You’ve Got Skills

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

You know how to drive, to manage household and personal needs, even to manage other people and their needs.  Your education and professional skills make you able to adapt to changing times, like now.  But your self-care skills might need some improvement.  The current pandemic conditions may prompt another round of pandemic panic.  It’s time to take inventory.  How do you handle this?

Masking – you know how.  I first saw people wearing masks over their nose and mouth in my travels in Asia over 30 years ago.  I thought it was brilliant!  I didn’t adopt it at home because of peer pressure, but now the pressure is going the other way.  You are completely capable of breathing, talking and smiling under that mask.  You may even have your preferred mask style along with a lanyard, bracket or nose strip.  Plus you’ve even got designer options.

Social Distancing – you know how.  As fall brings us indoors again, you’ll need to use this skill again.  It’s like riding a bike; once you know how, you can do it again.  It’s an easy thing to do.  In most conversations, we’re seated or standing about 6 feet apart anyway.

Self-Care — you know how.  You know you feel better when you do yoga every day.  Your quality of life improves if you’re hydrated, if you have regular mealtimes and if you get up before the sun.  Meditation is even more important and fits into all the others.  Meditating before the sunrise is the most blissful.  Yoga helps prepare you for a better meditation.  And when you’ve meditated today, you’re more likely to feed yourself properly and drink enough water.   Not to mention being kinder, even more intelligent.  How bad will you let yourself get before you do something about it?  The time is now.  Do more yoga.

My Discovery of Self

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

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

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

Gurudevi Nirmalananda giving Shaktipat

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

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

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

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

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

Svaroopa Vidya Meditation

It all lies within, you’ve heard it said before.  But you must get beyond the theory in order to experience your own mystical essence.  That’s why you need training.  That’s why you need a teacher.  One who knows the way makes it easy for those who follow.

Know Your Own Self 

A deeper inner knowing of your deeper essence, this is the goal of meditation.  Your inward exploration is easy when you study with one who already knows the Self.  This is the mystical secret of Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, that the doorway inside is opened for you.

Sourced Within

Discover the source of love and the source of your creativity.  It all lies within you, so you have to look inward to find the source.  But you can get stuck at the superficial level of mind and emotions.  Learn how to look deeper with Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation. 

Easy Inner Immersion   

Like a scuba diver floating in the vastness of the undersea world, meditation is about diving deep.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation makes it easy to get there, deeper within your own being.  In that depth and inner vastness, you experience a whole new dimensionality, one you can learn to live in.

It’s Not the Same

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Meditate

By Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

If it were not for my mind, I would be enlightened!  I blurted out this statement in conversation with a yoga buddy one day.  I’d never allowed myself to own this elevated aspiration.  Yet I knew it to be true.

The ancient teachings on Self-Realization as offered by Gurudevi compel me.  At a deep level, I know their absolute Truth.  In that moment, in a flash of insight, I see my mind blocking me on the path.  I see my mind as a standalone entity, with its own agenda.  It’s dense and determined to hold on to certain attitudes.  Sometimes it’s a two-year-old, sometimes an adolescent.

I really got to know this mind during my two glorious years of Ashram residency.  The routine of morning chant and meditation, days devoted to seva, and evening satsangs took me deep.  I loved chanting our food mantra with Gurudevi, the Swamis and other residents before each meal.

During my Ashram stay, I went deeper than I’d imagined going when I applied for residency.  My main reason for residency was the desire for a consistency of practice.  In my first months, I could physically feel the untangling of old brain wiring while chanting Sri Guru Gita.  What a relief!

This opened up enough inner space for angry inner voices to have their say.  I recognized my “inner two-year-old” and more articulate “inner adolescent.”  They were lonely, scared, sad.  They/I had based my sense of self on “doing things right.”  Avoiding punishment, staying safe and surviving formed the goal.  Daily life, regardless of responsibilities and activities, is bound to frustrate those desires.  Anger erupts when I (with two-year-old and adolescent mind) don’t get what I want.  They emerged from the depths and took up residence near the forefront of my mind.  I got to know their insistent voices well.

