Deepen It Yourself!

Reported by Vibhuti King & Matrika Gast

lloyd dharma apirian“These have been my deepest Svaroopa® yoga experiences yet,” says Dharma (Lloyd) Apirian.  He took all three DIYs last summer and has just completed June’s DIY: Healing which focused on deeper variations on our Magic 4 sequence.

Especially powerful for Dharma was the training in Lunge. “First,” he describes, “my legs were aligned too close, as though on a tightrope, and I was lifting my ribs in the wrong direction. I was able to remedy these misalignments. Even more remarkable was an adjustment from another student. She placed one hand on my sacrum and the other behind my heart. I felt her hands grow hotter and hotter. I was no longer in the realm of time. Suddenly I realized someone was talking to me. Though I still felt her hands on my back, she was actually sitting in front of me. This was my first ever experience of a comfortable and easy yet well-aligned pose. It brought to life Patanjali’s sutra “Sthira sukham asanam” (the pose is steady and easy). In my home practice now, Lunge feels brand new.

“During each DIY, Swamiji gives us a Q&A session. I asked whether I am starting to access the Self, and explained how I am easing into That. She helped me go deeper and verified my experience, reducing my self-doubt. She clarified that this is what I was experiencing, while I thought it was fear. Receiving such profound guidance is one of the great benefits of have an accessible living Guru.”

swami-sittingThe day after the program, Dharma says he “eased into my Self” just before entering his workplace. He shares, “The receptionist is a ‘difficult’ person for me, and has been for more than a decade. As I approached her desk, I saw her with a deep love — love that I have never experienced before. Love without attachment or desire. My love for my wife has deepened. And it’s the same with everyone I see, when I am in that place of Self, my home. This is a transformative path. I have been searching since my teens for a path that would truly change me and Svaroopa® yoga is it. I am deeply grateful for my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, and for my Teacher Trainers. I am also profoundly grateful for my fellow students. They supported and encouraged me. I hope I supported them too.”

saguna-gossAlso a longtime practitioner of Svaroopa® yoga, Saguna Goss is the Ashram Business Manager as well. She says, “Since the opening of the Ashram, I’ve been prioritizing the meditation retreats and sutra courses. In the DIY weekend, I had the opportunity to focus on the asanas. It was a real treat! Having the opportunity to dive into a sequence of poses and do them again and again provided a beautiful support for my body. That experience has helped my meditation practice. It was a gift to be reminded about the importance of supporting your body during this process of inner opening that comes from meditation. The beautifully deep Q&A session with Swami, followed by a Swami Sunday, completed a weekend full of Bliss!”

amala-photoSVA Board President Amala Cattafi says, “The DIY retreat reconnected me to the importance of making my yoga practice ‘full-spectrum.’ I have always favored meditation and seva over working on my body. Yet they are all connected. The DIY retreat not only reminded me of that, but gave me an easy home program that does not take any more time than my usual morning practice!”

DIY is for anyone interested in yoga and meditation. There are no prerequisites. Meticulous pose instructions are included as well as pose handouts for your personal practice. Chanting, meditation and group sessions with Swami Nirmalananda take you deeper and deeper into Consciousness. Everyone experiences amazing transformation in body, mind and heart.  Our next one is August’s DIY: Connection followed by October’s DIY: Fulfillment.

Finding the Self

aanandi ross2By Aanandi (Annie) Ross

This month’s teachings article, Physical, Prana, Mind & More…, set me pondering my experience of the maayaa-koshas, the five coverings that keep you from knowing you are Shiva. They are levels of contracted Consciousness, “…your ‘five bodies’, the levels that Consciousness takes on to become you.”

For much of my life, I have had an involved experience of anna-maayaa-kosha, the physical body, shaped, nurtured and sustained by food (“anna” in Sanskrit).  I have always been interested and involved in creating healthy, delicious food. In the 80’s I studied macrobiotics, then at the Institute for Food and Healing in NYC.  I taught cooking classes and catered my students’ weddings and parties.  Then I studied Ayurveda.

