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.
The word “holiday” comes from “holy day,” meaning it is a sacred time, a time outside of time. Especially at the end of our year and as our days grow short, we slow down. Taking advantage of three special days in only six weeks, the days in-between are busy. You barely have time to clean up from one celebration and get ready for the next.
Yet there is an undercurrent. You can spot it if you pay attention. From November’s gratitude to December’s generosity, you are being readied for the celebration of a fresh start for a new year. The mystical flow of Divine Grace becomes easier to perceive with each event. What is happening?
Most people focus on family for these special days, using that connection to soften and warm their heart. Looking to others for a connection is a way of finding your own mystical essence, yoga says – that when they see you, really see you, you become aware of your own Self. How great it is when it works. For most people, that is rare and special, unfortunately infrequent.
Yoga is about finding your own mystical essence all the time, all twelve months of the year. To find, to know and to be that Divine Being which you already are — this is yoga’s goal as described by the ancient sages. For this, you need to slow down and stop, another wonderful thing about these sweet weeks that close the year.
But you don’t have to wait for holidays, for every day is a holy day. Every day is a day “which the Lord hath made,” as the Psalm says. The whole point is to recognize the sacred when you see it. And every moment is sacred, every being is sacred, every thing is sacred, including you. This is mysticism. This is tantra.
By Sue (Shuchi) Cilley, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney
When I think of Gurudevi, it’s hard to pull out only one or two qualities. It’s like looking at my Christmas tree: it’s all scintillating. It’s a package. It’s the same with Gurudevi. All the capacities, all the skills are there, shining as part of the package.
In the Advaya Taraka Upanishad, a qualified Guru is described as having all these qualities:
…knowledgeable in the Vedas, a devotee of God, free from jealousy, an expert in yoga, does yoga practices, is always in a pure yogic state. He is devoted to his own Guru and is a knower of the Self.
Gurudevi has all these qualifications and more. She’s also a true Shaktipat Guru, appointed and willing to serve as Shiva’s agent of Grace. She gives the knowingness of Self.
A master of Shaktipat, Gurudevi has mastery over the Shakti Chakra, Kundalini. Such a master of Kundalini is incredibly rare. She gave us all of the Svaroopa® yoga poses designed to open the spinal pathway tail to top, smoothing the way for Kundalini energy to flow.
And there’s more — she’s an exceptional teacher. Everything she teaches is from the ancient texts. She’s not making anything up. She’s bringing these ancient time-tested teachings to us. She is absolutely brilliant at explaining the teachings in easy-to-understand ways. She personalizes them so they are living teachings. She encourages me to test them for myself in this living laboratory which is the world.
It’s not only the learning; she gives me the experience of what she’s teaching. I grew up in a college town and had many brilliant teachers. But they could only give me the contents of the subject. One was an excellent music teacher, but he could only teach what to do and the technique. He couldn’t give me the experience of music. Gurudevi does both. When she teaches, she gives me not only the words, but the experience they point to.
Because she has walked this path, she’s able to see where I’m coming from. She moves me along, taking me from where I am to the next step and the next. She’s always looking for ways, and she’s very creative. She delivers the lines like a great actor, but it’s not an act. It’s a reality play.
She never does anything that isn’t related to my upliftment. She never wavers, she’s never off task. She has a good sense of humor, she’s approachable, she’s very generous with her time and her teachings. She’s so alive.
Gurudevi has touched every part of my life. I can’t imagine starting the day without chanting Sri Guru Gita. She has given me my Self. Her mantra is integral to my being. She’s always taking me beyond what I could ever imagine, again and again and again. Thank Guru, thank God. I am so grateful. I bow at her feet.
By Patrice Nicolet, interviewed by Annie (Aanandi) Ross
“Open the door.” I’ve been contemplating and reflecting on this internal message received ten months ago. After an early morning online Meditation Club session with Gurudevi, I heard these three words silently but clearly.
Looking at where I am today, I realize my spiritual journey has been ongoing. This is true even for those times when I wasn’t paying much attention. I was first introduced to the Svaroopa® yoga Magic Four poses in 1998. Soon after, I attended a few week-end yoga programs. Then I took the Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga training. At yoga conferences through the years, I sampled more of Gurudevi’s teachings (then Rama). In 2002, I plunged into the full Svaroopa® YTT.
For over ten years, I taught Svaroopa® yoga classes regularly. During that time, my focus and personal practice began to shift to meditation. Yet even though I took Gurudevi’s basic Meditation Made Easy programs, I wasn’t ready to really dive in. I began studying a different style of meditation and connected with a local community. This connection grew for several years.
