Monthly Archives: January 2020

This is My Life

By Janet (Janaki) Murray

The first two sentences of Gurudevi’s January Teachings: You’re on Your Way summarize her article:

You’re working on enlightenment. This is true whether you are planning for it or not.

When I first read these sentences, it struck me that they are for me.  They describe my whole life!  I certainly did not plan to be working on enlightenment.  Yet I look back and see that I was and I am.  Each subsequent paragraph deals with things I’ve been through and am still going through.

As a teenager, I discarded religion and the spiritual course my family set me on.  It just didn’t resonate for me at the time.  I spent many years pursuing worldly accomplishments.  It was thrilling, as Gurudevi suggests it can be, yet was ultimately unfulfilling.  I had achieved what I wanted and had what I needed.  I was not unhappy, yet there was still an empty space inside me.  I became a seeker — well, I was probably that already.  I found yoga.  For a few years, I was still a seeker until I found Svaroopa® yoga and Gurudevi (then known as Rama) .  Then I was a finder.

What did I find?  All the other things Gurudevi talks about in the article.  I am still working on these things.  Or they are just happening for me — whether I plan it or not.  I experience a deepening inner awareness.  I experience growing feelings of inner wholeness and fullness.  I experience who I am as well as a deeper understanding of who I am.  I experience a different way of being in the world.  I am increasingly freer of need, greed and fear.  Not always trying to satisfy my needs through others makes me able to serve others more effectively and compassionately.  Letting go of my agendas and objections, I find my ability to love grows.  My heart opens more to others.

I feel supported all the time.  I feel I have all the capacity to deal with whatever challenges life brings me.  Gurudevi puts it this way:

The inner openings give you the depth and dimensionality that support you through everything.

For this I am truly grateful.  In the first place, I feel overwhelming gratitude for finding Svaroopa® yoga.  I’m grateful for Gurudevi guiding me on this path, as she says in the first paragraph:

The point of yoga and meditation is to get the lessons without having to go through life’s messy stuff.

Recalling life before yoga, I recognize things could have been messier than how they’ve turned out.  Something else that resonated for me is the piece about being a human:

The sages of India explain that human life is precious.  All life is to be cherished, one reason for the practice of vegetarianism, but especially human life is prized.  In the grand scheme of things, to be born as a human being gives you the opportunity to get enlightened…

Gurudevi doesn’t say don’t waste it, don’t fritter it away.  Instead, she makes us aware of our choice:

You can get enlightened should you so choose.

It is up to me.

I have been “working on enlightenment,” whether I am “planning for it or not.”  So I may as well cooperate with the process and do more yoga and meditation!

Distance-Learning for Spiritual Growth

By Deena Rotches, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

“Every year, I sign up for Swami Nirmalananda’s Year-Long Programme, because I love It,” describes Deena Roches.  “I find them to be invaluable.  Each one focuses on a specific topic related to spiritual growth.  The information in her monthly articles and audio discourses is both educational and inspiring. The conference calls for the whole group of participants are incredible.  You get to hear from your fellow yogis how they are evolving as well as describe your own process.  For me, this always sparks things I didn’t know were there.  I get a way of looking at something I’d never thought of before.  The phone calls are extraordinary for opening you to new perspectives.  In the Programme’s final month, the retreat weekend brings all the learning and transformation home.

“In these year-long studies with Swami Nirmalananda, something happens that makes me realize my progress over time.  Especially on the phone calls and during the weekend retreat, I hear something and think, ‘I know that, I’ve experienced that.’  This validation heightens may awareness of where I’m at.  This supports my continued growth.  That said, it’s not to minimize the information we’re given in articles and audios.  In fact, the information alone is enough to catapult you into a whole different dimension of your being.

“Swami Nirmalananda makes the most complex, mystical concepts simply accessible and relevant to you personally.  This is just so valuable.  She teaches about the profound spiritual concepts of Tantra.  She teaches the most profound principles by example and analogy.  Her approach makes them easy to understand in terms of your own everyday life experience.

