Author Archives: Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

Quick Fixes for Grand Delusions

By Tom Trautlein, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

“I’ve been doing those short fixes during the day because I can fit them in anytime.  It’s very centering and very calming to do them.  I’ve been a lot more grounded, and my days don’t spiral out of control.  It was particularly easy working in the two-minute mantra repetition, which helped my mind from building grander delusions.”

In the middle of many moving parts, Tom serves as Communications Traffic Manager for the Ashram.  It can get hectic as he coordinates timelines and, with his team, ensures that Ashram publications and advertisements are published in a timely manner.  That’s why he has paid special attention to Sadguru Nirmalananda’s 2019 Quick Fix Teachings Articles.  He was particularly grabbed by the first three:

He calls the May practice, “the quickest of the quick fixes” — a quick inhale, followed by a longer exhale and a pause.  “That quick breath, and the pause at the end really struck me.  It has become a ‘go to’ during the course of my day.  I can have six things on my computer screen at a time, it’s getting a little hectic, and that fix brings me back to reality.  Connecting with the Self is great, rather than going into a cerebral panic.

“I use the pause pretty regularly because it is so absolutely quick.  It’s so easy to hang out there after an exhale.  It helps me get in touch with my Self and with all those experiences I’ve had from doing mantra repetition.  The first three fixes — leveling, Ujjayi and mantra repetition — set things up so that when I started to do the pause, it was more familiar and had meaning.”

Tom often has peaceful experiences in nature, especially while kayaking.  The June Quick Fix is “To remember a serene and luminous experience.”  He explains, “When I’m out on a lake, now I’m trying not to focus on the context but the experience I’m having.  Even in the moment of the experience, I’m remembering that I’m having the experience rather than focusing on the surroundings.”

Not only have the Quick Fixes offered immediate benefits for Tom, they have had long-term effects. “I’m getting better at longer practices, which have increased since the beginning of the year.  I’m doing sets of mantra more often.  The fixes have even contributed to me being able to meditate, which was erratic before that.” Tom greatly appreciates the extraordinary experiences of Self he has in Swamiji’s satsangs.  Now he has tools to propel himself into Self.  “These quick fixes are woven throughout my day more.  The experience seems more natural than extraordinary, because it doesn’t happen during a separate time that is set aside, like Sunday satsangs,” concludes Tom.  “With the fixes, it’s right there — actually, right here!”

Decades of Deepening Meditation

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.

The Power of Shaktipat

By Lisha Reynolds, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

“I wanted to do more of the Svaroopa® Sciences practices to shine the light inward,” shares Lisha Reynolds, “to take me back to Self every single time.  When I’m doing the practices, I don’t need to look outside to be happy or fulfilled.”  That she wanted to deepen her practices became clear to Lisha after YTT Level 3 and receiving a vichara (guided self-inquiry) session.  Going to a Shaktipat Retreat with Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda was the next step in her process. 

Her Shaktipat experiences were profound.  Having received Shaktipat in YTT Level 2, she understood more of what was happening. “I was peacefully settling into my Self much deeper.  During the first Shaktipat, I experienced heat going up my spine, tail to top, up through my crown.  While meditating during the third Shaktipat, a smile came to my face spontaneously.  It was very sweet.  I came away wanting to deepen my relationship with my Guru.  Wanting to be closer to Swamiji and the teachings of this lineage is happening organically.  It’s so beautiful.  Being in her presence is transformative.”

To deepen her relationship with her Guru, Lisha uses the quick fix described in Swamiji’s July 2019 Teachings: Think of a Great Being.  “I have photos of Swami in my mobile phone holder, in my car and on my desk.  It’s powerful to have her presence with me all the time,” describes Lisha.

Grace sometimes works in mysterious ways.  In late July, Lisha had two injuries in two different locations, just a few hours apart.  “The Grace is that it’s helping me to slow down,” says Lisha.  “I wanted to do that anyway.”  Her injuries require a hiatus from teaching Svaroopa® yoga until she heals.  Yet she is not surprised at how things work. She is definitely slowed down! Lisha realizes that going deeper will also transform her teaching.  “To truly give the gift of Grace to your students, you must be even more deeply steeped in the teachings and Grace.  A Shaktipat Retreat takes you there. It opens you up to going deeper.  Meditation is where the magic happens.  You must do it.  Your students will benefit.”

