Enlightenment & Karma

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

The recent hurricane flooded the Ashram’s yard, creating a river that flowed right into our basement.  Ashram residents began digging trenches in the mud and bailing water out from window wells.  The plumber came and replaced the sump pump.  The landscaper came and added a drainage pipe to the trenches dug by our amateurs, which he officially approved as being perfectly placed.  We swept and bailed in the basement, trying to contain the water in non-carpeted areas.  Two hours later, everyone was done, drenched to the skin and laughing.

Being enlightened doesn’t mean that everything in the world goes smoothly.  It simply means that you’re not upset when things are hard.  If you’re interested in enlightenment because you want life to go smoothly, you’re looking in the wrong place.  Enlightenment is not about how things go on the outside.  It is about how you are on the inside – always full of light, even in the dark of the night, even when your karma is catching up with you.

Enlightenment doesn’t mean that you’re free from karma.  If you’ve got a body, you’ve still got karma.  What enlightenment does is give you better karma.  How?  Because you’re no longer doing things for your own satisfaction.  Everything you do is in service to others, which gives you very good karma.  It’s only your selfishness that gives you future karmic pain.

Why are you selfish?  Because you feel needy, and it has been your experience that other people are not prioritizing your needs over theirs.  They did when you were an infant, but that time is over.  Maybe you still want to be waited on in that way?  You can move to a senior facility and get them to do everything for you.  I’ve seen people in their 50’s residing in such retirement homes, no longer having to pump out wet basements or even do their own laundry.  It used to be that you could live on a cruise ship, always on the way to some exotic port, but that’s not good for your health right now. Your neediness simply dissolves when you experience your own deeper essence.  Your self-centeredness fades away, even disappearing from your memory, when you live in the fullness of your own inherent Divinity.  You still take care of your body, but it really has few needs when you get right down to it.  Your heart overflows with the bliss of your own being and your mind looks for ways to serve others.  It’s such an easy way to live, even when the yard is flooding and the basement needs to be pumped out.  Do more yoga.

Why I Meditate

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi

I don’t meditate for enjoyment or peace.  That may sound strange.  Unless I settle deep into samadhi, meditation is not peaceful for me.  A blissful state, samadhi is a profound inner absorption into Consciousness.  When not sinking in, however, my mind is even more active than during the rest of the day.  

So why do I sit to meditate?  That’s easy!  I meditate for what meditation is giving me when I am off my meditation seat.  I meditate for how meditation is transforming my life and how I experience the world.  Now, everything is sacred.  Everything has profound meaning.

I must admit that I spent years in resistance to this inner transformation.  It was a constant internal tug-of-war.  I would dive headfirst into the yogic fire, the transforming power of Grace.  But then I’d hold back with a death grip.  I wanted to prevent anything in my life from changing too much.  I did this push and pull for years.  The word “renunciation” terrified me.  I thought everything would be out of my control.  I feared what yoga was going to take away from me.

Now I am free of this resistance and fear, for which I’m eternally grateful.  Guru’s Grace and Shaktipat are the root of my inner transformation.  Additionally, two recent events “conspired” to further rid me of this fear and resistance.  First, I had the seva (selfless service) of supporting our new swamis in their initiation into renunciation.  My role was to assist them with mundane aspects of preparing for their vows.  Little did I know, I was reciprocally adapting to their graceful process.  Truly amazing, it was so easy!   My life did not blow up.  I lost nothing except the fear, while my long-held attachments dissolved.  It all simply got easier, because I was no longer grasping those things.  I didn’t need them to create my sense of self.

The second event that pushed me through further was the pandemic.  Because of the shutdown, I had to temporarily relinquish my regular Ashram visits.  It was like a death.  I had become dependent on regular immersion in the Grace that comes from sitting at Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s feet.  I had been riding that wave every week, through all the rest of my week.  How would I survive?

Only one way — I had to get consistent in my personal sadhana, my home practices.  I have always had such resistance to this.  As I said above, meditation is not generally peaceful for me.  It was always so easy to find something else to do.  Besides, I didn’t need to meditate because I was riding on the Shakti wave that came from my visit.  

