Monthly Archives: December 2020

Healing Powered by Grace

By Sandy (Mukti) Carter, interviewed by Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

In February 2020, feeling emotionally depleted, Mukti enrolled in the last in-person Healing Retreat before Covid lockdown.  She had no idea about what to expect from the retreat.  She only knew she needed Guru’s Grace grounding her so she could make some tough life decisions.

Mukti describes, “Through meditation, asana classes, yoga therapy, vichara sessions, and philosophy talks, the Healing Retreat tapped into my Self — Consciousness Itself.  I was able to allow Kundalini to take care of me with her healing work.

“My meditations changed and deepened.  At first my mind was still busy during meditation.  So I got up early to meditate before the program started.  In meditation I became consciously aware of thoughts and the mantra, at a much deeper level.  This experience was a first for me.”

“On the last morning, I experienced the void as velvety darkness, without any sound, just dead silence.  Previously, my experiences of the void were black with a light noisiness.  This time, however, it was like curtains parted, and I went into the void.  The minute I became aware of the usual ringing in my ears, it disappeared.”

“My usual experience of Kundalini is awareness of heat and of that energetic inner column of support called stambha.  This energy arising makes my whole torso lift and feel at ease.  At this retreat I felt more: the vibration of Kundalini, coming up through my body.”

At the end of Healing Retreats, every participant receives home practice, which Gurudevi has individually customized.  For the past eight months, Mukti has done her practice daily.  “It supported my life at home in a big way,” she shares.  “Every day, I felt the practice coming from Grace.  I felt it as a loving action supporting me individually on my spiritual path.”

In the retreat’s vichara sessions (guided self-inquiry), Mukti saw that her pain originates in the mind.  Suffering comes from the mind and is thus self-induced.  She’d done some vichara intermittently years ago.  Now she recognizes that in not continuing with it, she was avoiding vichara.  She did not want to deal with her mind.  So after the retreat she continued doing vichara, enjoying greatly beneficial changes.

Mukti concludes, “There are no words to express the depth of my gratitude for all that Gurudevi provides and does for us as a community and individually.  I will enroll in another Healing Retreat.  If I had the flexibility in my work schedule and resources, I would do every healing retreat that’s offered!”

How Are You? Who Are You?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

How are you doing?  How are you feeling?  How are you and who are you?  Yoga is about both, of course.  But when you deepen into your own inner essence, the “how” you are is taken care of automatically by the “who” you are. 

I was sitting in a chair with my laptop on my lap when I was told the election results had been announced. Before I got the news, I was sitting with my laptop on my lap.  After I got the news, I was sitting with my laptop on my lap.  I’m still me, no matter who wins the national election. 

I’m still me when I go to bed.  I’m still me when I get up.  I am who I am, no matter what I am doing or who I am with.  Those activities don’t make me who I am.  Other people don’t make me who I am.  I am me.

You are you.

It’s very simple.  Yet it’s a breakthrough to reach the point that you know who you are, regardless of what’s going on around you.

There’s a beautiful tree right outside of my office window.  Its leaves are almost all down now, with just a few hanging on.  A few weeks ago, it was lush and green.  Does its change make me be a different me?  No.

I had a bagel for breakfast this morning, yum.  Does that make this an extra special morning?  No.  It was fun, but it didn’t improve my mood – because my mood was already good.  Fun is important in life, but it doesn’t make you who you are.  You are you, whether you’re having fun or not.

I was driving when I got a phone call from a family member, offering condolences on the death of my father.  I didn’t know that he’d died.  I had been on an airplane, on my way to visit him, for we knew his time was ending.  Then I jumped into a rental car and got on the road.  I got the phone call while I was driving.

My first thought was, it’s probably not smart for me to be driving right now – I don’t want to hurt anyone else on the road.  So I pulled over.  As I sat there, talking through the information with the dear one who phoned me, I was asking myself, “Am I a different me now that my father has left this earthly plane?”   No.

Is the world different for me?  Yes.

Will I miss him?    Yes, I still do, even though he left years ago.

But I am me, the same me, whether he’s here or not.

The reality is that you’re under pressure right now.  You’re in a process that isn’t over yet.  The process going on in the world isn’t over yet.  And the process you’re going through inside isn’t over yet.  Not until you know the you that you are – the you that is your own Self, that inner essence of being that is Beingness being you. 

You are you, even in a world of change, even with changes transpiring in the outer world, even in the inner world where your thoughts and feelings are constantly changing.  You are you.  That’s what yoga is really about.

This blog was originally published by permission on Philly Area Yoga.

Wanting Meditation

By Jessica Soligon, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

 “The more you do it, the more you want to do it,” asserts Jessica.  “I got started because, like many people, I found the pandemic to be stressful.”  She is a mother of six and an esthetician, so a lot of people look to her for caretaking.  “I was in a constant and heightened state of anxiety and not sleeping at night.” Fortunately, she’d done some yoga and basic meditation years before.  And even luckier, her aunt, who lives nearby, is a deeply dedicated Svaroopa® yogi.  Aunt TC, as Jessica calls her, knew what would help. 