Eventually, a very special Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation event brought me back. In May 2019, it was the celebration of Swami Nirmalananda’s 43rd anniversary of receiving Shaktipat from her Guru. The experience of this event was pivotal for me. Something shifted. I realized I couldn’t do it on my own. I was ready for “The More!” Things took off for me in the journey to know my Self. Most recently, Gurudevi’s 2021 Year-Long Programme had a profound effect. It prepared me to receive the gifts of Shaktipat, as I attended her dedicated Shaktipat Retreat for us YLP students.
Gurudevi keeps finding ways to work with our minds. I so look forward to each day with online Meditation Club. I plan my day and week around other offerings, including Swami Sunday. I’m so grateful for all the online programs that Gurudevi has initiated during the pandemic. In many ways the pandemic has helped structure and prioritize my practices. I’ve created new habits that allow the teachings to percolate and deepen into my experience.
Now I contemplate the message I received ten months ago: “Open the door.” I’m still finding my way, doing the practices, asking questions, and looking within. As a result, I feel steadier, calmer. I’m learning to lean in and trust this Grace-filled process. These many gifts continue to shape my life inside and outside. The seeds that were planted so many years (lifetimes?) ago have taken root! I have the tools now to nourish and bring to fruition yoga’s promise — to know my own Self. I’m diving deep into doing more yoga. The door to “more” is open. To have this Guru and community of practitioners is so precious!
Everything I do and everything I give is in service to the Self. The Self is the One Reality, that which is being you, being me, being Gurudevi and everything else. This truth lights my yogic path. It keeps me yearning for Self-Realization — to know my own Divine Essence ALL the time.
For this reason I give of my time and financial resources to the Ashram. I encourage you to do the same in our Fall Fundraiser — Being in Service. Thanks to your generosity, we are more than halfway to our fundraising goal. Still, we only have a few weeks left to reach it.
Reaching our fundraising goal has never been more important. These past 18 months have been challenging for all of us. Under Gurudevi’s wise touch, the Ashram rapidly pivoted to provide more Online services. We are now offering On-Site programs too. Both help us cover our bottom line.
But as a not-for-profit organization, we receive fully one third of our revenue from donations. The real bottom line is that we cannot offer Gurudevi’s amazing and important teachings without you.
The gratitude and generosity that bubble up from your own essence are gifts from your yoga practices. Gratitude and generosity have a tremendous effect on your body and your mind. Gurudevi says, “By giving of yourself, you get filled up. It doesn’t come from being thanked. It simply feels good to give.” She adds that “true generosity opens your heart and quiets your mind.”
In the season of giving thanks and lighting lights, please consider what your yoga practices have done for you. And consider what sharing this yoga with others will do for the world.
When you support the Ashram with a financial gift, you support the organization that supports you. When you support the Ashram with a donation, Gurudevi’s profound teachings can be spread more widely. You share your own inner light. You shine it into a world that forgets it too easily.
Celebrate the divine human you are with a gift of light to all humanity. Open your heart and quiet your mind with a donation to the Ashram’s fall fundraising campaign today. Follow our Master Teacher’s example. Be in service.
Donate today on our website or on Facebook. You can call us at (610) 644-7555. Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335. Thank You!
For almost two years, I’ve been writing about how to do more yoga on your own. Even online classes have you doing yoga on your own mostly. It’s different than being in the room with other yogis and your teacher — the group energy clearly contributes to your physical prowess and yogic state. But the pandemic required a more solitary practice, with in-person classes just getting going again.
It’s a fallacy that yogis practiced alone. The iconic image of the skeletal yogi sitting alone in a cave in the Himalayas is incorrect. While there were yogis who ventured into the frozen wastes, they each had a teacher and a supply chain, with a nearby villager bringing them food and other supplies. Yoga has been a community-based process for thousands and thousands of years. Better yet, no one had to make it up on their own. They had Gurus. In fact, without Gurus, these ancient teachings would never have made it to us, here in the West today.
The yogi should practice in a small room situated… in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully. – verse 1.12
In such a peaceful environment, the yogi could rely on the generosity of those around them. Such a yogi devoted full time to their practices. Those living around the yogi supported him, making him able to dedicate himself to such an elevated lifestyle, pursuing enlightenment.
In the West, we shoehorn our practices into a busy life, managing family and work responsibilities. You already know that creating time for your own personal practice improves your ability to manage things while it improves your health and mental and emotional state. Yet when you get together with those who share your practice, they contribute to your ability to continue and deepen into it. You’re working on enlightenment even when you don’t realize it! And it’s easier when we work on it together.
Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati leads Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center & Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. An American yogi, she is an inspiring teacher with a loving manner and a great sense of humor. Before becoming a swami (yoga monk), as Rama Berch, she served the yoga community as the founding president of Yoga Alliance. Traveling and teaching nationally and internationally, she is authorized to initiate people into deep meditation through Shaktipat, as did Swami Muktananda, her own Guru. Her website features extensive Freebies, including articles and audio recordings on the principles of consciousness as taught by the sages of India, as well as how to apply them in your life today.