So, as the pain of separation enveloped me, I got up and into my yoga room every day, same time, same routine.  I performed arati (candle flame ceremony); I chanted Shri Guru Gita.  And I joined the Ashram’s online Meditation Club, created by Gurudevi for yogis staying at home during the pandemic.  This routine is now so engrained that my mind cannot talk me out of it.  My mind rarely even tries to talk me out of it now.  This shift is HUGE!  I am so grateful.  Little by little, I am renouncing my resistance.

I recently took Gurudevi’s very first online Shaktipat Retreat.  I was so surprised by how deep it was.  I had an experience that I am still trying to assimilate.  As I’ve described, my mind is much more active when I sit to meditate.  In meditation and chanting, I am finding my body is also very active.  Usually, I see this experience of Kundalini as clearing blockages to my access to Self.  During the Shaktipat Retreat, I had a little inner conversation with Kundalini about this.  She made it clear that She is working within me to give me my Self.  However, She also let me understand that I use active mind and movement as a form of resistance.  I am looking closely at how, where and what I’m resisting.  I am resisting the ever-expanding joy of Self-Realization.   Why would I resist what I long for so dearly?

My resistances are not deliberate, intentional or conscious.  So the only thing I can do is apply mantra and awareness.  Applying awareness to these inner, hidden resistances is like turning over rocks in the garden.  I have to hose out all of the gunk that’s been hiding underneath for lifetimes.  When I sit to meditate, I give Kundalini time to do this work for me. The resulting inner clarity gives me the ability to deal easily with all life challenges.  I see the sacredness of everything, everywhere.  And joy is always easily bubbling up inside me.  I want to live in this awareness of my own Divinity and the Divinity of everything all the time.  And I still have a way to go.  That is why I meditate.

Connecting the Dots

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

Intellect and heart — how can these possibly go together?  Gurudevi poses this question in Enlightenment & Devotion.

It’s a simple equation.  The more yoga I do, the better I feel.  My body doesn’t hurt as much, and I’m nicer to those I live with.  I have more energy, and I want to spend more of that energy helping others.  Yoga poses, meditation and studying with Gurudevi Nirmalananda has impacted my body, mind and heart.  That leads to my devotion, both to the practices and the teacher who gave them to me.

Gurudevi writes, “Devotion is an important part of the process.  You need to put your heart into it.”  The problem, she says, is that in order to feel devotion, “you must be separate from the object of your devotion.”

I am, of course, devoted to my Guru.  I am in awe of Her and how much She has taught and given to me.  Her most important gift was the Shaktipat initiation that awakened me to my own potential.  It lit a fire within that gave me the experience of my deeper essence.  I have put her on a pedestal.  That means that I am devoted to a Self-Realized Being who is separate from me.  Herein lies the problem.  Gurudevi asks in her article, “Are you going to worship the Divine Human or become Divine yourself?” Devotion, she says, is essential in either case.

My answer to that question is both!  I am devoted to my honored Guru, a person separate from me.  And I am devoted to the inward path of discovering my own Divinity.  I am devoted to recognizing myself as a Divine Human.  In the process, my mind is often my worst enemy.  It tears me down and makes me feel small, not Divine at all.  That’s when I know I need to do more yoga. My yoga practices open my mind to the deeper reality within me.  And then I understand that my heart is not separate from my intellect.  In actuality, my heart is the source of my intellect.  There is no disconnect.  They can, and do, go together.  I can be devoted to the Divine Human that is Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  I can be devoted to the Divine Human that is Karuna.  I can use my intellect in the pursuit of knowing and being my own Self.  I can connect all the dots that are me, whether they seem elevated or base.  They all connect to the same thing — my own Divine Essence.

