By Matrika Gast
In my early twenties, summiting a 6,000 foot mountain, I first experienced my Self. The vastness of land below and the embrace of sky above stopped my mind. Bliss filled me. I didn’t yet know that this was my own Self.
Thirty years rolled by before I found the Svaroopa® Sciences. Through Svaroopa® yoga poses and meditation, I again experienced bliss upwelling within. This bliss was so profound and vivid, I knew it could only be the Divine. And through Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings, I learned my experience was my own Divine Essence, the One Self Being All.
Svaroopa® yoga poses and meditation continued to take me deep inside to Self again and again. The promise is that “again and again” will become always, which has motivated my daily practices. At the same time, I realized that I depended on “things going right” in my daily life in order to really feel inner peace. So I knew I was a long way from the promised Self-Realization. Still, I would imagine that if I were in a truly difficult situation – like prison – I would be able to release spinal tension with poses and meditate to reliably access my Self.
Unexpectedly, I got the chance to test my theory… A couple of years ago, I volunteered to help teachers in a West African village school learn to use educational aids for teaching English. There are 30 to 60 kids in each class with minimal teaching supplies. The teachers were great and the kids were eager to learn. But heat, dust, noise from other classrooms and lack of supplies, along with my inexperience, created daunting challenges.
I had counted on “being in my Self” throughout my 5 weeks. But my daily Svaroopa® yoga practices were scant, with no space in my room for poses and little privacy for meditation. I also quickly learned how much I depend on American comforts like indoor flush toilets, showers and a sink with bacteria-free running water for brushing teeth. These luxuries are unheard of in a rural village in West Africa.
One night, frustration and fear of utter failure got the upper hand. Then I remembered Swamiji’s teachings about japa. Repeating the mantra given by your teacher opens you inward to your Self in the midst of your daily activities. Classically, the practice begins with repeating your mantra out loud 108 times, which takes about 5 minutes.
Luckily, other project members were gone for the evening. My first round took my mind off my overwhelming sense of loneliness and incompetence. To my great surprise, the next two rounds opened me inward to a sense of joyous inner expansion. I still marvel at the shift japa gave me that night. Japa opened me to inner Presence. Through it, I discovered a strength that my mind’s negative chatter was blocking.
I learned the immense value of japa. It opened me to an experience of Pure Consciousness, that which created the universe and continues to bring the whole universe into being. Japa is a technique I completely trust to give me my Self, under any circumstances.