Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Power of Yearning

carolyn_beaverBy Karuna (Carolyn) Beaver, SVA Board Member

Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who coined the term “follow your bliss,” explains that everyone experiences spiritual yearning, but not everyone acts on it.  Swami Nirmalananda further explains that most people find ways to divert this powerful yearning into other, more conventional things.

For years I diverted this powerful yearning into conventional things. I created a loving and stable marriage and family, a beautiful home and meaningful work. As fortunate as I was to attain these things, I still felt something was missing. I realized I wanted to be of service so I began volunteering in my community. Still something was missing, though I didn’t know exactly what. I began to “work on myself,” 1 in 100exploring self-help and spiritual books that I thought could explain the deeper meaning of life and my place in it. And, still, there was something missing.

Then I discovered Svaroopa® yoga, and it peeled away layers of tension that I didn’t realize were there. My yearning changed from reading books about discovering what’s inside to actually experiencing it. In my first teacher training, I remember Swami Nirmalananda telling us we should make an effort to meet enlightened beings and to get ourselves a Guru. Even though I was rather intimidated by Swami’s (then Rama) presence, I thought to myself, ‘she is going to be my Guru one day.’ Swami opened up for me the yearning for enlightenment, for Self-Realization.

While, as Campbell said, everyone feels this yearning, not everyone acts on it. Baba Muktananda explained it this way:

  • muktanandaOut of 100 who feel the yearning, one recognizes it as a yearning for something the world cannot provide.
  • Out of 100 who recognize it as a spiritual longing, one looks for a Guru.
  • Out of 100 who look for a Guru, one finds a Master who can give the experience as well as the teachings.
  • Out of 100 who find such a Master, one opens their heart and mind.
  • Out of 100 who open their heart and mind, one does the discipline.
  • Out of 100 who do the discipline, one comes to know God.

Swami asks, “which one are you?” It’s a question worth pondering. You are on a yogic path, no matter what your level of participation. The longer you do yoga and meditate, the more clear this path becomes, and the more clear your yearning becomes. You are yearning to know yourself as Consciousness-Itself. You are yearning to find the Divine within.

I am forever grateful to Swami for creating Svaroopa® yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation, and infusing them with the Grace that she received from her Guru, Muktananda. I show my gratitude by engaging in another yogic practice, dakshina, the practice of giving. This is my dharma, my duty as a student, to acknowledge the teachings I receive. I am compelled to give back in return.

Lokananda - Donor gift pictureFor this reason, I plan to give another donation to the Ashram’s capital campaign. Yes, I know I have been asked to give twice before. But what this says to me is that I didn’t give enough the first and second times. My donations did not fully match my yearning, or my gratitude for what I’ve received. I know when I give this last donation to help the Ashram meet the goal it set a year ago, I will be acting on my yearning. I will be giving in order to know my own Self, and it will take me a step further on my yogic path. I want to be that one in 100.

What about you? Click here to donate.



Survival, Enrichment or More?

matrikaBy Matrika Gast

Learning for survival starts at birth and continues even into old age. While lactation consultants help new moms learn to breastfeed, often they also need to help newborns learn to “latch on.” B. F. Skinner’s Enjoy Old Age teaches tactics and techniques for continuing a vibrant life in the midst of failing hearing, eyesight and physical and mental capacity.

yoga-babiesIn between birth and old age, we learn to walk, talk, tie our shoes, read, write and do math. We get job training in a trade or a profession, and keep our work-related knowledge and skills up to date with continuing education. Parents take classes, read articles and books to hone their parenting skills as well as learn from other parents.

Lifelong learning also provides enrichment. Community education programs offer so many options:  practicalities (accounting and starting a business); whimsy (becoming a clown); arts, music lessons and exercise of all kinds; history (from local to world); martial arts, yoga and meditation; gardening, raising chickens and cooking — and more.

