Category Archives: Ashram News

Naming the Obvious

Gurupremananda (Lynn) Cattafi HeinleinBy Gurupremananda (Lynn) Cattafi

The title of Sadguru has been conferred on Swami Nirmalananda.  Let me tell you how I saw it happening.

Several years ago, Swami Nirmalananda and I were attending the early morning abhishek (ritual bath) at Nityananda’s Temple in Ganeshpuri.  We were surprised by it being unusually crowded, over 300 people.  Often there are only 10 or 20 there for the 4:20 a.m. start.

Nityanandas Temple - GaneshpuriWe were informed this was the last morning that the Brahmin priests would bathe Nityananda’s murti using the traditional panchamrit (five nectars: milk, yogurt, honey, ghee and sugar).  For a while, they would be using water only to protect its metal surface.  Part-way through the ceremony, we saw the head priest looking around the assembled devotees.

Nityanandas murtiHe finally sent an assistant out in the crowd, who walked around looking for someone.  Finally he came over to Swamiji and asked, “Are you a Swami?”  She nodded, and he told her to accompany him behind the gates to Nityananda’s murti.  The head priest explained this unusual request to Swamiji: “Nityananda is asking for you to be the one to bathe him with the panchamrit.”  Swamiji was honored, humbled and absolutely ecstatic.  The other Brahmins, however, were quite surprised  that a woman — a Westerner to boot — was being given this great honor.

In Ganeshpuri a few years later, I attended a small yaj~na (fire ceremony) with Swami Nirmalananda.  Ramesh, the same head priest who found Swamiji at Nityananda’s request during the abhishek, was officiating at this yaj~na to honor the full moon.  I sat in front of puja tables with photos of Nityananda and Muktananda, just past the sacred fire.  Swamiji was sitting right behind me in a place of honor, with the four priests at the sides of the fire.  My seva was to perform the ceremony with the priests.

At the end, Ramesh had me wash Swamiji’s feet.  Performing this ritual is a magnificent honor and a blessing!  I will never forget it.  Yet more amazing was that a Brahmin priest directed this ritual to be performed for Swamiji, a woman and a Westerner.  It was a sign that the Brahmins recognized something extraordinary in her. We always knew the temple priests were very fond of her; this honor, however, was another level entirely.

Fire CeremonyMost astonishing, during our Vowed Member retreat in Ganeshpuri this past December, another Brahmin priest, Santosh, referred to Swamiji as Sadguru during the opening mantras at each of our two yaj~nas.  Many of you met Santosh when he officiated at our August “Shiva Arrives” event.  Again, Ramesh referred to Swamiji as Sadguru during the opening mantra of a special group ceremony a few weeks later in Ganeshpuri.

Sadguru is a title that is given to a Shaktipat Master.  Not all swamis are Gurus, and not all Gurus are swamis.  In the world, there are very few who are both.  Even fewer are Gurus who are Shaktipat masters.  This title is simply a new title that honors and describes what  she has been giving to us all along.

However, for the Brahmins to recognize Swamiji in this capacity is a really big deal.  It confers upon her the title that was given to Muktananda.  Thus, it is a sign of great respect.  In Ganeshpuri, villagers have begun putting her photo on their walls for her blessing.  They are recognizing her as an integral part of Muktananda’s and Nityananda’s lineage.

“I would never have gone looking for a title,” Swamiji says.  “Being a swami means I have renounced titles along with everyone else.  Yet I recognize that people need road signs if they want to find their way to their own Divine Destiny.”

While she knows this is a natural next step, she delayed using it for years, out of concern for those who would think it egotistical of her to use this title.  Others, even outside of Svaroopa® Yoga, may understand the awesome power of this title but wonder at her use of it, or maybe they will be attracted to come for what she can offer.

I raised this questions to our Board at our recent annual retreat, asking whether they felt Swamiji stepping into the Sadguru title would be fitting.  The response was unanimous; all are one hundred percent for it.

We pointed out to Swamiji that she has always cautioned us against holding ourselves back or making yourself small.  We want to support her in the same way.

