In Relationship with a Great Being

Rajni (Chelsea) King 2By Rajni (Chelsea) King

“My Guru’s words are like a boat taking me across the fathomless ocean of me doubting my essential nature.  I honor and enter into my Guru’s words.  They are profound, easy to understand, and make me able to rest in deepening inner stages of blissful Consciousness.” — Spanda Karikas.  4.1, rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Swami Nirmalananda makes the profound, ancient teachings and practices of yoga so accessible and easy to understand.  The way she translates them to pertain to everyday life is such a gift! So today I celebrate the anniversary of her birth.

Swamiji and SheynaPurna (Sandy) PeaceWhen I contemplate my journey on this path and my relationship to Swami Nirmalananda, “support” is the first word that comes up.  Being in relationship with Swamiji has brought Grace-filled, Grace-fueled support to my life, on the inside and the outside.  Svaroopa® yoga asana practice first gave me tangible physical support.  Swamiji originated this yoga style from spontaneous Kundalini movements arising during her meditations.  Her Guru, Baba Muktananda, blessed her with these openings, borne of the inner power of revelation.

This Grace-filled asana practice drew me in and placed me on the path.  I first learned “support equals release.” This is true on all levels.  Guru’s Grace and support are built into every aspect of this yoga.  The poses open so much more than just the physical body!  Given that opening, I have experienced the ever-deepening support of Swamiji’s meditative teachings and devotional practices.  Every practice points me back to my Self.  And, of course, there’s the portable Guru, the mantra.  It is always there to remind me that the Guru, who is my own Self, is so close.

Shaktipat SwamiThe greatest blessing of my Guru is the gift of Shaktipat, the awakening of the Kundalini energy.  It opens me to the tangible support of my inner Guru, my inner guide.  When I stepped onto this path, I was riddled with self-doubt.  I was convinced that “I wasn’t doing it right.” I felt that I didn’t really know how to meditate, that I wasn’t getting it! I felt numb mentally and physically.

Yet I knew I needed to be on this path.  It was a deeper knowing, a knowing beyond the negativity of my mind.  Something was propelling me forward, even though my mind couldn’t explain or comprehend what I was getting.  Things were changing at a deeper level than I could perceive at the time.  Clearly my negative and doubtful mind wasn’t on board.  What kept me going all those years?

Swami Birthday 1Much later, I understood that I had received Guru initiation.  It was a spontaneous Shaktipat.  The Grace of the Gurus propelled me along the path and continues to propel me forward.  Swamiji’s Grace supports me on the inside and the outside.  Thus, I too can live in the ever-expanding pure joy and contentment of my own Self!

So on Swamiji’s birthday, I celebrate her.  I feel immensely blessed to be in relationship with a Great Being.  How could I be so fortunate to have found this path?  It truly is the greatest gift.  Happy Birthday, Swamiji!

Finding a Way to Say Thanks

Dhananjaya (David) King 1By Dhananjaya King, SVA Board Member

A decade ago, my Guru Swami Nirmalananda set me on fire.  She gave me a simple adjustment in Alternate Leg pose.  That touch ignited a slow burn, which has been profoundly transformative.  I am truly grateful, for I am different now in ways I could never have imagined.

If you had told me then that I would have compassion for people who were trying to harm me or my family, I would have told you in no uncertain terms you were wrong.  Yet here I am, wanting to help those whom, in the past, I would have called enemies.  Before she came into my life, I was caught in drama, in the pursuit of desire.  Now I have only the one yearning, to know myself as the One Self Being All.

Swamiji in GaneshpuriBecause I am grateful to Guruji, I feel compelled to show my gratitude.  Yet how do you show gratitude to her, when she attributes everything that she gives as coming from her own Guru? When you thank her for all she has given, Guruji says she does what Baba has empowered her to do.  She offers to us what Baba offered to her.  She gives to us what we are able to receive.

So I feel that showing gratitude is supporting her in any way I can.  As a SVA Board Member, I serve by managing Ashram facilities.  I help improve the Ashram buildings that hold the Shakti which she infuses.  In gratitude, I offer time and service to support our community.  Following Guruji’s lead, I deal with everyone I meet in a more meaningful and present way.  I am empowered to do this because Guru’s Grace flows through me into everyone with whom I come into contact.

At this designated time of Thanksgiving, I ask you to find a way to show your gratitude for what you have received from Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings and presence.  Expressing your gratitude tangibly will serve you in cultivating the seeds of transformation that she has planted in you.  Once you fully give yourself to the act of giving, things that you could never have imagined will unfold.

