Monthly Archives: November 2018

Therapeutic Yoga — and More

By Barbara (Bharati) Badia, interviewed by Marlene (Matrika) Gast

“This pain that’s been bothering me all week, it was a gift,” asserted Barbara Badia.  She had just finished a Neck & Shoulders workshop at Downingtown Yoga.  “My experience made me realize how much this yoga can do.  While it focused on improving my neck and shoulders, we started by releasing tailbone tension.  Subsequent poses systematically carried the release through the sacrum, waist and rib cage areas of my spine.  My lower spine opened, and the sciatica I’ve had for weeks evaporated.  Svaroopa® yoga’s principle that ‘it all begins at the tailbone’ held true.  Even pain can be a gift.  It took me to a deeper understanding of Svaroopa® yoga’s therapeutic power.

She describes the spiritual experience that the poses opened up for her.  “When I walked outside afterward, I felt re birthed onto the earth.  A new inner awakening uplifted me, and I felt again the wonder of life.  On my drive home, I stopped for an errand.  My exuberance was heightened by sunlight splashing on the deep red-orange of autumn maple leaves.  Even though I may not feel like this every day, I can remember this day!”

For 30 years Barbara has been on the Siddha Yoga path, a student of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.  Gurumayi was installed by her Guru, Swami Muktananda, as one of his successors.  In February 2018, Barbara discovered Downingtown Yoga, which is a branch of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, founded by Swami Nirmalananda.  Muktananda was her Guru as well.

Last May, Barbara took Downingtown Yoga’s “Deepen It Yourself” (DIY) immersion.  On her first day, she saw photos of Muktananda and his Guru, Nityananda.  Thus, Barbara knew she was in the right place. In her own words, she “fell in love” with Swami Nirmalananda.  Barbara continues, “I so appreciate the clarity with which she speaks of these high teachings.  She carries them forward from her Guru, Muktananda.  Her teaching gives me a deeper understanding of the path I’ve been on for three decades.”

Recalling DIY’s therapeutic benefits, Barbara says, “Vichara [self-guided inquiry] focused and cleared my mind.  It enabled me to commit to consistent early morning meditation.  I now look forward to getting up between 4:30 and 5:00 am.  An hour of asana practice prepares me for an hour of meditation.  The vichara shifted me to positive excitement around these practices.  I am also doing more japa (mantra repetition) during the day.  Going from one activity to another, I’ll get in my car and pause.  Then my mind just goes to a sweet place, and I drop into my Self.  My connection with my deeper Self is palpable, I can taste it.  And it tastes so good.

“I drive an hour from Philadelphia to chant Shree Guru Gita with Swamiji.  I also offer seva at her Ashram.  I am inspired by other Svaroopa® yogis in this community and their deep personal sadhana — three hours of practice daily.  With such dedication, these people are serious.  “I’ve found that everything in life is preparing you for the next thing.  Not one iota of effort goes unrewarded.  Certainly, the longing, intention and practice on my path has produced fruit beyond my imagination.  I am grateful to have received the opportunity to have such a close connection with Swami Nirmalananda.  She is a Sadguru, yet you can talk with her directly and so easily.  I feel that Swami Nirmalananda is Gurumayi’s gift to me.  How grateful I am for this lineage.  Through it, Grace flows, opening us deeply inward to the One Self Being All.”

Leading Discussions, Finding My Self

carolyn_beaverBy Karuna Beaver

I love leading Yoga Philosophy Discussion Groups.  When I trained as a Discussion Group Leader several years ago, I learned valuable listening skills and more.  I learned how these discussions bring my students together.  They deepen their relationships as well as their understanding of yoga’s teachings.

Leading the group is like conducting an orchestra.  While the conductor stands in front of the group, his or her job is to set the pace and bring out the highlights of the music.  Conducting requires a good ear, a great sense of timing and an ability to let the various players shine.

When you lead a Discussion Group, a keen ear is essential.  Listening is at the heart of this group process.  Listening, deeply listening, is a skill that can’t be overestimated.  It’s important to put your own agenda aside and hear what people are saying.  By doing so, you allow the group to hear other’s comments and respond. The discussion begins to roll.

Discussion Group 1Discussion groups are just that — discussions.  They’re about inspiring participants to participate!  The training taught me how to serve as moderator, how to handle any controversy or even long silences.  Swamiji says, “You put your ears on your heart.”  Now you listen differently, making space for people to reflect on what they’ve said and share meaningfully with others.  You give them an opportunity to give voice to the light of Consciousness arising within.

