What Have You Learned?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

After more than a year of pandemic precautions, what have you learned?  You probably learned to stay home more, to spend less money and how to use technology to connect with others.  Hopefully you also learned how you feel when you do more yoga.

Your priorities have been rearranged.  You didn’t choose to do this.  It was thrust on you and it’s affected you.  What is that difference?  Notice what you’ve lost and what you’ve gained.  The way you put yourself together has changed. 

What you do, where you go, who you spend time with, what you care about – these are all vital aspects of who you are in the world.  As you reassemble your mosaic, choose your colors and patterns wisely.  You are recreating what yoga calls your “self,” who you are in the world.

Yet something has not changed.  Your deeper essence is the same.  Your own is-ness, your own beingness, what yoga calls your own “Self” is steady, always present, what we could call pure presence.  When you abide in your own Self, you can handle anything, even a pandemic.  Even reentry.

Hopefully you’ve learned how to abide in your Self more fully.  You’ve learned how to lean into your own Divine Essence for the inner support and clarity that makes your life work.  As you make decisions about how your life will look now, lean inward and find the inner answers.  What will bring you closer to your own Self?  What will bring you closer to God, inside? 

This is yoga’s specialty.  This is yoga’s goal and purpose.  This is the union that the Sanskrit word “yoga” is often translated as.  To live in the union of your own self and Self is the most meaningful and blissful way to live.  To bring your Self with you and share from your deeper essence is a way of serving the world.  To get there, do more yoga.

Ashram Profile

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

Ashram is a Sanskrit word that names the place where the Guru lives.  Ashram also names the place where the fatigue of worldly concerns (shrama)  is cleared.  A-shrama means without shrama.

Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram lives up to its name.  This is the place where the clouds of shrama are lifted. They’re lifted by the enlightened Guru who resides there.  They’re lifted so that you may understand and reside in the knowledge of your own Self.

How does this happen?  It starts with our Guru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  We call her Gurudevi, which means Divine Teacher. She is a Kundalini master and internationally renowned teacher.  The Ashram houses her physical being.  It also houses the divine energy of Grace that flows through her.  It’s contagious!  You can feel it.  In a program with Gurudevi or by reading one of her articles, you palpably feel the Grace.

The Ashram operates Lokananda, which means Bliss Place.  It also lives up to its name.  It’s a full-service retreat center in Downingtown PA.  There, we offer meditation and yoga healing retreats.  Gurudevi offers Shaktipat.  Many of these immersions are also available online.  

The Ashram offers professional training courses for yoga teachers, yoga therapists and meditation teachers.  Visit our online Calendar to see that the offerings go on and on.  There’s a course or program for everyone — from new yogis to experienced practitioners.

One of my favorite things about the Ashram is that so many of Gurudevi’s profound yet accessible teachings are free.  You have podcasts, written materials and free online meditation programs.  As a Svaroopa® yoga teacher, I look forward to Gurudevi’s monthly articles.  Along with the article, I receive pithy quotations pulled from it to share with my students.  I’m not teaching only poses.  I am teaching the profound promise of yoga.

For more than 30 years, Gurudevi has met the needs of seekers in so many ways.  She and our  Ashram staff are dedicated to delivering the teachings.  They’ve been passed down to her from her Guru, Swami Muktananda.  These ancient and yet so relevant teachings are delivered in a multitude of formats and price points.  

They meet us just where we are.  Then the Ashram clears the weight of the shrama we’ve been carrying.  Through expert and compassionate teachings, we come to understand who we are and where we’re going.  The Ashram indeed lives up to its name.

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation

It’s an inner knowing.  The knowing of your own Self is a deep inner feeling, a knowing beyond thought.  In Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, you meditate on your own Self, on your blissful essence of pure beingness.  You become more you, experiencing the bliss of Consciousness that is your innermost essence.

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Making You More You

Finding your Self involves knowing where to look as well as how.  Step 1:  Turn your attention inward.   But this can leave you trapped in a busy mind.  Step 2:  Learn how to glide deeper within by using the tantric tools provided by yoga’s sages.  Result:  Discover who you really are at the deepest level of your own being.

