Mundane Pilgrimages

kristineBy Kristine Freeman, SVA Board Member

Dragging my suitcase up Lokananda’s steep stairs, I feel abundant joy. I am arriving on sacred ground. How happy I feel is just crazy! Swami Nirmalananda explains, “People travel great distances on pilgrimage to many famous places including Mecca, the River Ganga, Jerusalem, Rome, the Pyramids, Ayers Rock in Australia, and more. Whatever you find there is simply a finding of the sacred inside yourself.”

stairs-1At Lokananda I am steeped in bliss as well as Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings. This experience increases my capacity to find the sacred within myself even when I am in everyday spaces and places. On my daily walk in the woods, I turn my phone off and no longer listen to music or use a step counter. Having eliminated these distractions, I see the Divine and sacredness all around — and as my own Self within. With my attention turned inward, the sights and sounds of the outer world register in me differently. I can hear and see sacredness in birds, a deer, the river and trees. I experience the joy in them. That’s a direct result of having been at Lokananda. The lasting power of true pilgrimage is to imprint Divine Consciousness on your mind.

Of course, I find myself in plenty of situations where the Divine can seem far away. For example, grocery shopping can be a challenging trial. You navigate a maze of distractions in a buzz of activity, dodging other shoppers’ carts and finally interacting with a hyper-focused, stressed cashier. How about standing on sacred ground as you wait in line at the post office? It’s so easy to tune into your own sacred Self at Lokananda with its light-filled spaces, and saturated with the Grace and Shakti of our Guru. It takes an advanced state to find that sacred ground at the grocery store or post office. I’m not there yet. Yet now I am aware of not being there.

IMG_20160205_205505 - CopyThe awareness itself is priceless. It shows me the value of regular practice of yoga asana, meditation, seva, and dakshina — “giving back.” They all support me in an ongoing, transformative process. They outfit me for the daily journey wherever it takes me. Inside, the yearning to know my Self pulls me ever deeper within even as I move forward. I am grateful that Swami Nirmalananda makes the sacred teachings so available at Lokananda, in satsangs there and in local communities, and via her free audio recordings of discourses and contemplations.

No matter where I am, through her teachings, I stand on sacred ground. I can perceive the Truth in everything — it’s all Consciousness. The Divine is never far away. Everyday life was always sacred, I just couldn’t see it that way. What a gift to be able to appreciate the sacredness in everyday life.

In gratitude, I practice dakshina, contributing financially to the Ashram regularly. Offering dakshina changes you, just as do the other yogic practices. The amount of money does not matter. Any amount is beneficial to the Ashram in spreading the teachings widely. Giving back in gratitude for the gifts you have received feels just wonderful! You honor your own Self as you allow yourself to act from your generous nature. Click here to donate.

Gratitude for Sacred Ground

karunaBy Karuna Beaver, SVA Board Member

When I started Svaroopa® yoga, Swami Nirmalananda was Rama Berch. She used to tell us to look for a Guru. Back then, I could see she would be my Guru. I’m delighted that I was right! I am eternally grateful to her and the practices that set me on my path, a pilgrimage to deeper and deeper discoveries about my Self.

That was especially clear a few days ago, as I wrote in a new meditation journal, “A clean page, just like every day in meditation. A clean slate. A chance to let go of externals and focus inside, guided by mantra, by my Guru and by the masters before Her. They have given me the gift of shaktipat, so that I can see who I really am. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and this is what I am most thankful for.”

Our fall fundraising theme is the Power of Pilgrimage. I am thankful that you and I are pilgrims on a journey to sacred ground. This is an inner pilgrimage, to discover the One Self being you, being all. The spot where you stand is sacred because you are standing there. In every moment, you have a choice in how you see things. Swami Nirmalananda says, “…begin to see the sacred in everyone and in everything. It can be found in so many moments of your day.”