“I live in a conventional householder’s world with lots of family dynamics.  I am not surrounded by a lot of yogis.  Having Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings in the midst of my life supports me, as a yogi, in the world.  Many of us know how complex a family Thanksgiving can be, for example.  Yet I just sailed through one that included 16 out-of-town family members for a week.  I dedicated all aspects of the week to God and Guru.  Everything that I did was dedicated to our beloved Sadguru.  The joy flowed, and I had a blast.

“I continue meditating 1.5 hours per day and japa for 20 minutes three times per day.  From last year’s Programme, I’ve learned not to depend on praise for my actions.  All elements of the Programme allowed me to internalize this teaching.  I couldn’t have gotten through responding to the needs of 16 other people without it.  In the past, my happiness would have depended on needing to make everyone happy.  This Thanksgiving, that dependency was gone.  I no longer am depending on their reactions to give me a “sense of self-worth or purpose in life.”  I’ve learned to ‘just do what you do.’

“I feel greater peace than I could ever have imagined possible.  Even on this heavenly plateau, I still find myself continuing to move forward.  I’m especially looking forward to a Shaktipat Retreat, my chosen practice.  I attend each one in Downingtown.  They strip away restraints and obstacles, so I go deeper and deeper into Self – living life with more joy, peace and contentment.  And I’m poised to enroll in the 2020 Year-Long Programme.”

The 2020 Year-Long Programme Practical Mysticism addresses the question “How do you attain the highest while living in the world?”  The Free Intro call is on March 11. 

I asked Deena about her about her experience of the Free Intro Calls for programs through the years.  “I’ve never done one,” she asserted. “I just always sign up for the whole year because I love them.  They give me so much.”People on the prior calls report many of the same kinds of shifts the whole Programme provides.  Everyone experiences some of the transformation that will abundantly unfold by enrolling in any of the four Programme options (or all!).  That has certainly been my experience, and I hope it will be yours as well.  Click here to register for the Free Intro Call on March 11, 6:30 to 8:00 pm (Eastern Time).

Reflections on a Full Day Meditation Program

By Pam Church, interviewed by Phil (Krishna) Milgrom

“I was happy to be in the company of so many other meditators,” says Pam Church, reflecting on last year’s post conference Full Day Meditation program. It took place the day after our Boston conference, Breakthrough.  “I learned so much that day,” recalls Pam.  “Yet the most significant thing for me occurred the day after.  I woke up feeling lighter.  Something had lifted.”

When I spoke with Pam, a couple weeks after the conference, she said she was still feeling lighter.  I asked her to share more about her experience.  She appreciated the guidance of our Gurudevi, Swami Nirmalananda, and Rukmini (now Swami Samvidananda).  Gurudevi’s discourses were especially instructive.  “She gave some very helpful suggestions about how to stay in meditation when the mind is telling you to do otherwise.  For example, she said don’t let your mind control you. She stated that Patanjali’s sutra 1.2 ‘Yoga is the stilling of the mind’ means you have to intervene.  The stilling is not just going to happen.  The she expanded, saying, ‘You can stop your car by driving it into a pole.  Or you can steer it to a flat surface and hope it coasts to a stop.  But the car has brakes: use them! Yoga gives you ways of braking your mind to bring it to stillness.’”

Pam reports that Gurudevi also gave ample time to answering questions regarding meditation difficulties.  Most relevant to Pam was what Gurudevi said about emotions: “Emotions are not bad.  Some meditators want to kill their emotions.  If you are alive, you are going to feel things.  Acknowledge the validity of your emotions; just do not get lost in them.”

Pam continues, “Gurudevi also said that thoughts and emotions leave imprints that clutter the mind and keep us from experiencing who we really are.  She advised us to redirect our focus to a deeper level, to Consciousness. Consciousness replaces the old imprints. Swami reminded us that we don’t have to suffer through all that our mind does to us.”