The result will be another seismic deepening for our entire community.  I can already see this happening to Swamiji as well.  She is ever-expanding, ever-deepening.  My goodness, how fortunate we are!

swami-1712-ganeshpuri-retouched-4.jpgI am blessed to share with you the ever-expanding depth of our beloved Satguru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.   In the coming weeks, on articles, books and more, you will begin seeing her credited as “Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.”

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h


What Is an Ashram?

Tattvananda (TC) RichardsBy Tattvananda Richards

Just thinking about our Ashram puts me in a state of Grace.  I feel myself expand and fill with it, all the way down into my tailbone.  Ahhhhhhhhh…  Derived from “shrama,” meaning worldly exhaustion, “ashram,” starts with a short “a,” negating “shrama.”  Our Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram means this me, and so much more.

Lokananda - Donor gift pictureTwo physical buildings house the Ashram:  Lokananda, “Place of Bliss” and Shivaloka, “Place of Shiva.”  Lokananda is your retreat facility.  Its walls and furnishings are saturated with the sweet vibrations of immersion programs.  Immediately upon arrival, you feel shrama, your accumulated world weariness, dissolving.  You are freed and open to receive new learning and significant life changes.  Shivaloka is Swamiji’s home.  It’s filled with photographs of our lineage, saturated with mantra and vibrating with Grace.  From this base, she offers us the ancient, transformative teachings of yoga.  She invites us in to be steeped in these profound practices.

With Online Freebies as well as tuition-based distance learning, Swamiji makes these teachings available to seekers everywhere.  Our “virtual Ashram” eliminates the need to travel — what a gift, what a delight.  Bathed in this energy and relaxing in this bliss, my mind gets to rest in the Self.

011d-ashram-hamptonYet the practicalities of all this need support.  We have physical structures, technological structures, staff and organizational processes.  They all need to run well as well as to grow as we grow.  Our beloved Swamiji provides the Grace and teachings.  She gives us more than enough to reach into our family, friends and the world beyond — and beyond that.  Being a yogic monk, Swamiji gives this amazing bounty to us without compensation.  So we must be practical as well as mystical.

What about our part in supporting this Grace-filled Ashram?  Our fall fundraiser — Make a Promise — asks us to pledge financial support.  To make a promise is to say “You can count on me.”  You can count on my donation to keep this Ashram running.

Tuition and program fees do not completely cover Ashram costs.  Your monthly donation provides security, a type of support that allows for planning and growth.  The value of your promise to donate consistently — whatever amount fits your budget — cannot be underestimated.  It changes how things run.  It affects what is available for you, for your community and even for future seekers.

I made a promise to increase my monthly donation.  I have increased it until it hurt a little, just as I was taught.  I decided to give just past the point of comfort, so I feel a little pinch.  On the other hand, my heart does not feel pinched.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoMaking the pledge was like buying a pair of shoes that cost more than I planned on.  Wearing these shoes, I feel how they support my back and body in a way that I need.  They perfectly support my work in the world.  I will adjust my budget elsewhere.  It’s the same with increasing my monthly donation to the Ashram.  I feel how my gift supports my yogic path — and yours.  The sense of being on this path together is a special kind of spiritual security and bliss.

I invite you to join me.  I have experienced that no matter how hard I try to give, I always receive more on this path.  May you experience the same abundance!

Click here to donate.

Filling My Glass

Lajja (Ellen) MitchellBy Lajja Mitchell, SVA Board Member

In my first Svaroopa® yoga class, I benefited physically and emotionally.  So I kept returning.  I also began to visit the Ashram website regularly.  I read Swami Nirmalananda’s monthly articles and listened to her online audios.  I went to her programs in Massachusetts and even traveled to her programs in Downingtown PA.

Through the years my mind has become quieter.  I am less judgmental, I am more open and less defensive.  I have more compassion for others.  And my glass is no longer half empty!

Lajja and SwamijiThis profound change in my outlook is due to Swamiji’s teachings.  They have awakened me to my own Self.  She says it is “the mystery that is hidden inside every human heart and being.” This perspective informs all of Swamiji’s teaching.  Warm, lighthearted and down-to-earth, she makes the mystical teachings accessible through examples from our everyday lives and relationships.  I am forever grateful to experience this Grace through her teachings and presence.