When you look inside and see you are Divine, you see everything differently. At our Thanksgiving table, we took turns telling each other what we were most grateful for. I saw my family and friends for who and what they are — Divine Beings — and expressed my gratitude to them. I expressed my gratitude for our Guru, who gives me my own Self. I owe everything to Her, and to the yoga organization that carries her teachings. This compels me to give back to the Source.

As you journey into your 2016 holiday season, how do you see your way forward? When you choose to see the Divine in yourself, and in everyone and everything, you experience a radical shift. This is at the core of all sacred pilgrimages. You learn to use your mind differently. How you decide to use your mind and how you experience this season of light are up to you. It is only a decision away.

candle-in-handYou might decide to keep doing what you’re doing or you might heed a call to Do More Yoga. The practice of dakshina, supporting the Source of these profound teachings, is priceless. If you have been one of our Ashram donors, you already know the inner freedom that arises from dakshina. It has a way of dissolving lingering fears. I am grateful to all of you who have decided to give back to Source or are considering it now.

Celebrating the power of personal pilgrimage, $3,600 has been donated thus far, at the half-way point of our fundraiser. Still, we have a long way to go.  You can decide to help take us farther. While your gift expresses gratitude for all you receive, it does even more. It makes Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings available to all who yearn to know their own Self.

Monthly donations, in any amount, support your Ashram with predictable income. These contributions enable us to budget and plan effectively. Increasing your monthly donation, even by just a small amount, expands the horizons of what the Ashram can give — to you and to the wider world.

Your one-time donation supports the practices and the teachers who support you. Stepping into the practice of dakshina by offering any amount stands you firmly on sacred ground. Please join me in this powerful pilgrimage so we can all move forward together. Click here to donate.

She Came Back!

vibhuti-2By Vibhuti King

Swamiji was at the culmination of a lifelong pilgrimage. In February 2009, at the end of the overnight sannyas ceremony, she was to become a swami. She and other “swamis-to-be” dunked in the sacred waters of the Tansa River of Ganeshpuri. Then they headed north, toward the Himalayas. They were free! They could travel the world completely unencumbered, never to return, if they wished.

rama_swami_ceremony_68-xl-copyAs they turned to walk away, the head swami called out loudly: “SWAMIS COME BACK, COME BACK, SWAMIS!  THE WORLD NEEDS YOU!”

Swami Nirmalananda came back! She came back for you. She came back for me. She came back to serve us. She came back to show those who want to be shown the way. She provided us with an Ashram and a retreat center, Lokananda. These places give us a tangible spiritual base. Because of her, we have a destination for our individual pilgrimages, places of sanctuary in which to find our own inner Self.

In Sanskrit, “shrama” means worldly exhaustion; an “a” as a prefix means without. So “ashram” means “freedom from the exhaustion caused by worldly-mindedness.” We wash up on the shore of the ashram, leave our worldly exhaustion behind and are restored to our own Self. How blessed are we?

While Swamiji remains personally unencumbered, she has taken on the work of giving us our Self.  This is why she has created the Ashram. She can give us the Self because she IS the Self. She is not merely free, she is freedom itself.

_mg_4475-copyShe did not have to come back. But she did, and we are privileged to be a part of supporting our kula, our yoga family. We are privileged to support all that she has provided and will continue to provide.  Let’s give so that others can receive as well.

Yoga changes the world one heart at a time. How exciting! Please join me in increasing your monthly donation. If you have not yet arranged to give monthly, please do so now. Or give a one-time donation in any amount that fits your current budget. To engage in dakshina (yoga’s practice of giving back), click here now.

The Bliss is in the Journey

Saguna

By Saguna Goss, SVA Board Member

I am on a pilgrimage. I have always been on one. Until I found Svaroopa® yoga, I didn’t realize I had been on a sacred journey and searching for something my whole life.

I used to think of a pilgrimage as a long path through difficult terrain with an oasis at the end. I thought the path had to be challenging and unpleasant. I thought you had to suffer, so you could earn the oasis at the end. I thought there had to be sweat and tears before you got to the spa.

My perspective on pilgrimages has changed. Yes, there has been some sweat and tears on my yoga path, but it has also included the end of lower back pain, a calmer mind, saguna-swamicontentment and the blissful experience of my own Self. You know from your own Svaroopa® yoga practices that, along the way, even when your path is challenging, you reap deep benefits. Regardless of what you hope to get from your yoga, you are always getting so much more than you could ever imagine.

It is not only about the destination. It’s also about the journey. When I was travelling in Thailand, I visited a temple at the top of a mountain. The only way to get to the temple was to climb up 1,237 steps. Reflecting on that memory, I see that the climb itself had the biggest impact on me. If I had been dropped off by a helicopter, I wouldn’t have been ready to absorb the experience of the temple. The 1,237 steps transformed me. When I reached the mountain top, I had changed. A pilgrimage is about the journey.

lokananda front - Copy - CopyNow I am in the midst of another pilgrimage. I am relocating from my home in Canada to Downingtown PA to take on the role of SVA Business Manager. Even though there are plenty of physical hurdles to traverse, I understand more than ever that significant, sacred journeys really are internal. Ultimately, the Svaroopa® path is about taking the sacred journey within to realize who we really are — the Self, Consciousness-Itself.

Fortunately, Swami Nirmalananda and the Ashram are here to support us all in our inner journeys. I invite you to join me in the practice of dakshina to express gratitude for the support Swami Nirmalananda and the Ashram provide. We welcome one-time donations, in any amount. And we are grateful for the sustaining support of monthly donations, in any amount. If you are already a monthly donor, please consider an increase in an amount that fits your current budget. To practice dakshina, click here to donate.

Mystical Physics in Action

karunaBy Karuna Beaver

In the 70’s, a Hollywood film crew came to my college campus to shoot Animal House. In this classic time capsule movie of 1960’s frat boy fun and mischief, one scene features a group of students visiting a professor at his home. After smoking pot, a naïve freshman asks, “So, our whole solar system could be, like, one tiny atom in the fingernail of some other giant? And that means that one tiny atom in my fingernail could be one tiny universe?” His professor nods wisely. Mystical physics in action.

Fast forward 35 years, and I’m having that experience (minus the herbal influence) in Embodyment® training. I’d never been so profoundly peaceful and yet scintillatingly alive in my whole life. I was blown away by the experience of being, as Swami wrote last month, grounded and uplifted at the same time. And I was awed by the yogic philosophy of the Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam, the ancient Kashmiri Shavism text that helps explain the experience. Mystical physics in action.

Swami Nirmalananda and Vidyadevi, in this month’s contemplation article, “Being Here Now,” quote the fourth sutra in the Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam (Swami’s rendering):

Consciousness-Itself assumes contraction to become both the universe and the individuals, who have the universe as their bodies in a contracted form.

swami-handsThe energy contracting to become you is alive, and it is conscious. That one tiny atom in your fingernail could be one tiny universe! Swami and Vidyadevi say that your body is truly mystical. Is this how you think of your body? Perhaps you’re more likely to identify with your body’s problems than to be grateful having a body. It is a gift that allows you to experience what you are made of — Consciousness-Itself.

To discover the mystery of who you really are, you must be present in your body, and not trapped in your mind, or as Swami says, “Here, now, be.” For when you are right here, right now, being in your body and experiencing the experience, whatever it might be, the whole universe opens up for you.

Yoga gives you so many ways to “here, now, be:” asana, meditation, chanting, japa, seva, studying the ancient texts. Go ahead — dive in deep every chance you get. Let each experience tempt you to do more and show you the More that you are. Mystical physics in action!

Birthday Bliss Everywhere

 

8-copySwamiji is appreciated every day by Svaroopis, but yesterday we raised a carrot cake-filled fork in her name and wished her a very Happy 70th Birthday. It was a blissful and sweet day.

Swami and local yogis celebrated at Lokananda in Downingtown with dinner and homemade carrot cake. Annapurna, the dining hall, was decked with bursts of orange from the decorations to the plates and orange bouquets adorned Kailasa, the meditation hall, where an evening Satsang was held.

Rama (Ruth) Brooke and fellow Svaroopis at her studio celebrated with birthday tea and a special carrot cupcake puja after their morning yoga class. They toasted Swami with “Om svaroopa svasvabhava and words of gratitude about how Swami has downloaded this maha yoga, and all its practices so beautifully and for us to enjoy as modern day Westerners.”

Devapriyaa (Denise) Hills shared, “To celebrate I did Arati, chanted with Baba, Meditated and lit some candles on cake. What a blessing that Swamiji was born to be a Guru in my lifetime.”

Carole Balcombe and Jean Glover share “Happy Birthday Swamiji.  Thank you for the Svaroopa Sciences.”

Swami’s Birthday celebration continues!  She’s leading a satsang in the Boston area on Friday night, with cake being planned.  And this Sunday November 20th at the Calgary GeoCenter where they will share tea and cake as well as collecting a financial donation for the Ashram. Laksha (Elaine) Nesta is “so fortunate that Swami Nirmalananda has made this path accessible to us and continues to guide the community of Svaroopis.”

Namaste, Swamji. You are honored far and wide, inside and outside. Every day.

Time is a Funny Thing

By Swami Nirmalananda

Time just keeps ticking along, even though what’s inside is eternal.  I don’t feel any older today than yesterday, but the clock and calendar say I am.  So are you.   It’s a little like taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building:  you walk in, the doors close, nothing much happens, but when they open again, you’re in a different world.   You shiva2haven’t changed, but the world keeps moving around you.  Whether it’s changes in your family, your work or a change in the political structure – you are still who you have always been.  Consciousness-Itself.  You are Shiva.  So am I.

The sages tell us that we experience this contrast every night.  Deep sleep gifts you with brief interludes of immersion into consciousness.  You’re re-enlivened by your unconscious dip into Consciousness-Itself.  This is what makes you wake up refreshed, like a whole new person ready for a whole new day.  Life keeps moving along, but your core essence is the Unchanging Reality from which it all emanates.  Meditation is more important than sleep because it gives you that dip into consciousness, but consciously.

Today is my birthday.  Turning 70 means I have actually already completed 7 decades.  Today is day one of my 80th decade.  I’m excited!  I’m really looking forward to it!  Yoga’s promise is that it just keeps getting better and, after 50+ years of yoga, I know this to be true.  Even before dedicating myself to yoga, I figured out that each new decade was like getting a job promotion.  More responsibility, more autonomy, more freedom, more impact, more expertise to draw on, more appreciation for the others in my life, more, ramamore, more…

As an American baby boomer, I grew up with, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”  But by the time I was 25, I could see that friends, already over 30, were so much happier than I was.  They had it much more together than I did.  I began to look forward to turning 30.  And everything did get easier.  Then 40, then 50 – I really have found each decade to be better.

Of course, I benefit from many decades of yoga practice, supporting my body in its life process.  Not to mention how yoga has freed me from the mental-and-emotional baggage I’d been bound by over many lifetimes.  Most importantly, there’s Baba!  His presence in my life gave me what I’d been looking for, fulfilled my purpose for taking birth.  Now I have the privilege of serving you in the same way.

In the intro mantras I sing before teaching, one line stands out today, describing Muktananda, who I am honoring in the chant:

bhakta karyaika dehaya…

(I bow to the Guru) who remains in a body in order

to serve the needs of his devotees…

_mg_4685Once you have mastered consciousness, you can do or not do.  You can be active or still.  You can stay or go.  There is no thing you seek to accomplish, no thing you seek to own, no thing that you want to become, no place to go or to run away from.  What remains?  Why hang around?

Only to serve.

So today, on this anniversary of my birth, I thank you for giving me the chance to serve you.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah