Monthly Archives: November 2019

Bhavana: Feeling Your Way Inward

By Annie (Aanandi) Ross

As a child, I lay in my yard, gazing up between the branches of horse chestnut trees.  Watching the big blue sky, even through branches, I felt its vastness.  It felt like infinity.  I wondered, “Where does all this go?  What is all this vastness?”  Swami Nirmalananda’s November Teachings: The Inner Sky gives me answers.  She quotes the Vijñāna Bhairava and gives us the translation:

Remaining perfectly still, fix your gaze on the pure (cloudless) sky to experience your Shiva-nature.  — sutra 84

Then Swamiji explains this universal experience:

The sutra documents the experience that has enticed me since I was a child, saying it gives you a pure yogic state.  This is not just for yogis.  This happens for everyone. …the sky is a symbol of the infinity of Shiva, who is both the sky and beyond the sky.  When you let the sky fill your head, even being dissolved inside your head, you discover that the universe is bathed in Divine Light, including you.

Now it makes sense to me that the sky is a symbol of the infinity of Shiva.  Shiva is both the sky and beyond the sky. Shiva is me (and everything) at the same time.  I already sense and feel the inner vastness of my being.  Now I understand my experience of gazing at the big blue sky.  What a glorious quick fix!

She tells us that the contemplation described by the Vijñāna Bhairava is called a bhavana.  Bhava means feeling, and bhavana means feeling your way into it.  Swamiji describes that even when you start with a visual, it becomes a feeling.  The visual that has become a feeling touches your heart and spreads through your body.  I’ve had this experience when I observe rituals honoring the Divine.  Waving the arati candle flame to honor Nityananda, Muktananda or Swamiji, I realize the ritual’s sacredness.  I feel this ritual as a pivotal point, where finite and infinite meet.  Both are present and alive. 

I realize this is true in every moment, in every situation.  Yet with sacred objects visible, the feeling of the finite and infinite meeting is particularly auspicious and accessible.  I’m not focused on the individual objects or people involved.  Rather, I sense the honoring and the love being expressed and revealed.  Divine Light shines through to be known.

Another childhood memory arises.  Way up on a hill near my house was a very big rock.  It was shaped like a turtle with head, claws and tail.  Friends and I would carry buckets of water through tall grasses up to Turtle Rock.  Then we’d wash the rock with water.  I don’t know what prompted us to do so.

Engaging in this action gave me a deep sense of honoring the rock.  This bhav extended to the earth.  I felt and knew the Bliss of Beingness.  Now, the memory of this delight reminds me of abhishek: the ritual of bathing a Deity’s murti with water, milk and honey.  In doing so, I feel and know the tantric reality of Shiva and Shakti.  I revel in these moments where finite and infinite meet.  I have an experience of embodied Consciousness in the very midst of life.  It touches my heart and spreads through my body, revealing my Own Self to myself.

Shaktipat: A Cornucopia of Spiritual Gifts

By Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast, SVA Board Member

Mythological source of unending nourishment, a cornucopia spills forth plentiful fruits and vegetables.  It’s a popular harvest image for Thanksgiving, in October in Canada and upcoming in the US this week.  Gratitude is in the air!  What I’m most grateful for is the gift of Shaktipat from Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda.

Engaging in the practices of Svaroopa® yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya meditation, I’ve received Shaktipat informally as well as formally from Swamiji in multiple retreats.  I recognize, I had no inkling of what I was receiving at first.  Yet, gradually and inexorably, Shaktipat from Swamiji gave me tangible experiences of knowing my own Self.  It’s the gift that keeps giving, even before you know what it is.

It seems like a lifetime ago, a work colleague would talk about Self-Realization.  She’d studied Eastern Religions in college and was pondering the concept of the Self.  Even though I was a yoga student, I’d never heard of Self-Realization.  Another decade passed and I was still taking yoga classes.  One day, I was struggling into a picture-perfect twist.  My teacher came to assist me, saying, “Efforting like that won’t get you closer to God.”  “Huh? What does she mean?” I was mystified.

Only when I accidentally happened into a Svaroopa® yoga class did I start to experience yoga’s true, divine purpose.  After two yogimmersions with Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama), I turned the corner.  I entered Svaroopa® teacher training.  I began to experience the Light of God arising from within.  It felt wonderful and expansive and filled me with joy.