Inner Awakening logoOr perhaps looking at this another way works better for you.  A better question may be how much can you receive? Perhaps you don’t yet notice what she has planted in you.  If so, pondering this question will help you notice the new you that is beginning to form, thanks to Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings and presence.

In any case, I invite you to recognize what you have received and find a way to show your gratitude.  I don’t fully comprehend how she brings to fruition the transformation in each of us who sit at her feet.  I just know that I want to help her do what she does for all of us.

I ask you to do as I am doing, to support her in any way you can.  In this season of giving and gratitude please give what you can to support Guruji.  Click here to donate on online, or call the Ashram at 610.644.7555.  Every gift, of any size and frequency, makes a difference.  Thank you.

Gratitude & Grace: Fearless Generosity

By Amala Cattafi, SVA Board President

Gratitude and Grace logo full size

In order to feel the awe and humility of gratitude, you have to let go. You can’t analyze and evaluate what you’ve been given. While this sounds easy, it can be so very difficult. Especially when the gift is the gift of your Self. It can be so easy to look around, compare yourself and your experiences with others, focusing only on what you have not yet realized.

Yoga says, “Just let go. Let yourself be overwhelmed.” OK…how?

“In the moment gratitude arises, when you get your ego out of the way, when you get to ‘oh wow, I am deeply touched,’ you can let your heart be touched and let down your guard. You give up who you usually are, and then you are propelled into who you really are.”                                           — Swami Nirmalananda

Gratitude, Generosity and Grace — the 3 G’s. Our Ashram Board is focusing our fall fundraising campaign on Gratitude & Grace, but Generosity is the organic result.

I confess that generosity has always been easier for me than gratitude. Not that I am not thankful, it is just that I often tend to focus on others’ needs first. I find it easier to give a gift than to receive it, perhaps not feeling worthy. Maybe receiving is easier for you. Generosity and gratitude are like the two sides of the same coin. Generosity will help you find the gratitude that’s there. Likewise, awe of true gratitude will open your heart to generosity.

For example, when you have a deep experience of your Self in meditation, during Shaktipat, or at darshan, it’s easy to understand it is the greatest gift from the Guru. You melt into gratitude and your heart immediately opens wide. Your mind stops and you want to live in that feeling. In that moment, overwhelming generosity flows with ease.

Flip the coin. Think of a moment when you had an impulse to give a financial gift or to give of your time and energy. Fearless generosity arose within you. It bubbled up like gently simmering milk. Did you shut it down, or let yourself go into it? When you second-guessed it or shut it down, you likely felt regret, but you shut that down too. Your mind activates all the reasons why you shouldn’t have listened to your heart.

What about the times when you let fearless generosity guide you?  When you offered a donation that seemed beyond what was “reasonable;” when you offered yourself for seva that you “had no time for;” when you got your ego out of the way to apologize to someone you may have hurt, even when you were “right.”  If you look at these moments, I would bet that putting yourself out there left an afterglow of deep gratitude.

Grace is propelling both gratitude and generosity. It moves you, overwhelms you and opens your heart, which opens up a deeper perspective. It shifts your focus from what you lack to what you have. It opens you up to the miracle of being vibrantly alive. This is why we are here — to live in that knowing.

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“True generosity opens your heart and quiets your mind…  Practicing generosity invites yoga into your relationships with money, with time and with other people.”  — Swami Nirmalananda

In this season of giving, please follow your impulse to give in support of the Ashram and all Swamiji gives you. In this way, you support our ability to continue to open you up. Your loving gratitude and fearless generosity make it all possible. Click here to make your one-time donation or begin a monthly pledge.

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I offer my reflection on letting go into the 3 G’s in loving gratitude to Swami Nirmalananda Saraswatii.

Namaste, Amala Lynn Cattafi-Heinlein

Om Svaroopa Svasvabhava Namo Namah

Our Guru’s Gifts


vibhuti-2By Vibhuti King

My box of chant CDs arrived in the mail!  Sent to us Svaroopa® yoga teachers by our Ashram, they are part of the Mandali programs to expand our yoga community locally.  Teachers pass the CDs on to their own students as “thank you” gifts, just for them being our students.  Coming from our Guru, Swami Nirmalananda, these CDs carry an even greater gift: Her Grace.