When you become a Svaroopa® yogi, lifelong learning is a given. But your learning turns out to be about much MORE than merely survival or even enrichment. You take your first class and then keep on going, while you gain more than you ever imagined. Along with your daily pose and meditation practice, you have an expanded perspective on your life and purpose. Perhaps you even become a teacher, so your lifelong learning fulfills your formal, professional commitment for Continuing Ed.

stslomo-0398When you continue Svaroopa® yoga practices, with or without a professional goal, you are engaged in lifelong learning.  That’s because with every spinal sequence, you learn something new. At the same time, your body changes, preparing you for new learning the next day. With every meditation, you learn something new, plus your mind and your life change, opening up in beautiful ways. Every practice gives you a new dimension of yourself and your Self. Layer by layer, inner and outer contraction melts. At a deep level, you learn yoga’s first teaching: “You are perfect and divine. Know this Truth and live it.”[1]

This is embodied learning. More happens.  Outside, you notice the green leaves of an ordinary tree against a sapphire blue sky — intensely beautiful!  Yet you know that the ineffable pleasure arising from within you is Divine. You hear the sound of wind in the trees or the constant flow of a river as sacred mantra. You see the eyes of an acquaintance brighten when she talks about the children she taught in kindergarten, showing you firsthand that she is a manifestation of Divine Consciousness.

freebiesIf you need a refresher course in this Divine Reality, “Freebies” on our website are just a click away. Listen to recordings of Swamiji’s contemplations articles, with each one building on the other in our yearlong theme of Yoga & Spirituality.  Her satsang audios give you specific guidance on how to stay “fresh” with the knowing of your own Self through yogic practices and disciplines.

This lifelong learning is profoundly different than any other, because you are doing so much more than acquiring knowledge and skills. You are learning to experience own Self. You are learning to know your Self as a tangible reality. You “learn” that knowing again and again, until again becomes always.

Taking this pathway to Self-Realization requires your effort. Like with any learning, commitment is necessary. Yet this path is blessed with a Master Teacher whose nature is to dispense Grace. This Grace carries you forward in your lifelong learning without struggle. You get the More you have always been seeking.

[1] September 2016 Contemplation: Yoga & Spirituality #9, “Being a Role Model” By Swami Nirmalananda & Vidyadevi Stillman

Teacher Training Experiences

Our newly streamlined YTT 1 was offered in August, and turned out to be a great program.  Only 5 days long, it offered the depth that Svaroopa® yoga has long been known for, with great responses from the students.

vitaletti-marjane-305x460Marjane Vitaletti says, “My Level 1 experience gave me a deeper knowing of my mind, my body and more. Learning more poses as well as expanding on Foundation poses was amazing. I look forward to teaching them, so my students can take yoga outside the classroom, particularly standing in Tadasana. Equally inspiring and empowering were the talks on Consciousness and the power of the Self. My meditations deepened daily, as I became more and more open with every breath and every asana. YTT Level 1 taught me where I am in this process, and it previewed the wonderful journey I continue to look forward to.”

cindy-rustCindy Rust recently moved to Tallahassee FL, where she is the only Svaroopi. She reports, “For a while I was unsure about continuing my Yoga Teacher Training. Yet, since my two previous trainings at Lokananda were so fruitful, I jumped at the chance when the opportunity arose to take YTT Level 1 in the new streamlined format. As usual, the YTT Teacher Trainers met my expectation of skillful, exacting and compassionate training. Throughout the course, they demonstrated shining examples of Svaroopa® yoga’s many benefits. I like the shorter training format, bookended by half-days. This schedule makes the travel less daunting. The days are long but supported by the yoga itself, and I returned home refreshed.

“Most valuable of all was the generous time spent learning and practicing the fundamentals of planning and teaching yoga classes. Our Practice Teaching class for beginners was arranged ahead of time, and each of us received detailed individual feedback (compliments and coaching) on our teaching. Plus, we received important technical details for setting up our yoga business locally. This information included promotional material used in recruiting the students for our practicum; release forms presented and signed; after-class follow-up with the new yoga students. I am looking forward to completing DTS, and am already more comfortable with my abilities as a yoga teacher. The whole experience of Level 1 has renewed my appreciation for Svaroopa® yoga, and I am now thrilled with the opportunity of introducing it in my new hometown.”