The Bliss of Consciousness

If you’re not experiencing bliss, you’re just not your Self today.  Learn to find your Self within, in the bliss that is ever-vibrating at your core.  Discover the Consciousness that you are and learn how to live from that inner dimensionality in all you do.

Discover Your Innermost Essence 

Your essence is Divine.  You are an individualized expression of the One Divine Reality.  That which has always existed is existing now, being you.  Learn how to look deeper within, to discover your inherent Divinity.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation makes it easy for you to discover your innermost essence, your own Self.

Why I Need a Guru

By Frances (Jñani) Amery, interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Taking Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga, then YTT 1, became a launching point to learn yoga philosophy.  Like a sponge, I soaked up teachings such as the 36 tattvas (Kashmiri Shaivism levels of reality).  Rather than studying the poses, I soon realized I wanted to focus more on the sutras (philosophy aphorisms).  Then, not long after completing YTT 1, I fell and broke both legs.  While recuperating, I took Gurudevi’s “Yogify Your Life” phone course.  It gave me access to the teachings I was longing for. 

A few years later, I tripped and broke my foot.  This “fortunate fall” was pivotal.  Once again, as I convalesced in bed, I was able to study yoga philosophy with Gurudevi.  I listened to the Shiva Sutras online.  I felt totally supported by the sound of Gurudevi’s voice delivering these profound truths.  Even though I do not recall many details, the sutras got layered into me somewhere.  It was amazingly fantastic! 

Conversing with other yogis about the Guru, I had a sudden and clear inner knowing that Gurudevi is indeed my Guru.  I realized I had had this inner knowing from the moment I first met her.  Being in her presence, I feel drawn inward with a strong force like the tractor beam in the old “Star Trek” shows.  This force is called Guru’s Grace.  Guru’s Grace shines through her words and teachings.

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They help me in my daily life, in every way.  By having a Guru, I feel my thinking process and behaviors are being restructured.  For instance, I was always an ethical person.  In grade school, I was the first to fess up about any mischief!  Yet practicing the yamasand niyamas with Gurudevi’s guidance has brought me deeper.  My understanding of myself and my world is clearer.  As time goes by, ever deepening insights unfold.  The inner lnowing was always there; I just couldn’t yet perceive it.

Gurudevi is my teacher.  She understands me in a way no one else does, which startles me at times.  During her Year-Long Programme discussions, I feel her speaking to me directly, no matter whom she is addressing.  It’s like the spiritual DNA of the lineage is in my very constitution.  This makes Gurudevi my spiritual mother.  She holds the promise of all that is yet to come — enlightenment in the midst of life.  And I love this promise: it excites me and keeps me focused on this inner path.  I am grateful for the great gift of a Guru!  I’m so blessed to have crossed paths with Gurudevi.

Realigning My Mirror

By Annie (Aanandi) Ross

In an early Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher Training, someone told me, “You might have to realign your rearview mirror when you depart.”  That image has stuck with me through many years of practicing and teaching yoga.  At the time, It was amazing to consider that yoga could make me taller. 

Little did I know that it could also fill me up.  Yet it fills me from the inside, not like a dear friend recently described: “Happiness is when I can fill up my calendar.”

In her June 2021 Teachings Article: Why Is My Mind So Crazy? Gurudevi says:

“When you feel empty, your mind goes crazy.
It tries to find something to fill you up.
It’s like trying to fill an empty reservoir with a teaspoon.
You need an underground stream to be filling it from the bottom up.”

She is referring to the stream of Guru’s Grace.  When I look to the external world to fill me up with activity, I’m sunk.  Yoga’s teachings explain the cause.  There will never be enough in the external world to satisfy me fully.  Yes, I may be momentarily satisfied, but then what?  The external world will not fully satisfy — ever.  The “More” that I yearn for is only found inside.  And when I simply allow that to happen, when I look inward, I’m settled.  I’m at home in my own Self. 

