Home Stretch

carolyn_beaverBy Karuna Beaver, SVA Board Member

We’re in the home stretch of our capital campaign to fund our spiritual home, Lokananda. A year ago, the SVA Board of Directors set out to raise $150,000 to pay for the much-needed renovation of our old Grand Dame in Downingtown PA. We came out of the gate quickly, raising more than $65,000. At the first turn, last February, we raised another $35,000 and were two-thirds of the way. This August, we embarked on the final leg of this race. Now we’re dashing along the racecourse between the last turn and the winning post — the home stretch.

It’s the tremendous dedication of you, our donors, that has sped us within sight of our goal. Thank you to each and every one of you. No matter the size of your donation, you made Lokananda happen. You ensured that we hit our stride and readied Lokananda for housing programs and participants beginning October 2015. Your generosity has enabled us to continue to make needed improvements. This means that while you are in residence, whether for a professional training or a retreat, you are at home. Your home.

1 in 100Still, there’s a bit more distance to go. If you’ve been pondering what you can do, now is the time to jump into the race! Your donation is designated for the new roof and other pre-winter needs.  You can help put that roof over your fellow yogis’ heads!

We are all together in the home stretch to securing our spiritual home’s future. The Grace that flows from Lokananda is guaranteed. Every time you visit, you come away more deeply rooted in the practices that set you free from your limitations. Every step you take towards ensuring Lokananda’s future, including the yogic practice of dakshina — financial support for the teachings — brings you closer to knowing your own inherent essence.

If you are still on the sidelines as our Bliss Place Capital Campaign draws to an end, please leap into the home stretch today. It will be great to cross that finish line all together. Know that any donation you make is really an investment in your relationship to Self, your own Divine Essence. Click here to donate. Or give us a call: 610.644.7555, weekdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time).Lokananda 3

 

Inside and Outside with Our Seasons

binduBy Bindu (Maureen) Shortt, Svaroopa® yoga teacher, Nutritional & Ayurvedic Consultant

Instead of four seasons in the year, Ayurveda identifies only three.  Spring runs March through June, when planting happens.  Summer runs July through October, when harvesting happens.  Winter runs November through February when the fields are dormant.  Depending on geographies and climate, the timeframes of these three seasons vary, in different regions across India, the birthplace of Ayurveda, as they do in different regions of the USA.

SVA_Logo_1Each of these three seasons has different energies, corresponding with the doshas.  Ayurveda sees spring as kapha, summer as pitta, and winter as vata.  Each of these energies is high during its associated month, both outside in nature and inside us human beings.  That means we tend to over-accumulate the energies of the season as it builds into its second half.

Right now, September through October, we are in the second half of the summer pitta season.  You may be noticing the over-accumulation of pitta, a fire-and-water energy, in your own body and mind.  You may have skin conditions or seasonal allergies.  Your appetite may be uncontrolled, or you may be having some loose bowels.  Other symptoms pittainclude your joints bothering you as well as getting some heartburn.

Even finding yourself feeling easily frustrated or angered, or critical of yourself or others could be excess pitta.  Perhaps you are experiencing pitta perfectionism or a bit of obsessive-compulsiveness.  You may have a very sharp tongue, wondering where it came from.  Maybe you even resent this blog trying to label you!

Any of this can be happening whether you have a pitta constitution or not.  Be easy with yourself and recognize that it is a predictable excess of seasonal energies.  How to deal with that excess? In Ayurveda we seek to pacify the excess by using the opposite.  With pitta being hot and moist, we look to cool and dry out these conditions.  Again, you do it both outside and inside.

pomegranateDietary adjustment means eating more of the cooling foods and less of the heating.  So eat less of the sour (pickles), salty (chips) and spicy (salsa) foods.  Four foods that help lower pitta the most are: cucumbers, watermelon, apples and pomegranates.  They have the three pitta balancing tastes of sweet, bitter, and astringent.

