Author Archives: Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

Settling into the Depths of My Beingness

aanandi-annie-rossBy Aanandi Ross

In Satsang some years ago, I found myself kneeling and bowing at Swami’s feet, with my hands together at my heart.  I didn’t know how I got there.  Now I know, having been touched by Guru’s Grace, I was experiencing “the initiation that reveals your inherent Divinity to you, within you,” as described in the October Contemplation Article: Diving Deep Within.  In our Shaktipat tradition, things that hold you back can dissolve and transform in a moment.

Since being on this Svaroopa® path, I’ve found so many levels of Beingness to explore.  Poses, Ujjayi Pranayama, japa and meditation — these practices continually open me to profound and mystical moments.  They offer a height of awareness that I never could have dreamed up in my small mind.  In the depths of my being, I sometimes sense a deep, dark, rich soil, deep in my core, slowly tilling itself, rolling and cultivating.  This seems to breathe me into more and more Beingness.


meditate-aanandi.jpgAdmittedly, sometimes it isn’t easy.  Yet I see that my task is to stay with it.  I breathe into it, softening the densities in my mind.  As Swamiji has taught, I return to the vehicle of enlivened mantra.  I trust the process, and mantra takes me back to my Self.  Throughout life’s ebbs and flows, these practices continue to transform me. Over time, their effects settle into me more and more, anchoring into the very depths of being.

I am struck by how the effects of inner transformation create shifts in the outer world.  I look back and think, “Thank God, thank Guru these changes happened.”  It’s like I’ve tossed heavy burdens into the wind, freeing my small self from needless attachments.  I see this in so many yogis in our community, all riding the wave of Shaktipat from our Guru.  I feel that we, each in our own individualized ways, are all part of a big ocean wave.  Having filled us to our depths, the wave rolls out to others — family, friends, community, the world.  Consciousness emanates from this big wave of Oneness, expressed in a multitude of brilliant forms in our Svaroopa® yoga community.

Seasonal Change

binduBy Bindu Shortt

The transitions between seasons challenge your physical and mental health, according to Ayurveda.  Most of the USA is now transitioning from summer’s pitta qualities to fall’s vata qualities.  From heat and humidity, you move into cool, dry weather into fall and throughout winter.  The temperature is dropping.  Leaves are turning brown.  Even with crops ready for harvesting, the fields and even the air are slowing and quieting.  Can you sense it?

Like increases like.  These outer conditions increase the same qualities inside you.  Thus, you may experience fall allergies or a bit of constipation or gas.  Your skin, hair or nails may be drying.  You may have a low-grade sore throat occasionally, depression or a little loneliness.

Amaranth Hot Cereal with Cerries and Walnuts

When outside nature transitions, nature within us wants to do the same.  Now is the time to eat warm, oily, heavy and grounding foods as well as activities.  They carry you into the next season with good immunity, digestion and mood.  Favor cooked cereals for breakfast, even adding some cream.  If you like fruit at breakfast, cook it right into your cereal.  If savory is your breakfast taste, then soups, rice and beans or kitchari will satisfy you.

Make lunch the biggest meal of your day.  This allows your digestion to provide the most energy.  Soups, stews and casseroles with homemade breads work well, along with extra veggie dishes. The heaviness of dairy, nuts and seeds creates a deep layer of warmth within.  This supports the effectiveness of your gut and immune system.  Extra ghee will lubricate you.  As your constitution allows, use as much as three tablespoons a day.

Cut way back on raw foods.  Use them only a few times a week — only as a garnish to cooked foods.  If you love salads, eat just a couple of tablespoons as a condiment occasionally.  You may find your system automatically no longer wanting raw foods such as melons or cucumbers.  You may no longer want very dry foods such as crackers or popcorn.  This Ayurvedic wisdom is already active within you.

For your daily massage oil, switch to sesame for more warmth.  Maybe it’s time to wear a scarf or at least carry one with you, every day.  Be sure to follow a regular schedule of eating, sleeping and doing your practices. Vata dosha needs routine for calm and stability.  As you align yourself with the rhythms of the season, you can enjoy all it has to offer.

Herbal Ayurvedic Vata Tea

Use the following vata tea to support your digestive and detoxing systems into winter:

  1. Mix equal parts of whole cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, and store in an airtight container.
  2. Each morning stir 1 tablespoon of the mix into 1 quart of water.

Bring it to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain and discard the seeds.  Sip this tea with meals and throughout the day.

Ashram’s Birthday

IMG_0218By Swami Nirmalananda

We had a party!  We did my favorite things:  chanting, teachings followed by discussion, and meditation.  Plus we enjoyed the sweetness of yogis spending time together, along with the birthday cake and pie.  Birthday cards and presents have been arriving, practical things like printer cartridges, tea lights and lighters.  There’s good reason to celebrate.

I always knew I’d open an Ashram.  In the early years, my mind doubted this inner knowing, for my mind was used to keeping me small.  “How could you think you’d ever be so great?!”  Oh, the mind!  With doing more yoga, and especially due to Baba’s Grace, I outgrew it, like you outgrow a pair of shoes.  I didn’t let my mind hold me back.

Ganesha2I began buying murtis, statues of the Gods and Goddesses, that I knew would be essential to holding the shakti (energy).  I had gotten interested in them because I was having visions and other experiences of their very real presence and blessing in my life.  The Guru Gita says:

haahaa-huuhuu-ga.nai”scaiva gandharvai”sca prapuujyate.

