By Matrika Gast
“It was really special — we even danced during the night,” says Rijumati (Ursula) Myslinski, recalling last year’s Ashram Shivaratri Retreat in Florida. Shivaratri is always celebrated in February at the dark of the moon. It happens tonight, February 13th. Let Rijumati’s experience, below, give you ideas for a Shivaratri celebration in your own home, even inviting other yogis to join you. This spiritual challenge is for the ultimate purpose of human life: to know your own Self.
Remembering last year’s Shivaratri Retreat. Rijumati says, “Swami Nirmalananda’s sequencing of everything was superb. Our night included so much: meditation, chanting and sacred stories. We chanted with fervor. It built up slowly, as Swamiji is a master at leading this. Some meditations were short, and she told wonderful stories. The dancing was a surprise she was building up to! If you’re doing it at home, you can even dance if you want to.
“A key ingredient in our ecstasy was the amount of time for our practices and the total focus on what we were doing. We had snacks to fortify us. Swamiji thought of everything. She warned us there would be two obstacles to making it through the night: the mind and the body. The mind was the stronger foe!
Even with the ecstasy in the dancing, Rijumati was ultimately moved into a “state of peace and quiet”. She says, “It was an uplifting experience. Yogis aged 70 (and over) are cautioned not to stay awake all night. So I did have rest periods, including a two-hour nap. Yet I got up again at 3 am, and engaged fully in the ongoing festivities. With Swamiji’s guidance it was easy. The next day I felt pretty darn good. When I opened my eyes, I realized I could take the state of peace and calm with me, and started my day at the usual time.
“When I returned home, my Shivaratri experience had a lasting effect. As Swami says, the more you do japa, it helps you stay in the state. I do have to make an effort to turn off the radio, to create basic peace and quiet and then access the deeper kind. After the Shivaratri Retreat it was easier to make that decision.”
This Night of Shiva offers you the chance of a lifetime. You can become enlightened in this one night. Simply stay up all night for extended meditation practices and don’t fall asleep. It’s not too late to plan. In a cold climate, hunker down in your yoga cave; if your weather is warm, you may want to be outside. Plan for your all-night practices. Include recesses with healthy treats during the night. (If you’re 70 or over, plan naps, too.) Chant, meditate, read the ancient teaching stories about Shiva. Do poses, both to keep awake as well as to make your sitting for meditation better. Then meditate again. Repeat until sunup — or until as long as you have planned. Decide in advance and apply yourself.
Rijumati recalls, “What was remarkable was a real bonding experience with the other yogis. It happened because of our shared ritual. One always gets closer to yogis in programs. This was a special night together.” Even if you are practicing solo, however, you will be in good company. In India and around the world, Ashrams and Temples will be open all night. This includes our Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, with an all-night celebration at Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center.