I remember one incident when my mind was clearly confused.  It was 1973.  I was returning from a stay overseas, passing through JFK International Airport.  I was jetlagged, tired and inexperienced at exploring the world.  I saw something my mind did not know how to interpret.  There were twenty or so people, dressed all in orange.  They were singing something, swirling and dancing around in a big circle.  This was right in the middle of the busy airport.  I was astonished.  I stopped to watch, as did many others.  I now recognize the people in orange were chanting Hare Krishna.

The interesting thing is that my mind was spellbound.  I felt transported to somewhere else.  I wanted to know who they were and what they were doing.  I stayed for a while.  I tried to grasp what I was seeing.  I felt something but had no idea what. 

Then, in a moment, my mind told me, “These people are crazy, really crazy.”  I scoffed to myself and left the crazy scene, shaking my head.  I headed back into the business of the external world.  I felt busy, important and arrogant. 

I couldn’t have figured out how life works on my own.  I needed a teacher — a Master who had already tread this yogic path.  I needed one who had grasped the teachings from her teacher, who got it from his teacher.

Finally, stumbling into Svaroopa® yoga and meditation, I began to understand the mind.  My mind can be tricky and crazy making.  Then I came to know what really fills me up from the inside.  It is the Self, described in the ancient texts.  And I came to understand how my mind can serve me better.  It takes practice.  I am forever grateful for this blessing.

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation

Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation

Everything arises from within.  This meditation system opens up the inner flow, so you are uplifted from your very first meditation.  Healing is followed by inner peace, which gives way to profound bliss.  Inner wisdom fills your life with meaning and purpose.  Best of all, you discover its source, your own Divine Essence. 

Healing, Peace & Bliss

Your first meditation begins the process of profound healing.  Both physical and more than physical, the changes are immediate and tangible.  Your experience develops quickly into deep inner peace.  Your heart expands into an ease-full inner space.  Bliss comes next, an unmistakable inner sensation that fills your mind and body.  It carries with you as you step back into activities.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation makes it easy and profound.

Inner Wisdom Unlocked 

Inner knowing is the only real answer, the only one that makes sense to you.  No matter what anyone else says, when you know — you know.  Meditation is the way to dive inside, to the source of the knowing.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation makes this inner opening easy, with profound answers and deep truths that arise from within.

Uncover Your True Essence

You discover who you are, you don’t become someone new.  You don’t add to who you are or what you do.  Instead you uncover your deeper essence, which has been hidden within for so long.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation makes it easy because it’s contagious.  You catch it from one who knows, a Meditation Master.  Gurudevi’s guidance is better than a GPS for getting you where you want to go.

Last Day of Japa Club

By Matrikaa (Marlene) Gast

Japa Club comes to a close on June 21, International Day of Yoga.  When I heard the news, I felt scared and sad.  What will I do without Zooming into Gurudevi’s voice repeating mantra, and matching mine to it? 

This great gift has been given to us for more than a year.  Plagued by pandemic panic, many of us have relied on Japa Club as a desperately needed link to Gurudevi.  Japa with Gurudevi has been a steady place of sacred shelter.  And Japa Club has been a tangible conduit of Gurudevi’s blessings to the world.

I realize that I’d hoped Japa Club would go on forever.  Yet, besides feeling loss, I’m settling into inner “is-ness.”  How appropriate that we emerge from our yoga caves now that it’s safe.

Gurudevi Nirmalananda says, “It’s been a great honor and privilege to serve so many for so long.”  She initiated Japa Club within a couple of weeks of pandemic lockdown.  Since then, Gurudevi has led the traditional 108 repetitions of mantra in Zoom sessions twice daily.  Her Japa Club sessions have served the world at large and each of us individually.

In creating the Japa Club, Gurudevi’s goal was supporting us in getting over our pandemic panic.  She says, “Through Japa Club, I accomplished that goal —and more.  More people are abiding in the Self.”  Regular participants in Japa Club describe powerful experiences:

The Japa Club made a huge difference for me.  Gurudevi has said that the function of the Guru is to pierce through the veil of fear to the Self.  It is working of course!!” — Robin B.