And it also illuminated non-joyous patterns of limitation.  Sticking with the practices of the Svaroopa® Sciences began to burn away that stuff, layer by layer.  More and more, in ordinary life, I experience being in Self, the One Divine Reality.  I can feel it being me, being you, being all.  That is, of course, until my mind relapses into another layer of ineffective thought and reactivity.  Then I am so grateful for our practices: enlivened mantra, meditation, asana-dissolving spinal tension.  They reliably clear away the muck.  And Swamiji’s teachings make sense of the process, the path and its divine purpose.

I am eternally grateful.  In this season of gratitude and giving, I’m compelled to give back  to Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  The Ashram’s fall fundraiser theme is The Gift that Keeps Giving.  I want to pay this eternally-giving-gift forward. 

We are half-way through our fall campaign, and close to our half-way fundraising goal.  I hope you will join me in reaching our goal by making a donation to the organization that supports your spiritual growth.

And, if you donate on the Ashram Facebook page on Tuesday, Dec. 3, Facebook will even match your donation! It’s Giving Tuesday, an international day of giving.  You can also donate on the SVA webpage, or give us a call at 610-644-7555. Your donation supports the Ashram and the work of Swami Nirmalananda.  It helps ensure access to Shaktipat as a cornucopia of spiritual gifts for yourself and for others.  This year we are asking our community to share not only their financial resources, but their experience of Svaroopa® yoga and/or Svaroopa® Vidya meditation — and Shaktipat.  You can contribute to the conversation by emailing your Svaroopa story to  Or post it on the Ashram Facebook page or Swamiji’s Facebook page.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Ellen (Lajja) Mitchell

I first received Shaktipat informally through the Grace of the lineage that flows through Svaroopa® yoga teachers.  Two protruding disks in my lower back got me into Svaroopa® yoga path.  I had gone to PT, yet my pain issues continued.  The doctor told me I was not a surgical candidate. So my choices were pain meds, yoga, and/or acupuncture.

I chose acupuncture.  But then I noticed a lunchtime yoga class was being offered at work two days a week.  I was hooked after that first Svaroopa® yoga class.  I felt taller and more centered.  I now know that I was more embodied.  I tried to fit one class a week into my work schedule.  Sometimes I had to juggle priorities, as lunchtime is a popular time for meetings.  I did this until I was moved to another building in another town. 

Then I hurt my back again (picking up a crockpot).  So I looked up that Svaroopa® yoga teacher.  Serendipitously, she was teaching classes in same town as my new workplace.  My life has not been the same since.

I continued weekly classes and then took a Svaroopa® meditation course.  I started to meditate daily.  A few months before my first Shaktipat Retreat, my teacher met with those of us who were enrolled.  She invited us to talk about our experiences.  I had nothing to share.  However, as I listened to others, I started to have physical kriyas.  My upper body would rotate round and round.  If I stopped it, the moment I relaxed again, the movement would start up again.

This was the prelude to formally receiving Shaktipat in June 2012, the first time I met Swami Nirmalananda.  I remember standing in a room waiting for her to arrive.  My body was vibrating and warm.  I still have those feelings at times.  Now I know Kundalini was already working to burn up my karma and move me closer to Self-Realization.

Oh, how I have changed since 2012!  I have the same house, family and work.  Yet I move through my life differently.  I am more embodied.  I feel grounded.  I do not react to external situations the same way that I used to.  My thought patterns are different.  My mind is less busy.  My relationships have changed.  I am less judgmental and more accepting.  I realize I do not need to take on other people’s stuff.  I can accept feedback from others openly.  I am more comfortable in my own skin.

Having received Shaktipat from Swamiji, I have illuminating peeks into my own Self.  I have times when I see the world in technicolor and experience unconditional love for everything and everybody.  I can be content even when there is chaos around me.  Swamiji’s Year-Long Programme, website freebies, B&B weekends, satsangs and teachings have been transformative.  Through them, I have a toolbox of practices that make a difference in my life every day.  I can do them anywhere, with no need for props. 

I am grateful to Swamiji for her teachings and practices, including the great gift of Shaktipat!  I am grateful for Guru’s Grace that flows through her and our lineage to me.  Being given so much compels me to give back through seva (selfless service) and financial support to Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.

