Author Archives: Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

Flowing with the Grace

Yogeshwari (Lissa) FountainBy Yogeshwari (Lissa) Fountain

I used to make assumptions about what a “good meditation” should look like, not realizing I was setting myself up for disappointment. I was frustrated by not being able to instantly “drop in.” Yet an hour later, I’d be startled by the ring of the chimes.

I thought I must not be having deep meditations. I still pretty much track along with my mind all the way in. When I lose the mantra, I pick it up again. Yet now I realize that, no matter what, I’ve experienced a profound inner shift. In the moment I open my eyes, I feel full, from the inside. I am rested and alert. I know there’s been a change in me, beyond my mind’s understanding. I’ve accessed my Self deep within. How does this happen?

Kanchan - Meditation 2In Flow State, Swamiji and Vidyadevi reassure us that meditation is a three-stage process: dharana (silent mantra repetition on the way in), dhyana (mind in an uninterrupted flow towards the Self) and samadhi (a deep inner absorption beyond time and space). Before reading this article, I hadn’t realized fully the benefit of not “passing in.”

I perceive the inner shifts while they are progressing. My breath opens and flows with the mantra. Kundalini climbs my spine in subtle swirls of energy. I see my mind thinking thoughts, but without being bothered. My perceptions begin to arise from the background of my own Self. It may take a while, but I find myself going with the flow. My experience corresponds to Vidyadevi’s descriptions of dhyana:

You’re not merely repeating mantra but you are flowing in the mantra:
easily, smoothly, like flowing down river in a steady current.

Patanjali says, “The destination is samadhi: immersion into the Consciousness that you already are.” Now I see that how I get to the destination matters. Noticing the steps along the way gives me a most powerful effect. That process reshapes my mind in Consciousness. Yet, when I meditate in my Guru’s presence or receive Shaktipat from her, I “fly” inward all the way to Self, heedless of the intervening stages.

Meditation 4.jpgIn a weekend workshop a few years ago, I progressively prepared students for the closing hour-long meditation. Our space was in a boathouse in a public park. As soon as we began, a rock band set up right outside. Playing a medley of 60’s hits, they blasted “Mustang Sally” full volume. My mind oscillated between repeating mantra and worrying about my students’ reactions. Wonderfully, at the end, all shared how the mantra helped them stay inside, despite the noise.

Imagine my surprise when a first-time meditator reported: “I don’t know what you all are talking about. I didn’t hear any music the whole time.” Clearly, she had dropped into samadhi right away! But her mind was not part of the process. How would she then be able to carry her own Self back into her life without the experience of step-by-step, glide-by-glide mantra repetition?

Ours is a tantric path: the interweaving of the divine with the mundane. Swamiji dares us to repeat mantra all the way through our entire meditation. Staying on point, we can ride along the current of grace, all the way in, without going unconscious. “Going with the flow” becomes flowing with Guru’s Grace. What a divine way to meditate. What a divine way to live, while fulfilling the goal of yoga: “to be conscious in the ever-deepening realms of your own being.”

Born to Serve

Phil MilgromBy Krishna (Phil) Milgrom

Do you wonder who adds the Daily E-Quote to the Ashram website homepage?  That is Pam Church, CSYT & Svaroopa Vidya® Meditation Teacher.  She is honored and thrilled to be serving the community in this way since 2014.

Pam ChurchShe sets up all the daily quotes on the Ashram homepage, making sure each one corresponds to the Daily E-Quote emailed to subscribers.  To do so, she coordinates with Margot Garritt, whose seva is to email the quotations.  The source of all is our monthly teaching article and the Contemplation Quotes Svaroopa® yoga teachers offer at the end of each class.

Pam finds her seva enriching.  Monthly, she goes through all these inspiring quotes, giving her the opportunity to immerse into the teachings more deeply.  “When I am doing this seva, I am paying attention to detail and so must be fully present,” she describes.  “I have the opportunity to carefully read all the monthly quotes as I enter them.  I take in all that they have to offer.  In the process, I feel my connection to Swamiji, the Ashram and the lineage.  I feel the support that this brings for my own learning and inner opening.”

SVA Print ScreenPam wonders whether she’s getting “too much” relative to what she is giving.  Yet she is comforted knowing her service is making large ripples.  “This seva brings the daily quotes to a wider audience.  Whoever visits, from anywhere in the world, will automatically see them! How wonderful to get the teachings out into the world this way.”