Waking Up

By Janet (Janaki) Murray

When I awake in the morning, I remember my sleep.  I remember the quality of it, the feeling, the darkness, the peace, the blankness, the comfort.  In this way sleep is good preparation for my meditation.  My mind is already “attuned within.”  Yet I had not seen it in quite that way before I read Swami Nirmalananda’s August Teachings: Who Sees Your Dreams?  Her August Teachings article describes how contemplating sleep and dreams can take you into “experience of Atman or svaroopa, also translated as ‘Self.’”  She offers this as Quick Fix #8:

Patanjali says you can contemplate your experience of dreaming and deep sleep in order to calm and quiet your mind:

svapna-nidraa-j~naana-alambana.m vaa. — Yoga Sutras 1.38

Or contemplate your experience of dreaming or dreamless sleep

[when your mind is distracted or disturbed]

No wonder I prefer morning meditation.  While writing this I feel an immense gratitude to my own Self for being “always aware” while I am not — and for reporting back to me once I am awake!

Sleep for me personally is a deeply peaceful experience — most of the time.  I find the contemplation of sleep is like sleep, a peace-filled quietness and nothingness.  The difference is, of course, that I am awake, so it comes without any of the heaviness and density that sleep can have.  For me it is a great way inside.  It’s heartening to discover that I’ve been naturally doing this yoga practice for the mind.

Naturally, I also pay little attention to the content or “story” of my dreams.  Swamiji explains:

Yet it’s not the content of your dreams or sleep that is so important.  It’s your ability to remember, for the memory is information given by your Self to your mind.  This attunes your mind within, so it is not distracted any more.

Though occasionally dreams are quite entertaining, I try instead to remember my “feeling.”  My unconscious mind is clearly struggling to sort something out.  If my dream has a feeling of sadness, anger or fear, I take it as an indicator to look at what is going on in my conscious, waking mind.  There could be an issue I need to take care of or process.  Something is disturbing my peace and distracting me from my own Self.  I am not sure that this is quite in the spirit of contemplating dreams.  Instead, my practice here leans more toward psychological analysis than yogic awareness.  It does, however, help me to deal with the disturbance of my mind and re-attune to my own Self.

Yet, like a dream’s story, a dream’s emotions are content. I recognize that I’ve been analyzing them.  I had not truly contemplated my dreams until I read Swamiji’s August Teachings: Who Sees Your Dreams?  I’ve now been practicing Quick Fix #8 for a few days.  I must confess I was skeptical of Patanajli.  I thought (before I tried this practice) that contemplating dreams would surely activate my mind.  After all, there can be a lot going on in a dream. 

However, I am finding the effect of contemplating my dreams very similar to contemplating sleep.  I find the same peace-filled quietness of mind drawing me inward.  Yet there is not the same blankness and nothingness as contemplating sleep.  Instead, there is color, light, images and movement.  In fact, I perceive the same types of things that occur during meditation.  I am more aware of the crossover between sleep and dreaming and meditation.  The Self is more strongly present in all three than in “normal” waking life.  It would surely be beneficial to pay more attention to sleep.  After all, I do spend a third of my life asleep.  This practice has piqued my curiosity.  I am recognizing there is clearly much more to this than I first thought.  I resonate with what Swamiji says about the practice:

One of the wonderful things about this quick fix is that it’s not quick. While you can begin it immediately, it’s something that grows on you. You get better at it as you continue, just like with anything.  Yet there’s a mystical force at work in the process.

I look forward to discovering more through practice this month.  I remember on one of the Year-Long Programme phone calls with Swamiji, reporting to her that I felt like I have been asleep. She replied, “Yes!”  She explained that I had been asleep and was waking up — awakening to my own Self.  I was waking up from the heaviness and density that is the normal way of living.  I was awakening to the One Reality.  It is like I had been sleep walking through life or “living in a dream.”  Swamiji calls it “divine amnesia” in her August Teachings.  

Now I have found a whole new way to live, as the not-knowingness of my own Self slowly dissolves from the inside out. Swamiji describes this for us in so many ways.  In this article, however, the following sentences especially resonate for me:

The light of Consciousness shines through your mind, illumining you from the inside out.  This is a whole new way to live, in the mystical reality of your humanity and Divinity simultaneously.

