Capital-S Selfcare

By Su (Vicharanee) Chafin,
interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

“Beyond the practical sense of ‘self-care’ (looking after the needs of my body and small-s self), my Guru gives me daily capital-S Selfcare,” says Vicharanee. “Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda recognizes my individuality as well as my Divinity.” Vicharanee adds that she has a Guru because she’s “in the process of ‘Selfing,’” coming to live in the knowing of her Divine Self.

Vicharanee met Gurudevi (then Rama Berch) in a 2003 yoga immersion in Rehoboth Beach DE.  Vicharanee describes her connection with Gurudevi as instant and visceral, and explains, “She is an amazing leader.  She guides people very firmly and lovingly because she is such a good teacher as well.  At the beginning, my small-s self personality was drawn to her individual form because of our shared interests.  I love music; she is a musician.  I am a therapist and teacher; she is a yoga therapist and teacher.  While she’s a Realized Being, her ‘personhood’ worked for me.  It made it easier for me to follow her.  It was later that I understood why I need a Teacher (with a capital T): to guide me to my innermost being.”

“I grew up Christian, and later, became interested in New Age spirituality.  Yet everything I had tried in my journey wasn’t enough.  I would end up dissatisfied, even though I knew I wanted a spiritual life.  I had many rich spiritual experiences trying out many systems.  I even spent a few summers at a holistic studies institute in the ‘90s.  But what I was finding in New Age spirituality was a lot of ego (like how many prana pumps could you master).  The places I was finding in my search didn’t have a Swami and Grace.  I kept seeking.  Then the Guru showed Herself to me when I didn’t know I needed one.  It’s said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In 2009, Gurudevi took sannyas vows, becoming Swami Nirmalananda, recalls Vicharanee.  She says, “It was easy to see that She had been developing into her role all along.  When I did approach Gurudevi and asked her to be my Guru, she replied, ‘You don’t have to ask.’

“I laughed, and she said, ‘Isn’t it obvious?’  I suddenly understood the knowing that her Svaroopa® Sciences explore.  I had the experience, and then, in that moment, came the knowing about why I longed for and needed a Guru.  Had you had asked me years ago whether I would now have a Guru, I may have snickered.  It is a rich relationship.  

“I used to focus more on her.  Through her help, however, the focus has shifted to my own inner Self.  It feels deep and otherworldly.  It is like Gurudevi washes me by hand, and puts me out to dry.  Thus, I can return to my worldly responsibilities crisp and clean.  She gives me sevas that are just right for my growth.  Other teachers could not give me my Self.  Nor could they teach me how to find Me in the way my soul craved.  It is a pure and genuine relationship, which supersedes all others in my life.”

In this way, Vicharanee’s relationships have transformed.  “Other people don’t know how much they need me to have a Guru!  I am a better being for them as well as myself.  Practicing as a psychologist, I’ve always known the importance of service.  Now I serve others from the inner place of Self.  Guru’s Grace does the work, and I am a more effective therapist by light years.  I’ve learned it’s not about me.  I get out of the way, so Grace can take over.  And at the same time, I know there is more — more than just helping me live better in my body and in the world.  Through Her integrity I am transformed.” Vicharanee points to Gurudevi’s relationship with her own Guru, Swami Muktananda, as the root of her ability to serve others.  She clarifies, “Gurudevi is a good disciple, and she shows me how to be a good disciple.  And it’s working!  I know this because She isn’t interested in giving me Her, but in giving me my own Self.  This is why I have a Guru.  I am so fortunate!”

Why I Meditate

By Karen (Kumuda) Schaub,
interviewed by Lissa (Yogyananda) Fountain

Kumuda had been taking a Bliss-Level Class in Svaroopa® Yoga for a few years.  One day her teacher asked, rather directly, “Do you want to come to Shaktipat?”  Inside she knew she was ready.  “Yoga class started me on a path of knowing of who I am: the Self.  Going to Shaktipat (the awakening of one’s Kundalini energy) was a profound expansion of that knowing.  I experienced a deep peace and bliss.  Gurudevi’s Grace gave me the direct experience of Consciousness.  I realized that this was the purpose of life that I had always looked for on the outside.”

