Monthly Archives: October 2020

My Honored Teacher

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

Guru is a word in popular use. We hear about marketing gurus, stock market gurus and political gurus. The basic definition of guru is teacher.  But it doesn’t begin to describe the magnitude of Satguru Swami Nirmalananda, whom we call Gurudevi.

My honored teacher, she is a spiritual role model for me.  I study with her in person and through her massive online library of written materials and audio recordings.  Whether she is teaching in person or online, her wit and wisdom shine through.  She makes the ancient teachings of yoga and meditation accessible and easy to understand.  Her teachings on how to meditate and how to access the deeper dimensions of my Self are so clear.

Her state is clearly elevated.  But does she refrain from “lowly” activities?  Does doing them tarnish her spiritual state?  No.  Gurus are human beings.  They eat, talk, walk, laugh, drive.  And, no, none of the activities of a “normal” life diminish the Guru’s spiritual greatness.

It’s clear that Gurudevi is a human being as well as an enlightened being.  She’s funny — really funny!  She loves to laugh and to eat popcorn in the afternoon.  She sings in the kitchen when making breakfast for other Ashram residents.  She is as grounded as she is elevated.  She is totally present in her body and her mind — her individualized form. She also is totally present as embodied Consciousness — the formless One Reality.  She’s the whole enlightened package!

When she walks into a room, it goes quiet.  I bow my head and bring my hands to my heart in reverence.  I know who and what she is.  She is the Self, the One Self being all.  Her state is tangible.  It’s palpable.  You can feel the energy she emits.

As the Bhagavad Gita describes, my Guru has merged with Consciousness.  A true Guru knows that he or she IS Consciousness-Itself.  Gurudevi is well aware that she IS the capital-S Self — all the time, without forgetting, without interruption.  She knows for a fact, from within, that she is the Self.  She radiates this knowing, seeing it as well in everyone and everything all the time.

Gurudevi says, “The Guru is a mystery, a Divine mystery right in front of your face.  Whether you thought you were looking for a Guru or not, you are already receiving blessings from one.”  The Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices are divinely Guru driven.  It’s Gurudevi who sparks the flame that causes the light of Consciousness to arise within you.  Even if you’ve never met her, Gurudevi conveys her blessings to you.  The means is the teachings she gives in her written and audio materials.  The power of the Guru is such that space and time are not obstacles. This is the mystery of the Guru, the Divine mystery right in front of your face! Gurudevi is a spiritual teacher of the highest order.  Whether giving a meditation talk or cooking an Ashram breakfast,  she is embodied Consciousness.  She knows without question, all the time, that she is the One Divine Reality.  This same Divine Reality is being you and me.  We just don’t know this fact all the time.  She does.  The Guru is both the path AND the destination!  For this reason, and for countless others, she is more than my spiritual role model.  She is my honored Guru.

Your Mind Is an Amazing Instrument

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi

Your mind is an amazing instrument.  It is the window through which you perceive the world.  Unfortunately, the world is a little crazy right now.  With the pandemic and the USA political climate, we are experiencing more than our normal share of chaos.  Even in peaceful times, studies have shown that the mind thinks more than 65,000 thoughts per day.  Most are neither beneficial nor uplifting.  They layer your mind with gunk.  With external conditions that can stir your mind to fear, anguish and uncertainty, you may be trying to find some peace and joy amidst it all.

What if you could easily access a blissful, peaceful and clear space inside yourself?  You can!  It’s there, right inside you, closer than your own breath, deeper than your thoughts.  Yoga calls this deeper dimension within, “Self.”  When you use the tools of this meditative tradition to turn your focus inward, you experience your own Self.  You discover that your own Self is the true source of peace, the source of joy and bliss, the source of truth, clarity and all intelligence.  Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself.

The ancient sage Patanjali described the relationship between the mind and the Self in a single aphorism:

tadaa drashtu svaroope vasthanam.— Yoga Sutras 1.3

In the moment your mind becomes still, you experience the bliss of your own being.— rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

I find it helpful to know that people in India, even thousands of years ago, also had difficulty quieting their minds.  While they didn’t have TV, Internet and smart phones, they had families and work in the world.  The world also experienced plagues and political unrest as well as racial and religious wars.  Yet committed yogis still got enlightened.  How?