Our Ashram’s Can-Do Attitude

By Shanti (Ellan) Catacchio, interviewed by Priya Kenney

“I am so delighted that the Ashram has the ability to travel virtually,” says Shanti.  “At the March Shaktipat retreat online, Swami Shrutananda told us, ‘Grace beams up to a satellite from Gurudevi and beams right back down into your device.’  I have found that to be true.  It was a blessing to have the Ashram in my home.” 

Our Ashram has a can-do attitude and the ability to make things happen. For four months, physically visiting our Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram has not been an option because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Within days of March 2020 stay-at-home orders, the Ashram responded by coming to us through the Internet.  

“Early in the pandemic, I had an online yoga class with Yogaratna Atmananda.”  Shanti realized, ‘Oh my, we can do this.’  When Gurudevi did a satsang online, I was sure of these capacities.  The Ashram was so quick to respond!  I clearly see the Ashram is more than the buildings in Downingtown.  Gurudevi, Ashram residents and staff are all so willing to do what needs to be done.  And all are capable of stepping into previously unfamiliar technology.  The Ashram is embodied Grace.  Grace is the heart and soul of the Ashram and the services it provides to us seekers.”

Shanti appreciates the many wonderful online programs:  asana (pose) classes, Meditation Club, Japa Club, Enlightenment Studies, Gurudevi’s Year Long Programme and Swami Sunday.  She describes, “These practices have helped me through the pandemic and life in general.  I’m grateful so much is available.  I’m hearing the teachings in a different way.  Even with everything happening in my personal life and the world, I’ve found myself being calm.  I’ve thought, shouldn’t I be more upset?  I wondered whether my calm was delusion. Was I negating reality?  I don’t think so.” 

The Ashram’s steady presence shapes Shanti’s response to civil unrest.  “A Black Lives Matter and Back The Blue/Trump rally was organized in my town,” says Shanti.  “Days before, a lot of anger and fear went back and forth on the town’s Facebook page.  I wondered, could I go?  I went and wasn’t afraid.  It turned out to be very calm.  Recently, Gurudevi talked about the power of the ‘butterfly effect’ in her online Swami Sunday discourse.  I realized, if I maintain my state settled in Self, that’s going to help.” 

Shanti is finishing up Gurudevi’s course on the Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam.  It has shown her how the Ashram carries the enlivened, ancient teachings into our modern world.  “When I first looked at that course, I had doubts,” recounts Shanti. “How was Gurudevi going to maintain our interest for two years and how could I afford the cost?  An Ashram ‘sister’ encouraged me to do it, reassuring me that the money would work out.  It did.  I think about who I was then and who I’ve come to be through the class.  I’m so different. Gurudevi brought the teachings alive.  With each verse of this sacred text, Gurudevi gave us practices that allowed me to integrate these deep teachings. She’s working on me. 

“Twenty years ago, I walked into a yoga class with a sore shoulder.  So I’ve known Gurudevi since she was Rama and I was Ellan.  In 2003, I started Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher Training in La Jolla where Gurudevi (then Rama) first established Master Yoga, her original organization.  When it moved to PA and morphed into the Ashram, I didn’t understand nor could I imagine what I know now.  Everything is about the Ashram.  Then, as now, Gurudevi’s vision is to provide the structure and services to enable seekers know the Self within.” The Ashram’s commitment to supporting Self-Realization led Gurudevi to establish a Vowed Order.  That is an important heart and soul connection for Shanti.  “The Vowed Order is my tribe,” she shares.  “Participating as a Vowed Member enhances and grounds me to my commitment.  I can’t imagine being on this path and not having other people that I can talk to who are doing the same thing.  Grace brought me to what I needed and didn’t even know I wanted.”

It’s Like Learning to Swim

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

Trying to understand enlightenment is like trying to learn to swim by reading a book.  To swim, you have to actually get into a body of water.  To get enlightened, you have to place yourself in something bigger than you — except the bigger thing is you.  When you’re enlightened, you’re the water as well as the person paddling around in it.  Unfortunately, you cannot understand enlightenment by thinking about it.  Yet you must think about it, or your mind will lead you in the wrong direction.