Lokananda - Donor gift pictureThey also enjoyed their housing and meals at Lokananda, our retreat facility.  Cindy describes, “Accommodations were more than adequate. With some beds removed from the suites, more space is available for both personal yoga practice and personal storage. Not only was the food yummy, but the new chef listened to all our input, and provided well for my gluten-free needs.”

Marjane joins in, “I also fell in love with Lokananda. I remember opening day as I bustled around preparing for Swami and other teachers-in-training to arrive. Seeing the transformation of this old building was heartwarming. Being housed and trained at Lokananda for my Level 1 immersion gave me a sense of beingness and belonging. I look forward to going back.”

Take the Next Step

By Kristine Freeman, SVA Board Member

kristineLooking back, I can see that I have always been a spiritual seeker.  Born to parents with a deep Catholic faith and practice, I was blessed to be raised in relationship with God. There was mass every Sunday at our local church and a formal religious education. At home, grace was said before meals and prayers  before bed. And yet it wasn’t enough for me. I needed more.

It was this inner yearning that made me a seeker. Swami says, “This is what makes you different, even when you don’t want to be. It means that you are simply unable to satisfy your yearning with the things that satisfy others.”

1 in 100As a young teen, I remember attending a youth retreat, a wonderfully expansive weekend of group activities and worship, including folk music, prayers and religious talks. We shared meals, bunkrooms and hall bathrooms. We enjoyed the freedom of being away from the responsibilities of home and school. I loved it. And yet at the end of the weekend, Sister Bernadette, the incredible spiritual being who ran the program and the center, explained that as special as the weekend had been, “You can’t live here.” Literally and figuratively, it was time to return to our normal lives. I cried. A lot. I didn’t want to return to the contraction.

swamiFast forward 40 years and I find myself at Lokananda, our bliss place. Listening to our Guru explain, “Bliss is your birthright. I want you to live in the wholeness, live from that place of joy all the time.” She is telling and showing us that living from that expanded place is possible. Her words bring me such joy. I have reached the stage in the spiritual process where I yearn to spend more and more time with my Guru. Swami describes this stage:

This yearning happens because the Guru’s state is infectious. When you sit with the Guru, you experience reciprocal adaptation, otherwise known as a ‘contact high.’ Though your eyes and your mind are full of the Guru, what you are experiencing is your own Self. That’s the value of the Guru — to give you your own Self.

Lokananda - Donor gift picturePriceless. Please join me in making an additional contribution to our Lokananda Capital Campaign. The practice of financial support, dakshina, is a powerful practice. Is your yearning powerful enough to provide the funding to ensure Svaroopa® immersion programs will continue in Lokananda? When you support your yogic process, and the Master who makes it possible, you take a powerful step in your spiritual journey.

Click here to donate.

Years of Yearning

matrikaBy Matrika Gast, SVA Board Member 

William Wordsworth first awakened my yearning for transcendence. In a poem about a blissful experience in nature, he described it as “a sense sublime… Whose dwelling is…”

…the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.  — “Tintern Abby” 1798

This passage makes me remember glimpsing the Divine in sunsets when I was in high school, in a swirl of adolescent angst and family dysfunction. I was relieved to feel a sense of eternal Presence that “rolls through all things.” It was just slightly out of reach. If I worked hard enough in school, I could get to It, I thought.

1 in 100Decades later I accidentally took a Svaroopa® yoga class at a yoga teachers’ conference in another style. I loved the chant CD that accompanied the practice, with poses supported by fluffy pillows. But, really, what was up with this rolling around on the floor? But when I walked down the hall afterward, my back felt light and airy, like a fresh marshmallow. Before that, a deep ache was all I had ever felt in my back.