In life, stay cool, both physically and emotionally.  Walking in the moonlight, especially by water, is wonderful to cool excess pitta.  Use sweet scents like rose and sandalwood.  Listen to sweet music, especially chants.  Wear cool colors, stay in the shade and rest more.  Only watch sweet TV — no murders or mayhem.  Practice surrender, letting go of the pitta need for control.

Here is a lovely cucumber raita recipe.  It goes well with most entrees and settles excess pitta over the next six weeks or so:

  1. cucumberRemove the seeds from 1 cucumber.
  2. Peel it and use a grater to slice long strips.
  3. Add those long strips to 2 cups of plain yogurt.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon crushed black mustard seed.  You can use a mortar and pestle to crush it.
  5. Add 2 teaspoons ground cumin.
  6. Stir together and add salt to taste.

Yearning & Discipline

Saguna

By Saguna Goss, SVA Board Member

The Olympics. What a wonderful celebration of human ambition and discipline. It’s really a lot like yoga… at least that is my experience. Olympians and yogis are both filled with a deep yearning; they just yearn for different things.

As a teenager I aspired to be an Olympic champion. I played competitively on a curling team and was an athlete in the Canadian Olympic Development Association. What I remember most from those days was my yearning. I dreamed, fantasized and visualized all aspects of being an Olympian. I had notes, pictures and other reminders all over my room about my Olympic goals. I attended talks and workshops from past Olympians to learn from them and to add fuel to my yearning. And I closely monitored and studied the current Olympian champions in curling.

1 in 100Not much has changed now, except I yearn for my own Self instead of an Olympic medal. I repeat mantra instead of visualizing my sport. I fill my house with yoga books, Guru pictures and murtis (statues). I attend as many yoga classes, retreats or phone calls as possible. And I spend as much time as possible with someone who has realized her own Self — Swami Nirmalananda.

Discipline is another commonality between Olympians and yogis. A quick search online suggests that Olympic athletes train at least six days a week with full-day schedules. In the Svaroopa® Sciences, the daily discipline is emphasized in all aspects from the beginning. In a beginner’s yoga class, the first theme you learn is Daily Practice so that you can practice the poses at home. After the first class in a Learn to Meditate series, your homework is to setup a daily meditation practice. The discipline of a daily practice is key for you to reach your goal, whatever it may be.

olympic_rings-svgAt the Rio Olympics, 11,303 athletes competed, but only 974 medals were awarded. For every Olympic athlete who represented his or her country, there were many more who were competing for that spot. For every athlete at the Olympic Trials, there were even more athletes that did not make it. The Olympian Champions are the 1 in 100 in 100 in 100…

And yet, again, the same is true in yoga. There will be the 1 in 100 who experiences the yearning of the Self, 1 in 100 who acts on the yearning, 1 in 100 who has the discipline and 1 in 100 who Realizes their own Self.

As a teenager, I was part of the Canadian Olympic Development Association. It was a place for promising Olympic hopefuls to come together to develop their skill, improve their discipline and fuel their yearning. Lokananda is our Self-Realization Development Center. Lokananda - Donor gift pictureIt is a place for us to come together to develop our awareness of our own Self, improve our discipline for a daily practice and fuel our yearning for Self-Realization.

Please join me in contributing to the final stage of our Capital Campaign to complete the needed renovations for our Self-Realization Development Center, our Bliss Place, Lokananda. Click here to donate.

Heartwarming

matrikaBy Matrika Gast, SVA Board Member

Dakshina is heartwarming. When you give financially to the Source of our teachings, you are practicing dakshina. This ancient yogic practice arises from your heartfelt gratitude. And the practice opens your heart and illuminates your life even more.

Though a “child of the Sixties,” I didn’t get it when the Beatles went to India  as well as so many others who were were seeking a guru. Yet I did yearn for the “More.” I had an intuition of the “numinous” within daily reality. I think I picked up the term from Philosophy 101 in college. Wikipedia says numinous “describes the power or presence or realisation of a divinity.” Decades of continued yearning, and my floundering to satisfy it, resulted in my finally stumbling into a Svaroopa® yoga class.

alignment-with-graceThe Svaroopa® Sciences began to expand me into Self immediately. This I know now in looking back, although at the time I didn’t identify feeling fluffy, light, centered, peaceful, energized and uplifted (all at the same time) with “numinous.” Yet it anchored me into Svaroopa® yoga and, eventually, Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation. Expansion and upliftment emerged organically from these practices. Little by little, I found Self within. That sense of the numinous was within me! Truly, what a revelation!! That’s what Swami Nirmalananda, originator of our Svaroopa® Sciences does — she dispenses Grace to reveal that which has always existed. It’s just been hidden within.

