Monthly Archives: October 2017

Getting to Know My Self


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!

Celebrating Diwali!

aanandi-annie-rossBy Aanandi Ross

Diwali reminds me of a time in childhood, when I stood on a very high hilltop at night, overlooking the dazzling spread of city lights below and felt ecstatic bliss.  After learning about Diwali, I understand more: the lights and the bliss, outside and inside.

Diwali is a festival of lights, signifying knowledge over ignorance and light over dark.  It is a very big holiday.  We can liken it to a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the Fourth of July, all in one.  Diwali is celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere, which is spring in the southern hemisphere.

1311 Diwali Lakshmi pujaThe celebration dates back to ancient India as a festival after the summer harvest.  It honors the sun as the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life.  Derived from the Sanskrit dipam “light, lamp” and oli “glow of light,” “diwali” comes from dipavali, which means “series of lights.” For some, the festival preparations and rituals extend over a five-day period.

The main festival night coincides with the darkest new moon night of the month between mid-October and mid-November, this year on October 19th.  We’ll look at it in three ways: as a cultural phenomenon; as a religious celebration, as a Hindu holiday; and as a spiritual opportunity, from a yogic perspective.

Culturally, Diwali is an official holiday in several countries.  The celebration has gradually increased in scope, becoming part of the general local culture.  It is one of the most popular and joyous festivals.  It can be an extravagant party-time, complete with shopping, new clothes, decorative lights, gift-giving, celebratory foods, fireworks and sparklers.

LakshmiAs a Hindu celebration, Diwali is a holy day.  Celebrations honor Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance at harvest time, who provides us with our stockpiles of food during the dormancy of nature, and who will bring forth spring’s flowering and fructification of nourishment.  She is thus the Goddess of wealth.  Hindus prepare by cleaning their homes and setting out lights — clay saucers of ghee with a wick, everywhere, outside and inside.  New clothes are worn, pujas are decorated with flowers, prayers are offered.  Sweets and dried fruits are enjoyed.  The senses are employed to attune one to the presence of God.

It is a time when children hear ancient stories from their parents and elders about the Ramayana, a battle between light and darkness.  Lord Rama who waged a war against the demon-king Ravana, who had kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita.  Against great odds and with Hanuman’s help, Rama rescued Sita, and together they journeyed back home.  The people were overjoyed and welcomed them home by lighting up the city with candle flames everywhere.

PrintFor us yogis, Diwali is a special time to honor the light of your own Self.  We also honor the one who makes you able to know your Self, the Guru.  Along with festivities, rituals can include a self-oil-massage specially prepared with herbs, bathing afterwards, and dressing in new clothes.  Along with lights, sparklers and fireworks, look for the experience of Lakshmi’s power inside, bursting into bloom, dispelling darkness, and invoking an inner experience of being all the throb of life.

Celebrate Diwali!  Honor the light, the Guru and your own Self.

A Healing Week

By Priya Kenney

Kalyani (Evy) Zavolas Wallis“What I like about the Yoga Therapy Retreat is that it includes everything for healing,” says Kalyani (Evy) Zavolas Wallis.  Rest and rejuvenation, healing, big openings, deep inner work and calming physical kriyas describe her experience.  It feels like she hits the reset button and gets re-established in a steady practice routine.  She says, “I feel so blessed to be able take this time for myself to do the inner work and to have time with Swamiji.”

Each day begins with chanting Sri Guru Gita, followed by an asana class.  After that, you have a private vichara session (guided self-inquiry).  Kalyani is especially appreciative of the rest periods that are built into the day because they allow “all the changes to seep in.” She explains, “Doing vichara every day, you get into some really deep stuff.”

There are also teachings with Swamiji, chanting and meditation and a private yoga therapy session every day.  Kalyani emphasizes the importance of time for resting, even naps: “To me, it was like heaven, because I had that time for things to integrate.  You’re getting so much and need the breaks to let it sink in.”

Swamiji in GaneshpuriKalyani has gone to the retreat all three times it has been offered at Lokananda! She keeps taking this intensive because she has had such good experiences.  Kalyani remembers taking a similar course at the Malvern PA studio way back before Swami Nirmalananda was a swami.  It included daily vichara and yoga therapy sessions.  She was incredibly grateful to get two yoga therapy sessions from Swamiji when she was still called Rama.  “She was doing things I had never seen before,” said Kalyani.  She was so happy to see the ATT Yoga Therapy trainings reintroduced in the past couple of years, with even more juice to it.  “I see there is one coming up in November,” says Kalyani.  “If I can swing it, I will be there.  It’s another five days of diving deep inside.  I would like to take every single one.”

In April 2017, Kalyani was drawn to take the intensive because she had fallen into a deep depression.  She knew the course would help her get through it.  The Vows Preparation Course, unveiled some deep personal stuff and uncovered the depression.  In addition, her father-in-law passed away, she got the flu and lost a lot of weight.  Following Swamiji’s recommendations, she got a health care team to support her and began to heal.  “Once the intensive came up, I was feeling a bit better, I knew it would be powerful enough to keep my healing going.  And it would be gentle enough so I could handle it,” says Kalyani.

There was a lot of fear in her depression.  With Swamiji present every day for teachings and leading practices, Kalyani had the chance to talk with her about the fear.  The vichara sessions also helped her look at her fears and understand the thought processes behind them.  Daily Embodyment® sessions gave her the experience of bliss.  And more — she got a personalized set of practices to take home.  Then she regained her appetite and her immune system improved.

Yoga Therapy IntensiveKalyani’s husband joined her at the next Yoga Therapy Retreat.  He especially liked all the yoga therapy sessions.  Even for someone who isn’t into the chanting, he was still able to enjoy it and didn’t find it overwhelming.  Swamiji and Vidyadevi each gave illuminating talks that included information about the body, pain and the power of Ujjayi Pranayama.  Students learned about the importance both their physical and subtle bodies in healing.

“The retreat is a reboot, a delicious time out,” says Kalyani.  “Upon returning home, I felt that I was starting fresh.  It’s a great way to get back into my practices when they have fallen away.  When I was depressed, I just couldn’t do them.  This retreat put me back into the practices.  It was a new lease on life and on my practices.” Kalyani recommends this intensive for anyone who needs rest and rejuvenation.  “It’s very personalized,” says Kalyani.  “It’s a deeply opening retreat.”

Our next Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy Intensive Retreat is November 15-19 (and spans Swamiji’s birthday).