During the Japa Club call, mantra reached down into the depths of my being and my form.  The mantra revealed itself, and I knew it to be the worship done by every human in every fire ceremony, yoga practice, synagogue, mosque, church and so on that has ever been.  I saw the priests and holy humans bowing to God.  A profound moment of Self.  Eternally grateful to the One who is giving so much.” — Lori K.

It has been a difficult year in so many ways.  Of course, we’ve been needy.  Recognizing our plight, Guru gave us Japa Club as a lifeline.  In truth, she is always here for us seekers, closer than the breath.  All we need do is turn our attention to her.  Plus, no longer locked down in our homes, we are free to travel.  We can sit at our Guru’s feet in person.  We can bask in her light, bathe in Guru’s Grace, and imbibe her teachings.

Now we can let go of the Japa Club lifeline.  Being infused with Guru’s Grace, we go forward with the self-effort of Disciple’s Grace.  We can diligently apply Gurudevi’s guidance to Do More Japa on our own in our own homes.  With mantra repetition 24/7, you are no longer using Gurudevi as a crutch.  Prevent understandable neediness from morphing into greediness!

Effective tools are available for practical support.  Set your smart phone timer for multiple japa pauses daily.  You get a structured rest and reset by sitting to repeat mantra out loud.  Be sure to follow it with silent repetition inside for a minute or so.

And rely on Gurudevi’s Meditation: Deep & Easy CD.  In the 2nd track she leads you in 108 repetitions of mantra.  Set that track to repeat for as long as you want.  Notice how your state deepens with the longer, frequent japa sessions structured for yourself.

As verse 9 of the Guru Gita says, Guru and Self are not distinct.  Being Self-Realized, Gurudevi is always there for us.  She is, by definition, within.  By repeating mantra 24/7 we come to know this truth, without a doubt.  The past is done.  The future is your choice.  You can walk on your own, run — and even fly. 

Gurudevi says, “Five minutes of japa twice a day will make you feel better, but it won’t get you enlightened.”  So heed her guidance: Do More Japa.

Joy! Jubilation! Trepidation?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

I’m ready to rip off my mask and dance around the room in glee.  Fully vaccinated, no mask required and I can even sit and chat with people again – I’m ready to go.  But I’m seeing others move into it more slowly.  What’s going on?

Is your inner peace dependent on being isolated?  Is your world smaller than it was a year ago?  And what about the personal space you need – is sitting beside someone on a bench simply too close for you? 

The pandemic isn’t over, I agree.  At the Ashram, we continue to offer blessings five times daily to everyone worldwide.  But your personal safety is better than it’s been in over a year.  That’s something to celebrate!

But you’ve probably been celebrating special events all alone or online with others.  You have other options now.  Something wonderful happens when we get together in-person.  This is especially true in a yoga class.  Why?  Because yoga has you working on the outside and the inside at the same time.  As you move and breathe, your body changes – an outer change.  And your inner state changes – which is the more important benefit.  This is Svaroopa® yoga’s specialty.

When you do this with others, the synchronicity amplifies both benefits, outer and inner.  When your teacher moves you through the process and you get to laugh with others (or complain) after class, your heart is engaged in a whole new way.  It’s not yoga until you put your heart into it, says the sage Patanjali in sutra 1.14.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying sweet reunions in the meditation programs I lead.  And I’ve been meeting new people, some who say they’ve been waiting for the chance to come.  I’m sure your teacher and fellow yogis will enjoy reconnecting with you too, or getting to know you from scratch. 

What do you want your life to include now that the world is opening up again?  I hope you’ll do more yoga.

My Guru’s Divine Qualities

By Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s other-worldly radiance is what drew me to her.  It emanated from her grounded and everyday countenance.  She was so relatable.  She had experienced the ups and down of raising a family as a single mom.  She knew life’s uncertainties like the rest of us.  Yet she changed the course of her life’s direction mid-stream, and never looked back.

