Category Archives: Ashram News

Ashram Profile: Moving from 2020 to 2021!

By Lynn (Gurupremananda) Cattafi, SVA Board

In so many ways, 2020 was a banner year.  It was full of hardship as well as joy.  As we enter 2021, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram is always planning how to best serve the needs of our Svaroopa® Sciences community and seekers beyond.  First looking backward at the closing year is always beneficial.  What changed? What worked?

When the pandemic halted travel to Lokananda, the Ashram created the online Grace Delivery System to bring immersions into our homes.  When pandemic lockdown began in mid-March 2020, Satguru Swami Nirmalananda received the inner command, “Use any means necessary.”  The Ashram’s began to Zoom online programs to our community and to seekers everywhere.  The variety of online offerings allows the choice of dipping in a toe or taking a deep dive.

Freebies, as always, include online chants and publications as well as audios of Gurudevi’s discourses.  Free of charge as well is Gurudevi’s Japa Club, online or by phone.  It’s your opportunity to be led by Gurudevi in the sweet power of mantra repetition twice daily.  She prefaces it with a concise, powerful teaching.  For those who want to go even deeper, SVA Online offers a menu of subscription classes and immersions.

Gurudevi teaching online via Zoom

After a few online programs, I enrolled in the daily Meditation Club.  There is nothing like having to be on time to meditate with Gurudevi and our worldwide community.  It’s so effective in establishing a consistent daily practice.  But more than that, it is being in the flow of Grace with my Guru every morning.  Plus the human connection with all other participants was so supportive.  Now I cannot be without my daily meditation any more than I could do without brushing my teeth.

Skeptical at first, I was amazed at the depth of the online retreats.  I was able to receive Shaktipat via Zoom.  Who would have ever thought it possible?  I attended the online Chant & Meditation Retreat and So’ham Weekend as well.  I was able to sanctify my home with these deep immersions.  I integrated the practices into my life so much more easily.  It worked because I was in my life while also in the retreat. Each pre-retreat orientation provided such loving information about how to eat during the retreat; I received complete meal plans and recipes.  I was guided in how to set up my home for the retreat, and how to manage time between retreat sessions.  It was brilliant.  I felt so cared for right in my own yoga room.

The Ashram’s online yoga classes are a Godsend for me.  Thanks to Zoom, I am finally able to take asana class every day.  I am doing more yoga through the pandemic than any other time in my life.

One of our online teaching setups at Downingtown Yoga and Meditation Center

I know that Gurudevi always sees the big picture.  Along with other Board members, I’m being guided to plan for the year ahead and beyond.  Gurudevi always has her eyes and heart on what will serve all of us best in the next steps of personal growth.  Here is to a growth-filled 2021, together!

What do Yoga Warriors Do?

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

Jesus taught that you should turn the other cheek.  Krishna told Arjuna to go kill his family members.  What is a yogi supposed to do in times like these? 

Yoga makes you more peaceful, one of its greatest benefits.  Yet yoga is a warrior tradition.  The power of such deep inner peace is that it makes you able to face the challenges in your life without internal turmoil.  Thus you are able to see clearly and determine what you can do to make a difference without fear or self-doubt.  Some situations call for you to pull out your sword and go in swinging; others mean you should withdraw.  How do you know which is which?  The answer is found in an inner knowing, what I call a message from God.  Anandamayima called it her “kheyyal,” meaning a divine inner prompting.  But you cannot hear it if your mind is churning.

Recent events have been overwhelming, especially after months of pandemic, economic difficulties and racial tensions.  Your impulse might be to duck and cover, like the bomb drills they had us doing in school in the 1950s.  But ducking under our schoolroom desk was not going to protect us from the nuclear bomb they warned us about.  We even knew that back then, proving once again that the adults didn’t really have a clue about how to meet the challenges of the time.  But yogis do.

You might decide to demonstrate in support of your political perspective, or merely send money to those you believe can lead us in the right direction.  But if you do nothing, you’re not a yogi.  You’re a wimp.  I know that you care, so show it.  Act on it.

We’ve been diagnosed with “pandemic fatigue,” that people are unable to sustain their necessary vigilance.  Yet you must.  Mask.  Social distance.  Sanitize your hands.  Shelter in place.  But you don’t have to panic.  Panic leads to paralysis, like a deer in the headlights.  You have skills that you didn’t have last year.  You know how to mask, social distance and sanitize.  You can connect through technology and in other meaningful ways.  I loved the birthday parade going through my neighborhood a few days ago, with cars decorated and horns blaring.  So much love!  So much joy!

And yes, this is a time to do more yoga.  The more you do — whether poses, breathing practices, chanting, meditation, study of the texts — the deeper your inner peace becomes and the more clarity you have.  Then you can decide what to do with yourself during this time.  You can even decide what to do with the rest of your life!  There’s so much possibility there.  What are you doing with it?

Pandemic, Panic & Paralysis

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

You could say you’ve got a reason to panic:  there’s a pandemic going on.  Especially if you’re in a high-risk group, the warning signs are clear, as are the instructions for how to protect yourself.  You’ve already developed some new skills, especially social distancing along with how to breathe and talk while wearing a mask.  You’ve even learned how to simplify your life to greater or lesser degree as well as how to spend more time at home.

Of course, panic is totally unnecessary.  All these actions are intelligent, meaning you do them simply because you make clear-headed decisions and follow through on them.  However, if you’ve previously perfected living in constant anxiety, you may not know how to pay attention unless your anxiety increases.  Thus your panic can be productive in a bizarre sort of way.

Ice Age: The Meltdown, 2006

Studies have proven that human beings go into fight or flight mode just like animals.  But there’s another instinctual response to panic — to freeze.  We call it “playing opossum.”  Opossums aren’t simply “playing dead,” they’re in a catatonic state.  Similarly, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits freeze in fear, even some species of shark.  At this point in the pandemic, you may be like a deer in the headlights, frozen in place.  At least it’s a safe place, where you will need to shelter for some time to come. 

What’s the difference between panic-induced immobility and a deep yogic immersion?  You can use this time to make powerful spiritual progress with more meditation and yogic practices, or you can simply retreat from the world, and maybe never come out again.  I’ll ask the same question another way:  Are you retreating FROM something or retreating TO something?

Retreating from danger is a smart move.  With the danger persisting for so long, your world gets smaller and smaller.  Even walking a block or two on the street where you live can feel adventurous!  As your personal space shrinks, the tumultuous events on the news can add to your conviction that you need to hide.  One yogi said, “I don’t need to hear the sound of the human voice anymore.”  She’s been alone too long.  How will she step into the world again?

Yoga makes you stronger and healthier.  It heals your mind and emotions.  Knowing when to reach out and connect with other people is another sign of intelligence.  Yet, as a yogi, you have to avoid using other people for entertainment or escapism. 

My first yoga retreat was when I went to study with my Guru.  More than merely escaping from the world, I was retreating to a spiritual paradise.  Every day revealed more and more of the inner mystery, both because of the Ashram’s daily practices as well as the power of my Guru’s presence.  I knew I was there for a reason, to fulfill the purpose of human life — the inner knowing of my own Divinity.  That time away from the bustle of the world was essential for me, like time in an incubator.  The chants and meditations opened up an inner depth that reshaped my sense of self from the inside-outward. 

Swami Muktananda’s Ashram, Shree Gurudev Ashram (later called Gurudev Siddha Peeth)
Image source: tourism.webindia123.com

You have that same opportunity now.  As a Svaroopi, especially if you’ve received Shaktipat, your life is already full of Grace.  Now you have time to marinate in it, to luxuriate in it, to deepen into it more fully.  But you’re not paralyzed by fear.  There’s no reason to panic.  You may need help to get through this time, so ask for it.  And, once you’re safe, turn this time into a precious time, a sweet and deep dive inward.  Do more yoga.