Yoga Healing

By Carolyn (Karuna) Beaver

“One day can bend your life” is a refrigerator magnet motto that Swami Nirmalananda has referenced in talks recently.  It’s true.  It can take just a day for something to bend you in a different direction.

Imagine having more than one day dedicated to healing your body and mind.  My experience in a Yoga Healing Retreat this spring didn’t merely bend my life. It turned it around.  I found both ease and new energy in my body. I discovered my mind was not my enemy, but a pathway to more clarity.  After several days, I was not the same person I was when I arrived.

Except that I was.  I was more “me.”  More in my body.  More calm and confident. More steady and able to handle the daily ups and downs of life, yet without letting them drag me up and down.  The retreat featured daily yoga classes, private yoga therapy sessions, yoga philosophy talks and vichara sessions (yoga for your mind!).

I signed up for the retreat to deal with some worsening aches and pains.  I signed up to totally immerse myself in Svaroopa® yoga’s healing practices. I knew that the poses would get into my tight stuff physically and the vichara would get into the tight spots in my mind.  But I didn’t anticipate the experience I had on the last day of the retreat.

I’d already done two vichara sessions.  In the third, I was circling around the same material I’d covered previously.  All of a sudden, I stopped talking.  It was as if a curtain that had been shielding my inner most Beingness suddenly disappeared.  Everything was luminous.  There was no distinction between what I was experiencing inside my body and mind and what surrounded me outside my body and mind.  My eyes were new eyes.  My senses were so acute.  Everything glowed and vibrated, inside and out.

I was able to finish my vichara session by describing my experience.  I was reluctant to use my voice.  Yet I know that becoming enlightened is about taking this blissful state into the “real” world.  I was able to make my way to the classroom for the next piece of the retreat, an asana class.  I was able to stay in this expanded state for quite some time, several hours.

As I went about the rest of the day, my experience dimmed a bit.  While the intensity of the luminosity faded, my senses were still heightened.  My awareness stayed expanded.  And several months later, I still feel the effects.  The deep practices over several days etched some new pathways in my body and mind.  They took me around ruts I’d been stuck in for a long time. Still, I know that this yogic path is just that.  It’s a path, a journey.  I’m still traveling, not content to stop with what I received.  I know there’s more just down the road.  That’s why I intend to sign up for a Yoga Healing Retreat at least once a year, if not more often.  One day can bend your life.  Several days can turn it around.

The Most Auspicious Day!

By Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

August 15 — what an auspicious day!  Today I honor the greatest gift of all, freedom.  Muktananda received MahaShaktipat Diksha from Nityananda on the day that India became free from foreign rulership.  One who was named “Bliss of Liberation” was given the gift of liberation on the day that India attained liberation.  Was Nityananda playing with us?  Of course!

This is all Shiva’s play, a cosmic and intensely personal dance of delight, Shiva being the universe while being you in the universe.  Shiva becomes the individual by binding himself, then takes birth again and again in the quest for Self-Knowingness, yearning to be free.  Now and again Shiva gets peeks of himself, tantalizing tastes of his own immortality.  What an enchanting play:  action, adventure, comedy, drama, suspense and documentary, all at the same time.

My life pivots around that moment when the blue light of Consciousness streamed from Nityananda’s eyes into Muktananda’s eyes.  I was not there, yet my life began in that moment.  I was physically born less than one year earlier, but the purpose of my life was set in motion.  I didn’t know for decades, but Muktananda knew.  Nityananda knew his gift would benefit millions.

Nirmalananda’s Collection

When Muktananda brought Shaktipat to America, he called it a Meditation Revolution.  He planted the seed of enlightenment in so many people, yet it all came from Nityananda.  He kept telling us this, “I do nothing.  It’s all my Baba.”  I couldn’t hear or understand him because I didn’t yet know how to receive.  Muktananda had already given me Shaktipat many times, but I still didn’t know how to truly receive.

But on that day, India’s day of freedom, Muktananda received the gift of freedom from one who was already free.  The fulfillment of Muktananda’s dream, even the prophetic name he’d been given when he took sannyas, was accomplished.  Well, he had to meditate for nine more years before he really knew what he’d gotten.  It’s like if someone gives you the gift of the sky; how will you see all of it?  You have to learn how to surrender.  Then you not only see it, you become it.  And even more.