“Srii Guru Gita 25

Even the gods and celestials honor and worship the Guru.

nataraj in alcoveBaba described that they “dance attendance” on one who gives their life to knowing the Self.  I only got to know them slowly, as they introduced themselves to me.  I recognize the Divine and cosmic forces at play in this universe; it’s a delight to invoke and honor their presence.

I didn’t open an Ashram right away.  I opened a yoga center, Master Yoga Foundation, but others told me I was running it on the Ashram model.  They were right.  The only thing lacking was housing which would provide a place for yogis to fully immerse themselves in the shakti that an Ashram creates.  After taking sannyas, where I renounced the desire for an Ashram (along with everything else), people came together to support the process.  We were off and running.  Nine years later, I luxuriate in the support of many of the original Board members.  Many faculty and staff have been with me for decades, bringing their depth as yogis into everything we do.

nityananda-muktanandaWhile we’ve spent years getting the buildings ready, placing the murtis, creating gardens and outdoor meditation areas – it’s the people that make this an Ashram.  All the furniture could be in place but it would be a museum.  It’s the living breathing forms of Shiva that keep the Grace flowing here.  How fortunate am i!  It’s all Baba’s Grace.  And where did He get it?  Nityananda.

Jaya Nityananada.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

My Favorite Pose

Dasi (Valerie) Light Trautlein 2By Dasi Light Trautlein

Though I’m just writing about Ardha Chandrasana, I can feel my body remembering its benefits. I practice this wonderful pose almost every morning. My body craves it. My tailbone lengthens. My crown feels more open. Everything in between is longer, softer and wider. Vitality radiates from my whole body as Kundalini climbs my spine, and spreads through my whole body, mind and more.

My morning practice begins with meditation, chant and Ujjayi Pranayama. Then I do a Svaroopa® yoga spinal release sequence. Voilà! My body is ready for the deep upliftment that comes from Ardha Chandrasana, a multilayered standing pose. First I do the two essential-before poses, Tadasana and Hasta Padasana, in order to guarantee the benefits.

Standing in Tadasana gives me a grounded flow of awareness. Drawing my navel in towards my spine activates my abdominals. This helps my whole spine get another release. Then I’ll often feel Kundalini climb my spine and clear away blockages. Little snaps, crackles and pops zip from my lower spine to my upper spine.

180925 SVA Blog - Dasi - Ardha ChandrasanaWith my arms up, Hasta Padasana draws the prana up my spine, widening its flow. As I settle into the pose, I remember that asana actually means “to sit.” I feel like I’m sitting in a river; it courses up my spine to the crown of my head and out the top.

Then I’m ready for the jewel: Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). Leaning my weight into one foot, I lengthen that arm upwards — WOWZA! That whole side comes alive and releases from tail to top. Any left-over spots of spinal tension adjust and melt. The other side happens so naturally and effortlessly.

My mind quiets. I can feel length, more space for breathing and clear calm thinking. I stand in Being. Alive and ready to live, my whole body vibrates with Consciousness.
I start the day joyful and revitalized. Calm, clear grounding keeps me close to my Self. I’ve always known deep inside that I could feel this way. Ahh… now I get to not just feel this way but also live this way. What a blessing. Thank you Swamiji.


The Full Moon

By Swami Nirmalananda

Guru Purnima Moon zeenews-comMoonlight is so calming, so soothing, such a sweet and nurturing kind of light.  Yet the moon is not a source of light, but shines with reflected light, just like your mind.  When your mind is at its best, it shines with the light of your own Self, radiating from inside, outward into the world.  But your mind ebbs and flows, like the stages of the moon, too often shaded with your desires and fears, clouding your mind, blocking the light.

muktanandaSwami Muktananda was born on the full moon.  He left us on the full moon.  He dedicated His life to finding the inner light of the Self and to sharing it.  I was lucky enough to receive His Grace, not only showing me the light shining through Him, but the source of the light within me.

That was His message, to look within.  I took Him at His word.  Well, I cannot brag about this.  You see, when I sat with Him, I went unconscious.  When He gave His discourse, I went unconscious.  When He led a chant, I went unconscious.  When He walked by me, I went directly to the meditation hall so I could go unconscious.  But it wasn’t unconsciousness, like sleep.  It was samadhi, a profound and deep immersion into Consciousness-Itself, so deep that I could not track where I was in there.

Every time I dove deep, which was His Grace propelling me inward, I surfaced to a new me.  Every inner immersion burned away the ways that I was getting in my own way.  I surfaced with the heat still burning, the fire of yoga, the heat of Kundalini purifying my body and being.  Baba gave me this.  I am forever grateful.

He had prepared us for His departure from this earthly plane.  Again and again, He explained that the Grace is not a human force but a Divine force.  He told us that the Guru is merely an agent of Grace.  I heard it, but I didn’t really care, because I knew that when I was with him physically, Grace took care of me.  So, for me, it was about Him.  And it was glorious!

Yet everything He said was true.  Today is the anniversary of His full moon departure, Muktananda’s Mahasamadhi Anniversary.  We’ve just completed a Shaktipat Retreat in His honor, which was thick with His Presence and Grace, still so rich and deep.  It’s like sitting in the meditation hall with Him.

Swami handsBecause He never really left.  He told us that His departure would merely be the end of His physical form, but His presence would always be here.  He surrounds and pervades me; He surrounds and pervades all, because He was and is Shiva.  As am I and as are you.

Jaya Muktananda!

Sadgurunath Maharaj Ki Jay!

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.