The roots of meditation had been planted early on.  Kumuda recalls, “I saw my mom meditate as I grew up. She’d wake up everyday at 4:30 to do her practice.”  Thus, the idea of cultivating a meditation practice wasn’t foreign to Kumuda.  Her mother often said it’s important to keep one foot in eternity and the other in mundane reality.  So since 2013, Kumuda has continued to attend Shaktipat retreats.  Her experiences have developed and deepened her meditation practice over time.

“Every year, I go to Shaktipat,” she says.  “That deep opening to Self brings me back again to my initial awakening: beautiful, awesome. Expanded on the inside to all that space.  I feel open and clear with all this space on the inside.  The first year, I tried to meditate at home and stopped.  By the second retreat, the daily practice talk made it clear I needed to support myself to stay open.  Disciple’s grace — self-effort — is necessary for Kundalini to take root, and to keep more of That.  If I wanted to become more steady in myself, I had to have a daily practice.”

“I would begin with Ujjayi Pranayama and chanting to prepare.  I became more settled.  I made a ‘meditation nest’ that was there and ready for me at all times.  I would meditate before work.  Still, it took a long time to build consistency and everydayness.  I’d skip a day or two, then have to wrangle my mind back in.”  Kumuda was experiencing what Gurudevi often says: “Never get too far away from your last meditation.”

In the 7 years since receiving her first Shaktipat, Kumuda has observed the changes.  “I come to life in a different way now.  My tone of voice is different.  I might still have reactions, but I don’t engage in them the same way.  Over the years, as I meditate more consistently, I am more open, more centered.  I don’t give into reactions or create the drama around the reaction.  My profound and deep practice links me to the very Essence of who we all are.”

When Kumuda’s mother passed away unexpectedly last summer, meditation was Kumuda’s lifeline.  She says, “Meditation kept me upright.  With everything swirling around me, my sudden grief, and all the estate details, my thirty-minute meditation was time I carved out just for me.  I knew I had to make room for it, as nothing felt like ‘me’.  But when I meditate, I know Who I am: The Self.”

Being furloughed from work since the pandemic, Kumuda has had time for the daily online sessions of the Ashram’s Japa Club and Meditation Club. “Mantra and meditation intervene on my mind’s activity,” she describes. “I am quieter inside.  When my mind goes off on a trajectory, I speak to it.  I say, ‘Thank you, but no!’  In meditation, when I notice I am not repeating mantra, I go back to it.  Similarly, when I lose my Self, I go back to my Self, to where I am on the inside.  I am aware that I have a choice of how I am in the world, in this moment.” Kumuda has realized that the effects of daily meditation build over time. “All of a sudden I walk out the door and notice the shift has happened on the inside.  That shift is mirrored back to me through my all my interactions and relationships.  Shaktipat started it all.  The more I meditate, the more I allow the unfolding and unfurling of Guru’s Grace within me.  This is why I meditate.”

Baked Dutch Apple Pancake

By Swami Samvidaananda

I’m one of the breakfast chefs at the Ashram.  Baked Dutch Apple Pancake is one of my favorites. It’s a simple pancake batter.  And the yummy apple-maple-butter topping makes it special.  Plus, it’s fun to flip!

You get to be creative in how you lay the apple slices into the bottom of the pan.  Be fancy & create an apple slice mandala.  Or just toss them in there and create a new, random pattern each time.  Or create your own design!  Whatever you choose, it’s sure to be delicious.

Baked Dutch Apple Pancake is adapted from a recipe from Vegweb.  It serves 4 people generously.

For sufficient protein, serve with whole milk yogurt & a topping of Chili-Spiced Walnuts.  Each serving plus the side dishes provides about 18 grams of protein (1/4 pancake + 1/4 cup walnuts + 1/3 cup yogurt).