Swimming in Grace

By Sonya (Shraddhananda) McNeill, interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Sonya McNeill’s life hasn’t been the same since she met Gurudevi 16 years ago.  Now called Shraddhananda, she’d been meditating since childhood.  By 2002 she was experiencing unusual meditation movements and visions.  In January 2004 she reached out to her old friend Swami Samvidaananda (then Maria Abbruzzi), whom she hadn’t seen in a decade.

Samvid said, “Come to Rehoboth Beach Yoga. My teacher is offering ‘Meditation Made Easy.’”  Shraddhananda recounts, “Despite an ailing back, I crawled up the steep staircase to the yoga studio, dragging my walker with me.  Once there, I was supported by Grace.  It took three chairs and — I always jokingly say — 32 blankets to make me comfortable in meditation.  After the second meditation, I asked Gurudevi,  “Who is the brown guy with the long fingers?  He keeps putting his hand on my shoulder.  And everything was blue, and I felt like I was swaying side to side?”  To which Gurudevi replied, “Everything is blue and you were swaying.  And that was my Baba’s Baba, Nityananda putting his hand on your shoulder.”

Shraddhananda continues, “Before I knew what a Guru was, I wanted her.  I had always followed Jesus.  But it became clear that Jesus sent me to Nityananda.  Nityananda brought me to Gurudevi, to learn this aspect of Being.  He knew I needed a Great Being in a body to learn what I needed to know.  Even though Gurudevi was five years away from taking her Sannyas vows, I recognized who she was.  It didn’t matter what she was called.  Being in relationship with her changed my life.”

In 2009, the Ashram opened the Ashram.  Shraddhananda began a nine-year part-time residency.  She commuted from her home in Virginia, later in Maryland, to bask in the joy of personal seva (service) to the Guru.  “She altered my soul,” shares Shraddhananda. “Once I met her, there was no going anywhere else.  No one else had the answers to my questions.  Gurudevi became the bow of my boat.  Periodically, she’d be the rudder, reminding me I was veering off, and she’d move me.”

“While I was a part-time resident, Gurudevi never got in my way.  She gave me freedom to express who I was.  While expressing my small-s self in new and creative ways, I was supported by Gurudevi in finding my capital-S self.  For example, I wasn’t a confident baker or cook, yet was asked to make a vegan birthday cake for Baba!  At first, I was scared.  Yet the cake turned out great.  And my inner artist, once insecure, has been given wonderful art projects to accomplish.  Truly, the Guru helps us get past our small-s self’s limitations.”

Shraddhananda describes the revelatory power of Grace that is in fact, the Guru.  “My soul and mind are now satisfied with what is, and what my part is in each moment,” describes Shraddhananda.  “Gurudevi’s teachings and our relationship has freed me to the point I now rely on Grace.  Grace will always provide the answers.  I never doubt it.  My life has been soaked in it.  I am swimming in an ocean of Grace, 24/7.”

Healing Powered by Grace

By Sandy (Mukti) Carter, interviewed by Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

In February 2020, feeling emotionally depleted, Mukti enrolled in the last in-person Healing Retreat before Covid lockdown.  She had no idea about what to expect from the retreat.  She only knew she needed Guru’s Grace grounding her so she could make some tough life decisions.

Mukti describes, “Through meditation, asana classes, yoga therapy, vichara sessions, and philosophy talks, the Healing Retreat tapped into my Self — Consciousness Itself.  I was able to allow Kundalini to take care of me with her healing work.

“My meditations changed and deepened.  At first my mind was still busy during meditation.  So I got up early to meditate before the program started.  In meditation I became consciously aware of thoughts and the mantra, at a much deeper level.  This experience was a first for me.”

“On the last morning, I experienced the void as velvety darkness, without any sound, just dead silence.  Previously, my experiences of the void were black with a light noisiness.  This time, however, it was like curtains parted, and I went into the void.  The minute I became aware of the usual ringing in my ears, it disappeared.”