The Seva webpage explains, “In ancient India, seva was believed to help one’s spiritual growth and at the same time contribute to the improvement of a community.”  For Pam Church, seva is truly all that.  She feels spiritually transformed, while her seva supports the spiritual transformation of her beloved Svaroopa® yoga community.

What is a Swami?

Swamiji India 1By Swami Nirmalananda

If you were studying Zen, you’d look for a Roshi.  In Tibetan Buddhism, the teachers is often a lama, even a Rinpoche, who is a reincarnation of a previously recognized lama.  In Theravada Buddhism (aka Mindfulness Meditation), the root teachers are honored by the title Ajahn, a monk who is a teacher in the forest tradition of Burma.

In yoga-based meditation, for the deepest teachings and fastest progress toward enlightenment, you study with a Swami, a yoga-monk.  As a student, you get benefit from any teacher who is ahead of you on the path, but you get the most from the teacher who has gone the deepest.  A swami is one who has dedicated their life to Self-Realization, commonly called enlightenment.

Mainstream lifestyle focuses on family, wealth, beauty, sexuality and peer pressure, well depicted in media.  Monks are people who say, “Been there, done that,” whether it was in a past lifetime or in a misspent youth (like myself).  Most swamis born in India take the initiation before turning 30; Western swamis usually take longer to figure out that spiritual development is the most important thing in their life.  I became a swami in my 60’s.

You don’t have to be a swami to teach.  There are many good yoga teachers and meditation teachers who practice deeply and continue their studies beyond their preliminary certification.  Correspondingly, I was a good teacher before I became a swami.  I lived a yogic lifestyle, based in my own home, focused on family relationships and working as a full time yoga teacher.  I did my best for my students and they got benefit.

Swami CeremonyMy sannyasa (swami-hood) initiation was done at a Vedic fire ceremony, yaj~na.  Facing God in the fire changes you.  Ever after, swamis wear orange, the color of the fire.  When I became a swami, all the other priorities fell away.  I am forever grateful.  Only one thing remains — Consciousness.

A swami is not a priest.  Priests are called “brahmins,” who perform religious ceremonies, including weddings, funerals and Vedic fire ceremonies.  As important as this is, it’s religion, not yoga.  Swamis are yogis, devoted to God but devoted to the God within.  This is yoga, not religion.  A yogi who attains yoga’s ultimate promise, and dedicates their life to serving others on the path, must be authorized by one who was authorized.  Only then can they serve as a Guru.

Not every swami is a Guru; some are still working on their own enlightenment.  They simply have a deeper commitment and apply more of their time and energy to it.  Not every Guru is a swami.  Many of the yogic lineages feature married teachers, even passing their Guruhood on to their children as a family legacy.  My tradition, Kashmiri Shaivism, is a Tantric tradition with several thousand years of swamis leading the way.

Most Westerners have trouble with the long Sanskrit names, so most people call me “Swami.”  Swami is the title of a yoga-monk.  Sva means “Self,” your own Divine Essence, so swami means “one who is one with his Self.”  Some people call me “Swamiji” (pronounced SWAH-mee-jee), with the -ji on the end being a term of love and respect.

My given name is Nirmalananda, which means “the bliss of freedom.”  My parents had named me Pamela, a precursor to my swami name, Nirmala.  The names even rhyme!  At the end of Nirmala is -ananda, which all monks in my vowed order get.  It means bliss.  What a beautiful promise is held in my name.

DiscussionGroupSaraswati is the Goddess of Wisdom and Creativity.  I am a member of the Saraswati order, as are most of the monks that brought yoga’s root teachings to the West.  The Saraswati order is a teaching order, thus I teach.  Technically, I am a member of the Mahanirvani Akhara, based in Mumbai and Haridwar, India.  I lead two facilities in Downingtown PA, a residential Ashram and a retreat facility, as well as one in Varanasi India, where I am in residence twice a year.

I have been authorized to share the depth of yoga’s timeless teachings, both through initiation as well as through teachings and practices.  It is a privilege to serve spiritual seekers, to awaken them to a deeper dimension within and to make this time-tested technology available to a hungry world.  As is traditional, most of my teaching programs are free, to make them easily accessible.  I am deeply grateful to the international community of yogis who provide the financial support that makes my Downingtown locations possible and gives me the luxury of teaching for free.  To share the highest with others, to give your heart and being freely, it’s a glorious way to live!

Re-Energize Your Boring Life!