Ingredients for this meal give the six Ayurvedic tastes.  The pancake, of course, is mostly sweet: the flour, ghee, apples, applesauce, sugar & maple syrup all provide the sweet taste.  The yogurt & Chili-Spiced Walnuts provide the other tastes and add protein.  The yogurt is for sour, and the Chili-Spiced Walnuts are for salty, pungent, astringent & bitter.

Ingredients & Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Prepare:
    3–4 apples (I like a combination of Granny Smith and Gala.)
    Peel and thinly slice.
  3. Combine in a 9” baking pan or pie pan,
    1/3 cup maple syrup
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    3 tablespoons ghee or butter
  4. Put the baking/pie pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the ghee melts. Remove and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Arrange the apple slices, overlapping, over the syrup mixture in the pan. (This is where you get to be creative.) Set your pan aside.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together:
    3/4 cup whole milk
    1/3 cup applesauce
    1 Ener-G egg Replacer (or egg replacer of your choice)
    1 tablespoon ghee, melted
  7. In a medium bowl, combine:
    1 1/4 cups flour
    4 tablespoons sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  It’s okay if there are a few lumps, as it’s important that you don’t over-mix it.  Pancake batter is like that — if you mix it too much, it will make your pancake tough.
  9. Pour the batter over the apples.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pancake has puffed up and turned light golden brown, while the maple-butter bubbles around the edges.
  11. While it’s baking, make your Chili-Spiced Walnuts:  sauté walnuts in a small amount of ghee or butter, stirring so that each walnut is lightly coated and wet.  Add generous amounts of salt and chili seasoning, toss to mix well.  Add spices to taste.
  12. Remove the pan from oven and flip it over onto a serving plate.  

To flip it, use a serving plate that’s just a little larger than your baking pan.  Place the serving plate upside down on top of your baking pan. Using potholders, get a firm hold of the edge of both the baking pan and the serving plate at the same time.  Get as secure a grip as you can; then carefully pick them up together.  Remembering that the baking pan is piping hot, quickly flip them over.

Lift the baking pan off your pancake, revealing your baked apple topping.  You did it!  

It’s okay if a few apples stick to the bottom of your baking pan.  Simply scoop them out of the pan and put them on your pancake. Hot maple-butter syrup coats the top and will pool around your pancake.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

International Day of Yoga 2020

By Marlene (Matrikaa) Gast

“You will live your life even more fully and purposefully, once you are based in your own eternal, unending, ever-expanding, inner ecstasy.”  Thus, Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda reminds us of yoga’s promise.  An authentic modern expression of yoga’s ancient teachings, her Svaroopa® Sciences focus on practices to fulfill yoga’s promise.  Like a walking stick, they support you on the path to ever-expanding, inner ecstasy. How are you celebrating International Day of Yoga in June?  You celebrate birthdays of beloved family and friends.  You decorate with balloons, sing Happy Birthday and light candles on a cake.  Even if you are in “pandemic stay at home mode,” you get together online for this party.  You wouldn’t skip celebrating their presence in your life.  So if you’re planning to skip International Yoga Day, ask yourself, “Why?”

There’s every reason in the world to celebrate this day. Svaroopa® yoga teacher Phil (Krishna) Milgrom notes, “International Yoga Day was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2014 and has been celebrated every year since 2015.  The 21st of June was chosen because, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the day of the year with the most hours of sunlight.”  It’s a great day for Svaroopa® yoga, which opens practitioners to the ecstasy of their own inner Divine Light.  This year, June 21 is also Father’s Day in the US and other countries.  So you’ll notice celebrations before and after June 21 as well as on the day itself.  Downingtown Yoga as well as the Rehoboth DE GeoCenter and the Greater New England GeoCenter have planned for this option.

Rehoboth GeoCenter Liaison Kelly (Kushala) Sharp describes what International Yoga Day means to her.  She says, “Yoga is a big part of my life these days.  Personally, yoga is my career, my passion and my spiritual practice.  Celebrating International Yoga Day is a great opportunity to join in solidarity with the whole world to promote yoga.”  Depending on her state’s “stay at home” orders in June, the Rehoboth Beach GeoCenter programs will be either in person on online.

