By Barbara (Girijananda) Hess
Both my husband and I are seekers, yearning for a deeper relationship with God. Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s 2019 Year-Long Programme, “Leaps & Bounds,” lived up to its title. I’ve taken every YLP since the beginning, and my husband as well enrolled this year. He is also enrolled in a Christian Ministerial School, and we both consider Gurudevi to be our Guru. Our yearning motivated us to immerse in our Guru’s year-long studies. We participated in all four program options: articles, audios, discussion conference calls and the weekend retreat at Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.
Gurudevi’s monthly, in-depth articles expound on the yogic principles that underlie the Svaroopa® Vidya path. Her timing of articles let me fit the reading of them into my busy life. I always find that re-reading deepens my experience even more. Then what follows is I have great anticipation for the monthly discourse audio. I go deeper as Gurudevi’s talk focuses and expands on selected points from the article. The sound of her voice fills me with Grace. This opens me to greater understanding of the teachings. Then I re-read the articles.
Her articles and audios lead me on a journey inward. I contemplate whatever stands out for me. It’s as though Gurudevi has created a path along which I can walk, pausing to contemplate amazing inner vistas. This lets me enjoy and absorb her information and spiritual guidance.
The monthly discussion calls help integrate spiritual principles into my life day by day. These conference calls create community. When I hear another person share an experience that reflects my personal experience or understanding, I feel validated. Yet when another yogi expresses a different perspective, my understanding expands. In our final weekend retreat, attended by those who had enrolled for Option 4, we all dive even deeper together.
This past year, discussion with my husband about what we were hearing, learning and experiencing was a delightful bonus. Our home time is structured around the ancient Svaroopa® Vidya principles and practices. Gurudevi emphasizes that meditation and japa (out loud mantra repetition) are essential practices. They open you to the knowing of your own Divine Essence — your own capital-S Self. They attune you to the reality of Divine Essence within everyone and everything. Thus, my husband and I meditate rather than fill evenings with TV. Mantra plays throughout our house, even as we catch up on chores and other work. Preparing to eat, I ask myself, “Would I put this food into God’s body?” Is my house appropriately clean as the place of my sadhana (spiritual practice)? Given Gurudevi’s 2019 YLP teachings, our home is unfolding as a sacred space.
Our final YLP discussion call anchored me into the practice of japa. Gurudevi suggested doing japa for 20 minutes morning, noon and night. I’m consistently doing japa and meditation at night and in the morning. Noontime — at work — cannot be perfectly consistent. Yet I repeat mantra whenever possible throughout the day. Thus, I practice japa for more and more time. I used to be mindful of time while doing japa. Now I go into a timeless place and fall in love with myself. I experience a deeper love for who I am as a person. I sense that my capital-S Self is loving my small-s self.
Year after year, Gurudevi’s YLP teachings empower me to know that everyone is a form of the formless — Divine Essence. My perceptions of the presence of God within me strengthen. Direct access to my Divine Essence within deepens. It extends into every area of my life. Gurudevi’s delivery of ancient yogic teachings for modern seekers reliably propels my spiritual progress. By the end of Gurudevi’s 2019 programme, my husband and I felt that we had truly moved forward on our spiritual paths with leaps and bounds!