I remember living with my focus on the external world. I thought about my clothes, my hair, jewelry, a little make-up and what I wanted next. What could be the next thing to bring me happiness? I wanted the next thrill or a buzz of some kind.
Living in the deep jungles of Honduras for three months was a wonderful experience. I had taken a break from college in my senior year. I was escaping overusing my mind to grasp concepts related to world religions and philosophies. I wanted to get grounded in nature and give my mind a rest. Just like everything prior to meditation, my sojourn in Honduras did not turn out to be just right.
Fortunately, I found Svaroopa® Yoga and Meditation some years later. It is what has given my mind a true rest — and so much more. This meditation has led me to the inner experience of finding and knowing my own Self. More and more, I learn how to rest in or return to this inner experience.
When I first took Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s Meditation Teacher Training (MTT), a lot of it seemed way over my head. Well, I did the homework anyway. I practiced teaching, going through the steps I had been taught. And I’ve taken students through this process many times through the years. Muktananda’s words “Meditation teaches you meditation” became a guide for me to follow.
A few years ago, I took Meditation Teacher Tune Up for my Continuing Education. I felt there was something I couldn’t remember… Was there an obstacle blocking the Self? I remember Gurudevi’s words, “You may need to do some remodeling of your mind.” Simply dissolving, deep-seated pains and fears have lost their hold on me. I feel lighter and less burdened. Now I know what students are actually looking for because I have found it in myself. I can show them the ease. Because of my experience, I want to share it with the world.
Recently, through continued, consistent meditation, I have become more and more established in the Self. Being thus landed inward more deeply, I find my mind being remodeled. I have finally been able to uncover obstacles that used to be in my way. Simply dissolving, deep-seated pains and fears have lost their hold on me. I feel lighter and less burdened. I am focused inward, rather than outward. Through the lifechanging process of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, I can be based in Self and act in the world. Naturally, I am looking forward to teaching my next Introduction to Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation series I am offering it online through a local lifelong learning program.
Most people are interested in meditation because they want to feel calm and peaceful inside. They appreciate learning how to sit comfortably. They value the clam ambiance and pace of the series, as previous feedback shows:
“I felt this introduction was great, better than I expected. In the fact, I wasn’t sure I could calm my busy mind down enough to experience meditation.”
“I really liked hearing about the goals of meditation as well as the meaning of the ancient texts and mantra. I loved how calm I felt in the space, and most of all, I loved the way Annie made each of us feel comfortable to talk about our experiences.”
“Annie was an exceptional facilitator and yogi. She was methodical, loving, kind, instructive.”
“The study leader created a safe space in which to talk about our experiences in meditation. Three sessions was just the right length for an introduction.”
We MTT grads are taught to meet students where they are, offer them the teachings and tools, and guide them inward. Supported by Guru’s Grace and my own practice, it turns out to be simple. I know what students are actually looking for because I have found it in myself. I can show them the ease. Because of my experience, I want to share it with the world.
The gifts of the pandemic continue to reveal themselves, proving every cloud has a silver lining. I thought of myself as a tech-savvy swami when I taught on telephone conference calls, beginning over ten years ago. We could connect, sort-of, kind-of, quasi-semi-almost in-person. At least we could hear the tone and inflection in a yogi’s voice when they shared or asked a question. Zooming is even better!
My new Telecourse is an exciting development in creating wide-open access to yoga’s deepest teachings. I am debuting our new offering with “Being, Light & Bliss.” It is a self-paced course presenting the articles and videos from my 2021 Year-Long Programme. This makes it available to everyone who couldn’t participate within the timeline I had planned. And it’s significantly less expensive in this format, making it even more accessible.
I have been testing and refining the multi-media format for twelve years, beginning with my first Year-Long Programme in 2010. Articles led to online audios and conference calls, and most recently – videos of me offering the teachings. I was inspired by my Guru, of course, for when I wasn’t living with him, I treasured my rare opportunities to watch videos of him.
Last year’s big innovation was modules, short courses that could stand alone or be taken together in sequence. These modules worked so well that we’re putting them online for you. Pick your timing and sequencing, fitting your studies into your available times. Or you can delve in deeply and intensively, even repeating and reviewing the articles and videos multiple times.
All this modern technology is completely in line with Shiva’s command to Vasaguptacharya over 1300 years ago. When he revealed the Shiva Sutras, Shiva said, “Take these secret teachings out into the world and make them available to everyone.” Please join me in the mystical movement into mass-upliftment. Let’s raise the consciousness of the world by making these profound teachings and inner experiences available to everyone.
Just as Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam and kabbalah is the mystical branch of Judaism, yoga is the mystical branch of Hinduism. Not a religion, yoga is a science, the science of maximizing human capacity. You use your body, breath, mind and heart in sophisticated ways to access the Divinity hidden within you. It’s a tactile and practical process with reliable results: you get enlightened.
Maybe neck pain or stress got you started in Svaroopa® yoga, but you’ve already become more enlightened than you used to be. You’re more centered and peaceful, calmer, happier and more creative. Your inner light shines more radiantly and more frequently. Not only do others enjoy it, so do you. I promise you: it keeps getting better.