They imbibed the sacred teachings of the already enlightened masters.  Through the ages, these teachings were handed down from Master to disciple.  Then the disciple became a Master and passed the teachings to the next generation.  These teachings give the time-tested technique for stilling the mind in meditation — mantra.  The instructions for using mantra are simple: repeat it, over and over and over.  You can do it silently inside, out loud, or even chant it!  Gurudevi Nirmalananda says you should repeat mantra during two time periods:  when you are meditating and when you are not meditating.  

Without an empowered mantra to focus on, your mind’s busyness conceals your inherent peace and inner light.  It’s similar to when clouds hide the sun.  Repeating mantra shifts your focus, from outer things to your own radiant Self within.  Your Self is deeper than your mind.  Miraculously, by repeating mantra, you use your amazing mind to access inner bliss.  Mantra washes the gunk off your inner window, so you can see clearly through it.  You see your own Self, and you learn to live from that deeper dimension.  Then you see the world clearly.  You aren’t rattled when problems arise.  You step up to apply your intelligence and efforts to solutions.  You see that everyone and everything is made of the same Divine essence as your own Self.  In this state, peace, bliss and clarity are always arising from within.  Your mind no longer harasses you.  Your relationships become filled with joy, the joy filling you from within.  You shine your light into the world.  All this results from mantra meditation, which quiets your mind so you can go beyond it.  Your destination is inside.

Making Lemonade Yet?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Right now, life isn’t exactly what you had in mind.  Fortunately your mind is quite creative.  You have the whole of the creative power of consciousness intact within you.  Once you assess and understand the external realities, you’re capable of coming up with new ways of doing things, even new things to do.  You know how to make lemons out of lemonade, especially because you’re a yogi.

That’s the point of doing yoga, to awaken your hidden capacities.  Along with improved physical condition, your mind is clearer and your heart is more open.  Better yet, the more yoga you do, the higher you register on the happiness scale.  Your creativity expresses itself in paper and pen handiworks or online contributions as well as in baking and décor.  It also makes you good at problem solving.  A yogi can do anything.  It’s because yoga is a warrior tradition. 

You might have thought that the ancient sages left the world and secluded themselves in the woods and mountain caves.  So you take a time out, even hide in your little corner of the world and wait it out – another year or so.  That’s one way of handling all of this.  But it’s not yogic. 

Yoga is a warrior tradition.  Think of it this way, if all the yogis hide out during times of turmoil and danger, where are the peacemakers and healers who can truly change the world? You’re not a wimp.  Your yoga makes you capable of more than ever before.  It’s time to meet the world where it’s at.  Put your heart into it — make a difference in the world.  What should you do?  You decide!  You get to choose what direction to go, but it’s time to get moving.  My Guru told us, “It’s easier to steer you than to push you.”

Trusting Grace

By Joanne (Jayeshwaree) Kirk, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

“With the isolation in place, I had more time to do yoga practices,” describes Joanne (Jayeshwaree) Kirk.  “I did Swami Sundays and Japa Club, in addition to my usual seva, asana and meditation.  The seclusion has been a beautiful place.”  For myself, as for Jayeshwaree, the pandemic has been a wonderful time for more yoga practices.  Life’s slower pace has been incredibly blissful.  I’ve loved the new normal and the depth I’ve reached in such a short time.

However, anticipating a return to the previous “normal” can bring up feelings and fears, as Jayeshwaree acknowledges: “Four weeks later, there was talk about opening things up again here in Calgary.  That triggered my fear.  But it wasn’t fear of COVID.  I was afraid that getting busier would mean I wouldn’t have time to do as much yoga.  My mind went into overdrive and fear snowballed.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to maintain the progress I’d made and would lose what I had.  I started thinking about returning to some of the relationships that haven’t been easy.  Was I going back to my old self?  What if I go backwards?  My mind went off on a negative spin until I lost everything I had gained.  Everything I learned and knew about yoga was gone.  My fears came true!