Recently I’ve been wrestling with a food situation for months. My partner gives a weekly talk at a small local church. After his talk, there is a dinner, lovingly prepared by caring members of the congregation. It is not the kind of food I usually choose to eat. So often I’ve said to myself, “I will not eat this food tonight. I’ll go home early, or just visit and not eat.”  Yet, over years, that actually happened only once or twice. Most of the time I eat the meal, while enjoying the company of the small group. I wrestle with this situation weekly. So I asked myself, “Why am I faced with this, week after week?  What can I learn here?”

After reading Physical, Prana, Mind & More…, I’ve come to see that something’s happening in the processes of a deeper level than my “food body.” Loosening my hold on anna-maayaa-kosha let me pay attention to subtler levels and look deeper. The experience of gratitude is playing in my mind, mano-maayaa-kosha. I realize I am so fortunate to have choice in what I eat. If I were in a third-world country or in prison, I would have little or no choice of food. So now I simply bless the congregation’s food and eat it, with great gratitude.

Wow, mano-maayaa-kosha, the mind, is a big one!  From childhood through adulthood I have experienced hefty confusion, including a lot of disorganization and chaos in my life. I’ve wondered, “Where does this come from?” It has been reflected in my inability to keep order in my house, paperwork, my mind, my life. But lately, I have turned a corner, so to speak, gotten over the hump. I have found what I’ve been looking for in the midst of this chaos: the experience of just being in my Self.  I notice that now, bit by bit, I create small pockets of order. I do more “deep cleaning.”  Along with that, my body is experiencing a major phase of clearing: Kundalini is presenting me with much inner chiropractor work.

My experience of vij~nana-maayaa-kosha, the “Truth” body, has also been extraordinary.  Ten years ago,  I used the Internet and googled the name I knew as that of my biological father. Since the age of 12, I had known about him, but we had never met. The Internet search brought up an article he had authored. When I read his words, I knew in Truth this was my father. Even before I had any tangible evidence that this man was my father, I was confident in telling the world I had found him. A while later, it was amazing to actually meet him in Israel.

When I come to aananda-maayaa-kosha, the bliss body, I have a wonderful childhood memory. I was 7 or 8 years old, up on a hilltop at night, looking out at the dazzling city lights. The moment was ecstatic, blissful beyond words. I know now I was experiencing the pure delight of Shakti, all the sparkle and creation, in my bliss body.

And now, through my Svaroopa® yoga practices, I know there is even more! Tat Tvam Asi: Thou art THAT — the Self that’s I’ve always been seeking. The wonder of Svaroopa® yoga is that it focuses on the Self, while working on all your bodies simultaneously.  In “Celebrating Light (December 2016), Swamiji said, “Accepting your small-s self is part of finding your capital-S Self.”

Our current month’s article, along with Guru’s Grace, has helped me experience the layers of my small-s self. This process has enabled me also to heed her warning: “The problem is you get enamored with your bodies.” Instead of getting stuck in a “covering” over my Self, the teachings of this article have lovingly moved me into and through my small-s self, level by level.

opening-the-doorway-within

This has opened me to her final guidance, “Deepen into the core of your being and allow your radiance to shine from inside out.” Thus, I am becoming more and more established in That.  Along the way, more and more japa is a great support!

Summer: Pitta Season

binduBy Maureen Shortt

Ayurveda describes how we live within, as well as embody, the energies of nature: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Each has qualities that we can perceive relative to the other energies. For instance, we know that air is light relative to the heaviness of earth. We know that water is cool relative to the heat of fire.

The seasons also have energies relative to one another. We can perceive the humidity and heat of the summer months relative to the dryness and cold of winter. Moving toward the summer months, pitta season, you will find it helpful to apply Ayurvedic principles. They enable you to maintain your best health and to stay open to your knowing of your own Divinity.

One Ayurvedic principle is that “like increases like” which means that the heat and moisture of summer outside increase the heat and moisture inside your body and mind. This excess of pitta energy can show up as skin conditions, fevers, allergies, inflammation, reflux, loose stools, frustration, anger or pressure.

To avoid these problems as you move into and through summer, make simple lifestyle choices to support healthy Pitta. Pitta-friendly veggies include asparagus, green beans, cucumbers, summer squashes, avocadoes and fennel. Continue eating lots of cooked greens.  For raw greens, and add oil; think salad dressing.  For fruits in summer, indulge in cooling melons as well as seasonal sweet fruits such as peaches, apricots, berries, apples, coconuts, dates and figs.

