Category Archives: Ashram News

Journey into Meditation Practice & Teaching

By Annie (Aanandi) Ross

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.

New Telecourse:  Being, Light & Bliss

By Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda 

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.

Introductory Video – available online January 13

Telecourse begins January 18

Click for more information or contact our Enrollment Advisor 610.806.2119 

One

by Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Teachings Article for January 2022

There is really only one of us here.  You and I are different expressions of the One Reality.  It’s similar to how ice cubes are all made of water.  You are an individualized form of the One Essence that has become all.  Each and every different thing and being is made of the same essence.  Called Shiva in this yogic system, the One is not only outside of you, but is within you and is being you.  This is why I call you Shiva, oh Shiva.

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.

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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.

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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.

Holy Days

By Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda 

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.

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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.

Guru Qualities

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.

Discovering My Self

 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.

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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!

Shine Your Light into the World

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver, SVA Board Member 

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!

The Gift We Can Give to Gurudevi

By Pat (Sumati) Morrison, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney`

I went up for Gurudevi’s darshan.  My mouth was flapping around but nothing came out.  Gurudevi came close and said, “Use your words.”  I said, “I don’t know what to say, what to give you.”  Gurudevi said, “For you to know the Self, that is the gift you could give me.”

Besides the Ashram buildings, we have the virtual Ashram with freebies and online programs.  Then there’s the essence of the Ashram, which is Grace.  It permeates everything. 

During the pandemic, I couldn’t visit the Ashram.  But I didn’t feel the need to be physically there.  I did lots of Zoom programs and felt very supported by the virtual Ashram.  I enjoyed the wonderful sense of community with other yogis.  It felt like the Ashram was here whether or not I was doing programs.  I felt it while doing mundane things.  Even so, it’s important to have a physical place for Gurudevi to be.  She has planted the Shakti there. 

I know that Grace is always present, not just in certain places.  It’s not only in Gurudevi’s presence.  That knowing comes from beyond my mind.  Though I’ve never felt Shakti the way others speak of it, I’m more aware of the effect.  Thus I know that the Shakti is really strong at the Ashram.  But whether I’m physically at the Ashram or at home, the most important thing is Gurudevi.  Being in her presence and seeing her in the flesh — whether on-site or online — that is the most important. 

I’ve known Gurudevi for a long time.  When she was Rama Berch, she was an awesome asana teacher.  As she deepened, she brought me and everybody else along with her.  I know her energy and everything she has created for us.  There is her love for us, her caring and her interest in us. That’s what she exists for, to bring us all along.

Yet there’s something beyond all that.  It’s what she is.  It’s like Self meeting Self with her.  It’s like seeing your Self reflected back to you.  And it’s the best version of yourself that is possible.  She models that for us.  Her conviction that this is possible for us is incredibly powerful.

I was doing every Yoga Wednesday on Zoom.  I really yearned for that connection to the Ashram.  It was important to be with Gurudevi and the swamis online, mornings and evenings.  Then I went to the Ashram for a retreat last August.  It was so wonderful that when I went home, I was full.  Though I still feel I don’t need anything, I realize that I can’t consistently sustain the depths.  I know I need more practice.  I’m staying with it.  I’m staying in the flow of Grace. 

My Discovery of Self

By Julia (Chintamani) Wallis
Interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

The discovery of my Self began 15 years ago as a Svaroopa® yoga student.  My journey has been evolving ever since.  Six months after starting yoga classes, I was propelled into YTT (Yoga Teacher Training). The changes happening were powerful, on all levels of my being.  I knew I wanted more.  At that time, Gurudevi had not yet taken her vows, and urged us to “get a Guru.”  So I attended satsangs at a local meditation center, three times a week. There I discovered the power of chanting and meditation. Layers of “stuff” that wasn’t me started peeling off. I was getting the experience of that something “more” I longed for. 