Margot Garritt, Greater New England GeoCenter Liaison, remembers observing U.S. Yoga Day years before there was an International Day of Yoga.  Teaching in Falmouth, MA, she’s eager to join other Greater New England GeoCenter teachers in International Yoga Day participation this year.  Margot sees this initiative as reinvigorating the idea of having the whole community doing things together in support of each other, the Ashram and the community at large.  She says, “It engages everyone’s interest and spreads the word.  The collaboration results in synergy.  In our GeoCenter, celebrating International Day of Yoga is uniting a dozen teachers.  Geographically, we range from NH, ME & VT to MA, CT & RI.  Having a joint focus, even with our offerings online, is wonderful.  They include Philosophy Discussion Groups, Svaroopa® yoga classes, Svaroopa® Vidya Satsangs and vichara sessions.”

Depending on PA “stay at home” status, you’ll find Downingtown Yoga’s Free Events either online or in person.  Either way, you can spend the whole weekend celebrating the International Day of Yoga:

Saturday, June 20

Sunday, June 21

10:00 am–11:30 am: FREE Swami Sunday (for those attending Saturday programs)

Take advantage of Downingtown Yoga’s abundant, free online events to celebrate.  And take classes with local teachers online as well.  No local classes online yet?  Let your local teacher know that now is the time to start.  Spread the bliss — say how important celebrating International Yoga Day is to you!  As a Svaroopa® yoga student, you’ll honor yourself for having chosen this way to nurture and reverence your own spirit.

Gurudevi Is a Lunar Rockstar

By Margie (Maitreyi) Wilsman

I consider Satguru Swami Nirmalananda my Lunar Rockstar.  Gurudevi, as we affectionately call her, supports me in exploring the celestial and cosmic universe.  It began on the outside.  My original career path, mathematics and physics, focused on understanding the realities hidden deep within our cosmos.  I built a telescope.  On my belly, with a tripod and camera, I photographed the constellations, tracking them through Minnesota winter night skies.  I decorated my home with large, color photos of the Milky Way galaxy.  And “Fly Me to the Moon” has always been a favorite song:

Fly me to the moon

Let me play among the stars

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and Mars

Now, on another sort of cosmic path, I am an ardent follower of Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  She is clearly a cosmic teacher.  She is filled with mystical teachings, that she absorbed from her Guru and integrated into her life.  Her work is to bring these ancient teachings into the world is to support seekers like me and you.  They support us toward the goal of Self-Realization.  They enable you to fulfill the yearning to become rooted in the Cosmic Consciousness.  Gurudevi assures us that abiding in this the One Reality is our birthright.  It resides inside of every human.  With Gurudevi as my guide, my cosmic universe perspective has shifted from outside to inside.  Let me explain.

To accomplish the mystical process of Self-Realization, you need a living teacher who enlivens the ancient teachings through their experience.  Gurudevi, my living teacher, is Self-Realized.  She is a Great Being, an embodied form of the formless — Consciousness Its-Self.  She too had a living Satguru, Swami Muktananda.  And he had a living Satguru, Bhagavan Nityananda.  Both of them fully embodied Consciousness.

As a Shaktipat Guru, Gurudevi specializes in awakening Kundalini, the Cosmic Power of Consciousness residing within each human being.  Awakened Kundalini reveals this True Identity to us and powers our process of learning to live in the Self.  The goal is the experiential knowing of our own Self, which is the One Self Being All.

Gurudevi’s teachings are not theoretical.  Nor does she pontificate, though she does teach directly from the yogic texts. Using spot-on metaphors and examples from her own life, she spells out the actions, practices and directions that need to be undertaken.  She explains how they establish you in Self-Knowing.  She describes what it is like when you abide in that state.