Balanced summer grains include amaranth, oats, quinoa and wheat. Combine them with mung beans and split mung as well as the small beans like lentils. For dairy, stick with soft cheeses like cottage cheese or goat cheese. Keep your yogurt to a minimum as the sour taste aggravates pitta. Cilantro, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cardamom will keep your digestive fire going without over-stimulating it.

Within the rest of your summer lifestyle, think cool and relaxed. The lifestyle word for pitta is “moderation.” Enjoy the coolness of shade. Walking by water, especially under a full moon, balances pitta beautifully. Wear cool colors like whites, blues and purples. Be easy on yourself. Don’t over commit. Do give yourself plenty of time for long Shavasanas. This way you will welcome the lightness and Consciousness-expansiveness of pitta season.

My Foundations Experience

Janet NeffBy Janet Neff

My Foundations experience was powerful and positive. Yet I never expected to work so hard during those few days. Everything I was learning seemed completely overwhelming! But I got used to the pace. And during the week that followed it all sank in. Then I realized how very much I had absorbed.

Much of what I heard slowly seeped into my head, my mind, my body and my heart. I learned new words, poses, adjustments and facility in using the handouts. I gained ease in moving my body (and arranging blankets!). I learned about the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism along with meditation and chanting. All was so deep and enriching.

4Now when I do the poses in my own practice, I hear the voices of my Foundations Teachers and Yogeshwari Fountain, my local teacher, too! I know more about what is behind it all. My experience in my local class as well as my personal practice is enriched because this thorough learning is taught by knowledgeable and experienced yogis. I also experienced deep physical, mental and emotional openings. I felt that our meditation and chanting sessions helped to solidify our learning and focus our mind and energy.

During the course, I learned the poses and how to teach them with different partners. I observed how that process breaks down barriers. Afterward, I felt closer to every person I worked with. Those I did not get to work with still felt a little bit like strangers to me. Next time, I’ll make sure to partner with every person in our group, if possible.

To me, this experience showed that barriers break down if we get close enough to touch people in healing ways. We see other persons with a more loving and open heart. I am so grateful for the experience. I am so grateful to Yogeshwari for opening the way to my Svaroopa® yoga exploration. I’m not sure yet whether or not I will teach, or whether Foundations will be for my personal experience alone. In time, it will all be revealed. Of that I’m sure.

Where Would We Be without Teachers?

karunaBy Karuna Beaver, SVA Board Member

I have had some amazing teachers in my life. One sparked a love of reading. Another taught me not only how to sing but how to find my voice. My first boss showed me how to be a responsible journalist by respecting all points of view. These teachers and many more helped shape who I am today. They taught me how to do things, how to view things and how to be in the world.

Yet it was my first yoga teacher who helped me see who I was beyond what I could think, do or say. She inspired me to look inside and to view both the world and my place in it in a completely different way. She inspired me to become a yoga teacher.

Swami NirmalanandaSwami Nirmalananda says yoga teachers are unique “because they are not teaching you how to manage the world, or to succeed in worldly ambitions. Yoga teachers teach you how to be in your own skin. They teach you how to find the wholeness in your own being and bring that into your day-to-day, breath-to-breath, relationship-to-relationship world.” To me, this is the “real world.” It’s the world in which you discover you are more than your mind, your accomplishments and your relationships. Yoga opens your door to this “More.”

And yoga teachers hold the key. Swamiji says, “Without the teachers, there would be no Svaroopa® yoga. Without the teachers, there would be no yoga of any kind at all. If the next generation hadn’t been trained, yoga wouldn’t have come down to us.”

SV1714_Lineage Fundraiser logo_v1As a yoga organization, an Ashram, we rely on those who care about the world being uplifted and inspired by this kind of teaching. We rely on you. Our spring fundraiser’s theme is “Inspiring the Next Generation.” A good number of our teachers, myself included, are reaching retirement age. Now is the time to make a concerted effort to ensure that the Svaroopa® Sciences reach the next generation. Your generous donation to either the Scholarship Fund or to Swami Support will make a difference.

Thank you to so many of you who have already responded. Your Ashram Board of Directors thank you again and again. While our fundraiser timeline is almost over, you still have time to contribute if you have not yet done so, or to add to your gift. Your yoga teachers, and our Master Teacher, have given you so much. They have helped you recognize who and what you really are. Where would you be without them? Join me in honoring them with a gift today.