Chiti - Blog 3By Chiti Aion

Get up, quick breakfast, go to work, dinner, Netflix? Then repeat.  The day-to-day routine can get tired after a while, not to mention stressful.  I remember this feeling during my first year as an elementary school teacher.

Not only was every day repetitive, I was still completing my graduate degree.  My routine was getting up, grabbing a quick breakfast, getting to work by 7 am, working through lunch and dinner, getting home at 9 pm, getting to sleep — and repeat.  I needed something to maintain this schedule and to revive my enthusiasm for life.  That was when I started Svaroopa® yoga.

Chiti 4To fit the yoga poses into my morning routine, I got up earlier.  The effects were immediate.  Even though I was getting less sleep, I had more energy throughout the entire day! Instead of dragging myself through the day, I had pep in my step.  I was doing the same things I always did, but everything had changed.  I knew it was because of the yoga.

The difference was coming from the inside.  I was already filled with joy, so everything I did reflected that state.  My coworkers commented that I always had a smile on my face.  Hugs and “you’re the best teacher ever” letters from my students were at an all-time high.

Chiti - AdjustmentWhen I realized what I was getting from Svaroopa® yoga, I knew I had to share it with others.  I started by creating a yoga program for fellow teachers at my elementary school.  They too were amazed by feeling both calm and energized after class.  The effects of one class would carry them through the week, feeling more alive, focused and refreshed.

I look forward to offering you the same experience — and more — in our upcoming 6-week series: “Re-Energize Your Boring Life!” Click here to register.

The Joy of Shaktipat

Kumuda (Karen) SchaubBy Kumuda (Karen) Schaub, interviewed by Matrika Gast

Before taking a Shaktipat Retreat with Swami Nirmalananda, I’d always felt that discipline was punishment.  Now I understand that the discipline of Svaroopa® Vidya practices is a kindness to myself.  It is deep support for my internal process.  Having received Shaktipat from Swamiji yearly since 2013, I’m eagerly anticipating my fifth in October.

My first was quite surprising.  I’d been a yoga student for about three years when my teacher mentioned Shaktipat.  She casually asked, “Do you want to come?”  With each new Svaroopa® yoga experience over time, I knew it was what I needed.  So, even though I didn’t know exactly what to expect with Shaktipat, I signed up.

swamiAt the beginning, I knew nothing about the Guru or the Guru’s function.  I knew nothing about her Guru, Baba Muktananda, nor his Guru, Bhagawan Nityananda.  I now know this is our lineage of Shaktipat Gurus.  It is the source of transformative power and Grace.

Rooted in this lineage, Swamiji gave Shaktipat three different times in the retreat.  With the first, I felt that she had reached through my whole spine and into my tailbone.  Physically, my tailbone was painful.  I wanted to be anywhere except sitting on my stack of blankets for meditation!

At lunch Swamiji said, “It’s like childbirth.  The pain has a purpose.”  For me, the laser beam of Shaktipat into my tailbone initiated profound changes.  When I returned home, I was different.  Even though a beloved pet died a few weeks afterward, I navigated that process in a new way.  I was more able to be present with the pain and sorrow instead of reacting against it or retreating.  Again, I knew that this Svaroopa® Vidya path had given me exactly what I needed.

Shaktipat SwamiAfter my second Shaktipat Retreat, I felt that everything inside was different.  I had shifted.  I thought, I don’t know what to do with myself.  Then I thought, That’s right.  To live from Self is different.  The doors to my Self had blown open.  And at my third Shaktipat Retreat, these doors opened to a vision of the whole galaxy.  I realized this is what is inside.

With each Shaktipat, the effect was more subtle and more profound.  The uncovering of my deep Self continues to be a revelation.  Every time, there’s more of that for me to experience, more of what I never knew was there.  The More.

I have come to know that these immersions bring me into the process of deep excavation.  It unpacks the things I’ve carried with me for lifetimes.  It can be painful.  Yet I know that it’s only painful because my “small-s” self wants to avoid those things that are so deep.  Ultimately, this process is joyful.

So I keep doing my practices, and talking with myself about what I really want.  I want to know the Self all the time.  Now I know Self in my meditation, in my little home and talking to another yogi.  But I want to know it at my job, at the grocery store and while taking out the garbage.  My mind can’t quite wrap itself around what it means to be Enlightened.

Yet through Shaktipat Retreats I’ve experienced beautiful glimmers of my Self.  Being That all the time is an amazing goal.  Shaktipat continues to create big openings, more space, more room within.  I am then able to settle into my Self in a different way.