By Kristine (Dhairyavati) Freeman, SVA Board Member
It’s the season of giving thanks and lighting lights. I am writing to ask you, please consider what your Svaroopa® yoga practices have done for you. And then consider what sharing yoga with others will do for the world. When you are in service, you are focused on giving your resources. Seva is about giving of your time and energy.
Giving of your resources is also about giving financial resources to benefit yourself and others. Contributing from your financial resources in gratitude for your teacher and the teachings is called “dakshina.” I invite you to engage in this profound yogic practice by donating to your Ashram.
Personally, I have always wanted to be in service. Growing up in the Catholic Church, I especially wanted to be of divine service. I sooooo wanted to be up on the altar lighting candles and assisting our parish priest. My young self deeply felt the injustice that I could not serve in that way. At that time, this opportunity was available to boys but not girls.
So I searched for another way to be in service each week. I appointed myself as the one putting our family’s donation envelope in the collection basket. Despite our limited financial resources, my mom always had a five-dollar donation ready. She gave it to me to drop in the wicker basket. I learned the joy of giving financial resources very early on.
Gurudevi says, “Being of service is a way of receiving blessings.” I have certainly experienced blessings from offering service. Being of service to our Ashram has brought me such joy. Whether I’m giving my time and energy, or giving from my financial resources, the experience is energizing. It reconnects me with my Self. It pulls me right back into the flow of Grace. And it cultivates my ability to live from that expansive state of joy and Grace. How great is that?!
When you support the Ashram with a financial gift, you support the organization that supports you. Plus, your financial gift supports the spread of Gurudevi’s profound teachings even more widely. And you share the light of your own divinity with the world.
Please join me in donating to our fall campaign today. Click for our website or on our Facebook page. You can call us at (610) 644-7555. Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335. Thank You!
How great is the Guru’s capacity for Being in Service? Gurudevi ascribes everything she does — every breath, every word, every action — to serving her Guru, Baba Muktananda. She says, “It all comes from my Baba.” She understands the generous gift Baba has given her — her Self. She resides at Baba’s feet, serving him always. She serves him by giving unceasingly to you and me.
I see Gurudevi modeling an abundant capacity for Being in Service, the theme of our Ashram’s fall fundraising campaign. She sparks it within all of us students as she teaches the benefits of seva (selfless service) and dakshina (financial support). She explains that through both, we stand to receive exponentially more than we give.
So I ask you to join me in contributing to our Being in Service Fundraising Campaign today. In giving, you share the light of your own divinity. You shine it into a world that forgets its own essence too easily. Your gift to the Ashram supports Gurudevi’s service. Donations sustain the Ashram infrastructure and operations necessary to spread her profound teachings widely.
How great is your capacity for Being in Service? Our capacities are ever expanding. We are bolstered by a lineage of Great Beings who have served throughout time. We receive the ageless gift of Shaktipat. It kindles our awareness, opening us to our capacities. We’re divinely inspired to turn inward and steep in the essence of Beingness. Gratitude naturally begins to well within. We become motivated to share and to serve. This natural cycle of giving and receiving is exemplified within our Svaroopa® community.
Consider what Gurudevi has done for you. Through your financial support, what she might do for others in the world? For me, this inspires the next question. How can I be of service, giving from a state of expanded awareness and beingness? Over the years, I’ve been amazed at the capacities that have arisen within me. The deeper I am based in Self, the more easily they arise and flow. First, I was surprised to realize my capacity to teach yoga and then meditation. Then came Guru Seva, serving on the Ashram Board and supporting various Ashram functions and programs. I’ve developed skills I never knew I had.
Gurudevi describes the impetus for the cycle of giving and receiving this way:
The gratitude and generosity that bubble up from the deep well of your own essence are gifts from your yoga practices. This has a tremendous effect on your body and your mind. By giving of yourself, you get filled up. It doesn’t come from being thanked. It simply feels good to give.
Gurudevi then adds that “true generosity opens your heart and quiets your mind.” So I ask again: will you open your heart and quiet your mind with a donation to our Being in Service Fundraising Campaign today?
Follow our Master Teacher’s example for Being in Service. Contributing financially, you help sustain Ashram operations that support Gurudevi’s service to you and other seekers worldwide. Choose the form of service, below, that most resonates with you:
In Service to Your Body – support the Ashram’s yoga programs
In Service to Your Mind – support the Ashram’s meditation programs
In Service to the World – support the Ashram’s teachings by our swamis.
Donate today on our website or on Facebook. You can call us at (610) 644-7555. Or you can send your check to Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, 116 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA 19335. Thank You!