I remember learning how to swim.  I was ten years old.  My parents installed a swimming pool in our back yard, specifically so my home would be the popular hangout when I was a teenager.  It worked, though it was the pool that was popular, not me.  Concerned about safety, my parents taught me to swim as well as many of the other teens who came around.

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What surprised me was that I floated.  Even if I didn’t move, I floated.  All I had to do was lift my head to breathe.  Then I learned to move my arms and legs in order to move around.  But moving around was less interesting to me than being underwater.  I spent my teenage years underwater as much as possible.  It was quiet in there.  I sensed a deep stillness that went beyond the edges of the pool.  It was an inner stillness. I was submerging myself in a big cocoon of water to get inside — it was a meditation, though I didn’t know it.

For thousands of years, the sages of India have been using water metaphors to explain that you must dive inside.  My Guru said to plunge deeper and deeper within, to discover the Self that you already are.  Then he made it easy for us by giving us Shaktipat, the initiation that awakens the Self to arise within.  Deepening and arising — down and up metaphors. 

There is also the inner expansion, a metaphor using inward and outward, withdrawing and expanding simultaneously.  This experience, the expanding within, is also a dissolving into ecstasy, the bliss of Consciousness.  Expanding into the bliss of Consciousness sounds pretty good, right?

Except that what you think it is — is not what it is.  Every metaphor is limited by the mind’s capacity.  The mind cannot know the self, just like an ant cannot imagine what it is to fly like an eagle.  I quote the yogic sages, including my own Guru, plus I make up my own metaphors, but I’m not trying to help you understand enlightenment.  I’m trying to get you past your mind.  Because, when your mind stops, you experience your own Self.  Patanjali made that promise, one that is easy to fulfill.  That’s the purpose of yoga.

My favorite way of describing enlightenment is that you settle into yourself.  Just like you walk down the steps into a swimming pool, then lower down into the water, you settle inward.  Just like when you bring a big birthday cake into a room of (safely masked) people, then while they honor the birthday person, you sit contentedly on the sidelines.   Just like when you take a cup of tea into the garden or sunroom, and settle down for a few minutes of doing nothing.  You settle into your own Self.  You are already Shiva.  All you do is allow yourself to know.  Or get some help, like I did.  Shaktipat makes the difference!

Capital-S Selfcare

By Su (Vicharanee) Chafin,
interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

“Beyond the practical sense of ‘self-care’ (looking after the needs of my body and small-s self), my Guru gives me daily capital-S Selfcare,” says Vicharanee. “Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda recognizes my individuality as well as my Divinity.” Vicharanee adds that she has a Guru because she’s “in the process of ‘Selfing,’” coming to live in the knowing of her Divine Self.

Vicharanee met Gurudevi (then Rama Berch) in a 2003 yoga immersion in Rehoboth Beach DE.  Vicharanee describes her connection with Gurudevi as instant and visceral, and explains, “She is an amazing leader.  She guides people very firmly and lovingly because she is such a good teacher as well.  At the beginning, my small-s self personality was drawn to her individual form because of our shared interests.  I love music; she is a musician.  I am a therapist and teacher; she is a yoga therapist and teacher.  While she’s a Realized Being, her ‘personhood’ worked for me.  It made it easier for me to follow her.  It was later that I understood why I need a Teacher (with a capital T): to guide me to my innermost being.”

“I grew up Christian, and later, became interested in New Age spirituality.  Yet everything I had tried in my journey wasn’t enough.  I would end up dissatisfied, even though I knew I wanted a spiritual life.  I had many rich spiritual experiences trying out many systems.  I even spent a few summers at a holistic studies institute in the ‘90s.  But what I was finding in New Age spirituality was a lot of ego (like how many prana pumps could you master).  The places I was finding in my search didn’t have a Swami and Grace.  I kept seeking.  Then the Guru showed Herself to me when I didn’t know I needed one.  It’s said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In 2009, Gurudevi took sannyas vows, becoming Swami Nirmalananda, recalls Vicharanee.  She says, “It was easy to see that She had been developing into her role all along.  When I did approach Gurudevi and asked her to be my Guru, she replied, ‘You don’t have to ask.’