My practices have evolved into a steadfast discipline in the last six months.  Until then, practice first thing in the morning was not always a priority.  My “to do” list would sometimes take precedence; I would get lost in the shuffle.  But with steady practice now, I guarantee time in the morning for Ujjayi Pranayama, asana (poses) and meditation.  When possible, I add chanting of Sri Guru Gita.  If not, I chant it on the way to work, or sometimes at work.  These practices support my state, integrating the experience of Self into daily life.

My appreciation and gratitude for the ability to be in my life in this way — in relationship with a Guru who is there for me without fail — is immense.

Becoming My Self

Ute Mazel-Reeves 2Ute Mazel-Reeves, interviewed by Matrika Gast

For 8 years as my husband’s caregiver, I continued to deepen my Svaroopa® Vidya practices.  I continued to feel I was growing in my process.  When he died last year, I thought I’d pick up where I’d left off as a householder.  It had involved extensive socializing with friends as well as traveling.  However, I realized it was an identity I no longer related to.  I remembered Swamiji’s teachings.

As old identities fell away, I didn’t want to construct another “small-s” identity.  I sensed a powerful opportunity to see what lay beneath my personal stories.  This process, however, was anything BUT blissful!  I felt that I was stuck in darkness.  I experienced a sense of nothingness.

I still knew who I was in the deepest levels.  Yet I couldn’t feel myself as Beingness.  I had clarity of where I was.  But I could feel only the contractions, the limitations that that bind us into time and space.  They felt so heavy on the lightness that I knew myself to be.

Swami - SatsangFrom Swami Nirmalananda’s deep teachings, I recognized what was going on for me.  I was in fear of annihilation (anavamala).  This is the all-too-human limitation that blocks our knowing of our own Self.  Maya creates the swirl of the external world of objects and experiences (through Her kanchukas, Her powers), further covering that inner knowing.  Anavamala drives us to construct identities for our small-s self.

Resisting that urge, I was yet not able to experience my deeper Beingness.  So, I reached out to my Guru.  I signed up for the July Shaktipat Retreat with Swamiji.  Everything changed.  With Her, I am always on the path, embraced by Guru’s Grace.  Within, I asked her to please make me fearless.  With Shaktipat, my state shifted.  I felt opened to new possibilities, to explore how to be joyfully and meaningfully alive, without the small-s identity.

Shaktipat RetreatIt feels like progress; the fog is lifting.  My path is clearer, with Guru as my guide.  I foresee new understandings forming.  I am learning how I can express myself from the authentic place of my Self.  To let go of constructed identifies, I am exploring their remnants.  Meditating, japa and chanting Sri Guru Gita give me the lifeline for which I’ve been reaching.

Remembering a profound experience from the July Shaktipat continues to propel me into knowing my own Self as the One Self Being All.  I felt there was no barrier between my Guru’s heart and mine.  Infinite heart space was encompassing us both.

This Stuff Works

Addie AlexBy Addie Alex

Hit by a chairlift while skiing, Claudia’s pelvis had been fractured in three places as well as her arm. She also developed sciatic pain. For six months she faithfully did physical therapy along with chiropractic sessions and acupuncture. In August 2017 she found Svaroopa® yoga at the suggestion of her sister-in-law.

Even though her range of motion was improving, her left leg and arm were numb, she had no strength, and her hips were crooked. At her first session, she told me that she had trouble getting out of her car and even a chair. Having spent many hours fruitlessly trying to feel better, she felt frustrated and depressed.

Once she saw that she got results, she committed herself to Yoga Therapy twice weekly and a home practice that included Ujjayi Pranayama at least once daily.  When she said her goal was to get back to skiing, I had my reservations, both because of her discomfort level and occasional pain.

Yoga Therapy Intensive“After a few sessions,” Claudia describes, “I began to feel the change in my body. Over the next two months, with twice weekly Yoga Therapy sessions and daily yoga practice at home, I stopped going to Physical Therapist, the chiropractor and acupuncture.”

The amazing thing is, she got the results she sought in less than three months.   Thanksgiving weekend she texted me a picture of herself and two daughters in their ski gear looking very happy! Being able to get back to this family activity was very important to Claudia.

“Now the numbness in my leg and arm is almost completely gone. I no longer experience sciatic pain. I am feeling stronger. My hips are more level, and I am able to get out of a chair and not limp. Feeling more fluid and flexible, I find myself running upstairs. I am sleeping better and feel less stressed. I owe feeling great to Addie, her staff and Svaroopa® yoga.”