Five years later (I’m a slow learner), my yearning for transcendence led me to Svaroopa® YTT Level 1. I was sitting in Sukhasana, effortlessly, when a pink flow arose from deep within; I felt it to be the pure love of God and knew it was Real. That was the first of more and more experiences of Self, continuing to strengthen the yearning Patanjali describes:

Teevra-samvegaanaan-aasanahYoga Sutras 1.21 

This summer in ATT 402: Deeper Practice, we received Swami Nirmalananda’s renderings of Patanjali’s Sutras, including Sutra 1.21. Because it is the narrative of my own life, I especially resonate with this one:

All your life, you have been experiencing a yearning — it is the yearning for God. Recognize the yearning itself. It is the fuel for the rocket ship that takes you to God.

matrikaI am finally discovering that “sitting” with the “yearning itself,” without directing it to conventional pursuits, is a practice in itself. I love that it was in Sukhasana that I first had that experience of God as my own Self. The sutra’s final Sanskrit word “aasanah” means “sitting near.” When you allow yourself to experience your strong yearning, you are already sitting near your own Self. You are infinitesimally close to the transcendence that you earnestly seek. Our Svaroopa® Sciences, given to us by our Master Teacher, provide a banquet of yogic practices to nourish the yearning that first drew us to seek the “More.”

You, I and all our Svaroopa sisters and brothers stepped onto this path because we yearned for the “More.”  Maybe it was more health, more wellbeing or even transformation and illumination. Maybe it was for more fulfilling work in the world, becoming a Svaroopa® yoga teacher. Maybe you were already a seeker, yearning to be established in your own Self. What would any of us do without our Svaroopa® Sciences: asana, meditation, chant, study of the ancient texts, puja, etc.?

lokananda front - Copy - CopyNow we have a Place of Bliss — Lokananda — a physical structure. The building serves us with full-service, immersed trainings and retreats, with the cultivation of physical healing, ever-expanding wellbeing and mystical transcendence.  For all of us, on our individual paths, Lokananda serves us.  Here, we clear the “shrama,” accumulated world-weariness, and immerse in the Svaroopa® Sciences teachings and practices.  At Lokananda, we support the fulfillment of our yearning and our dharma.

Our tantric teachings say the Divine and the mundane are inextricably interwoven. So Lokananda needs a new roof! What could be more mundane? We need to fund that expensive repair as well to replenish the reserves used to renovate this beautiful old building. It is infused with Grace from our ancient lineage extending. Lokananda is for you, for me, and for our Svaroopa sisters and brothers — to cultivate your yearning and to fulfill yoga’s promise.  Our Place of Bliss is our yoga home.

Over the past year, we have raised two-thirds of our $150,000 goal. If you have already contributed, you already know the vital importance of this building to our organization. If you have waited until now, the time is at hand to make a significant difference with your contribution.

Either way, please step up for this final leg of our Capital Campaign, raising the final $50,000.00, to ensure this building that takes you — and our current and future community — all the way home to your own Self.

Click here to donate.

Yoga is Education

matrikaBy Matrika Gast

If you take yoga classes, you are a yogi. You are being educated in the science of yoga. You can count on your “yoga studies” to ensure that you are in a process of personal growth.

Search for “personal growth” on AmazonSmile and you’ll find hundreds of titles, largely focusing on cultivating career and success in the world.  A yogi’s personal growth certainly includes career and worldly pursuits. In fact, your education as a yogi makes this type of success more available to you.

35422.jpgBut yogic education does not focus on outward achievement. When you are a yogi, your education is directed inward, an expansion on the inside. You may have started yoga because of physical or emotional pain.  While Svaroopa® yoga poses improves your condition, rather these practices make you able to turn your awareness inward. That change in direction dissolves inner tensions that create so much of the pain in body and mind. This release allows you to grow from within as naturally as an acorn sprouts into an oak tree.

This is true education, coming from the Latin verb educere, meaning to bring forth that which is hidden. You have learned yogic practices that not only make you more effective in the world but, more importantly, open you to your own True Nature. You become more and more illuminated from the source within, the light of your own Self . When you unravel the deep layers of physical tension and mental contraction, you bloom from within in the glory of that Light.

4 helen meditating cmyk - CopyThis education transforms you inside and outside, as it brings forth that which was always there in you — but hidden. You are able to use more effectively your inborn talents as well as your life skills. Certainly, your life improves outwardly. Yet this education teaches you that you never needed to improve yourself. You find that you were always whole, you were always the eternal Divine Essence. You are able to live more and more in that inner knowing, which frees you. Yes, reliably, you become more effective in what you do in the world, yet your joy, your bliss, arises from within.