I love the practice of dakshina, because it warms my heart with a tangible relationship to the Source of our powerful Svaroopa® practices. One generous donor said, “I give what I am able to give.” Each of us is unique, with unique personal financial circumstances. I described this yogi as a “generous donor,” not based on the amount given. It’s based on the willingness to know what you have received from the Source and to allow your natural gratitude to warm your heart, melt any resistance to giving back and open your wallet accordingly.

1 in 100From the generosity of your warm heart, your financial support stokes the fire and warms the heart of our whole community. Your financial support ensures the strength and reliability of Lokananda, a foundational element of our Ashram infrastructure! This makes our spiritual home a robust reality.

Examples of your loving generosity are plentiful. Here are a few reports offered by our sevite fundraisers:

“Earlier today, I sent a personal reminder email to three yogis, along with a little story of my recent stay at Lokananda.  I mentioned that if they hadn’t yet had a chance to stay there, I hoped they would have that opportunity very soon… I just heard back from one of them that she really appreciated the story about my recent stay at Lokananda and that she was glad for the links to make a donation.”

“Three yogis gave donations to the Capital Campaign: one single donation of $500; one doubling her monthly donation ongoing; and one increasing her monthly donation ongoing. Woohoo!”

“Skyping with a dedicated, longtime Svaroopi overseas, I expressed my gratitude for all that she has done to plant and nurture the Svaroopa® yoga seed in her home country. One of her students just flew to the US to take Foundations at Kripalu, and has already enrolled in Radical Anatomy for October. She understood that I had also called to ask for a donation, and explained that funds were tight due to family needs. I replied that even a $1 increase in her monthly donation would be much appreciated. Her response was to add $5 to her monthly Bliss Place contribution.”

“When I emailed a Svaroopi on my list about arranging for a call, he immediately sent this reply: ‘Would love to talk, either of those times will work, although I must say I already went in on line and added a $42 per month to my existing monthly contributions.’ So I did call him, just to say thank you.”

“A Svaroopi who had taken a YTT course at Lokananda last spring said she had asked Swamiji how to be of service. Swamiji exclaimed, “Raise money!” So this Svaroopi is planning to raise money for Lokananda at a satsang and weekend immersion that will be led by one of our Weekend Workshop leaders. The idea is, if you have great meal in a restaurant, you not only pay for it but you also leave a generous tip for the server. In this case, participants are invited to give a gratuity for the Source of their great satsang and immersion experience.”

Lokananda - Donor gift pictureThe Lokananda Capital Campaign is truly in its homestretch, closing the distance to the finish line. If you have not yet contributed, please look into your heart. Notice your gratitude for the teachings. Let it propel you into the practice of dakshina, giving back to the Source. Truly, any amount makes a difference. You’ll notice the difference inside yourself, moving you ever closer into the Bliss of Self. That is worth every penny — and more.

Body, Bliss & Beyond Retreat

sue-ciley-copyBy Shuchi Cilley

It seems like such an indulgence to give yourself a five-day retreat at Lokananda. But it’s not. In fact, I found it to be a vital part of the care and feeding of my Self. Ah, but it’s not my big-S Self that needs it; it’s my small-s self. And while my mind whined a bit about all the logistics, finances and the time away, the deeper part of me was relentlessly pushing to make sure it happened. Not only that it happened, but that I add on an extra night at the beginning, the Tuesday evening DYMC satsang, and a Half-Day Workshop before the program started.

bhairavaSo right from the beginning there it was: Bhairava at work. Arising within you, Bhairava is the force that propels you, compels you, impels you forward beyond your own understanding to the knowing of your own Self. Bhairava shatters your limitations and sets you free. As Swamiji says, “Go ahead, try to deny it. It will move you anyway.”