171107 SVA Blog - Why I Teach - Picture 1At the end of class today, I invited each student to choose their CD.  I was delighted that many already had some of Nirmalananda’s CDs.  Some requested a duplicate of their “favorite.”  The CD was getting worn out!

Students chatted about which chants they liked to listen to depending on how they were feeling.  They described how a certain chant expressed their joy or yearning.  They discussed which chant was good to listen to before meditation or while driving.  And all agreed that chanting along with the CDs helped them to feel closer to the whole Svaroopa® yoga and meditation community.  Until this gratitude gathering, I had no idea that these chants mean as much to them as they mean to me.

171107 SVA Blog - Why I Teach - Picture 2I am grateful for this time of sharing, of community, of coming together around the ancient practice of lifting our voices to that which uplifts us.  We all have so much to be grateful for.  Often it’s more than we know.  This sharing allowed me to see my students in a deeper way.  It showed me how they turn to their practice to express themselves and how personal these chants are to them.

One woman began to chant the words of “Asato,” and others joined in:

Asato ma sad gamayaa

Tamaso ma jyotir gamayaa

Mrtyor ma amtram gamayaa

OM

Lead me from untruth to truth

Lead me from darkness to light

Lead me from the fear of death to the nectar of immortality

OM

swami-2.jpgThe woman who began this chant a cappella later shared how that chant saw her through a very dark time.  We have so much to be grateful for.  Thank you to my students and thank you to my teacher, my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda.

Ayurvedic Lifestyle for Fall & Winter

binduBy Bindu Shortt

Right now, in the northern regions of the northern hemisphere, leaves are falling, fields going dormant, temperatures dropping, and animals storing up food or flying south. Nature is preparing for the coming winter. Fall, a time of transition, has a certain quiet. cold, windy dayAyurvedically we are moving into vata season. Vata means “wind.” It is the element of nature that brings the qualities of cold, light, dry, rough and irregular. Vata comprises the energies of air and of the ether (space). Thus, vata can bring a sense of void.

Whatever seasonal qualities are outside you, those same qualities will accumulate inside you during that season. This may lead to health imbalances. In vata season they can show up as colds, influenza, constipation, dry skin, or sleep disturbances.  For each season, Ayurveda recommends routines to help you not accumulate too much of its seasonal energies. Working on the principle that the opposite is balancing, Ayurveda offers lifestyle suggestions to keep you well through fall and winter. Much of this may be fairly obvious or automatic for you. This is because your Ayurvedic inner wisdom is always informing you of how to stay well!

autumnFirst, notice the changes in nature where you live. When it is cold, dry and windy, give yourself warmth, oiliness and stability. It is natural to eat more winter squashes, and root veggies such as beets and carrots and parsnips. All of these build warmth in your body. Include them in your daily diet, rather than the melons and salads of summer, which cooled you.

Eat cooked foods. Hot grain cereals for breakfast are warming and grounding. Soups, stews or casseroles for lunch and dinner will help keep your immunity strong. Nuts and seeds have wonderful protein and fats, both of which will stabilize your blood sugar.

Pies are great desserts at this time of year. Pies with cooked fruits or even veggies warm you up (like pumpkin or squash pie). Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes. Add more ghee and other fats and oils to your diet. Drink more warm liquids, such as teas.

You can make a wonderful vata supportive tea. Put a half teaspoon each of whole cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a cup. You can put them right in or use a teaball. Pour boiled water over, and let it steep for a few minutes. If the seeds are floating, strain them. This tea is good for digestion, detoxing, immunity, calmness and clear thinking.

massage-oil-handsConsider adding oils on the outside of your body, by doing a daily oil massage before you shower or bathe. This practice, called abhyanga, will go a long way toward keeping you warm, soothing your nervous system, and moistening your skin. An oil massage also moves your lymph, for a detox. In vata season, sesame is the oil of choice for most people, as it has the most warming qualities. Searching online using “Ayurvedic self-massage video” yields more than a hundred hits! Click here for an example.

By making lifestyle changes into habits, you align yourself with the rhythms of the season. This will help you to enjoy the abundance and harmony of fall and winter. In addition to a vata-calming diet and oil massage, you can wear a light scarf to help hold your body warmth as well as a hat that covers your ears. And give yourself regular sleep. Go to bed by 10 pm and be up by 6 am.