Stewards of the Grace of Our Lineage

david-king-copyBy Dhananjaya King

Guruji teaches us to live in a way that uplifts the world. She teaches us to live in the fullness of the capital “S” Self.  She has dedicated more than half of her life to attain the ultimate and bring those teachings and practices to us. Guruji has provided a rich tool kit for those who want to pursue the ultimate goal, those who are driven to teach and those that want to relieve their own pain. Yet Guruji provides even more than the teachings and practices. She showers us with the Grace of the lineage.

IMG_20160205_203711Over the centuries people who were called would sell all their belongings. They would leave their home and family to pursue what Guruji and the Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram programs offer us. As her devotee and disciple, I consider it a privilege and obligation to preserve the lineage through practice, scholarship and support. As a yogi or yogini, you are reading this now because one or more teachers or spiritual advisors pointed you in the right direction.

I came to yoga to heal my body and stop the pain. What I found was a teacher who spoke of the Divine. That teacher led me through the healing practice to the Divine relationship we all long to cultivate. Don’t get me wrong. I came to yoga to help me with the rest of my life and it did. The pain was soon gone. I was back “doing” my life even faster with more energy and capacity. It was years before I actually started to see and feel my body. I was slow to understand the true message my teacher was bringing me.

Sadhana 2Ultimately, the changes in body and mind were fueled by the Grace of Swami Muktananda and Bhagawan Nityananda. They were delivered by Guruji through my teacher to me. I am learning to allow “Doing” in the world to arise from “Being” in my Self. I want to be self-realized, and I am committed to helping anyone else who is pursuing that same goal. If that goal compels you, too, there are three ways in which you can support it.

One facet of the Ashram’s mission is to support those who have the calling to teach Svaroopa® yoga. We must enable them to live in the world while they are training to be the next generation of yogis and yoginis. When you donate during our “Inspiring the Next Generation” campaign, you can specify that your contribution goes to expanding our scholarship program.

SV1714_Lineage Fundraiser logo_v1Or you may want to donate to Swami Support. That donation goes toward freeing Guruji for more teaching, more writing, more of what uplifts each of us in this community and reaches into the wider world. A third option for your donation is to the General Fund, which supports the Ashram infrastructure of staff, utilities, information technology, facility maintenance, etc. etc.

Please join me in making a donation, in any amount that fits your budget. You will facilitate the progress and success of your yoga community. Ensure the flow of Grace is strong and unbroken.

Shaktipat Experiences

Cswami-handsollected by the SVA Communications Team

“How can I begin to express my gratitude for His gift. He gave me to me.” — Swami Nirmalananda

MahaShaktipat is the ultimate gift, the initiation into Knowingness and Beingness. Swamiji celebrates May 31st as her birth into her Self, more important than the day on which she was born into this world.  Thus, May 31st is a Holy Day for us. It was the day our Guru received what she now gives to those of us who would like to receive the ultimate.

Maitreyi Margie Wilsman

I received my first intentional Shaktipat at a Retreat in Boston. Yogeshwari sponsored it at a retreat center. I went to support her (strange reason) since she had come to teach here in Wisconsin so many times. I arrived a day early and, with others, helped her set up. I helped with making photo copies of Sri Guru Gita for each of us to use. It was quite an effort, but we did it on time in a little town nearby. We were so excited.

Whatever started there opened my heart more fully to Swamiji as my Guru. Since then, I have never doubted her nor what she asks me to do. During the weekend, my heart felt like it was bursting open inside my chest — again and again. I did not fully understand Kundalini. I was not ready for all she was doing inside and outside for me.  But now her work continues.

My gratitude is unlimited and just grows and grows. How can that be possible? Swamiji is the best role model in sharing her continual gratitude towards Baba, her Guru and my Grandpa Guru. As her May 31st Shaktipat birthday approaches. my love goes out to her, to Baba, and to Nityananda too — and on to the entire lineage. We do all reside as One in my heart. We are all together in the flow of Guru’s Grace that is unending.

Shaktipat hand on headChiti Aion

My first Shaktipat was March 5 2016, at Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. The month before, I briefly met Swamiji for the first time before at Foundations. At Foundations, the stirrings of Divine energy, which I had felt in the past, were given the name of Kundalini.