“My usual experience of Kundalini is awareness of heat and of that energetic inner column of support called stambha.  This energy arising makes my whole torso lift and feel at ease.  At this retreat I felt more: the vibration of Kundalini, coming up through my body.”

At the end of Healing Retreats, every participant receives home practice, which Gurudevi has individually customized.  For the past eight months, Mukti has done her practice daily.  “It supported my life at home in a big way,” she shares.  “Every day, I felt the practice coming from Grace.  I felt it as a loving action supporting me individually on my spiritual path.”

In the retreat’s vichara sessions (guided self-inquiry), Mukti saw that her pain originates in the mind.  Suffering comes from the mind and is thus self-induced.  She’d done some vichara intermittently years ago.  Now she recognizes that in not continuing with it, she was avoiding vichara.  She did not want to deal with her mind.  So after the retreat she continued doing vichara, enjoying greatly beneficial changes.

Mukti concludes, “There are no words to express the depth of my gratitude for all that Gurudevi provides and does for us as a community and individually.  I will enroll in another Healing Retreat.  If I had the flexibility in my work schedule and resources, I would do every healing retreat that’s offered!”

How Are You? Who Are You?

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

How are you doing?  How are you feeling?  How are you and who are you?  Yoga is about both, of course.  But when you deepen into your own inner essence, the “how” you are is taken care of automatically by the “who” you are. 

I was sitting in a chair with my laptop on my lap when I was told the election results had been announced. Before I got the news, I was sitting with my laptop on my lap.  After I got the news, I was sitting with my laptop on my lap.  I’m still me, no matter who wins the national election. 

I’m still me when I go to bed.  I’m still me when I get up.  I am who I am, no matter what I am doing or who I am with.  Those activities don’t make me who I am.  Other people don’t make me who I am.  I am me.

You are you.

It’s very simple.  Yet it’s a breakthrough to reach the point that you know who you are, regardless of what’s going on around you.

There’s a beautiful tree right outside of my office window.  Its leaves are almost all down now, with just a few hanging on.  A few weeks ago, it was lush and green.  Does its change make me be a different me?  No.

I had a bagel for breakfast this morning, yum.  Does that make this an extra special morning?  No.  It was fun, but it didn’t improve my mood – because my mood was already good.  Fun is important in life, but it doesn’t make you who you are.  You are you, whether you’re having fun or not.

I was driving when I got a phone call from a family member, offering condolences on the death of my father.  I didn’t know that he’d died.  I had been on an airplane, on my way to visit him, for we knew his time was ending.  Then I jumped into a rental car and got on the road.  I got the phone call while I was driving.

My first thought was, it’s probably not smart for me to be driving right now – I don’t want to hurt anyone else on the road.  So I pulled over.  As I sat there, talking through the information with the dear one who phoned me, I was asking myself, “Am I a different me now that my father has left this earthly plane?”   No.

Is the world different for me?  Yes.

Will I miss him?    Yes, I still do, even though he left years ago.

But I am me, the same me, whether he’s here or not.

The reality is that you’re under pressure right now.  You’re in a process that isn’t over yet.  The process going on in the world isn’t over yet.  And the process you’re going through inside isn’t over yet.  Not until you know the you that you are – the you that is your own Self, that inner essence of being that is Beingness being you. 

You are you, even in a world of change, even with changes transpiring in the outer world, even in the inner world where your thoughts and feelings are constantly changing.  You are you.  That’s what yoga is really about.

This blog was originally published by permission on Philly Area Yoga.

Wanting Meditation

By Jessica Soligon, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

 “The more you do it, the more you want to do it,” asserts Jessica.  “I got started because, like many people, I found the pandemic to be stressful.”  She is a mother of six and an esthetician, so a lot of people look to her for caretaking.  “I was in a constant and heightened state of anxiety and not sleeping at night.” Fortunately, she’d done some yoga and basic meditation years before.  And even luckier, her aunt, who lives nearby, is a deeply dedicated Svaroopa® yogi.  Aunt TC, as Jessica calls her, knew what would help. 