With that participation comes insight.  Discussions center around Swami Nirmalananda’s contemplation articles, with 25 years of monthly articles available online.  Participants in discussion groups dive into the teachings, to learn and grow.  I’ve seen people be amazed at the level of their understanding.  I’ve been amazed, too.  I have learned so much from them, as they have listened deeply to their own inner knowing.  As the discussions have taken my students to a whole new level, the process has taken me deeper into my Self at the same time.

Make a Promise

Devananda KingBy Devananda (David) King
Ashram Vice President

Those words from childhood ring in my ears.  In those days I was asked to make a promise when, it was presumed, I would not do something of my own accord.  I was told, “If you promise to clean your room, I will take you for ice cream.”  Or it was said, “If you promise to do your homework, you can watch TV.”  Thus, I understood that a promise is a binding contract.  I felt a promise was coercion.  It meant doing something I didn’t want to do, just to get a payoff (usually of lesser pain).  I resisted such pressure and did not make promises.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoThis has all changed since I’ve been participating in the Svaroopa® yoga community.  For me, here and now, the meaning of “promise” has transformed into the acknowledgement of the “pure potential” that exists when you set an intention.  My own intention to do my practice, meditate, repeat mantra and follow yogic precepts results in gaining the benefit of the promise of the Svaroopa® Sciences.  This promise is not coercion or manipulation.  This promise is a guarantee of what can be achieved:  finding and experiencing the Divine within myself and every individual human being.

When you make a promise to support the Ashram and the teachings of our Sadguru, you set the intention to improve the world.  You step forward on your path as you engage in the ancient yogic practice of dakshina, beautifully defined on our donation webpage:

Unconditional giving, motivated by a pure inner impulse and dedicated to a higher purpose.  You give from gratitude and love for your yoga, whatever the size or type of your donation.  Nothing is gained, except your own Self.  Through dakshina, you weave your yoga into your wallet!

Your dakshina has an impact on us all.  Monthly pledges are the backbone of the Ashram’s ability to offer all the Svaroopa® Sciences.  This includes our freebies, retreats, teacher trainings — and more.  Monthly pledges are essential in supporting Swami Nirmalananda’s work as she shares the ancient teachings with all in our community and with seekers beyond.

Swami Birthday 1Our beloved Guru’s birthday, November 15th, is a most auspicious start to the upcoming holiday season of gratitude and gift-giving.  I would like to make this birthday special.  I invite you to join me in supporting the Ashram in any way that fits your budget.  Can you increase your monthly donation by $10?  If each current monthly donor does so, our Ashram support increases by $18,000.  Or perhaps it is time to commit to a monthly pledge.  Or you may want to make a one-time donation.

Whatever your choice, give from your heart.  Give because your act of generosity fills you up, from the inside out.  Give and be filled with the Grace of our yogic tradition.  This promise carries the divine guarantee.  Click here to donate.

From Google to Guru

Phil MilgromBy Krishna (Phil) Milgrom

Tharsan 170731Tharsan Sathyaseelan laughs as he recounts his first experience arriving at Downingtown Yoga and Meditation Center to attend the free Swami Sunday.  “I was surprised to see mostly white yogis sitting in the room.  I saw Swami.  She is white, too!”  Of this he says, “I was still stuck in my small-s self, perceiving everyone as separate and different.  When I saw the photos of Nityananda and Muktananda, I thought to myself: “OK.  Here are Indian sages…” I felt more at ease.  I chanted with everyone — I’ve never done that before.  I recited the Guru Gita — I didn’t know what the Guru Gita was until then.”

When I first met Tharsan, aka Darshan, I was immediately struck by his unassuming nature, his humility, and a ready smile that shone from deep within.  Such a gentle soul.

“I needed help,” he answered, when I asked how he got to that first Swami Sunday.  He told me he left Sri Lanka, his birthplace, ten years ago to come to the States, settling in Downingtown.  “I came because of the greater freedoms available here,” he said.  “I would smoke, drink and party with my American friends.  They seemed to be happy.”

But a deeper happiness was being unveiled to Tharsan.  Somehow, he was beginning to experience a profound sense of bliss and joy.  He had never been so happy before.  “I felt then like I was going to be a millionaire,” he elaborated.  “I now had everything I wanted in my life.  I was in a state of bliss and joy 24/7.  So I quit my job.”