By her Guru’s Grace, she discovered how to live in the complete freedom of her inner Self.  What makes Gurudevi special is that she didn’t hoard the keys to the inner kingdom.  Becoming enlightened, she could have chosen not to teach others.  Instead, she stays present to her students, and moves us through our process.  She models selfless service, by walking the walk, and talking the talk.  She is Grace personified, revealing this life, and ourselves, as divine.  And she empowers us to embody our Inner Greatness.

Gurudevi is a karma yogi.  Selfless service permeates the Svaroopa® yoga teacher training (YTT) and the Ashram she built.  She does all this to serve her Guru, Baba Muktananda.  He taught her that “Only one who obeys can command.”  She exemplifies this humility every day.  Gurudevi says, “My heart is ever resting at my Guru’s feet, while my mind does his work by serving you.”

In her Ashram days with him, she did her daily sevas by thinking of herself as Baba’s hands and feet.  She took care of people for his sake.  She describes, “He moved me light years on my spiritual path.”  Similarly, when I do my sevas, I feel Gurudevi working through me.  Yet I am not helping her.  She gives us sevites each task to help us grow and expand.  She says, “Seva is about your inner fullness.”

Gurudevi is a Shaktipat Guru.  She transmits her spiritual energy into the individual.  This opens you to the deepest dimension of your Beingness.  This is the revelatory action of Grace, the whole purpose of her teaching.  With this opening, we can live from that place of knowing all the time. 

Sometimes her Grace feels like a cooling gel.  Sometimes, like a fire I wish I could flee!  But the truth is, she is always there for us students of her teachings and practices.  This “showing up” makes me feel I know her intimately, even unto lifetimes.

Gurudevi is a tantric teacher; she enjoys life robustly.  She gives the ancient teachings in her own words and enlivens them with personal stories.  For this world is divine, even when we don’t perceive it as such.  Therefore, she gives us a boost: repeat mantra.  She calls it “the easy path, from the inside outward.”

Gurudevi wants you to worship your own inner Self, not her.  She always sees us as pure Consciousness, even when we can’t see ourselves that way.  With infinite patience and compassion, she applies Grace to our limitations.  She’ll ask, “Have you been listening to what I’ve been saying?”  Then she explains the ancient teachings again, and then again.  Her willingness and capacity to support us on our path toward enlightenment are infinite.

Most importantly, Gurudevi empowers all of us to experience our own greatness.  I received my mantra and Shaktipat from her.  So I’m on “the easy path,” even when I make it hard.  And when I’m stuck, Guru’s Grace swoops in with a reminder: “The key is in your pocket when you’re locked out — take it out and use it.  Do more mantra!”

You’ve Changed!

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

Your experiences in the last year have changed you.  Whether you’d planned it or not, you were thrust into a hermetic lifestyle, like a hermit.  A quieter lifestyle is supposed to give you a more peaceful mind, right?  That’s why people move into a cabin in the woods or a mountain hideaway.  You did it where you live.  But what did you do?

While nothing much was happening on the outside, you were changing on the inside.  It reminds me of when my kids grew so much in the summers, but day by day it wasn’t noticeable.  Not until they tried on their school clothes from two months earlier.  Wow, what a difference!

Has the same happened for you?  You may not even know until you get back to the things you used to do.  We call it a “Marker Pose.”  In a Svaroopa® yoga class, you do a pose for self-assessment at the beginning of class.  After the series of spinal release poses that track from your tailbone up through your neck and head, you repeat the same pose.  This Marker Pose makes you able to say, “Wow, what a difference!”  That’s the power of spinal release, aka spinal decompression.

It’s an inner change, technically an inner opening.  You have more breathing space, more space for your organs, and it even feels like you have more space to live in.  It’s about getting present, actually living in your body.  That makes it easy to find out who you are — who is it that is living in your body?   That’s the whole point:  you discover a deeper dimension of your own Self.

Has the pandemic helped you with this?  Do you feel more like you? If not, now is the time to do more yoga.