Please join me in reflecting on your own experiences of Shaktipat, formal or informal.  What is your story of transformation?  Post your story on the Ashram Facebook page, or on Swamiji’s Facebook page.  Or send your story to And, while you’re at it, please join me in supporting SVA at this time of giving!  You can donate on the Ashram Facebook page or on the SVA webpage.  Or give us a call at 610-644-7555.

Shaktipat: Great Giver of Gifts

By TC (Tattvananda) Richards, SVA Board Member

Shaktipat, the Great Opener, was a surprise.  I knew it was big, yet I didn’t really know what I had received, and I didn’t know what to do with it. 

After doing Svaroopa® yoga for some years, I signed up for a Shaktipat Retreat with Swami Nirmalananda.  Excited to be going to an immersion program, I was one of the first to register.  The minute I wrote the check out, the change happened.  I couldn’t believe it.  An inner shift made me see things in my life more clearly.  In my interactions with friends and family, I began to be truer to myself.

Then, on my way to the Shaktipat, just like a light switch had been turned on, my state changed.  I was running behind and didn’t know where I was going.  (This was before cell phones and GPS.)  It was pouring rain with thunder and lightning.  Right in the middle of that… boom… Peace! It was so profound I couldn’t miss it.  I continued in this state even though I missed my exit.  Then I was lost.  None of it mattered.  My state wouldn’t make space for worry or frustration.  It was an event to remember, and the formal Shaktipat hadn’t even happened yet.

Swami Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

The Shaktipat Retreat weekend continued to deepen me inward.  At the close of the Retreat, I took expansive happiness with me.  At home, it was clear to my loved ones that I was shifted.  They commented on it.  They saw it in how I looked as well as in my actions.  I was different.  I have been to many more Shaktipat Retreats with Swamiji since.  Each Shaktipat deepens me more and makes me steadier.  Each one gives me easier access to my Self.

Since that first Shaktipat, I’ve never been the same.  Sure, I get frustrated sometimes.  Sure, I worry sometimes. Yet, no matter, I am never far away from that state.  It has continued to be accessible to me.  It is as close as remembering to access it.  Shaktipat, for sure, is the gift that keeps on giving.  

It passes through me to all others.  Everyone I’m with gets the shifted version of me.  I have a new awareness.  I am more spiritually grounded.  I make decisions from a different place.  I love more fully.  I live more fully.  I am more present to everyone and everything.  There have been many Shaktipat Retreats, and I know there will be many more.  Each one is a gift.  All shift me and keep me passing that gift forward.  I am eternally grateful.

And it all started with the check I wrote to Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  Isn’t that amazing?  That energy exchange started the whole process.  Receiving so much allows me to give back in so many ways.  Our Ashram Fall Fundraiser coincides with a season of giving thanks in many places worldwide.  At this time, I ask myself, “How does receiving Shaktipat spark my desire to give?”

She who embodies the Light of Consciousness — Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda — truly awakened the light within me.  I need her continued guidance for cooperating with the transformation ignited by Shaktipat.  Sparked awake and on fire, I experience expanding gratitude.  That moves me to give back to the source of the gift.  I’m also propelled to pass forward the Great Gift of Light that keeps on giving.  Donating to SVA supports the operations that make this Great Gift available to other seekers.

Whether you’ve received formal or informal Shaktipat, I hope it inspires you to give back to Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  Please consider what you have received from this practice and the many gifts you give because of it.  Choosing to donate to SVA gives back to the source of Shaktipat and passes it forward.  Your donation makes the circle complete. You can donate on the Ashram Facebook page or on the SVA webpage.  Or give us a call at 610-644-7555.

Making Life Meaningful

By Cayla (Mangala) Allen

Chanting filled my ears and filled my heart, as I settled into Kailasa, the Ashram’s meditation hall in Downingtown PA.  I became saturated in the vibrations of “Jyota se Jyota.”  This  bhajan — a devotional song composed for Swami Nirmalananda’s Guru, Swami Muktananda — petitions the Guru: “light my inner flame with your flame.”  Our 2019 New Year’s Retreat had begun.

Three other yogis performed arati, waving candle flames in circles to our Gurus’ photos, the ritual invoking the Grace of our lineage.  As the retreat continued to unfold, I began to melt into my experience.  A long, guided Ujjayi Pranayama (breathing practice) cleared the way for me to receive the teachings I had come to embrace.  Afterward, my meditation was deep and sweet.  Then another arati finished our session.  I can’t imagine a more glorious way to begin the journey into a New Year.