So I went with great joy. And, of course, at the feet of the Guru I experienced what I longed for, and more. A recent daily E-Quote advised, “You need a system, a system that works, a spiritual system that has already produced mystics and saints and continues to do so.” At the retreat, our Svaroopa® Sciences system was on full display in its scintillating wholeness — so many facets sparkling with, and in, the light of Consciousness — such abundance:

  • blissful asana
  • chanting and deep meditation in the presence of the Guru
  • japa
  • seva
  • arati ceremonies
  • darshan
  • sparkling discourses

img_20160205_210945-copyHow do I describe the experience of Swamiji demonstrating and teaching us the simultaneous vibrations in OM or immersing us in the poetry of Lalleshwari? Add in vichara, repeatedly illuminating for me the dark spots of my mind.  And enclose it all within the Shakti of Lokananda. There’s more — add in the company of so many deep Svaroopis, new friends and old, flying in from across the continent. I savored the bedtime discussions with my dear roommates, the food served us at Lokananda and our Ashram lunch with Swamiji. Time and space had no meaning; past, present, and future all together, right now, right here.

Sometimes it’s not ‘til you open your eyes that you know what your meditation has given you. And sometimes it’s not ‘til you get home that you know what a program has given you. In teaching our asana classes, Rukmini beautifully layered in my transformative experience, giving rise to all I have described here. At home again, I found the deep benefits of that experience: the fatigue behind my eyelids — gone; a few less tight spots in my mind; an open heart full of gratitude; and so many other transformations from physically being at the feet of my Guru.

In telling you, I’ve only touched the surface and it’s all still present — and more — when I try to describe it for you now. It was the full experience of the Bliss of Consciousness — playing the edge of individuality and the infinity of Consciousness through the Grace of the Guru — Guru’s Grace showered without restraint. How could I be so lucky?!

The Power of Yearning

carolyn_beaverBy Karuna (Carolyn) Beaver, SVA Board Member

Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who coined the term “follow your bliss,” explains that everyone experiences spiritual yearning, but not everyone acts on it.  Swami Nirmalananda further explains that most people find ways to divert this powerful yearning into other, more conventional things.

For years I diverted this powerful yearning into conventional things. I created a loving and stable marriage and family, a beautiful home and meaningful work. As fortunate as I was to attain these things, I still felt something was missing. I realized I wanted to be of service so I began volunteering in my community. Still something was missing, though I didn’t know exactly what. I began to “work on myself,” 1 in 100exploring self-help and spiritual books that I thought could explain the deeper meaning of life and my place in it. And, still, there was something missing.

Then I discovered Svaroopa® yoga, and it peeled away layers of tension that I didn’t realize were there. My yearning changed from reading books about discovering what’s inside to actually experiencing it. In my first teacher training, I remember Swami Nirmalananda telling us we should make an effort to meet enlightened beings and to get ourselves a Guru. Even though I was rather intimidated by Swami’s (then Rama) presence, I thought to myself, ‘she is going to be my Guru one day.’ Swami opened up for me the yearning for enlightenment, for Self-Realization.

While, as Campbell said, everyone feels this yearning, not everyone acts on it. Baba Muktananda explained it this way:

  • muktanandaOut of 100 who feel the yearning, one recognizes it as a yearning for something the world cannot provide.
  • Out of 100 who recognize it as a spiritual longing, one looks for a Guru.
  • Out of 100 who look for a Guru, one finds a Master who can give the experience as well as the teachings.
  • Out of 100 who find such a Master, one opens their heart and mind.
  • Out of 100 who open their heart and mind, one does the discipline.
  • Out of 100 who do the discipline, one comes to know God.

Swami asks, “which one are you?” It’s a question worth pondering. You are on a yogic path, no matter what your level of participation. The longer you do yoga and meditate, the more clear this path becomes, and the more clear your yearning becomes. You are yearning to know yourself as Consciousness-Itself. You are yearning to find the Divine within.