Every Svaroopa® yoga class or meditation gives you an experience of the One that you are. While the poses make you healthy and strong, the most important effect is the inner opening. We use spinal decompression to open up access to your own Self, your Divine Essence, oh Shiva. No matter how many people are in class, every single one of you experiences the same Self, for there is only One. When you find your own Self, you realize it is the Self of all. The One is being all while being you.
Caitanyam-aatmaa. — Shiva Sutras 1.1
Consciousness is Self
Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself.
– translated by Gurudevi Nirmalananda
This pivotal sutra has only two words, each with deeply layered meanings. Thus I have given you two translations above, rendering it forward and backward. Chaitanyam means Consciousness-Itself; aatma means Self. Thus, in word order, the sutra says, “Consciousness is being you.”
Consciousness is yet another technical term for the One Reality, which I have already referred to by many names above (here being italicized): The One or the One Reality / One Essence is named Shiva. Finding your own Divine Essence is finding your own Self, oh Shiva. I use all these different words to help people get past reactions they may have to the name God, the word most often used in English. Yes, I could say that your own Self is that which we call God. But Consciousness means something different than what you think God is.
Consciousness names the all-pervading essence-of-existence that is aware of its own existence. You are that existence and you are aware of your own existence. The reason you are aware of your own existence is because you are that existence which is aware of its own existence. Confused yet?
Simply stated, you exist and you are aware that you exist. Your awareness is Consciousness. You are the one who exists and is being aware, oh Shiva. Thus you are existence and you are aware of your own existence. Both together is what is meant by “Consciousness-Itself”.
Your own existence is Existence-Itself. The light shining through you comes from your inner source. Your ability to see, to hear, to think and to care — it all comes from that deep inner source, which is your Self. Like every window shines with the light from one sun, every being and every object is a unique manifestation of Shiva. Including you. Including me. How glorious it is!
The above sutra is the foundational sutra in Kashmiri Shaivism, a tantric philosophy and practice that empowers you to see the Divine in all. In this system, while living in the midst of the world, you discover your essence and share it with the world. This is the second meaning I offered for the sutra, “Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself.” It means, when you look deeply within, you discover that your own Self is Shiva.
Living in the midst of the world, normally you take your cues from outside of you. You draw on inner resources to bring forth what is needed in different situations. Sometimes you’re the loving and supportive friend or partner; at other times you are pragmatic and productive, accomplishing various tasks. Because your essence is Consciousness-Itself, you have a whole range of capacities.
In life, you specialize in a certain few of these capacities. Because you use these capacities again and again, you depend on them for your sense of self. You use them to construct a feeling of self-worth. While this is good stuff, it is limited and limiting. Your sense of self depends on how things are going in the world and how you look to others.
Yoga calls this your small-s self, meaning that the word “self” begins with a lower-case ‘s’. By contrast, the goal is the experiential knowing of your Capital-S Self, where the word begins with an upper-case ‘S’. But there are not really two of you in there. There is only one of you. There is only One Reality. You are that One. Being Shiva, you have all capacities within.
I call it dimensionality. Oh Shiva, you are a multi-dimensional being, with every dimension made of Consciousness. I’ll compare it to the ocean. Oceanographers tell us that the ocean has dimensionality. From a ship, they lower a bucket on a chain and collect a sample of the surface water. Then they collect another water sample from 10 feet down, and one from lower, down to hundreds of feet or more. Analyzing all these levels, they find different things. Just as our oceans are multi-dimensional realities, so are you.
You’re used to focusing on the surface level of your being, constructing your sense of selfhood from the churning of your thoughts and emotions, like the waves marching through. But you have depths. These depths are worth exploring. This is yoga’s purpose, to introduce you to the dimensionality of your own being.
The deepest levels are hidden from you, the ultimate mystery, until you get the mystical key. This is Shaktipat, the initiation that reveals your Divinity to you. Shaktipat is the specialty of our tradition, that a Yoga Master who is established in Self can awaken Self in another.
Once awakened, your own Self arises within, enlivening and enlightening you every time you call on it. All you have to do is turn your mind in that direction and invoke the inner arising. Mantra is the mystical formula that accomplishes this. Thus, when you get Shaktipat, you also get the enlivened mantra, which empowers you to explore deeper and deeper within.
Your mind is your most important too. While you have been using your mind to look outward, it is also the tool you use to look inward. However, your mind is currently conditioned by the ways you’ve been using it, perhaps even gunked up with some residue that needs to be cleared out. Thus, all of yoga’s practices are for your mind. Working with your body and breath are effective ways to refine and empower your mind for the inner exploration. All of yoga’s heart-based practices also captivate your mind, so you can use it for your own upliftment.
Think of your mind like a magnifying glass. When you look at your problems, your mind often magnifies them into big, hairy, scary stuff. But you can turn your mind’s eye inward and your mind will magnify Consciousness, intensifying your perception of who and what you are. Then you not only know your Shiva-ness, you experience the unending Bliss of Consciousness. Being Shiva, you see Shiva being all. This is the fulfillment of yoga’s mystical promise. This is why you do more yoga.