This was early in 2017.  He was still smoking and drinking with his friends periodically, but he was glowing from something else.  His friends started to notice.  They thought he was crazy or on drugs.  He could not explain where his extraordinary experiences were coming from.  “It all seemed to come from nowhere,” he says.  “I was learning then about computer networks.  I began thinking that all humans are connected some way, too.  But I didn’t understand what was going on with me.  I started reading books and searching online for answers.”

Tharsan came across online videos of people explaining what they called “Kundalini experiences.”  He recognized some of their experiences as similar to his.  They mentioned yoga and meditation, but Tharsan had only done a little yoga when he was younger and never meditated.  So he ventured into the woods behind where he lived.  He explains, “I wanted to experience nature, to know about God.  I did a few yoga poses and then Shavasana.  I dived deep inside and awoke an hour later.”

“That evening I went home to bed, closed my eyes and saw the most amazingly beautiful sky within.  It was a spacious purple and dark blue sky speckled with many colors.  I awoke the next morning feeling fully refreshed.  I didn’t realize it then, but I had been meditating all night long.  That’s why I felt so refreshed.”

“I needed help understanding what was going on.  From my Hindu background, I knew about ashrams and what they offer.  I thought maybe I could get help from one.”  He googled for the ashram closest to where he lived.  And that, of course, was Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  He called and was advised to attend a Swami Sunday.

Tharsan observes, “In retrospect, I knew then that I was being guided by Grace.  The Ashram was only ten minutes from where I lived.”  Laughing again, he said, “The yoga and meditation center was located directly across the street from the pub where I had been drinking with my buddies!

Darshan and Swamiji“After the Guru Gita at my first Swami Sunday there was darshan [an opportunity to see a holy person, in this case Swami Nirmalananda].  I went up to Swami and told her that I needed help understanding my experiences.  She said she would see me after the program.  So later she approached and asked, ‘How are you?’ I answered, ‘I am having beautiful experiences.  I never meditated before.  I don’t know what I am doing.  I am lost.’”

“Swami explained what had been happening to me.  She then gave me mantra.  She encouraged me to come to all her free programs: Tuesday evening satsangs, Thursday morning Guru Gita satsangs, and Swami Sundays.

“I attended these for two or three weeks; then Swami gave me the mantra again, gave me mala beads and an asana.  I didn’t know what an asana was.  It was a beautiful red silk cloth that I was to sit on for meditation practice.  She told me she infused the asana with her energy.  She asked me to repeat mantra three hours a day while sitting on the asana.”

Tharsan immediately set up a place in his room to meditate, and repeated the mantra three hours daily.  In a few days, his body shook during meditation.  “I didn’t know where these physical movements were coming from,” he says.  “But I had faith in Swamiji, so I continued meditating.  It was very intense.”  The next Sunday he told Swamiji about the shaking.  “She told me my Kundalini was awakening.  She said she is a Kundalini Master.”

Tharsan aka Darshan (Newt) Sathyaseelan 1Tharsan was thrilled.  Then, in September 2017, he attended a Shaktipat weekend with Swamiji.  It was the icing on the cake.  He recalls, “Before that, when I meditated, I wasn’t going deeper.  Shaktipat got me going deeper.  I realized the awareness within me was Me, my Self.  I didn’t know before that there was a small self and a higher Self.  I now understood the play of the mind and play of ego, and who was having all these experiences and identities.  It was Me, my higher Self.  All my experiences now made sense.”

Tharsan was no longer lost.  He had googled “ashram,” found his Guru, and through her, found his Self.  Tharsan continues to this day working for the Ashram.  He is also a Lyft driver part time.  Next time you need a ride to or from Downingtown, call Tharsan.  You will definitely get a lift.  His glow is contagious.

Naming the Obvious

Gurupremananda (Lynn) Cattafi HeinleinBy Gurupremananda (Lynn) Cattafi

The title of Sadguru has been conferred on Swami Nirmalananda.  Let me tell you how I saw it happening.

Several years ago, Swami Nirmalananda and I were attending the early morning abhishek (ritual bath) at Nityananda’s Temple in Ganeshpuri.  We were surprised by it being unusually crowded, over 300 people.  Often there are only 10 or 20 there for the 4:20 a.m. start.

Nityanandas Temple - GaneshpuriWe were informed this was the last morning that the Brahmin priests would bathe Nityananda’s murti using the traditional panchamrit (five nectars: milk, yogurt, honey, ghee and sugar).  For a while, they would be using water only to protect its metal surface.  Part-way through the ceremony, we saw the head priest looking around the assembled devotees.

Nityanandas murtiHe finally sent an assistant out in the crowd, who walked around looking for someone.  Finally he came over to Swamiji and asked, “Are you a Swami?”  She nodded, and he told her to accompany him behind the gates to Nityananda’s murti.  The head priest explained this unusual request to Swamiji: “Nityananda is asking for you to be the one to bathe him with the panchamrit.”  Swamiji was honored, humbled and absolutely ecstatic.  The other Brahmins, however, were quite surprised  that a woman — a Westerner to boot — was being given this great honor.

In Ganeshpuri a few years later, I attended a small yaj~na (fire ceremony) with Swami Nirmalananda.  Ramesh, the same head priest who found Swamiji at Nityananda’s request during the abhishek, was officiating at this yaj~na to honor the full moon.  I sat in front of puja tables with photos of Nityananda and Muktananda, just past the sacred fire.  Swamiji was sitting right behind me in a place of honor, with the four priests at the sides of the fire.  My seva was to perform the ceremony with the priests.

At the end, Ramesh had me wash Swamiji’s feet.  Performing this ritual is a magnificent honor and a blessing!  I will never forget it.  Yet more amazing was that a Brahmin priest directed this ritual to be performed for Swamiji, a woman and a Westerner.  It was a sign that the Brahmins recognized something extraordinary in her. We always knew the temple priests were very fond of her; this honor, however, was another level entirely.

Fire CeremonyMost astonishing, during our Vowed Member retreat in Ganeshpuri this past December, another Brahmin priest, Santosh, referred to Swamiji as Sadguru during the opening mantras at each of our two yaj~nas.  Many of you met Santosh when he officiated at our August “Shiva Arrives” event.  Again, Ramesh referred to Swamiji as Sadguru during the opening mantra of a special group ceremony a few weeks later in Ganeshpuri.

Sadguru is a title that is given to a Shaktipat Master.  Not all swamis are Gurus, and not all Gurus are swamis.  In the world, there are very few who are both.  Even fewer are Gurus who are Shaktipat masters.  This title is simply a new title that honors and describes what  she has been giving to us all along.

However, for the Brahmins to recognize Swamiji in this capacity is a really big deal.  It confers upon her the title that was given to Muktananda.  Thus, it is a sign of great respect.  In Ganeshpuri, villagers have begun putting her photo on their walls for her blessing.  They are recognizing her as an integral part of Muktananda’s and Nityananda’s lineage.

“I would never have gone looking for a title,” Swamiji says.  “Being a swami means I have renounced titles along with everyone else.  Yet I recognize that people need road signs if they want to find their way to their own Divine Destiny.”

While she knows this is a natural next step, she delayed using it for years, out of concern for those who would think it egotistical of her to use this title.  Others, even outside of Svaroopa® Yoga, may understand the awesome power of this title but wonder at her use of it, or maybe they will be attracted to come for what she can offer.

I raised this questions to our Board at our recent annual retreat, asking whether they felt Swamiji stepping into the Sadguru title would be fitting.  The response was unanimous; all are one hundred percent for it.

We pointed out to Swamiji that she has always cautioned us against holding ourselves back or making yourself small.  We want to support her in the same way.

The result will be another seismic deepening for our entire community.  I can already see this happening to Swamiji as well.  She is ever-expanding, ever-deepening.  My goodness, how fortunate we are!

swami-1712-ganeshpuri-retouched-4.jpgI am blessed to share with you the ever-expanding depth of our beloved Satguru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.   In the coming weeks, on articles, books and more, you will begin seeing her credited as “Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.”

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

 

What Is an Ashram?

Tattvananda (TC) RichardsBy Tattvananda Richards

Just thinking about our Ashram puts me in a state of Grace.  I feel myself expand and fill with it, all the way down into my tailbone.  Ahhhhhhhhh…  Derived from “shrama,” meaning worldly exhaustion, “ashram,” starts with a short “a,” negating “shrama.”  Our Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram means this me, and so much more.

Lokananda - Donor gift pictureTwo physical buildings house the Ashram:  Lokananda, “Place of Bliss” and Shivaloka, “Place of Shiva.”  Lokananda is your retreat facility.  Its walls and furnishings are saturated with the sweet vibrations of immersion programs.  Immediately upon arrival, you feel shrama, your accumulated world weariness, dissolving.  You are freed and open to receive new learning and significant life changes.  Shivaloka is Swamiji’s home.  It’s filled with photographs of our lineage, saturated with mantra and vibrating with Grace.  From this base, she offers us the ancient, transformative teachings of yoga.  She invites us in to be steeped in these profound practices.