“I laughed, and she said, ‘Isn’t it obvious?’  I suddenly understood the knowing that her Svaroopa® Sciences explore.  I had the experience, and then, in that moment, came the knowing about why I longed for and needed a Guru.  Had you had asked me years ago whether I would now have a Guru, I may have snickered.  It is a rich relationship.  

“I used to focus more on her.  Through her help, however, the focus has shifted to my own inner Self.  It feels deep and otherworldly.  It is like Gurudevi washes me by hand, and puts me out to dry.  Thus, I can return to my worldly responsibilities crisp and clean.  She gives me sevas that are just right for my growth.  Other teachers could not give me my Self.  Nor could they teach me how to find Me in the way my soul craved.  It is a pure and genuine relationship, which supersedes all others in my life.”

In this way, Vicharanee’s relationships have transformed.  “Other people don’t know how much they need me to have a Guru!  I am a better being for them as well as myself.  Practicing as a psychologist, I’ve always known the importance of service.  Now I serve others from the inner place of Self.  Guru’s Grace does the work, and I am a more effective therapist by light years.  I’ve learned it’s not about me.  I get out of the way, so Grace can take over.  And at the same time, I know there is more — more than just helping me live better in my body and in the world.  Through Her integrity I am transformed.” Vicharanee points to Gurudevi’s relationship with her own Guru, Swami Muktananda, as the root of her ability to serve others.  She clarifies, “Gurudevi is a good disciple, and she shows me how to be a good disciple.  And it’s working!  I know this because She isn’t interested in giving me Her, but in giving me my own Self.  This is why I have a Guru.  I am so fortunate!”

Why I Meditate

By Karen (Kumuda) Schaub,
interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Kumuda had been taking a Bliss-Level Class in Svaroopa® Yoga for a few years.  One day her teacher asked, rather directly, “Do you want to come to Shaktipat?”  Inside she knew she was ready.  “Yoga class started me on a path of knowing of who I am: the Self.  Going to Shaktipat (the awakening of one’s Kundalini energy) was a profound expansion of that knowing.  I experienced a deep peace and bliss.  Gurudevi’s Grace gave me the direct experience of Consciousness.  I realized that this was the purpose of life that I had always looked for on the outside.”

The roots of meditation had been planted early on.  Kumuda recalls, “I saw my mom meditate as I grew up. She’d wake up everyday at 4:30 to do her practice.”  Thus, the idea of cultivating a meditation practice wasn’t foreign to Kumuda.  Her mother often said it’s important to keep one foot in eternity and the other in mundane reality.  So since 2013, Kumuda has continued to attend Shaktipat retreats.  Her experiences have developed and deepened her meditation practice over time.

“Every year, I go to Shaktipat,” she says.  “That deep opening to Self brings me back again to my initial awakening: beautiful, awesome. Expanded on the inside to all that space.  I feel open and clear with all this space on the inside.  The first year, I tried to meditate at home and stopped.  By the second retreat, the daily practice talk made it clear I needed to support myself to stay open.  Disciple’s grace — self-effort — is necessary for Kundalini to take root, and to keep more of That.  If I wanted to become more steady in myself, I had to have a daily practice.”

“I would begin with Ujjayi Pranayama and chanting to prepare.  I became more settled.  I made a ‘meditation nest’ that was there and ready for me at all times.  I would meditate before work.  Still, it took a long time to build consistency and everydayness.  I’d skip a day or two, then have to wrangle my mind back in.”  Kumuda was experiencing what Gurudevi often says: “Never get too far away from your last meditation.”

In the 7 years since receiving her first Shaktipat, Kumuda has observed the changes.  “I come to life in a different way now.  My tone of voice is different.  I might still have reactions, but I don’t engage in them the same way.  Over the years, as I meditate more consistently, I am more open, more centered.  I don’t give into reactions or create the drama around the reaction.  My profound and deep practice links me to the very Essence of who we all are.”