Because she has taken vows as a swami, she receives no compensation.  We students do pay tuition for programs, retreats and professional trainings.  As with any institution of learning, however, the total cost of the physical and technological infrastructure exceeds tuition.  That’s why I make a monthly donation to our Ashram.

Years ago, I took a course on finances and retirement planning.  The instructor stressed the importance of giving and the need to consistently give.  That was the first time I set up a recurring gift.  That was my first realization that giving to something that I believe in should not be an afterthought but a forethought.  Adding a charitable line to my budget was doable.  That charity got a benefit, and I did too.  It felt good to give.  Now, a decade later, I am still giving to that charity.  And I am delighted to have also become a monthly donor to our Ashram.

It’s very exciting to see that so many of you feel the same way.  Over the first 10 days of our Make a Promise campaign, 11 donors in our SVA Community have increased their monthly donations by $ 46.00 on average, an increase of $6,156.00 in the upcoming year.  We are enormously grateful to all of you.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoIf you have not yet increased your monthly gift — or made a monthly pledge — please consider how the practices of Svaroopa® Sciences have benefited you.  Of course, there is no way to give back for the Grace we receive.  But you can promise yourself to express your gratitude by supporting the Ashram operations that make possible Swamiji’s work in the world.

Whether you increase your monthly pledge or decide to add that budget line item, give from your heart.  Or make a one-time donation, in any amount.  You know what is right.

Click here to donate.

The Healing Power of Consciousness

Swami 1712 Ganeshpuri retouched (4)By Swami Nirmalananda

I was coming down with a cold.  A few days earlier, I’d noticed an itchy feeling at the back of my throat and in my sinuses.  I ignored it because I had a group of students arriving for a month-long training.  Lots to do!  The day before the training began, my sinuses began to fill.  My head was heavy and my brain thick.  How could I possibly lead the immersion?

My options were clear: go to bed, take lots of drugs and push through, or immerse myself in Consciousness.  The first options would take me days, during which I’d feel awful.  Consciousness would heal me in an hour or two, depending on how deeply I could dive inside.

Meditation would do it but not quickly, because my mind would be trying to distract me with the task list.  So I decided to immerse myself in Sanskrit, the language of the Gods.  It would put my mind on a different track, a Divine Track, while deepening my inner grounding into the inner source it named.

Puranas - Wikipedia orgI chanted a Puranic text, one with ever-changing Sanskrit words, one I knew from my early days of training.  The chanting book I used has Sanskrit lettering — no English letters!  Not being very good at the Devanagari, I caught myself cheating within the first few lines.  I’d figure out the first word or two and then chant the rest of the line from memory.  It wasn’t creating any healing for me.  I decided I would not let the sound come out of my mouth unless my eyes saw the Sanskrit letter, my mind took it in and figured out the sound.  Only then did I voice it.

The next 5 or 10 verses were very slow.  Then my sinuses began to clear.  I kept going.  My head opened up, my fever went down.  It took about 20 minutes.  I lingered, resting in a deepening meditative state.  Not only was I healed, I was ready to go, roaring into a whole month of teaching others how to rest in Consciousness.  Delicious!

Healing comes from the inside out.  It’s not yoga’s exercise that makes it work.  It’s not even pumping prana that heals you.  It’s not even Sanskrit.  You can easily understand this; when you have the flu, does vigorous exercise get you over it?  No. It only exhausts you.   When you have a migraine, you can’t get over it by doing pranayama.

Pushing yourself is the opposite of settling into Consciousness.  It is when you look inward, deeper than your mind, that you discover what you are truly made of — Consciousness-Itself.  In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali calls this “svaroopa,” your own Self.  This is the focus of Svaroopa® Yoga.  This is why Svaroopa® Yoga Therapy works so fast – it’s all about the healing power of Consciousness.

You already know this.  When you are being authentic, coming from center, overflowing with energy, love and understanding, you don’t get sick.  Why?  Because your Divine Essence is shining through.  Your body expresses it in radiant health and boundless energy along with youthfulness and beauty.  It is the experience of Consciousness that makes this happen.

yoga-and-meditation-opening-your-heart.jpgResearch has proven this to be true.  Herb Benson proved that meditation lowers high blood pressure; Jon Kabat-Zinn proved it helps cure cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  But the sages knew it long ago.  Krishnamacharya’s discovery of the Yoga Karunta gives a 12th century source that says yoga is about healing, health and longevity.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, usually dated at 300+ AD, states that the poses are to prepare you for meditation.