“When I felt that overwhelming fear,” Jayeshwaree shares, “I didn’t know what to do.  Except I did know.  I’ve developed habits and a lifestyle of yoga practices.  Without thinking about it, I used those tools.  I made a decision to table my fears and get my mind out of the way. If I thought about it, I would think, ‘This doesn’t work.’  I didn’t even think, ‘Yoga’s going to make me feel better,’ even though it did.  I just decided, ‘I’m going to keep doing the practices.’

“The fear started going away and I began to experience my Self again.  With that came a knowing that my Self wasn’t ever going to go away.  That knowing was the knowing beyond the mind that Gurudevi talks about.  Gurudevi is wonderful!  At a Swami Sunday, I heard Gurudevi say, ‘Even when you don’t see or feel the Self, it is still there.  The knowledge is deep enough to stay.’  Even if I don’t see or feel the Self, it’s there.  ‘It’s deep enough to stay.’  

“Then I started wondering, ‘How do I bring that Knowingness back into my life?’  I was trying to use my mind to know that there was a path back.  Now I know that it’s not my mind that is showing me the path and the Knowingness.  The path back to our life from the Knowingness isn’t something we can think through.  It just happens.  This tantric spirituality is teaching us how to bring our Self into our lives.”

Jayeshwaree is grateful for this experience.  Now she knows:  “Don’t fight with your mind.  The things in your mind are just there.  Just apply your mind to mantra.  It works.”

She concludes, “As life has gotten busier, my mind hasn’t gotten busier.  I’m back in relationships that were challenging, but I’m not getting as caught up in them as I did.  The early stage of the pandemic showed me that I had a fear of not being able to maintain living in the Self.  I’ve learned to accept Grace from Gurudevi and to trust the power of the mantra.  I’m learning to understand it and to live more in the Self.  And when I don’t, I don’t get so worried that I won’t get it back.  By not getting as upset or perturbed when I lose the Self, I’m not losing the Self as often.  I am absolutely trusting in Guru’s Grace.  When I’m not in Self, I remember Grace and that it will always be there.  It certainly makes me feel much better, and it brings on the Grace.  By accepting it, the Grace flows even more.”

When Jayeshwaree thinks about the future now, she embraces it.

Your Own Self

By Andrea (Padmakshi) Wasserman

Even though you are an individual, your Essence is Divine.  You are Consciousness-Itself.  Consciousness is described by many terms: your capital-S Self, awareness, the Ever-Existent Supreme Reality and bliss.  You are so much more than you think you are!

You have a deeper dimension, which you can explore and know.  It is the goal of yoga to give you this experience.  Then you realize this expansive Reality within yourself.  This Ultimate Reality is within everyone and everything that exists, including you and me.  Yoga calls this your own Self.

Consciousness, your deeper dimension inside, is always present.  Your own Self never changes, and you can always find it within.  You just may not know this completely — yet!  I have had experiences of that vastness inside myself.  Perhaps you have as well.

Many years ago, I used sail in the tropical oceans.  The wind in my hair, the ocean’s fragrance, and the soft breezes were enticing.  But the best part was when the sailboat was headed downwind.  The wind behind the boat filled the sails, and they opened wide.  I would climb up and sit in the sail.  Leaning back, I dangled my feet, while sun drenched my body.  The feeling I had was of complete freedom, ease and peace.

These experiences give you a glimpse of the deeper dimensions of your own being.  When you truly know your capital-S Self, you will live in that pure state of awareness.  You will have unbounded freedom.  You can access this freedom, bliss and your own Divine Essence through meditation.  Pain and fear keep you away from your Self.  Meditation frees you from those blockages.  It will open you to inner happiness, joy and peace. When you look inside through meditation, you quiet your mind.  You gain the freedom of knowing your Self more and more.  You recognize who you really are and always have been.  Meditation will give you your Self, Consciousness-Itself, completely free!

Full-Spectrum Transformation

By Gayle Perry, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

“When I was in 8th grade, I got my first pair of glasses and could see what I hadn’t even known was there before.  Similarly, Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy has given me new glasses for looking inward.  I can see into my mind and heart as well as my body.  I see what I didn’t know I was missing,” recounts Gayle Perry.