With Online Freebies as well as tuition-based distance learning, Swamiji makes these teachings available to seekers everywhere.  Our “virtual Ashram” eliminates the need to travel — what a gift, what a delight.  Bathed in this energy and relaxing in this bliss, my mind gets to rest in the Self.

011d-ashram-hamptonYet the practicalities of all this need support.  We have physical structures, technological structures, staff and organizational processes.  They all need to run well as well as to grow as we grow.  Our beloved Swamiji provides the Grace and teachings.  She gives us more than enough to reach into our family, friends and the world beyond — and beyond that.  Being a yogic monk, Swamiji gives this amazing bounty to us without compensation.  So we must be practical as well as mystical.

What about our part in supporting this Grace-filled Ashram?  Our fall fundraiser — Make a Promise — asks us to pledge financial support.  To make a promise is to say “You can count on me.”  You can count on my donation to keep this Ashram running.

Tuition and program fees do not completely cover Ashram costs.  Your monthly donation provides security, a type of support that allows for planning and growth.  The value of your promise to donate consistently — whatever amount fits your budget — cannot be underestimated.  It changes how things run.  It affects what is available for you, for your community and even for future seekers.

I made a promise to increase my monthly donation.  I have increased it until it hurt a little, just as I was taught.  I decided to give just past the point of comfort, so I feel a little pinch.  On the other hand, my heart does not feel pinched.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoMaking the pledge was like buying a pair of shoes that cost more than I planned on.  Wearing these shoes, I feel how they support my back and body in a way that I need.  They perfectly support my work in the world.  I will adjust my budget elsewhere.  It’s the same with increasing my monthly donation to the Ashram.  I feel how my gift supports my yogic path — and yours.  The sense of being on this path together is a special kind of spiritual security and bliss.

I invite you to join me.  I have experienced that no matter how hard I try to give, I always receive more on this path.  May you experience the same abundance!

Click here to donate.

Filling My Glass

Lajja (Ellen) MitchellBy Lajja Mitchell, SVA Board Member

In my first Svaroopa® yoga class, I benefited physically and emotionally.  So I kept returning.  I also began to visit the Ashram website regularly.  I read Swami Nirmalananda’s monthly articles and listened to her online audios.  I went to her programs in Massachusetts and even traveled to her programs in Downingtown PA.

Through the years my mind has become quieter.  I am less judgmental, I am more open and less defensive.  I have more compassion for others.  And my glass is no longer half empty!

Lajja and SwamijiThis profound change in my outlook is due to Swamiji’s teachings.  They have awakened me to my own Self.  She says it is “the mystery that is hidden inside every human heart and being.” This perspective informs all of Swamiji’s teaching.  Warm, lighthearted and down-to-earth, she makes the mystical teachings accessible through examples from our everyday lives and relationships.  I am forever grateful to experience this Grace through her teachings and presence.

Because she has taken vows as a swami, she receives no compensation.  We students do pay tuition for programs, retreats and professional trainings.  As with any institution of learning, however, the total cost of the physical and technological infrastructure exceeds tuition.  That’s why I make a monthly donation to our Ashram.

Years ago, I took a course on finances and retirement planning.  The instructor stressed the importance of giving and the need to consistently give.  That was the first time I set up a recurring gift.  That was my first realization that giving to something that I believe in should not be an afterthought but a forethought.  Adding a charitable line to my budget was doable.  That charity got a benefit, and I did too.  It felt good to give.  Now, a decade later, I am still giving to that charity.  And I am delighted to have also become a monthly donor to our Ashram.

It’s very exciting to see that so many of you feel the same way.  Over the first 10 days of our Make a Promise campaign, 11 donors in our SVA Community have increased their monthly donations by $ 46.00 on average, an increase of $6,156.00 in the upcoming year.  We are enormously grateful to all of you.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoIf you have not yet increased your monthly gift — or made a monthly pledge — please consider how the practices of Svaroopa® Sciences have benefited you.  Of course, there is no way to give back for the Grace we receive.  But you can promise yourself to express your gratitude by supporting the Ashram operations that make possible Swamiji’s work in the world.

Whether you increase your monthly pledge or decide to add that budget line item, give from your heart.  Or make a one-time donation, in any amount.  You know what is right.

Click here to donate.