages of India) have now “authorized” many in the West.

Most Ashrams offer public programs, though they are the tip of the iceberg.  What goes on in the wee hours of the morning, throughout the Ashram’s day and at day’s end fills your heart and deepens your soul.  Each member of the group who delves so deeply contributes to the others, which overflows to those who participate in the public offerings.  It’s easy to tell the difference.  Simply meditate in a group of Ashram residents and compare that to meditating in a group of seekers who live independently.  Wow! This week we celebrate the 10th birthday of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  We’ve been doing practices in Downingtown PA since 2009.  Please join us at our free meditation programs (click here).  We’d love to meet you and support you in your spiritual development through yoga.  That’s why we’re here.