Gayle started private sessions with Yogaratna Atmananda (Valerie Light Trautlein) last January.  These in-person sessions have continued, even during the pandemic.  Both client and therapist follow CDC guidelines, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer throughout sessions.  Thus continuing her process, Gayle has experienced full-spectrum transformation.

She explains, “I’ve always put other people first.  Ignoring my body, I just pushed through work and family issues.  I’ve had back pain and muscle cramping since playing high school softball.  Plus, since a car accident 25 years ago, I’ve had neck and shoulder tightness and pain.  Neck vertebrae have been fused.  I’ve seen a chiropractor twice weekly for several years.  Relieving the “pain of the day,” those treatments kept me going from week to week, but just barely.  I also tried physical therapy.

“In my generation, ‘no pain, no gain’ was the mindset.  I knew my life was stressful, but I could keep it in check by just pushing through.  Learning to ignore my body, I took advantage of my youth and athletic strength.  I’d never realized that I had a racing mind.  But in my first Svaroopa® Yoga class, December 2019, I couldn’t turn my mind off.  It just kept going: ‘What about this work problem? Oh, I need to do this.’  As I lay there, I thought I was relaxed but couldn’t really tell.  Yet afterward I felt improvement in my neck and back.

“So I realized I must focus on myself first, instead of others.  I decided on self-care.”

A month later Gayle began private sessions.  Atmananda taught her the Ujjayi breathing practice and gave her Embodyment® Yoga Therapy sessions.  In a Spinal Walkup, Gayle recalls, Atmananda described feeling no difference between vertebrae bone and back muscles.  They were that tight.

“Then I did a 10-day overlap healing process,” Gayle describes.  “In the daily-session phase, I experienced radical improvement.  We wrapped up the overlap healing in late March.  I continued with yoga classes, then online because of the pandemic.”

However, stress mounted because of the pandemic and family issues.  Major relapse (re-tightening) set in.  Gayle couldn’t sit without excruciating pain.  To take care of basic personal needs, she had to use a walker.  So Gayle and Atmananda decided on a second overlap healing series to resolve the crippling hip and back pain.  Gayle describes, “Starting at the beginning of May, it took 16 consecutive days to get to the point where I could maintain my opening long enough to move to the every-other-day phase of treatment.”  Now, in mid-August, her final step-down phase is concluding.

She says, “Half-way through the overlap, I could tell I was softening as a deeper layer of tension unraveled.  I would ask Atmananda about the theory behind certain therapeutic poses.  She explained the tight muscles affected, including their location and how they pulled on other muscles and bones to cause my painful spasms. 

“Then one day, I had gained a major understanding.  Feeling much better and sitting comfortably, I got a call from a family member.  After the call I couldn’t move.  I hadn’t changed how I was sitting.  So I grasped the connections among mind, heart and body.  I added vichara (guided self-inquiry) to my healing journey.  I did vichara sessions every morning.  In the evening, I saw Atmananda in person for physical Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy.  I got to a point of looking inward and delving deeper.  I got to my own knowing, below the outer issues of life.”  Gayle then also enrolled in Downingtown Yoga’s Meditation 101 course online.

“That combination of modalities brought everything together,” she says.  “I am out of pain, and I have learned how to stay pain free.  My daily practice includes three hours yoga.  I do Ujjayi Pranayama, Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s free Japa Club phone calls twice daily, two sequences of Svaroopa® Yoga poses to release my spinal tension, meditation and listening to one of Gurudevi’s free recorded discourses online.

“I no longer stay up late watching TV, crafting or cleaning.  Now I make a point of being in bed by 10 pm.  I am getting the rest I need.  On days when my mind still races, I can get to the place of calm more easily. 

“I see the importance of quieting the mind.  I recognize the dynamic of the mind and emotions playing in core issues.  Aware of my body, I can focus on softening shoulders, neck, back and legs.  I’m learning to know when my body has had enough before it’s too much.  Now I know I come first.  Whatever needs to be done will wait until after I’ve rested. “I don’t exactly know how Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy works.  But I believe in it, because I believe what I see.”