Pain Relief — and So Much More

matrikaReported by Matrika Gast

Kamala Gross 1409 (2)“A new student came to class with so much pain in her hip that she could hardly manage stairs,” reports Kamala (Michelle) Gross, Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher (CSYT) and Yoga Therapist.  “She was even was in pain while she slept.  Lying in Jathara Parivrttanasana (Rotated Stomach Pose) with her knees touching, one foot hung in the air due to the severe twist in her hips.  I supported it on a large blanket roll.  After a few classes, she began yoga therapy private sessions weekly.  Just two months later, her feet rested together in Rotated Stomach Pose due to the realignment in her spine and hips.  After a year of committed yoga practice and weekly sessions, she was climbing stairs nearly pain free, aware only of an occasional, minor hip ache.  Her whole body was more upright and comfortable.”

deb shapiro

“In just three sessions,” shares Deb Shapiro, CSYT and Therapist, “a new client with Parkinson’s disease is feeling relief from pain, and her Parkinson’s symptoms have calmed.  At her first session, she exhibited a lot of shaking as well as stiffness.  She was eager to learn, so I began by teaching her poses she can do at home.  I concluded her first session by leading her in Shavasana and Ujjayi Pranayama.  After she got up from Shavasana, she was not shaking nor was she as stiff.  When I asked her what she was aware of, she smiled.  She said, ‘I feel looser and calmer.  I am so glad I have found Svaroopa® yoga.’

“After two more sessions, she is doing her Svaroopa® yoga poses every other day, and Shavasana with Ujjayi breathing every day.  After her third session, she was steady, and walked out of the studio with more ease.  I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen next!”

Rebecca YacobiA student of Jyoti (Rebecca) Yacobi, CSYT took Svaroopa® yoga classes for two years, had several Embodyment® sessions and committed to a daily Magic 4 and Ujjayi home practice.  Jyoti reports that these approaches “significantly improved mobility in her lower spine.  The tightness and pain in her sacrum is gone.”

Last March, Jyoti completed the next level of yoga therapy training, ATT 262: Treating Pain, and was able to offer more.

Yoga Therapy Intensive

After this student’s second private session with the new treatment protocols, she stopped needing her orthotics.  “She was very excited about this, describing it as her feet ‘opening and touching the earth differently.’  During her private sessions, longtime episodes of nausea and vertigo eased.  After her sixth session, the nausea was virtually gone.

“Then, after several more months, a deeper miracle unfolded.”  In a session, she experienced an inner state that was “deeper” than she had ever experienced before.  Jyoti describes, “That state lasted for several days.  My student said she felt very peaceful, quiet and very deep.  Its profound impact was obvious.”

Click here for our directory of Svaroopa® yoga teachers and therapists.

Getting to Know My Self

Janaki

By Janaki Murray

Looking at what is “lurking in the background” can be so revealing.  Whether delving into a fear, desire or aversion, I discover the motivating force and I experience many “aha!” moments.  Thus, I find working with the kleshas a highly rewarding practice, as described in our October contemplation from Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini Abbruzzi.

five-kleshas-mindfulness-ingrid-sanchezFor example, I bought a new phone last week.  It was a desire (raga) fulfilled.  However, it turned out to be quite painful as it did not work in the way I expected.  It meant I had to deal with the service provider and the store I purchased the phone from.  Fear (abhinivesha) and aversion (dvesha) raised their heads, as I had to somehow get to grips with the technology.  This threatened my identity (asmitaa) as an intelligent, educated person.  Would I be smart enough to understand what was going on?  Would I be able to resolve the problem?  In other words, was I going to be “good enough?”

My mind was churning! Looking at what was “hidden underneath” allowed me to recognize the identity (at least for now).  I could relax and allow my mind to settle.  I was no longer lost in that identity.  I found I was even able to enjoy the challenge before me and learn something in the process.  I didn’t have to wrestle with myself.

When I become aware that I am lost in “need, greed and fear,” in that moment of contemplation I know who I am.  I am the Self.  It is like the light in the darkness — the lifting of the veil of utter despair.

I find it a blissful thought that Consciousness has become me for the pure joy of being me.  How many people in the world have that understanding!

img_20160205_210945-copyI also find it comforting to understand that it is not my fault, because avidyaa (the not-knowing) is the human condition; it is built in existential angst.  I cannot think my way out of it and I need help.  For this I have so many Svaroopa® yoga and meditation practices to choose from.  They support me in growing closer to vidya (the knowing of my own Self).  They address my spiritual amnesia.

Threading through all of this is the Grace that flows through this lineage, through Swamiji and her teachings, through me and to my students.  All this leads me lovingly towards a Divine destiny — and freedom from the kleshas.  Yippee!