At the end of June, Jessica took a Beginners Meditation class with Swami Prajñananda.  Jessica says, “Swami Prajñananda gave an amazing class.  It was very relaxing and came at a very important time.  Things were changing in my life, so my aunt also suggested I do some vichara, guided self-inquiry.  For eight weeks, I did weekly Zoom vichara sessions with Swami P.”

“She is amazing and has been a lifeline to me during this crazy time.  It was hard for me to work through what was going on.  The vichara sessions helped me to understand where I was personally stuck.  Swami gave me the homework of doing five minutes of japa and five minutes of meditation.  After some time, I noticed my anxiety was lower, and I was sleeping better.  Working one-to-one with a swami has been great.”

Besides taking yoga and meditation classes, Jessica has been meditating regularly since September.    “In class, I find it easy to quiet my busy mind and focus on the mantra.  When I mediate on my own, it can be more challenging.  But I always have the sense that I’m doing something good for myself.  It feels good for my mind and my body.  When I open my eyes, I always feel relaxed and in a positive place.  Even though I’m getting up earlier to do my meditation, I feel more energized in my day.”

“What is most noticeable is that I’ve been reacting differently to things coming into my life.  I also notice that when I’m not as consistent with my meditations, my anxiety returns.  For a while, I got up early and listened to Gurudevi’s recording of singing the mantra.  Then I wrote in my gratitude journal.  Now I’m also doing more yoga poses before doing japa and meditation.” 

Asked what keeps her committed to her meditation, Jessica answers, “It keeps my anxiety under control.  It’s so reassuring to have that to depend on.  It’s very reliable.  Even starting out small with the five minutes of meditation made a big difference.  Because of that, it was easy to make a commitment.  The more you do it, the more you want to do it.”  Something unexpectedly wonderful has been happening for Jessica in her yoga and meditation class with Swami Prajñananda.  “This past week or two, I’ve had some new experiences.  I feel my body fall back and forward and then feel like I’m falling asleep.  Just this last week, my head moved forward, and I heard a crack.  Afterwards I could breathe clearly through the left side of my head.  Swami P was very happy to hear this. She explained that I received Shaktipat, Kundalini awakening.  My mind is usually busy, but I was observing my mind.  I’m working with Kundalini by saying the mantra over and over.”  This is just the beginning of Jessica’s unfolding story.

Pandemic Panic

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

At least this time, it’s familiar.  You’ve felt this panic before, triggered by the same pandemic, only a few months ago.  Here you are again, though this time you have more skills.  I’ve gotten so accustomed to wearing a mask that I sometimes forget to remove it. 

Plus now there is more information about the virus and how to protect ourselves.  While staying home is hard, especially during the year-end holidays, it’s clearly dharma.  In other words, can you do the right thing without having to be panicked?

It would be nice to think that yogis, being healthier overall, have less risk from the virus.  Yet I know yogis who’ve had it, so clearly yoga doesn’t make you immune.  Nobody wants to die, and especially not a painful and inglorious death.  So fear of death plays a part in your pandemic panic.  Perhaps your finances have also been affected, another anxiety trigger.  How many triggers does it take to put you over the edge?  2020 has them in abundance!

The problem is that your edge is too close; you live on the edge of panic too much of the time.  Even when things are good, you’re able to conjure up fears all by yourself.  Yoga improves your health, yes — and yoga makes you more peaceful specifically by reducing your fear level.  In fact, the most important thing yoga gives you is freedom from fear.

This is one of the descriptions of the state of enlightenment, “freedom from fear.”   To live without the internal static of fear disrupting your mental processes is a great freedom.  It also relieves you of the physical effects of fear, which include stress hormones, impaired digestion and breathing, disruption of sleep and the inability to think clearly.  Freedom from fear is a great start on how to live more fully and more freely.

I would describe enlightenment in more fulfilling terms:  “centered clarity and empowerment” and “bliss-based living.”  When you’re centered, based in the bliss of your own inherent essence, there’s no room for fear to intrude.  The day-to-day, even moment-to-moment question is whether you’re blissful and centered enough to handle what’s happening.  And if you’re not, what do you do?  You know the answer to this:  more yoga, of course.

Here’s how it works.  If you’re scared and you try to remove the fear, it’s like trying to scrub dark off the walls of a dark room.  Instead, simply bring in a single candle flame.  Instantly the dark is banished; the fear dissolves away.  Yoga does this for you by bringing in the light of your own being.  Your own inner radiance shines through, not only to inspire others but also to take care of you.

When you’re free from fear, do you become stupid?  Right now you’re using the fear to keep from doing stupid things.  You’re keeping a low profile, taking care of yourself and loved ones.  Good.  You can do these things even when you’re not afraid.  It’s mere intelligence.  You don’t need fear to motivate your dharmic acts.  You can choose to do them because it’s the right thing.  In fact, fear lowers your intelligence.  Being centered, peaceful and blissful actually increases your IQ.  Every athlete knows this.

So what do you do now?  Do more yoga.  We’d love to help!