Given Guru’s Grace, with her profound teachings, I knew to befriend these rascals.  I knew that, as contracted forms of Shiva, my own Is-ness, they were not to be banished.  I learned to sweettalk them with mantra, and give them luxurious rest in meditation.  Doing so, I can apply their energy to more mantra and more meditation.  I’m propelled deeper — even into ineffable peace and ultimate effulgence — sometimes.

More often, my meditation is a festival of emotional and mental kriyas.  I am so grateful for this process.  Afterward, that standalone entity of mind is calmed.  It’s willing to courteously step aside.  It no longer requires constant, hyperalert focus.  I can go past mind into the infinitely vast expanse within.  “Getting things done in the world” will always be a step into potential frustration.  Yet my awareness turns inward to my Own Self as the One Self Being All.  I see this clear path to enlightenment.

Svaroopa Vidya Meditation

From uncovering inner peace to discovering the mystical truths, you must turn your attention inward.  To get deeper than your mind and breath, you need help — the techniques and tools developed by the yogic sages.  Study with a modern-day representative of the ancient tradition and get immediate results.  

Access Inner Peace 

Peace is found inside.  It is already there.  You’ve been looking in the wrong place, trying to get your outer circumstances to give you peace.  Now it’s time to learn how to look within.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation glides you inward, deeper than your mind, to the peace that is your inherent nature. 

Seekers Become Finders 

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You’re only a seeker until you find what you’ve been looking for.  The deeper dimensions of your own being are what you yearn for.  In Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, you learn to meditate on your own Self.  Experiencing your inherent Divinity changes everything.  You find your Self. 

Open Inward to Infinite Beingness 

The inner infinity beckons you, an inner pull that is your own Self calling you home.  Explore who you really are by turning inward.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation reveals your inherent Divinity to you, a gift from the ancient yogic sages.  The mystical truth is hidden within, awaiting your exploration. 

It Really Is Deep and Easy

By Jessica Soligon, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

I’m constantly trying to improve my home practice.  Always tweaking something or adding a different reading, I’m looking for improvements.  While buying the Experience Shavasana album on my phone, I saw Meditation: Deep & Easy.  It looked like a great one to add to my home practice.  The best thing is, I bought it on my phone so it’s everywhere I am.

Even though I’ve been meditating for about a year, it has made a big improvement to my meditation.  I used to set a timer on my phone to say mantra for five minutes before meditating.  Then I would reset the timer for 15 minutes or however long I wanted to meditate.  That worked, but this album works better.

I begin morning meditation with Gurudevi Nirmalananda chanting our mantra to a beautiful melody.  As I ready my space and get seated, her chanting settles me outside and inside.   On the second track, Gurudevi leads a round of japa (mantra repetition without melody).

I wear my earbuds, so I won’t hear the coffee pot or anyone else getting up.  As soon as I start to meditate, it’s like a magical clock going off for my five-year-old.  Nine times out of ten, he gets up.  Wearing earbuds helps me get into the zone and focus more.

Now I’m ready for the third track, “Meditate!”  I especially love the sound of the tamboura.  I relax more easily.  My mind settles down and gets quiet. That’s lovely because my mind is usually very busy.  Meditating this way takes me deeper than when I meditate on my own.

And I’ve found another wonderful use for this album.  Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.  I put in one earbud and listen to Gurudevi chanting.  I’m usually ready to sleep again by the time the japa track begins.

You can easily find this album on iTunes and download it.  Just search for Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  You can also order the Meditation: Deep & Easy CD from the Ashram’s online shop.  Meditation: Deep & Easy is great for newcomers who want an easy way to dip a toe into meditation.  Gurudevi’s step-by-step guidance for taking you in is greatly appreciated by experienced meditators as well.

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.