Another important piece for Pam was Gurudevi’s advice about the creative power of Consciousness and its ability to solve problems during meditation.  “She advised us not to stop our meditation to work on a problem or to write down the answers that come.  We should trust that we will remember afterward.  We can ask Kundalini to remember the answers for us. Most important is to keep our focus on the Source during meditation.”During the weekend conference, Gurudevi defined a breakthrough in yogic terms: “It is when you discover your Self as you always were, and always are, and always will be — Shiva.”  Perhaps Pam’s experience of “feeling lighter as if something had lifted” was a sign that Shiva had removed the heavy veil of concealment.  Interestingly, in a conference discourse over the weekends, Gurudevi had said, “When you become enlightened, you don’t lose your ability to function in the world — you lose your limitations, because Consciousness shines through you and melts them away.”

A Year Like None Before

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

We begin another new year, a wonderful thing, something I have done over 70 times before.  Yet this year is going to be different than any I’ve stepped into previously, because I’m no longer the only one wearing orange at Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  I am now one of six swamis, yoga monks who have dedicated their lives to Grace, the revelation of the Self Within.  They’ve said that there’s nothing more important to them than knowing their svaroopa, their True Essence as Consciousness-Itself.  Wow! 

Last month I had the great honor of presiding over the two days of ceremonies that initiated their spiritual journey in earnest.  The traditional fire ceremony was followed by a secret pre-sunrise ceremony featuring both fire and water.  They emerged like newborns, with glowing eyes, round bald heads and a whole new sense of freedom.  The aging process has been turned on its head; they’re newly born into their ancient and authentic essence.  That’s the point, yoga says.  The goal is freedom.  Sannyas is an amazing ritual, better than a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Their new Sanskrit names are merely “handles,” a way for us to be in relationship with them, even to sort them out and begin to understand them.  Yet each one of them is more than what can be named, the whole of Consciousness in a power-packed capsule of radiant human being.  As they and I were getting used to their new names, the old one would slip out.  It made us laugh because the old name simply didn’t apply any more, like when “Junior” becomes a grandpa.  Thus, the protocol became:  when you use the old name, laugh. 

What will having six swamis mean for the Ashram community?  I have no clue!  And I delight in the day-to-day discovery that lies in store for all of us, not just them.  I do know that, when you apply yourself to something with such focus and commitment, nothing can hold you back.  This is true for you as it is for them, but they are working with the power of an ancient initiation that makes everything they do more empowered.  I see that in our day-to-day conversations, even simple things containing a profound truth that they can now see. 

They’re going to share that with all of us.  We’re planning ways for them to reach out and touch every one of you — all you Svaroopis and seekers of enlightenment through Grace.  While I will help them chart their course, each one is like a comet in the sky, and she is able to fly wherever she chooses to go.  I plan to applaud.

Our first few steps have begun:

  • Mandali Travels programs that have been planned with one swami are going to get two.  We’re sending them out so they can reach more of you, spreading the Grace abundantly, like a child spreads jam on toast.
  • YogaMysticism.Today will be publishing a new swami blog each week in addition to our Traditional Tales series.  They will be sharing their mystical insights with you and with the world.
  • Our evening satsangs for Ashram residents now feature a different swami each night, sharing a teaching or practice that is meaningful to her.
  • And I continue to teach and guide them along with our other residents, a process that carries us all deeper as we continue to follow this pathway where it is proven to go — into the bliss of Consciousness within.  The difference for our new swamis is that the light shining on their pathway now comes from within, a tangible and delicious difference.

Meanwhile, our immersions and trainings continue, now led by swamis who have even more to offer than they ever had before.  I lived nearby when Walt Disney opened Disneyland.  For the best rides, you needed an E-ticket, but sometimes you only had A’s, B’s or C’s.   Now every ticket you use on a ride run by a swami gives you an E-ticket experience!  Buckle your seat belt.  We’re going to have a good time.