When Kumuda’s mother passed away unexpectedly last summer, meditation was Kumuda’s lifeline.  She says, “Meditation kept me upright.  With everything swirling around me, my sudden grief, and all the estate details, my thirty-minute meditation was time I carved out just for me.  I knew I had to make room for it, as nothing felt like ‘me’.  But when I meditate, I know Who I am: The Self.”

Being furloughed from work since the pandemic, Kumuda has had time for the daily online sessions of the Ashram’s Japa Club and Meditation Club. “Mantra and meditation intervene on my mind’s activity,” she describes. “I am quieter inside.  When my mind goes off on a trajectory, I speak to it.  I say, ‘Thank you, but no!’  In meditation, when I notice I am not repeating mantra, I go back to it.  Similarly, when I lose my Self, I go back to my Self, to where I am on the inside.  I am aware that I have a choice of how I am in the world, in this moment.” Kumuda has realized that the effects of daily meditation build over time. “All of a sudden I walk out the door and notice the shift has happened on the inside.  That shift is mirrored back to me through my all my interactions and relationships.  Shaktipat started it all.  The more I meditate, the more I allow the unfolding and unfurling of Guru’s Grace within me.  This is why I meditate.”

Baked Dutch Apple Pancake

By Swami Samvidaananda

I’m one of the breakfast chefs at the Ashram.  Baked Dutch Apple Pancake is one of my favorites. It’s a simple pancake batter.  And the yummy apple-maple-butter topping makes it special.  Plus, it’s fun to flip!

You get to be creative in how you lay the apple slices into the bottom of the pan.  Be fancy & create an apple slice mandala.  Or just toss them in there and create a new, random pattern each time.  Or create your own design!  Whatever you choose, it’s sure to be delicious.

Baked Dutch Apple Pancake is adapted from a recipe from Vegweb.  It serves 4 people generously.

For sufficient protein, serve with whole milk yogurt & a topping of Chili-Spiced Walnuts.  Each serving plus the side dishes provides about 18 grams of protein (1/4 pancake + 1/4 cup walnuts + 1/3 cup yogurt).

Ingredients for this meal give the six Ayurvedic tastes.  The pancake, of course, is mostly sweet: the flour, ghee, apples, applesauce, sugar & maple syrup all provide the sweet taste.  The yogurt & Chili-Spiced Walnuts provide the other tastes and add protein.  The yogurt is for sour, and the Chili-Spiced Walnuts are for salty, pungent, astringent & bitter.

Ingredients & Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Prepare:
    3–4 apples (I like a combination of Granny Smith and Gala.)
    Peel and thinly slice.
  3. Combine in a 9” baking pan or pie pan,
    1/3 cup maple syrup
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    3 tablespoons ghee or butter
  4. Put the baking/pie pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the ghee melts. Remove and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Arrange the apple slices, overlapping, over the syrup mixture in the pan. (This is where you get to be creative.) Set your pan aside.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together:
    3/4 cup whole milk
    1/3 cup applesauce
    1 Ener-G egg Replacer (or egg replacer of your choice)
    1 tablespoon ghee, melted
  7. In a medium bowl, combine:
    1 1/4 cups flour
    4 tablespoons sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  It’s okay if there are a few lumps, as it’s important that you don’t over-mix it.  Pancake batter is like that — if you mix it too much, it will make your pancake tough.
  9. Pour the batter over the apples.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pancake has puffed up and turned light golden brown, while the maple-butter bubbles around the edges.
  11. While it’s baking, make your Chili-Spiced Walnuts:  sauté walnuts in a small amount of ghee or butter, stirring so that each walnut is lightly coated and wet.  Add generous amounts of salt and chili seasoning, toss to mix well.  Add spices to taste.
  12. Remove the pan from oven and flip it over onto a serving plate.  

To flip it, use a serving plate that’s just a little larger than your baking pan.  Place the serving plate upside down on top of your baking pan. Using potholders, get a firm hold of the edge of both the baking pan and the serving plate at the same time.  Get as secure a grip as you can; then carefully pick them up together.  Remembering that the baking pan is piping hot, quickly flip them over.

Lift the baking pan off your pancake, revealing your baked apple topping.  You did it!  

It’s okay if a few apples stick to the bottom of your baking pan.  Simply scoop them out of the pan and put them on your pancake. Hot maple-butter syrup coats the top and will pool around your pancake.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

International Day of Yoga 2020

By Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

“You will live your life even more fully and purposefully, once you are based in your own eternal, unending, ever-expanding, inner ecstasy.”  Thus, Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda reminds us of yoga’s promise.  An authentic modern expression of yoga’s ancient teachings, her Svaroopa® Sciences focus on practices to fulfill yoga’s promise.  Like a walking stick, they support you on the path to ever-expanding, inner ecstasy. How are you celebrating International Day of Yoga in June?  You celebrate birthdays of beloved family and friends.  You decorate with balloons, sing Happy Birthday and light candles on a cake.  Even if you are in “pandemic stay at home mode,” you get together online for this party.  You wouldn’t skip celebrating their presence in your life.  So if you’re planning to skip International Yoga Day, ask yourself, “Why?”

There’s every reason in the world to celebrate this day. Svaroopa® yoga teacher Phil (Krishna) Milgrom notes, “International Yoga Day was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2014 and has been celebrated every year since 2015.  The 21st of June was chosen because, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the day of the year with the most hours of sunlight.”  It’s a great day for Svaroopa® yoga, which opens practitioners to the ecstasy of their own inner Divine Light.  This year, June 21 is also Father’s Day in the US and other countries.  So you’ll notice celebrations before and after June 21 as well as on the day itself.  Downingtown Yoga as well as the Rehoboth DE GeoCenter and the Greater New England GeoCenter have planned for this option.

Rehoboth GeoCenter Liaison Kelly (Kushala) Sharp describes what International Yoga Day means to her.  She says, “Yoga is a big part of my life these days.  Personally, yoga is my career, my passion and my spiritual practice.  Celebrating International Yoga Day is a great opportunity to join in solidarity with the whole world to promote yoga.”  Depending on her state’s “stay at home” orders in June, the Rehoboth Beach GeoCenter programs will be either in person on online.

Margot Garritt, Greater New England GeoCenter Liaison, remembers observing U.S. Yoga Day years before there was an International Day of Yoga.  Teaching in Falmouth, MA, she’s eager to join other Greater New England GeoCenter teachers in International Yoga Day participation this year.  Margot sees this initiative as reinvigorating the idea of having the whole community doing things together in support of each other, the Ashram and the community at large.  She says, “It engages everyone’s interest and spreads the word.  The collaboration results in synergy.  In our GeoCenter, celebrating International Day of Yoga is uniting a dozen teachers.  Geographically, we range from NH, ME & VT to MA, CT & RI.  Having a joint focus, even with our offerings online, is wonderful.  They include Philosophy Discussion Groups, Svaroopa® yoga classes, Svaroopa® Vidya Satsangs and vichara sessions.”

Depending on PA “stay at home” status, you’ll find Downingtown Yoga’s Free Events either online or in person.  Either way, you can spend the whole weekend celebrating the International Day of Yoga:

Saturday, June 20

Sunday, June 21

10:00 am–11:30 am: FREE Swami Sunday (for those attending Saturday programs)

Take advantage of Downingtown Yoga’s abundant, free online events to celebrate.  And take classes with local teachers online as well.  No local classes online yet?  Let your local teacher know that now is the time to start.  Spread the bliss — say how important celebrating International Yoga Day is to you!  As a Svaroopa® yoga student, you’ll honor yourself for having chosen this way to nurture and reverence your own spirit.

Gurudevi Is a Lunar Rockstar

By Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

I consider Satguru Swami Nirmalananda my Lunar Rockstar.  Gurudevi, as we affectionately call her, supports me in exploring the celestial and cosmic universe.  It began on the outside.  My original career path, mathematics and physics, focused on understanding the realities hidden deep within our cosmos.  I built a telescope.  On my belly, with a tripod and camera, I photographed the constellations, tracking them through Minnesota winter night skies.  I decorated my home with large, color photos of the Milky Way galaxy.  And “Fly Me to the Moon” has always been a favorite song:

Fly me to the moon

Let me play among the stars

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and Mars

Now, on another sort of cosmic path, I am an ardent follower of Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  She is clearly a cosmic teacher.  She is filled with mystical teachings, that she absorbed from her Guru and integrated into her life.  Her work is to bring these ancient teachings into the world is to support seekers like me and you.  They support us toward the goal of Self-Realization.  They enable you to fulfill the yearning to become rooted in the Cosmic Consciousness.  Gurudevi assures us that abiding in this the One Reality is our birthright.  It resides inside of every human.  With Gurudevi as my guide, my cosmic universe perspective has shifted from outside to inside.  Let me explain.

To accomplish the mystical process of Self-Realization, you need a living teacher who enlivens the ancient teachings through their experience.  Gurudevi, my living teacher, is Self-Realized.  She is a Great Being, an embodied form of the formless — Consciousness Its-Self.  She too had a living Satguru, Swami Muktananda.  And he had a living Satguru, Bhagavan Nityananda.  Both of them fully embodied Consciousness.

As a Shaktipat Guru, Gurudevi specializes in awakening Kundalini, the Cosmic Power of Consciousness residing within each human being.  Awakened Kundalini reveals this True Identity to us and powers our process of learning to live in the Self.  The goal is the experiential knowing of our own Self, which is the One Self Being All.

Gurudevi’s teachings are not theoretical.  Nor does she pontificate, though she does teach directly from the yogic texts. Using spot-on metaphors and examples from her own life, she spells out the actions, practices and directions that need to be undertaken.  She explains how they establish you in Self-Knowing.  She describes what it is like when you abide in that state.

Gurudevi instructs you on how you get there in Root of Happiness.  Gurudevi points out that you do not water the blossoms of flowering plants.  Rather, you water the roots.  Similarly we do the work of watering our roots by applying Gurudevi’s Grace-filled teachings to our lives.  Her way of giving these teachings makes them applicable to our modern lives even during a pandemic.  Her teachings shift us from exclusive involvement in the outside world.  No longer stuck there, we open to our inner dimensions.  We root ourselves deeper in our True Nature, which is unlimited Bliss within.  It is the joy of the Divine.  Gurudevi teaches that it exists within you as you.  And she helps you find it and learn to live from that place within.

A poem by 14th Century Indian poet-saint Lalleshwari describes how Gurudevi, as my Shaktipat Guru, takes me there:

A fish may live without water;

the world may live without air;

you may build a castle in the sky

and even stay in it;

but to think of finding Shiva

without a guru to help you

is a mere dream.

– Lalleshwari, verse 67 (rendered by Swami Muktananda, page 32, 1981 edition)

Flying to the moon and playing among the stars is no longer a mere dream.  Gurudevi has shown me that Grace can transport me to the Cosmic Inner Reality.  She shows me this with her own illumined presence as well as with profound teachings.  This Reality awaits me as I dive deeper inside.  Gurudevi’s teachings support me in exploring this inner dimension, which is my own Self.  Now my Milky Way pictures share wall space with photos of Gurudevi, Baba Muktananda and Bhagawan Nityananda.  Waving a candle flame to the Guru has replaced my telescope.  I wave a flame to the One who lights my Inner Light and removes the darkness covering me.  Replacing my physics books are yogic texts like the Shiva Sutras along with books and monthly articles by Gurudevi.  Thanks to her, the mysterious and mystical Cosmic Reality is the place I abide, inside and outside.  I live by what Gurudevi teaches: the ancient, authentic cosmic yoga principles of life.  She shows me the way to Self-Realization.  On this path, her teachings are my walking stick.