All of this is true.  How wonderful!  It means that yoga can give you what you want.  But if all you are looking for is beauty, youth, health and vitality, you’re still missing out on something.  What’s that?  Your own “Self.”

Shooting in Yoga Studio

Nirmalananda seriousBy Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Friday night, a man entered Hot Yoga Tallahassee and shot several of their students.  Two have died.  The students resisted and even fought back, consistent with yoga’s warrior tradition.  The shooter killed himself.

At DYMC, we are going to be increasing our security measures and doing staff trainings to protect ourselves and our students in case of any threat.  The Board will spearhead this essential initiative, for which funding is likely to be needed.

In Tallahassee, one of the yogis was a student at Florida State University.  The other was a faculty member.  The President of the University has issued a statement along with several officials from local police and government.  More information is available on CNN.

FL yoga studio shooting 181102The city tweeted, on their verified account, “As we process the gut-wrenching act of violence that took place this evening in a place of peace in our community…”  This clearly speaks to the value that yoga offers to our modern-day world and the official acknowledgement of it.  But it doesn’t protect the yoga studios from the growing violence in these turbulent times.

On Friday evening, the mayor of Tallahassee met the victims when he returned home from a Shabbat service in South Florida, honoring the 11 people killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend.  This means that Jews are mobilizing to honor their dead as well as protect the living.  Such a religious service does both.

Please consider doing something to honor the victims.  That includes those who were attacked, including the ones injured and killed.  Include the police and community officials and even the shooter in whatever you do.  He was obviously a person in great pain, not to mention the terrible karma he’s created for himself.  Let your compassion and caring reach out to the families and the whole community.  This will not only help them, it will create an energy field of protection for all the yogis in all the yoga studios.

What do you do?

  • Swamiji japa mala croppedHold a special program in their honor.  I will be dedicating our satsang to them on Tuesday night.
  • Read this letter to others (at the end of a yoga class, satsang or a gathering of family or friends).
  • Send the blog link to everyone you know.
  • Light a candle in honor of everyone affected, including you.
  • Dedicate a round (or several) of mantra repetition to the victims.
  • Talk to others about what yoga means to you.

Don’t take on their pain.  Offer blessings.

I’m reaching out to yoga teachers of other styles, both in my area as well as nationally and internationally. I would like to contribute to a wave of yoga studios and yogis honoring the victims, creating solidarity in a yoga world too often factionalized.  Can you help me do this by reaching out to the other yoga teachers in your area?

You might use this blog as a resource in your outreach.  Can you post one as well?  Or put something on your Facebook page?  Tweet.  Make phone calls.  March down Main Street with posters saying, “Yogis for Peace.”  Or use some other inspiring and short phrases, like “Remember Tallahassee.”

These actions invoke the blessings of Vishnu, whose help is needed in these turbulent times.  To learn more about what’s fueling the violence, listen to my October 7 satsang audio, Turbulent Times.

Do not let this violence go unmarked.  Fight back even when you are not personally under attack.  Fight back by opening your heart and being a vocal proponent of peace.  Remember Emma Gonzalez.  Be a visible member of the yoga community in your area and in the world.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.


Becoming a Meditation Teacher

Shuchi (Sue) CilleyBy Shuchi (Sue) Cilley

I’ve been taking Meditation Teacher Training (MTT) programs for eight years or more.  Every time takes me deeper and deeper.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation Teacher Training programs saturate me in the Self.  And they give me the tools to help others turn inward to take the same path.

MTT is an expedition, exploring the ancient sutras written in Sanskrit.  Those multi-level packets of intelligence come to us across the ages. Layers of experience and revelation are packed within their vibrations.  Exploring them is a never-ending source of delight for me.  There’s something new unfolding all the time.

discussion-group-1.jpgSwami Nirmalananda’s teaching is infused with Grace, the cosmic power revealing your own inherent Divinity.  Her words describing the experience of Self help me understand.  Yet it’s actually the experience of Self, to which she opens me, that enlivens the words.