At the end of June, Jessica took a Beginners Meditation class with Swami Prajñananda.  Jessica says, “Swami Prajñananda gave an amazing class.  It was very relaxing and came at a very important time.  Things were changing in my life, so my aunt also suggested I do some vichara, guided self-inquiry.  For eight weeks, I did weekly Zoom vichara sessions with Swami P.”

“She is amazing and has been a lifeline to me during this crazy time.  It was hard for me to work through what was going on.  The vichara sessions helped me to understand where I was personally stuck.  Swami gave me the homework of doing five minutes of japa and five minutes of meditation.  After some time, I noticed my anxiety was lower, and I was sleeping better.  Working one-to-one with a swami has been great.”

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Besides taking yoga and meditation classes, Jessica has been meditating regularly since September.    “In class, I find it easy to quiet my busy mind and focus on the mantra.  When I mediate on my own, it can be more challenging.  But I always have the sense that I’m doing something good for myself.  It feels good for my mind and my body.  When I open my eyes, I always feel relaxed and in a positive place.  Even though I’m getting up earlier to do my meditation, I feel more energized in my day.”

“What is most noticeable is that I’ve been reacting differently to things coming into my life.  I also notice that when I’m not as consistent with my meditations, my anxiety returns.  For a while, I got up early and listened to Gurudevi’s recording of singing the mantra.  Then I wrote in my gratitude journal.  Now I’m also doing more yoga poses before doing japa and meditation.” 

Asked what keeps her committed to her meditation, Jessica answers, “It keeps my anxiety under control.  It’s so reassuring to have that to depend on.  It’s very reliable.  Even starting out small with the five minutes of meditation made a big difference.  Because of that, it was easy to make a commitment.  The more you do it, the more you want to do it.”  Something unexpectedly wonderful has been happening for Jessica in her yoga and meditation class with Swami Prajñananda.  “This past week or two, I’ve had some new experiences.  I feel my body fall back and forward and then feel like I’m falling asleep.  Just this last week, my head moved forward, and I heard a crack.  Afterwards I could breathe clearly through the left side of my head.  Swami P was very happy to hear this. She explained that I received Shaktipat, Kundalini awakening.  My mind is usually busy, but I was observing my mind.  I’m working with Kundalini by saying the mantra over and over.”  This is just the beginning of Jessica’s unfolding story.

Pandemic Panic

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

At least this time, it’s familiar.  You’ve felt this panic before, triggered by the same pandemic, only a few months ago.  Here you are again, though this time you have more skills.  I’ve gotten so accustomed to wearing a mask that I sometimes forget to remove it. 

Plus now there is more information about the virus and how to protect ourselves.  While staying home is hard, especially during the year-end holidays, it’s clearly dharma.  In other words, can you do the right thing without having to be panicked?

It would be nice to think that yogis, being healthier overall, have less risk from the virus.  Yet I know yogis who’ve had it, so clearly yoga doesn’t make you immune.  Nobody wants to die, and especially not a painful and inglorious death.  So fear of death plays a part in your pandemic panic.  Perhaps your finances have also been affected, another anxiety trigger.  How many triggers does it take to put you over the edge?  2020 has them in abundance!

The problem is that your edge is too close; you live on the edge of panic too much of the time.  Even when things are good, you’re able to conjure up fears all by yourself.  Yoga improves your health, yes — and yoga makes you more peaceful specifically by reducing your fear level.  In fact, the most important thing yoga gives you is freedom from fear.

http://dailynewsdig.com/standing-edge-world-picture-day/

This is one of the descriptions of the state of enlightenment, “freedom from fear.”   To live without the internal static of fear disrupting your mental processes is a great freedom.  It also relieves you of the physical effects of fear, which include stress hormones, impaired digestion and breathing, disruption of sleep and the inability to think clearly.  Freedom from fear is a great start on how to live more fully and more freely.