I went into the program not knowing what to expect, but I had a deep knowing that this she was my Guru and this was my path. The first day, I experienced the halahala poison of doubt and anxiety. The second day, my Guruji burned away my doubts and gave me direct experience and access to my Self within. I experienced heart opening kriyas that gave me the capacity to accept my Guruji’s love. By the end of the retreat, I was full to the brim! Swamiji gave me everything, and I lay my head at her feet in gratitude and loving service.

Shanti Catacchio

My first intentional Shaktipat occurred at a retreat in Massachusetts in 2012. The following February, I was off to India with Swamiji, spending time in Ganeshpuri and then on to the Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, the largest gathering on earth. I had no intention of going to India when I set off to see what Shaktipat was all about. I could list hundreds of reasons for not being the “go to India” kind of person. Through the gift of Shaktipat, however, I found another layer of my being, one less defined by my fears and limitations. I went to India as Ellan and came home as Shanti. The changes in me caused ripples through my family as well.  So far I have not felt the need to go back to India, but I have gone to many Shaktipat retreats. I intend to attend more, because each time another layer of my own Divinity is revealed to me.

Nityaa Robin Blankenship

My first Shaktipat was on June 20 2013 in North Andover MA. Swamiji told us there were different intensities of Shaktipat, which reminded me of the different intensities of espresso. On the first day, it felt to me like a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. When Swami touched me, I felt energy rise up and go through my upper back and neck where it had previously been blocked. I felt Kundalini go all the all the way up into my head, then down into my hands.

hands upMy hands stretched straight in front of me and my fingers extended and froze for a moment. My mind said, “Should I be scared that my hands will stay paralyzed?” I decided not to be scared. I felt so safe.

I felt like a lever on a faucet had been opened in my lower spine. Something changed in that place forever after that. I kept that feeling of awareness in my lower spine for a long time.

Rudrani Nogue

My first intentional Shaktipat experience was not the explosive “aha” moment my mind was hoping for. Instead, I was given “more” — an ongoing, inextinguishable yearning for Self, Grace, God and Guru. Guru’s Grace and my daily practices continue to unwrap Swamiji’s gift of awakened Consciousness. This initiation was the gift of my life. I am forever filled with amazement and gratitude to Swamiji.

Matrika Gast

My first Shaktipat experience happened in (probably) April 2000. Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama) gave a heart opening weekend in a studio where I taught another yoga style. There were towers of plaid blankets that she had shipped from San Diego to Concord MA.

supported fishIn Supported Fish, a bonfire raged in my low back. I was given a folded blanket to support my hips. Less fire, more confusion. “I’m a yoga teacher. Why am I the only one in this room of 20 students who needs extra propping?” Of course, the physical reason was a super-tight spine. But looking back, I see that fire as Kundalini, fueled by Swamiji’s Presence. I am thankful to say that conflagration began clearing the way. It led me onto the Svaroopa® Vidya path. It continues to burn through “stuff” on my way to Self.

Saguna Goss

I was at my first retreat with Swami (Rama back then). After the second night of our program, she told us that we might get the call to meditate at 3 am. While I was excited about the possibility, I was also doubtful. I had been trying to be a morning person for over a decade and was failing miserably. But, sure enough, at 3 am, I woke up, and the call to meditate was very tangible. I sat to meditate.

After a few minutes of japa repetition, in the distance I could hear what I called “white noise.” As it grew louder, I realized it was Om — or what we approximate when we say “Om.” As I sat, I experienced Om vibrating. It drew closer and closer permeating all objects animate and inanimate. I could tell that it was going to permeate me as well, but I could not let it. I opened up eyes in wonder of the experience I just had. It felt like only a few minutes had passed, but when I looked at the clock it had been over an hour.

Karen Schaub

I went to my first Shaktipat knowing very little about Kundalini and even less about Shaktipat diksha. I simply trusted that I wanted the “more.” It was quite an awakening! I remember having Guruji touch my forehead for the first time. In that instant it felt as though she was reaching down through my head and spine right to my tailbone. I also remember seeing the image of doors, from which I looked out at the world, being blown open; as from a sudden gust of wind that scared some birds from the nearby trees. My view was forever changed.