Our retreat meals were twenty minutes of tastiness followed by twenty minutes sitting in Vajrasana (Digestive Pose).  I focused on my food, indulged my senses and appreciated the quietude afterward.  In Vajrasana, I repeated mantra, noticing my pace slowing down.  This allowed me to be more fully present throughout the retreat.  Other asanas (poses) also opened space deeply within my belly.  I could feel my physical digestion improving.

Moreover, throughout our retreat, Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings extended well beyond my physical digestion.  She emphasized that it’s essential to digest thoughts and life experiences as well.  I learned that when I don’t digest it all, tension flourishes, both physically and mentally.  This affects everything!  Vichara (guided self-inquiry) gave me tools to become better at digesting everything.  All her discourses led me to understand how I was living my life.  They clarified how I can choose to bring more meaning into my life.  

On New Year’s Eve, I joined the group in chanting “Chidaananda-roopah, Shivo’ham Shivo’ham.” The translation is, “My nature is the bliss of pure consciousness, I am Shiva. I am Shiva.”  I received Swamiji’s message that I am more than I think I am.  My life is meaningful because I’m in it, supported by an undercurrent running through it.  That inherent flow carries me when I cannot carry myself.  When I invest myself in whatever I am doing, my life becomes more meaningful.

On New Year’s Day, along with the group, I feasted on a scrumptious lunch at Shivaloka (the Ashram residence).  I steeped in the Ashram’s sublime energy.  Later, Swamiji offered an evening Satsang where I pondered the questions she asked: how I want to live? consciously or unconsciously?  Who am I while I do what I do?  Am I able to direct my energy in living consciously?  Or do I direct it into chasing my instincts?  Just having heard these questions shifted something in me.  Continuing to contemplate them helped me delve deeper within.  I have been able to bring the experience of Self into my life.  This shift has continued to work in my life throughout the whole year!

“When you draw from the depths of your being,” said Swamiji, “You will have a capacity for life that gives you the ability to make the most of every day.”  Since the retreat, I have become aware of immersing myself more in whatever I am doing.  I feel fortunate to be able to dive within, discovering something more inside.  Thus, living from the inside out, I find more and more meaning in my life. What unfolded for me in the retreat remains rich and full, affecting me deeply.  As I am more aware of who I am, life becomes sacred.  My actions become sacred. If you have the opportunity, make time to immerse yourself in our 2020 New Year’s Retreat.  You will be forever grateful that you gave yourself this gracious gift.

Blessed by a Mahayoga

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver, SVA Board Member

We have the great good fortune to be part of a “mahayoga.”  In Sanskrit, maha means great. We all know that Svaroopa® yoga is great.  But why?  It’s the poses.  They reach right into your spine and open up your body and your breath.  It’s the meditation, with a powerful mantra that opens your Divinity.  It’s the teachings from a lineage of Kundalini masters, including our own Master Teacher, Swami Nirmalananda.  Ours is a mahayoga for all these reasons.

Yet, primarily, ours is a mahayoga because it offers something decidedly different than most other yoga in the West today.  Our Sadguru offers the initiation of Shaktipat, both formally through retreats and informally through the yoga practices.  Shaktipat is the Kundalini awakening that lights your inner fire.  It shines the light on who and what you really are. You are Consciousness Itself, the One Reality being all.  You are a Divine being.  You are more than you think you are.

I vividly remember the first time I received Shaktipat.  I was taking Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga.  Swamiji, then Rama Berch, was leading the training.  In rotated stomach pose, my head slid back of its own accord.  Then, my spine began to untangle and realign.  “What is this?” I wondered.  I asked Swamiji at the next break.  She smiled at me and said, “You have received the gift of Kundalini awakening.”  Then she took the time to explain to me what a gift it was.

Now I am able to give a gift to the one who made Shaktipat available to me.  I am so grateful for all I have learned from Swamiji and from all my Svaroopa® teachers.  I am so grateful for the changes in my body, my mind and my Self.  Because of the teachings and the teachers, I have been set on the path to Self-Realization.  What greater gift could I receive?  It’s the gift that keeps giving.