In MTT, I learn to put my words to these experiences, so that I can express them to my students.  It’s the ancient tradition come to life right here in modern-day America. Transmitted from Guru to disciple for untold generations, these teachings have never been lost.  Their power is undeniable.  MTT is to sit in that unbroken flow.

Is the course hard? I’d say no, not hard, but intense.  The intensity works on clearing the density of my mind.  A lot of that needs to be done!  There are two parts to the Guru-disciple relationship.  While Swamiji emanates Guru’s Grace in abundance, the disciple is responsible for Disciple’s Grace, which is self-effort.  MTT is saturated with Guru’s Grace, yet the student’s self-effort is also essential.

180130 blog possible graphic (3).jpgIn MTT, I’ve written and given a lot of mini-talks.  They are valuable preparation towards putting together the talks I deliver when I teach.  In my first MTT, I had no idea we’d be writing anything.  I showed up with a notebook and pencils.  Those in the tech stream showed up with electronic devices.

Giving my talks to our small group and listening to others’ talks was invaluable.  Giving and receiving compliments and coaching gives me perspective, leading to improved teaching.  MTT wonderfully prepared me to go out and teach.  It gave me deep internal preparation plus a very clear road map, a robust syllabus, practice in every segment, and deep support.

I have “learned” to give these ancient teachings from my heart, using my mind, offering my voice.  It is a blessing to study with Swami Nirmalananda, a brilliant teacher, a Guru, who ever and always propels me into this infinitely deep well of Beingness, Knowingness and Bliss.  Plus, she offers me the structure to share it with others, in the same way she learned to do.  We follow in her footsteps.

Making a Promise

amala-photoBy Gurupremananda Cattafi, SVA Board President

If you’re like me, you make promises every day, both to the people you’re in relationship with as well as to yourself.  Maybe you have made a yoga promise, to support yourself through your daily practice or perhaps to offer seva.  Perhaps it is a promise to dedicate your life to a higher goal — even the highest: Self-Realization.  Swamiji has made the ultimate promise to us, to help us achieve the highest.  She has dedicated her life to the upliftment of each and every one of us.

My favorite aunt prepared me for this great promise.  Aunt Lillian taught me that when someone walks a mile for you, you walk two miles for them.  This means when someone does something for you, you repay the kindness twofold.  And when I think of what Swamiji does for me, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to offer something to her.

When we survey participants in Ashram programs, invariably we hear about profound life changes.  These inspiring stories come from Svaroopa® yoga teachers, from their students, from retreatants who have received Shaktipat from Swamiji, and even from people using the Freebies on our website.  They say they are receiving exponentially more than they could have ever imagined.

Swami 1712 Ganeshpuri retouched 2 (7)Is this true for you?  Consider how these profound teachings have deepened your inner experience of your own Self.  Maybe you experience a level of inner ease and peace of mind, that even affects your life decisions.  Even if you want to, it’s not possible to repay this gift of dawning enlightenment.  Yet we must find a way to honor and support the work of Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda, which so deeply benefits ourselves and our world.

Please consider joining the other yogis who do so by making a monthly donation.  Your monthly gifts ensure practical support for the continued stream of Swamiji’s teachings.  You help sustain the faculty, staff, supplies and infrastructure that make her service to us possible.  Your gift supports your yogic path, not only enabling you to do more than you think you can, but also contributing to you discovering that you are more that you think you are.

When you make a monthly pledge, it’s a solemn promise.  It’s a commitment, that you make and carry out, honoring and supporting the work of our Master Teacher — our Sadguru.

2018 Make a Promise Fundraising LogoYour gift has a twofold impact.  It ensures that Swami Nirmalananda’s teachings reach you as well as others, extending far and wide to other seekers.  It is also a profound yogic practice, whereby you invite yoga into your wallet, extending Grace into this important part of your life.  Your financial gifts give you as much benefit as your daily meditation or poses, or even more.

Over the next few weeks, you will get personal stories from our Board members.  They share how making the promise to support the Ashram has touched and transformed their lives.  We ask you to look into your heart for guidance on making your own promise, your own pledge.

To make a one-time gift or a monthly pledge, visit

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah