A Yogic Lifestyle?

yogeshwariBy Yogeshwari Fountain

As 2018 unfolds, each teachings article will explore one of yoga’s eight limbs as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  In “Self-Effort & Grace,” Swamiji and Vidyadevi Stillman describe the “self-effort”  practices as the limbs of a great tree.  Each branch supports you on your journey, beginning with external practices and evolving into ever more inward expansion.  The eight limbs include:

  • yamas and niyamas (restraints and observances)
  • asana (poses)
  • pranayama (breathing practices as in Ujjayi Pranayama)
  • pratyahara (turning your attention inward)
  • dharana (focusing inward)
  • dhyana (meditation)
  • samadhi (deep inner absorption).

8LimbsYogaI recently re-read my 1998 notes on Sutra 2.29.  It was clear that I had my work cut out for me even then.  Scribbled on the page’s margin was encouragement like “Just say no!”  or “You must restrain yourself from these things.”  I struggled with the question “How do you live a yogic life 24 hours a day?”  It all seemed beyond my grasp.  My mind was so busy, I had no idea where to begin.  You see, I didn’t understand Grace, the wind that has always been beneath my wings, even before I knew it.

I was surprised to find all the ways yoga started to change my life from the inside out.  Old habits no longer had the same hold.  An “untruth” fell less easily off my tongue, and I stayed in awareness instead of obsession.  Now I would rather meditate than watch TV!  Self-Effort & Grace tells us that these are signs of spiritual progress, “cleaning up your act.”

Swamiji and Vidyadevi assure us that no matter where you start your climb, you’re going to experience all eight limbs: “It’s like climbing a tree: you can skip some limbs and still get to the top.”  When I started on this path, I loved doing Svaroopa® yoga poses.  Little did I know that starting with the asana branch would develop into a love of chanting, meditating and writing blogs on the ancient sutras.  Swami reassures us, “You don’t have to do the limbs in order.”

Some of my students don’t want the lifestyle change yoga’s limbs provide.  Thus, they do actually do less yoga in order to stay in their “comfort zone.”  I understand their choice and honor the limb they want to hang out on.  Yet yoga is not about happiness or comfort.  It is about Self-Realization, the knowing of your inherent Divinity.  If you’re yearning for this, you have to still your mind.  The eight limbs of yoga specialize in this.

Swami - blue chairGuru’s Grace is the shortcut to the knowing of your Divinity, your own Self.  Swami Nirmalananda awakens the arising of your own inner spiritual energy.  She describes it this way, “Patanjali teaches you how to dissolve the clouds.  By contrast, my Guru simply gave me the sky.”  She is comparing the practices you learn from Patanjali with Guru’s Grace.

Still, you need Self-Effort.  You have to do the hard stuff.  Whatever limb you choose to begin with, know that the whole tree is rooted in the Grace of our Svaroopa® Vidya lineage.  Baba Muktananda said, “The Self is already attained.”  You get to choose how to apply yourself to the process.  I started with asana, but I now focus on mantra.  What will your focus be in 2018?

Why I Teach

Rajni (Chelsea) King 1By Raj~ni King

Teaching Svaroopa® yoga has kept me on this Divine path.  To start, I didn’t think I was going to teach Svaroopa® yoga.  I took Foundations to learn some tools for myself since I didn’t live near a teacher.  Before I knew it, I was taking YTT Level 1.  Grace was guiding me before I even knew what Grace was.  The total immersion of the teacher trainings was so powerful.  Then, having to teach others what I learned deepened my experience of the Svaroopa® Sciences.  Being a student in a weekly class just wouldn’t have done it.  I needed to be knocked in the head with the frying pan of Consciousness!

MeditationWhen I took Meditation Teacher Training, I had to write and teach about Consciousness.  This helped me to understand and more tangibly experience what I had been getting all along.  The yoga process and the purpose of asana was so clear.  It is spiritual upliftment, rather than just the reliable physical, mental and emotional improvement that begins the process.  Knowing and more fully experiencing the purpose of practicing asana shifted my teaching profoundly.  Even though I was saying the same words and teaching the same asanas, my understanding of the goal shifted.

My teaching experience made my understanding and experience of Consciousness real.  If I hadn’t taught, I doubt I would be able to hold onto the full, rich, deep experiences of trainings and retreats.  Every class I teach, whether asana or meditation, is an experience of being conscious in Consciousness.  It’s great practice for the rest of my life.  There, functioning in the knowing of my own Self doesn’t come as easy.

Holding Candle AratiWhen I go into the studio to teach, I light a candle and do arati to the Gurus from our lineage.  Then, because the space is shared, I always do a round of incense with the mantra to clear the energy.  These practices help me to settle into my Self before I teach.  The clearing also opens the way to the inflow of Grace from our lineage.  It becomes tangible, not only for me, but my students as well.  They know that they’re different when they leave.  At the end of class this week, a new student exclaimed that she felt like a whole new person.  She was glowing; they were all glowing.

Being able to offer the practices and begin able to facilitate that shift for people is a precious gift.  I feel such gratitude for what Swami Nirmalananda has given to me.  I cannot imagine my life without practicing Svaroopa® yoga and meditation nor without teaching those practices.  It’s a deep part of my inner process and spiritual growth.  And if I can make a difference along the way in how other people feel in their lives and their spiritual process, then that’s an even greater gift.  It’s a Divine seva.

2018 – A Yoga Year!

mangalaBy Mangala Allen

“The purpose of life is two-fold, like the two sides of a coin: 1) to have experiences and 2) to discover who you are,”  Swami Nirmalananda began her New Year’s Retreat in Atlanta with this teaching.  Being in her presence extended the sweet space between the old year and the new.  Grace flowed as she led me into reviewing where I have been and where I am going.

I listened intently as Swamiji spoke about being, “present in your own presence.” She explained how it makes a difference in your experience of life.  Yoga specializes in cultivating the ability to “live from the place that is un-disturb-able,” she said.

Mantra is the most important practice in getting there:  “Every repetition of the mantra takes you deeper, so you can experience your experiences from the timeless eternal reality that is your own Self.”  How do you want to live?  The guided vichara (guided self inquiry) helped me understand where I have been and where I am choosing to go.  I choose to follow Swamiji’s suggestion and resolve to make decisions that will take me toward the Self. new year new you

Then we all made New Year’s resolutions — a single word, a quality we would like to cultivate.  Our New Year’s Day began with Sri Guru Gita and a talk by Swamiji, while we were joined by Shishya Members via conference call.

During the retreat’s three days, Swamiji and we were supported by Ashram sevites, with Rukmini Abbruzzi serving as chef and Karuna Beaver teaching asana and managing the program.  We learned a set of poses for our home practice that will propel us into applying ourselves to our resolve.  What a wonderful way to begin a new year, a year that promises to be a wonderful new year – full of yoga!

Doing More Yoga

Madelyn Jablonby Madelyn Jablon (interviewed by Maitreyi Wilsman)

Madelyn Jablon knows the continuous and “tangible” benefits of Guru’s Grace.  In 2003, Madelyn was living in Rehoboth Beach, a sleepy resort community, with very little to do.  Madelyn started taking yoga classes because it was the only thing in town during the off-season.  She attended daily classes.  At the time, Madelyn worked as a high school special education teacher so she especially enjoyed being in the student’s role in her yoga classes.  Madelyn followed her teachers’ suggestion and enrolled in Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga —to deepen her own practice.  Madelyn also took Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation courses twice.

In the final Shavasanas of her yoga classes, Madelyn often experienced “blue lights.”  When she shared this with her teacher, she was told to attend a Shaktipat Retreat.  Madelyn now jokes that she attends a shaktipat retreat every year, whether she needs it or not!  She is also a regular at Swamiji’s Sunday Satsangs, and practices meditation as well as yoga at home daily.  Madelyn does seva as an Ashram baker and prepares the snacks for Swami Sunday’s chai recess.

With her consistent and deepening yoga practices, Madelyn experiences profound benefits.  Her meditations are especially rich experiences.  In her home, she does arati (the candle flame ceremony) to Swami Nirmalananda’s photo.  In meditation, she senses Swamiji’s presence.

Swamiji Calgary bindiAt first Madelyn struggled with the idea of a Guru-Disciple relationship and acknowledging Swamiji’s influence and power.  Now she visualizes this spiritual relationship as a bicycle ride.  Madelyn says, “I am holding one handlebar and Swamiji is holding the other.  When I am uncertain of the course, I lighten my hold of the handlebars and feel Swamiji take control of the steering.  If she didn’t, I would fall and crash.  When I do not know where I am going, she guides me.  As long as Swamiji is with me, I will not fall.”  Madelyn knows that she is guided by Swamiji.  She also feels Kundalini’s guidance.  Madelyn says that her morning chant of the Kundalini Stotra is the most potent of her practices.

Fifteen months ago, Madelyn’s husband died of cancer.  As his illness was progressing, Madelyn knew she needed help.  After researching counselors and therapists, she made the dreaded but necessary call for help.  Instead of hearing the anticipated comforting voice, she reached a voicemail message that said, “DO NOT leave a message.”

Madelyn hung up the phone and thought, “I guess I’m going to have to help myself…self…SELF!!  I know what that means: DO MORE YOGA!”  Her next phone call was to a Vichara (guided self-inquiry) Therapist, who answered the phone and helped Madelyn through this difficult time.

During that year, Madelyn meditated and saw its powerful effects on herself, her husband, physicians, hospice workers and even the hospital valet, who noticed the mala she was wearing.  He asked her about it and whether she could get him one.

Guru_Gita_CD_CoverHospital nurses told Madelyn that they found her husband’s room calm and peaceful.  They asked whether they could sit in her chair during their breaks.  While other patients refused painful procedures, Madelyn meditated and played Sri Guru Gita while her husband slept through spinal taps and whole brain radiation.  A doctor who had performed surgery during Sri Guru Gita asked her for a copy of the CD.  The hospice staff asked questions about the puja she had set up in her husband’s room.  They were curious.  They could feel its transformative power in the room’s atmosphere.

As her husband’s illness progressed, Madelyn recalls doing increasingly less thinking and more feeling, trusting spontaneity and Grace.  Ujjayi made living unpredictably possible.  Madelyn found she could survive with little sleep and irregular meals.  At the onset of her husband’s illness, Madelyn shared the news with Swamiji, who told her that caring for her husband was her dharma — her responsibility.  As a result, Madelyn knew that, though it was difficult, she was doing exactly what she was meant to be doing.

Madelyn was the final speaker at her husband’s memorial service.  This event provided a measure of how radically Madelyn had been transformed by being steeped in the Svaroopa® Sciences practices.  Formerly, she would have been immobilized by fear at the prospect of addressing 200 people at such an emotionally-charged event.  What would she say?  In the past, she would have spent weeks thinking, writing, stressing.  Instead, she came home from school and flipped open a magazine.  It opened to a poem, “Marriage.” She gave thanks (another experience that was happening spontaneously) and took the stage with confidence.

In January, Madelyn will take Foundations of Svaroopa® Yoga again, perhaps for a different reason this time.  Meanwhile, you can find Madelyn either in Newark or Rehoboth, caring for her dog.  He loves her yoga room.  Together they visit there often!

Knowing My Self as the Light

karunaBy Karuna (Carolyn) Beaver

One Christmas, while my sisters were playing happily with their new toys, i retreated to my room to cry.  I remembered my mother asking me why I wasn’t happily playing with my siblings.  My answer was that I was sad because I had so much and there were so many children who had nothing.  I now know that I had created an identity around being a caring little person.  This was the source of my sadness.

I still have an aversion to all the excess of the winter holiday season: food, parties, lavish gifts.  Fortunately, “You Are the Light You Celebrate,” our December teachings article, has helped me come to grips with my aversion.  The article points us to the different yogic “road maps” for moving through the holidays.  Throughout 2017, our monthly contemplation articles have detailed these maps.  In the midst of holiday glitter, these maps can show us tried and true ways to recognize that we are, indeed, the true Light of Consciousness.

To find my inner Light, I chose the map of tracing back through the kleshas.  One klesha is aversion (“dvesha” in Sanskrit).  Why am I so averse to the things that bring so many people happiness and connection with one another? The map says that dvesha is actually hiding a desire that you cannot fulfill.  The desire is called raaga.  So I tracked inward a little further and discovered that I actually DO have a desire.  I want to experience the “highs” the holidays can bring — the excitement, joy, giving and receiving.

The klesha road map says you must keeping tracking inward in order to dissolve the roots of each klesha.  The next is asmitaa, identity.  We all create identities around what we do, who we know, where we are located.  This brought me to that powerful memory of the identity of a caring person, since I was a child.

And this rather painful identity arose from the deepest and most powerful kleshas — avidyaa.  “A” means “not” and “vidya” means “knowing.” The translation is literally “not knowing who you really are” — not feeling good enough.  This can be scary and intense.  I certainly experienced this as a child.

Swamiji KarunaI didn’t know then what I know now.  The Svaroopa® Sciences have awakened me to knowing I am the Light of Consciousness.  Receiving Shaktipat from Swamiji was the primary key to this deep inner opening.  I experience who I really am, so I don’t have to take on identities, desires, aversion or fear.

I write this from Ganeshpuri, India, on retreat with Swami Nirmalananda and other Svaroopa® yogis.  Here, Swamiji sat at the feet of her Guru, as I now sit at hers.  When I return home just before Christmas, I will approach the season and my nearest and dearest from a deeper sense of my own being.  And I will follow Swami and Rukmini’s advice in our December teachings article.  I will remember my own light and do more yoga in order to keep discovering who I really am.

Gratitude for Your Generosity

Amala Lynn Cattafi

By Amala Lynn Cattafi, SVA Board President

“True generosity opens your heart and quiets your mind,” wrote Swamiji in our November 1998 contemplation.  Practicing generosity “invites yoga into your relationships with money, with time and with other people.”

Our many donors in our Fall Fundraiser prove this to be true.  You manifest this again and again, when you support our Svaroopa® Sciences and Swamiji with such loving generosity.  I am filled with such gratitude for your gifts.

Today I saw an ad saying, “Reinvent Giving.” The ad’s intent is that you purchase an extravagant holiday gift.  It promoted a personal payoff, essentially “buying” the love and gratitude of others.  However, the ad moved me to contemplate how yoga is reinventing giving for us yogis.  Yoga purifies your generosity, making it a selfless offering, born of an open heart, needing nothing in return.  This is when giving or serving propels you into your Self.    Consider what happened for you when you made your donation — did you experience quiet mind, expansive heart, and perhaps deep joy? Did it propel you into your Self?  Then you’ve found the yoga in the giving.

Swamiji recently shared that She has lived a Grace-filled life.  This does not mean that life was always easy.  She has had, as we all have had, many trials, hardships and pain.  Yet even in the midst of the “worst” that life can offer, Grace is there.  You can see it when you look more closely.

There is so much to be grateful for, isn’t there? You can be grateful for your yoga, your teacher, the loving support of your fellow yogis, and for the amazing promise of yoga — that you will know your own Divinity.  Look, and you will see Grace in places you were not aware of before.

Thank you so very much for supporting the financial needs of the Ashram and Swamiji.  If you would like to add a last minute year-end donation to our campaign, please click here.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.  I wish you a Grace-filled New Year.

Om Svaroopa Svasvabhava Namo Namah

New Year’s Split Mung Pancakes

binduBy Bindu Shortt

These yummy New Year’s pancakes are easily digested by all Ayurvedic constitutions. With all six tastes, these pancakes are more savory than sweet, making them a good main course at any meal.

INGREDIENTS

  • 566028bfe2c4a863e79999aceb0ff8fc--korean-food-recipes-savory-pancakes1 cup of split mung dahl
  • 3 tablespoons of rice (Note: Ayurveda recommends white basmati rice as it is the most easily digested.)
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • ½ red bell pepper, 2 scallions, and a handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the split mung dahl and the rice and then rinse well.
  2. Soak the rice and dahl mixture in water to cover for four hours. (Note: The beans and rice will expand, so add extra water as needed so the mixture stays covered.)
  3. When they have soaked for about two and half hours, finely chop or shred a medium zucchini. Sprinkle it with the half teaspoon of sea salt, and mix it all together well with your fingers. Let it sit for an hour to draw out the water. Then squeeze it with your hands to expel all of the water, so it doesn’t make the pancakes mushy. The salt left will help flavor the mix. Set to the side.
  4. Chop the red bell pepper half, two scallions, and a handful of cilantro.
  5. Separately, chop the yellow onion.
  6. Strain the soaked rice and bean mixture, and transfer it to a good blender. Add the cup of water and the half teaspoon of salt.
  7. Blend it quite well it’s until smooth and looks like pancake batter. The beans and rice will be pretty well liquefied.
  8. Add the chopped yellow onion and blend again to pretty much liquefy the onion.
  9. Pour the batter into a large bowl and stir in the shredded zucchini, chopped red pepper, scallions, and cilantro. Use a wooden spoon to avoid bruising the veggies.
  10. Add a little ghee or oil to your cooking pan, on medium heat. Cook the batter like pancakes.

They are nice dipped in a little tamari or with a tamarind sauce, which you can buy ready-made. Yummy!