I am forever grateful to Swami for creating Svaroopa® yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, and infusing them with the Grace that she received from her Guru, Muktananda. I show my gratitude by engaging in another yogic practice, dakshina, the practice of giving. This is my dharma, my duty as a student, to acknowledge the teachings I receive. I am compelled to give back in return.

Lokananda - Donor gift pictureFor this reason, I plan to give another donation to the Ashram’s capital campaign. Yes, I know I have been asked to give twice before. But what this says to me is that I didn’t give enough the first and second times. My donations did not fully match my yearning, or my gratitude for what I’ve received. I know when I give this last donation to help the Ashram meet the goal it set a year ago, I will be acting on my yearning. I will be giving in order to know my own Self, and it will take me a step further on my yogic path. I want to be that one in 100.

What about you? Click here to donate.

 

 

Survival, Enrichment or More?

matrikaBy Matrika Gast

Learning for survival starts at birth and continues even into old age. While lactation consultants help new moms learn to breastfeed, often they also need to help newborns learn to “latch on.” B. F. Skinner’s Enjoy Old Age teaches tactics and techniques for continuing a vibrant life in the midst of failing hearing, eyesight and physical and mental capacity.

yoga-babiesIn between birth and old age, we learn to walk, talk, tie our shoes, read, write and do math. We get job training in a trade or a profession, and keep our work-related knowledge and skills up to date with continuing education. Parents take classes, read articles and books to hone their parenting skills as well as learn from other parents.

Lifelong learning also provides enrichment. Community education programs offer so many options:  practicalities (accounting and starting a business); whimsy (becoming a clown); arts, music lessons and exercise of all kinds; history (from local to world); martial arts, yoga and meditation; gardening, raising chickens and cooking — and more.

When you become a Svaroopa® yogi, lifelong learning is a given. But your learning turns out to be about much MORE than merely survival or even enrichment. You take your first class and then keep on going, while you gain more than you ever imagined. Along with your daily pose and meditation practice, you have an expanded perspective on your life and purpose. Perhaps you even become a teacher, so your lifelong learning fulfills your formal, professional commitment for Continuing Ed.

stslomo-0398When you continue Svaroopa® yoga practices, with or without a professional goal, you are engaged in lifelong learning.  That’s because with every spinal sequence, you learn something new. At the same time, your body changes, preparing you for new learning the next day. With every meditation, you learn something new, plus your mind and your life change, opening up in beautiful ways. Every practice gives you a new dimension of yourself and your Self. Layer by layer, inner and outer contraction melts. At a deep level, you learn yoga’s first teaching: “You are perfect and divine. Know this Truth and live it.”[1]

This is embodied learning. More happens.  Outside, you notice the green leaves of an ordinary tree against a sapphire blue sky — intensely beautiful!  Yet you know that the ineffable pleasure arising from within you is Divine. You hear the sound of wind in the trees or the constant flow of a river as sacred mantra. You see the eyes of an acquaintance brighten when she talks about the children she taught in kindergarten, showing you firsthand that she is a manifestation of Divine Consciousness.

freebiesIf you need a refresher course in this Divine Reality, “Freebies” on our svaroopa.org website are just a click away. Listen to recordings of Swamiji’s contemplations articles, with each one building on the other in our yearlong theme of Yoga & Spirituality.  Her satsang audios give you specific guidance on how to stay “fresh” with the knowing of your own Self through yogic practices and disciplines.

This lifelong learning is profoundly different than any other, because you are doing so much more than acquiring knowledge and skills. You are learning to experience own Self. You are learning to know your Self as a tangible reality. You “learn” that knowing again and again, until again becomes always.

Taking this pathway to Self-Realization requires your effort. Like with any learning, commitment is necessary. Yet this path is blessed with a Master Teacher whose nature is to dispense Grace. This Grace carries you forward in your lifelong learning without struggle. You get the More you have always been seeking.

[1] September 2016 Contemplation: Yoga & Spirituality #9, “Being a Role Model” By Swami Nirmalananda & Vidyadevi Stillman