Today I honor the greatest gift of all, freedom.  Not the freedom of a nation, though this is India’s Independence Day.  This is the 73rd anniversary of a bound soul being set free.  Such a great soul, Muktananda, he then set others free.  I am only one amongst many who owe our life to Muktananda.  And he got it all from Nityananda.  Jai Nityananda!

Nirmalananda’s collection

Going Steady with Swamiji

By Shelley Zeichner, interviewed by Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

I just celebrated my first anniversary as a satsangi[1].  Since discovering Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda in early 2018, I consistently attend her Swami Sunday Satsangs.  Practicing and teaching another meditation style for a decade, I am now even a deeper meditator.  This has all come about through a chance meeting.

My previous ten years has been a journey of many meditation classes, courses and retreats.  A month before meeting Swamiji, I traveled from PA to CA for meditation teacher certification.  There I met another meditator from southeastern PA.  She had been doing Embodyment® Yoga Therapy at the Ashram’s Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center (DYMC).  She enthusiastically talked about how it had healed the effects of a car accident.

As an event planner, I’d heard of DYMC.  For health and wellness retreats, I bring in yoga teachers of different styles.  Checking out DYMC’s Svaroopa® yoga was already simmering on my backburner.  So, when my new friend from the CA retreat and I returned home, we tried out a free DYMC program on a Wednesday.  We were floored.  We could hardly wait to get back to DYMC on Sunday, for Swamiji’s Satsang.

Years ago, Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi enthralled me.  I was especially captivated by his search for and then devotion to his Guru.  I thought how wonderful to want to bow at the feet of your Guru with gratitude and love.  At that first Swami Sunday, when my friend and I walked in, people were bowing to Swamiji.  I felt a deep connection to her.   There are no words for it.  Through her, I connected with the photo of her Guru, Baba Muktananda.  I felt his gaze piercing through my heart and out my back.  Seeing the photo of Nityananda, Baba’s Guru, I connected with him as a grandfather.

After several months of her yoga and meditation, I was bowing at Swamiji’s feet with love and gratitude.  It’s so natural to have complete love for and trust in a Guru’s teachings.  Since then, I feel that I have been going steady with Swamiji!  Her discourses are vivid, engaging and inspiring.  Her teachings are miraculous.  At DYMC I also take Svaroopa® yoga classes and engage in vichara (guided self-inquiry) sessions.  These experiences give me a sense of how Swamiji must have felt when she met Baba.  After 10 years of seeking, I feel that there’s no need to seek any further. 

All of Swamiji’s discourses give me an Aha! Moment.  For more, I binge-listen to her free online audios.  Every one delivers an epiphany.  In her frequent discussions after satsang, I find deep reciprocal connections with other satsangis.  Swamiji asks us, “What did you hear?”  Each of use chooses a word, phrase or line from her teachings that day and says why we chose it.  Often, each of us 20 or 30 people have chosen the same line and have similar feelings about it.  We are all following the same path in our individual ways.  This is fitting.  Swamiji teaches that ultimately who and what we really are is “Shiva.”

I have told the people coming to the meditation class I teach, if you really want to learn, come to Downingtown with me.  You will receive teachings from the most amazing teacher ever.  Now I have decided to simply stick with being an event planner.

I am growing steadier in the experiential knowing of my Self, the One Self Being All.  And I am aware that my long seeking was necessary.  I found the teacher I was seeking in Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda.  She embodies the teachings that she gives and is tireless in serving her Guru.

My own Self has always been present within me.  I just didn’t know it.  I now know that everything over the past 10 years had to be as it was or I would never have come to know Self that is always there.  Also, I know the “chance meeting” that led me to Swamiji was inevitable.

A friend gave me my first red jasper stone for healing.  I’ve used it for grounding, to prepare for meditation by clearing the mind.  It’s been a favorite color forever, and was always a color in any house where I lived.  Why was it that color captivated me?  Then it hit me: it’s Swamiji’s color, the robes of a yoga monk.  One Sunday I noticed her shirt was the very same shade of red-orange as jasper.  And in Baba’s photograph, the red-powder dot on his forehead is the same color and shape as a red jasper stone.  When I mentioned this to Swamiji, she said, as I have felt, I must have been a monk in a past life.  The Self Is Already Within – but I didn’t know it – until finding my Guru.

[1] A person who regularly attends satsang, which is a gathering of seekers of truth.