I would describe enlightenment in more fulfilling terms:  “centered clarity and empowerment” and “bliss-based living.”  When you’re centered, based in the bliss of your own inherent essence, there’s no room for fear to intrude.  The day-to-day, even moment-to-moment question is whether you’re blissful and centered enough to handle what’s happening.  And if you’re not, what do you do?  You know the answer to this:  more yoga, of course.

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Here’s how it works.  If you’re scared and you try to remove the fear, it’s like trying to scrub dark off the walls of a dark room.  Instead, simply bring in a single candle flame.  Instantly the dark is banished; the fear dissolves away.  Yoga does this for you by bringing in the light of your own being.  Your own inner radiance shines through, not only to inspire others but also to take care of you.

When you’re free from fear, do you become stupid?  Right now you’re using the fear to keep from doing stupid things.  You’re keeping a low profile, taking care of yourself and loved ones.  Good.  You can do these things even when you’re not afraid.  It’s mere intelligence.  You don’t need fear to motivate your dharmic acts.  You can choose to do them because it’s the right thing.  In fact, fear lowers your intelligence.  Being centered, peaceful and blissful actually increases your IQ.  Every athlete knows this.

So what do you do now?  Do more yoga.  We’d love to help!

Receiving & Thanking

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

You have no reason to give thanks unless you receive something that is meaningful to you.  Genuine thanks is a rare experience, unfortunately.  Americans, particularly, are very good at mouthing the words without inflection, “Thank you.”  I’ve heard it called the American mantra.

I remember being taught to say thank you to my elders when I was small, even when they were giving me something I had no interest in.  It felt like I was being trained to lie, except that they also told me I should never lie.  The phrase became meaningless to me; it stayed that way for a long time. 

At one point I even decided to stop saying it.  When a waiter brought food to my table, I didn’t thank him because it was his job, for which he was getting paid as well as getting a tip.  If he did well, I gave a larger tip, which I figured was meaningful to him.  It seemed sensible to me at the time.  But my adolescent children said I came across as rude.  Worse, it was embarrassing them.  So I went back to saying words that I didn’t mean.

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I could see that the words acknowledged someone who did something for me, like hold a door open when I was approaching.  But did I feel grateful?  Truly, I have to say no.  I didn’t feel gratitude much.  It turns out that was the real problem.  It wasn’t that the words were so difficult; it was that I wasn’t feeling grateful.

I tried doing the gratitude jar.  I could list things that I knew I was fortunate to have, but did I really feel gratitude?  Instead, my head and heart were full of complaints, along with unrealistic agendas and expectations that fed future complaints, enough to last me a lifetime.  It was a very uncomfortable way to live but I didn’t know another way.

When I got Shaktipat from Baba, everything changed.  There was bliss arising within, from a source I couldn’t find and didn’t understand, but I loved it anyway.  My many complaints began to dissolve, along with my ideas of what everyone else should be doing. 

Better yet, I had an inner sense of purpose.  I was working on something important, even beyond self-improvement.  Eventually I learned it was called Self-discovery, even revelation and realization.  Since I was finding fulfillment within, the outer world wasn’t so frustrating to me.  But still I wasn’t grateful.  Why?  Because I still wasn’t receiving.

I had received Shaktipat, the initiation that opened up the inner realms for me to explore.  Unknowingly, I thought of it as a one-time receiving, like when someone gives you a tissue when you need it.  But Shaktipat opens the floodgates of Grace — it just keeps flowing.  I was living in the flow without recognizing it.  It was only when I went to meet Baba in person that I could see that more was going on, much more than my puny little mind could understand.  It took me three weeks of living in his Ashram to finally get the point — it was all coming from him.

Swami Muktananda

It was a bit shocking at first, that anyone could be so spiritually advanced that they could zap me open.  I could see his depth, power and love, but I didn’t understand that he freely shared it with us.  Once I figured that out, I still didn’t know how to receive, so I asked him to help. “Baba, please help me open myself to you.”  He smiled and nodded, obviously delighted with my question.

