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.