That is why, during our current Fundraiser, I am financially supporting the organization and the teachers who support me.  I am paying it forward, to help keep the lights on and the teachings flowing from the Ashram so others can benefit as well.  I encourage you to open your heart as well as your wallet and do the same.

I’m sure you too have a life changing Svaroopa® story or a Shaktipat story to tell.  The Ashram Board is encouraging you to share how your life has changed as a result of this mahayoga.  Post your story on the Ashram Facebook page, or on Swamiji’s Facebook page.  Or send your story to  And, while you’re at it, send your donation too!  You can donate on the Ashram Facebook page or on the SVA webpage.  Or give us a call at 610-644-7555. Thank you for your deep practices and dedication.  You’ve received the gift that keeps giving.  Giving back is just as important.  Thank you for all that you are and all that you give!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi, President, SVA Board

Most of us have “Svaroopa® miracle stories.” You’ve likely had one or more experiences of healing, transformation and/or illumination.  It happened in a Svaroopa® yoga class, your personal Svaroopa® practices, a teacher training or retreat.  You encountered the deeper dimension of your own being, called “svaroopa” in Sanskrit.  You were infused with Divine Grace, which revealed your Own Self to you. 

Since then life has been different.  Perhaps you feel better in your body or have more clarity and ease in your life.  Or perhaps you even understand the deeper purpose of your life.  The Svaroopa® practices keep bringing you back — back to your Own Self.  The gift of these practices is the gift that keeps on giving.

I felt this the moment I walked into my first retreat with Swamiji, then Rama Berch.  I had completed Foundations the month before.  Even though that course was totally life changing, I really didn’t comprehend the power of this path.  I was told “Rama is coming down next month for a meditation retreat.  You HAVE to meet her.”  Looking back now with a deeper understanding, I know I received Shaktipat that first day.  I couldn’t put words to what I felt.  Yet I knew I was home. 

But by the third day, I was in emotional agony, curled up in the corner weeping for no reason.  She asked me, “Why the tears, Dear One?”  I explained my distress.  She smiled and said, “Good, you’re burning karma.  This is very good.”  I stayed and sat in it.  Once that layer of emotional trauma cleared from my being, I knew I was different.  I felt lighter, freer, joyful.  I knew the source of my transformation came through her.  And it just keeps getting better.

Now, I want only two things: to serve and to keep going deeper inside.  I want to be able to live in that freedom and joy all the time.  That is what Swamiji gives to me.  She gives it to all of you who have that inner impulse to know your Own Self.  That is what Baba Muktananda gave to her.  That is what Nityananda gave to Baba.  That is what Nityananda received from his Guru, and so on, back thousands of years.

In this season of gratitude, I offer unending gratitude to Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. She has dedicated her life to serving those who want to experience their own Divinity.  My gratitude extends to the practice of dakshina, a Sanskrit word meaning a donation to the revered teacher.  Dakshina is motivated by a pure internal impulse. When you give financially from gratitude and love for your yoga, there is nothing to be gained.  Nothing, that is, except your own Self. What a gift!

This is why, in our Ashram’s fall fundraiser, “The Gift that Keeps Giving,” I am making a generous donation to the organization that helps so many reach their full potential – their own Self.  Swamiji’s presence and teachings, so generously given, take us ever closer to living in the ever-expanding joy of our own inner light.  She provides a multitude of doorways to your own Self:  yoga, meditation and more.

That MORE is Shaktipat — a rare, precious and eternal gift.  Truly, it is the gift that keeps giving.  Your Svaroopa® practices are infused with it.  We have all been receiving Shaktipat informally since the beginning of Swamiji’s teaching.  Now, as a Sadguru, she gives formal Shaktipat initiation.  In whatever way you have received Shaktipat, we want to hear YOUR Svaroopa® story!

Your experiences inspire others.  In the coming days, we will be reaching out by phone to hear as many stories as possible.  If we miss you, and you don’t have a chance to tell your story on a phone call, please write to me at I look forward to your Svaroopa® yoga story by phone or by email!  Let your Svaroopa® story inspire you to open your heart while you open your wallet.  As a non-profit organization, our Ashram relies on dakshina to keep the lights on and the teachings flowing.  Your gratitude and your love of yoga helps your light shine.  Share your light, love and financial resources with the organization that lit the flame within you.