Then life took a new turn. I got married, moved away and started having children. While focusing on my family, I turned away from yoga. This made me very miserable inside.  Yet Grace intervened. A friend drove me to a Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation satsang in Portland OR.  While attending, I realized how much I was missing my Self.  I came home inspired to make a space in my home for the Svaroopa® Sciences practices. I dove in.  Even just the poses shifted my state. I started more YTT and teaching classes. But I still wasn’t meditating daily. My family’s needs felt more important. Then I attended a Shaktipat retreat and everything changed.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

Going deeper, while sitting upright in meditation, had always been challenging. Yet in the second Shaktipat initiation, I became still and steady in my seat. I completely dropped in. My thoughts became the scenery inside my mind. I kept looking for my Self within. Then I heard Gurudevi’s voice, inside: “Who is looking?” Suddenly I realized:  That’s me! How could I have not known this before?  It’s a feeling of familiarity. I am being and feeling my Self, while being “That”.

I continued practicing and deepening into Self. Yet I began to question, “Where I am going from here?”  A swami suggested that I consider applying for Vratin vows. Yet I wasn’t sure. I did vichara sessions (guided self-inquiry). I wanted to rid my system of the limitations that were holding me back.  In sessions, I experienced profound “aha” moments.  I felt the fire in my spine burning my karmic seeds. During the pandemic, I even joined the online Vichara Club and  completed four rounds of ten sessions each.  They created a deep and irreversible shift for me. 

Taking the Vows Prep course, I kept deepening into Self and took the Vratin vow in July 2021. The Shaktipat retreat that followed confirmed that my goal in life is service.  Being vowed, I feel supported in my goal. It’s so clear. And if I get entangled in worldly activities, I read a Vowed Member Facebook post. I come back to the knowing of my Self. 

Each Shaktipat experience deepens this knowing of my Self and purpose. I see that Guru/Self/God and the mantra received from Gurudevi are the exact same thing. My worldly life is not a distraction from my yoga. Yes, meditation takes me to my Self. Yet whatever I do in life — yoga, farming, family — takes me to my Self as well!  I offer it all to Gurudevi Nirmalananda.

Selfless service is the direct route to Guru/God and Self. Swami Muktananda, the Guru of Gurudevi, said, “Seva is a sublime form of meditation, study and yoga. Understand its mystery!” I am ever indebted to my Gurudevi for showing me this path to Self-discovery.

It’s Not the Same

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I’ve been delighted to lead group meditations online for the last year.  But it’s simply not the same as being together in person.  It’s clear that it supports others.  The energetic connection is tangible, providing a deeper meditation.  But it’s not the same.

I’ve been teaching via technology since 2010.  Back then, we were on phone conference calls, but we made it work.  I really amped it up last year, with students zooming in from multiple continents.  But it’s really not the same as when I can be in the room with them.

I’ve enjoyed staff lunches where we had food delivered to everyone.  While we were all eating the same food and chatting onscreen, it wasn’t the same as when we’re all together.  I’ve talked with people who have attended weddings and funerals online.  Understandably, online was the only option, and how great to be able to connect at such an important time.  Yet you already know what I’m going to say – it’s not the same.

What is it?  What is the difference when we get together in person?  Welcome hugs included, something else is happening.  It is important.  It touches your heart.  It makes all of us more real somehow.  Yoga calls it “embodied consciousness.”  This is what is unique about the human being:  that our being is both physical and mystical.

Yoga says Consciousness has manifested this universe, becoming everything that exists.  But only the human being has the capacity to know both their physical reality as well as the Consciousness of which they are made.  This is what mystical means, that there is a mystery hidden in the mundane reality.  The mystical quest is an inner quest.  This is yoga’s specialty.

However, something mystical happens when we get together.  It’s intangible yet incredibly beneficial.  Researchers proves that time spent together lowers anxiety and depression.  It can help with emotions, leading to higher self-esteem and empathy.  And a timely additional benefit is that it improves our immune systems.  

This is a precious time right now.  In Pennsylvania, we had a sweet time free from masks and social distancing.  We didn’t know how long it would last, and here we are, masking again.  Still, we can get together! Another variant or surge might put us back in isolation at any time. 

A friend told me this morning that she’s going to visit her sister for the first time in more than 18 months.  I was fortunate to spend the last 10 days with 28 other yogis in two back-to-back retreats.  It was glorious!  It’s time to get together.  Isn’t there a song about this?