By Su (Vicharanee) Chafin,
interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain
“Beyond the practical sense of ‘self-care’ (looking after the needs of my body and small-s self), my Guru gives me daily capital-S Selfcare,” says Vicharanee. “Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda recognizes my individuality as well as my Divinity.” Vicharanee adds that she has a Guru because she’s “in the process of ‘Selfing,’” coming to live in the knowing of her Divine Self.
Vicharanee met Gurudevi (then Rama Berch) in a 2003 yoga immersion in Rehoboth Beach DE. Vicharanee describes her connection with Gurudevi as instant and visceral, and explains, “She is an amazing leader. She guides people very firmly and lovingly because she is such a good teacher as well. At the beginning, my small-s self personality was drawn to her individual form because of our shared interests. I love music; she is a musician. I am a therapist and teacher; she is a yoga therapist and teacher. While she’s a Realized Being, her ‘personhood’ worked for me. It made it easier for me to follow her. It was later that I understood why I need a Teacher (with a capital T): to guide me to my innermost being.”
“I grew up Christian, and later, became interested in New Age spirituality. Yet everything I had tried in my journey wasn’t enough. I would end up dissatisfied, even though I knew I wanted a spiritual life. I had many rich spiritual experiences trying out many systems. I even spent a few summers at a holistic studies institute in the ‘90s. But what I was finding in New Age spirituality was a lot of ego (like how many prana pumps could you master). The places I was finding in my search didn’t have a Swami and Grace. I kept seeking. Then the Guru showed Herself to me when I didn’t know I needed one. It’s said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
In 2009, Gurudevi took sannyas vows, becoming Swami Nirmalananda, recalls Vicharanee. She says, “It was easy to see that She had been developing into her role all along. When I did approach Gurudevi and asked her to be my Guru, she replied, ‘You don’t have to ask.’
“I laughed, and she said, ‘Isn’t it obvious?’ I suddenly understood the knowing that her Svaroopa® Sciences explore. I had the experience, and then, in that moment, came the knowing about why I longed for and needed a Guru. Had you had asked me years ago whether I would now have a Guru, I may have snickered. It is a rich relationship.
“I used to focus more on her. Through her help, however, the focus has shifted to my own inner Self. It feels deep and otherworldly. It is like Gurudevi washes me by hand, and puts me out to dry. Thus, I can return to my worldly responsibilities crisp and clean. She gives me sevas that are just right for my growth. Other teachers could not give me my Self. Nor could they teach me how to find Me in the way my soul craved. It is a pure and genuine relationship, which supersedes all others in my life.”
In this way, Vicharanee’s relationships have transformed. “Other people don’t know how much they need me to have a Guru! I am a better being for them as well as myself. Practicing as a psychologist, I’ve always known the importance of service. Now I serve others from the inner place of Self. Guru’s Grace does the work, and I am a more effective therapist by light years. I’ve learned it’s not about me. I get out of the way, so Grace can take over. And at the same time, I know there is more — more than just helping me live better in my body and in the world. Through Her integrity I am transformed.” Vicharanee points to Gurudevi’s relationship with her own Guru, Swami Muktananda, as the root of her ability to serve others. She clarifies, “Gurudevi is a good disciple, and she shows me how to be a good disciple. And it’s working! I know this because She isn’t interested in giving me Her, but in giving me my own Self. This is why I have a Guru. I am so fortunate!”