By Sandy (Sheyna Purna) Peace, Interviewed by Matrikaa (Marlene) Gast
Yoga always gives you the most important teachings first, Swami Nirmalananda frequently reminds us. “Swamiji taught me to meditate in La Jolla, at Master Yoga, her first yoga center,” shares Sheyna Purna. “Her teaching has always been deep and thorough. I look at my old notes, and it’s all there. In the very beginning, she was teaching from the authentic, ancient texts. She quoted the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Shiva Sutras, and even the Pratyabhijnahrdayam. Swami Nirmalananda (then Rama) taught us the essence of Kashmiri Shaivism, taking us deeply inward, from the beginning.
“She teaches in this way today. We all go deeper now, yet she was giving us the deep teachings. We just didn’t have the capacity to comprehend them and absorb the deep inner changes. I know that I have grown into that capacity. Swami has always taught gradual, incremental change. This ever-deepening inner experience of Self is what I’ve experienced over decades of studying with her.”
Sheyna Purna lived in Ramona CA, a small town outside of San Diego, when she began Svaroopa® yoga with Susie Hollister-Schell. Sheyna Purna remembers Susie’s sending her to Yoga Teacher Training (YTT): “Why don’t you become a Svaroopa® yoga teacher?” Being a single mom, Sheyna Purna was drawn to the promise of this new identity. She also sensed yoga’s promise of something more in her life. Just as it does now, Svaroopa® YTT consisted of four levels plus DTS, Embodyment® Yoga Therapy and Radical Anatomy. Yet Master Yoga was not a residential training center, so Sheyna Purna persevered with a commute, 45-minutes each way for each training program.
YTT students received meditation instruction from Swamiji. After YTT, Sheyna Purna had some wonderful experiences in Swamiji’s meditation workshops. Although they were not residential, the day-long and multi-day programs were intense. Sheyna Purna recalls, “We would sit and meditate, guided by her instructions. Then we’d describe our experiences, and Swamiji would explain the meaning of our meditations. Sometimes they were mundane and occasionally much deeper.”
Sheyna Purna vividly remembers an experience from 15 years ago. At first she thought she was dreaming. “It was like I was in the bottom of a deep well, immersed in a purplish darkness. Though it was deep, it wasn’t scary. On the sides of the well shapes began forming. At first, I saw just vague shapes. Then they became more detailed. They were gold squiggly characters connected by lines across the top. This glittering unknown language covered the well walls. As my meditation continued, these shapes would fade, form again, and brighten, over and over.
“Swamiji said, ‘You had a very significant meditation.’ She explained the golden characters were the Devanagari script for Sanskrit, the language of the sacred texts of ancient India. I’d had a vision of ‘matrikaa,’ the cosmic power.” The ancient yogic texts describe matrikaa as the power that refracts the primordial sound OM into the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. From them emanate the energy that creates our universe.
“When Rama became Swami Nirmalananda a decade ago, I became very serious about meditation. I established a consistent morning meditation time, recently increasing from 1 hour to 1.5 and then to 2 hours daily. I became a Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation teacher in 2014.
“Within a year of Swamiji’s sannyas, I began offering seva to her newly formed Ashram. She once asked me how I think seva works — what is the mechanism? My response: ‘It’s Magic.’
“All of her teaching over the years has deepened and expanded my capacity to meditate, to teach meditation and to experience my Own Self, the One Self Being All. Gradual, incremental openings inward have developed my capacity to comprehend and benefit from her profound teachings, and to share them with my students effectively. More magic!
“The amazing thing is, with Swamiji as my Guru, I can tell that I’ve made spiritual progress. I notice that I automatically apply practices in my life that Patanjali gives in the Yoga Sutras,” says Sheyna Purna. She paraphrases, “Cultivate friendliness towards happiness, compassion towards misery, gladness towards virtue and indifference toward vice.”
Explaining how to apply this sutra to your life, Swamiji’s April 2019 Teachings: A New Normal quotes this sutra and renders it in full:
Maitrii-karunnaa-muditopek.saa.naa,m sukha-du.hkha-pu.nya-apu.nya-vi.sayaana.m bhaavanaata”s citta-prasaadanam
—Yoga Sutras of Patanjanli, 1.33
Cultivate friendliness towards happiness, compassion towards misery, gladness towards virtue and indifference toward vice, in order to purify your mind.
—Rendered by Swami Nirmalananada
Sheyna Purna says, “This is my new effortless normal.” She is hosting Swami Nirmalananda for satsangs (free meditation programs) in San Diego on October 18 & 19. These are splendid opportunities for Swamiji’s original La Jolla students as well as newcomers to meet and meditate with a recognized Sadguru.