It worked!  I got more than I’d ever dreamed possible, with profound meditation experiences and incredible insights blossoming forth within.  And I saw that there was still more for me to receive.  So I’ve been developing my ability to receive ever since.  And my gratitude has grown exponentially.  The more I receive, the more gratitude I feel, both to Baba and more.

My gratitude extends to all of you, that you want to know the profound dimensions within.  My gratitude extends to the sun, to the earth and rain, to all the things I was always supposed to be grateful for.  Only now it’s real.  I’m grateful to my body and mind, that they give me a way to experience the Divine Reality masquerading as this world and everyone in it.  My heart melts in gratitude, which means I get to live in the melting.  It’s the only way to live!

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

If I Were Stranded on an Island…

By Lori (Priya) Kenney

Stranded on a sunny island, able to partake of only one Ashram offering, I’d choose seva.  My seva requires having a computer and being in touch with the Ashram.  I would have my laptop and solar powered batteries, fueled by my faithful companion, El Sol. 

We humans need to act.  I’m quite sure I tried the cave in other lifetimes.  Since I’m here again, I know that didn’t work.  It’s not only my compulsion to “do, do, do,” however, that makes me choose seva.  

Seva is purposeful action directed toward serving Consciousness.  Regardless of the content of my seva, I am serving the Guru.  I do what I’m doing for her and the Ashram.  This focus helps me move toward my goal of making everything I do in service to God/Guru/Self.  When I act from that place, I know tremendous freedom.  I pour my energy and attention into focused action and emerge in the ocean of Consciousness.  No matter my state when I begin, I’m in a better place when I finish.  I am lighter; I’m more my Self.

Thankfully, I’m not limited to only one of the Ashram’s plentiful offerings.  So I also have chosen the priceless offering of the Vowed Order.  Since taking Vratin vows a year ago, I’m aware of undeniable inner steadiness.  The moments of being my Self are continually expanding.  The Vowed Order enabled me to make a more serious commitment to the Guru.  I was devoted to my practices and Gurudevi before taking vows.  Now I know for certain that Gurudevi is my lighthouse.

This commitment and association with like-minded yogis means the most to me.  All are on the path to Self-Realization.  Each reflects the light of Consciousness in a unique way.  Each has a special perspective, a unique wisdom that I learn from.  I am so grateful for the loving support.  I cherish the candor about struggles on the path, the entanglements, frustrations and breakthroughs.  Hearing from these yogis about their spiritual progress and their lives is joyful.  Learning how they are working to merge the two into one beautiful ocean of Consciousness is inspiring.

How I act in the world has changed.  My family notices my increased equilibrium.  This year of Covid and wildfire smoke in the West where I live has been challenging.  Issues in my immediate and extended family have also been taxing.  Even so, I am less reactive.  I am more my Self.  I understand life and the holy process of dying better.  I know my life’s purpose.  I am grateful for the tremendous support of this Vowed Order, headed by Gurudevi with the contributions of our wonderful new swamis and the other vowed members.  It is also a continual reminder and nudge to do the hard stuff.  It keeps me focused on my goal of knowing my Self. 

I benefit from all the Ashram’s offerings.  Yet the online Meditation Club is another highlight.  Rising every day at 3:00 am (Pacific time) to meditate with Gurudevi and other devoted yogis from all over the world is priceless.  Truly, my meditations have deepened, as have I.  This offering is incredible.  Besides chanting and receiving a daily reading from Gurudevi, we’re graced with powerful and mesmerizing pop-up abhisheks.  Periodically, Gurudevi gives a pop-up longer talk.  Saturated with Grace, I sink deeply into the ocean of Consciousness.  Last, but not least, the free Japa Club is a wonderful homecoming.  Along with the Meditation Club, Japa Club gives me the opportunity to Zoom into the Guru’s presence three times a day.  Crashed onto life’s hard rocks, I used to go home to the family farmhouse.  I am so aware how that place is no longer home.  Now it’s the abode of my beloved mother in her final days.  Home is the mantra, the Self, the expansive and limitless ocean of Consciousness.  OM Namah Shivaya.