Gurudevi instructs you on how you get there in Root of Happiness.  Gurudevi points out that you do not water the blossoms of flowering plants.  Rather, you water the roots.  Similarly we do the work of watering our roots by applying Gurudevi’s Grace-filled teachings to our lives.  Her way of giving these teachings makes them applicable to our modern lives even during a pandemic.  Her teachings shift us from exclusive involvement in the outside world.  No longer stuck there, we open to our inner dimensions.  We root ourselves deeper in our True Nature, which is unlimited Bliss within.  It is the joy of the Divine.  Gurudevi teaches that it exists within you as you.  And she helps you find it and learn to live from that place within.

A poem by 14th Century Indian poet-saint Lalleshwari describes how Gurudevi, as my Shaktipat Guru, takes me there:

A fish may live without water;

the world may live without air;

you may build a castle in the sky

and even stay in it;

but to think of finding Shiva

without a guru to help you

is a mere dream.

– Lalleshwari, verse 67 (rendered by Swami Muktananda, page 32, 1981 edition)

Flying to the moon and playing among the stars is no longer a mere dream.  Gurudevi has shown me that Grace can transport me to the Cosmic Inner Reality.  She shows me this with her own illumined presence as well as with profound teachings.  This Reality awaits me as I dive deeper inside.  Gurudevi’s teachings support me in exploring this inner dimension, which is my own Self.  Now my Milky Way pictures share wall space with photos of Gurudevi, Baba Muktananda and Bhagawan Nityananda.  Waving a candle flame to the Guru has replaced my telescope.  I wave a flame to the One who lights my Inner Light and removes the darkness covering me.  Replacing my physics books are yogic texts like the Shiva Sutras along with books and monthly articles by Gurudevi.  Thanks to her, the mysterious and mystical Cosmic Reality is the place I abide, inside and outside.  I live by what Gurudevi teaches: the ancient, authentic cosmic yoga principles of life.  She shows me the way to Self-Realization.  On this path, her teachings are my walking stick.

International Day of Yoga

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

“If yoga goes mainstream, I’m going to quit,” a passionate yogini exclaimed to me.  I was representing Yoga Alliance as its first President, traveling to yoga conferences to explain what we were creating — a self-governing body of yoga teachers.  She was more invested in being “alternative” than in doing yoga.  Yet yoga is mainstream now, with meditation becoming more so daily, especially in this pandemic.

Six years ago, the UN declared June 21 as “International Day of Yoga,” with a unanimous vote on a resolution presented by the Prime Minister of India.  They were voting for health and happiness, the benefits that he presented, especially that yoga could reduce their national medical costs and improve people’s lives.  This is not merely mainstreaming yoga, this is now institutional recognition. 

Yet America’s yogis don’t celebrate this event much.  Every year, I search the internet and find many international venues, but few in the USA.  I confess, I have a personal investment in this holiday because I tried to get it going in 1998, more than 20 years ago.  Of course, I didn’t have the clout of the UN behind me, only Yoga Alliance.  I framed it as a much-needed fundraiser at the time, but continued for several years beyond the need for donations to fund Yoga Alliance.  It is well established now, and my humble idea has gone global!

It’s time to celebrate yoga!  Though we may not be able to gather in person, online events are possible, just like online yoga classes.  My own organization is holding several free classes and meditation programs.  I hope your teacher will too! 

We’re celebrating on Sunday June 20, technically the true solstice this year, happening precisely at 5:45 pm EDT.  The celebrations around the world will be different this year; let’s see what creative and joyful ideas people come up with.  And of course, you can simply pick that day to do more yoga.

Thank you to Philly Area Yoga for publishing this blog on their website.

Meditation Club is Changing Me

By Kristine Curran, interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney

I knew the Meditation Club would hold me to practicing at the same time every day.  That’s why I joined.  It’s been tapas; it’s been hard.  I knew it would be.  And I’m realizing the Meditation Club is chipping away at my resistance in unexpected ways.

Every meditation is different.  The other day, I noticed I was getting pain, which is normal for me.  Usually it’s just one place.  But everything that has ever hurt started hurting.  It was like a multicolored strobe light — this hurts, that hurts, in rapid succession.  I was able to simply observe the pain without getting caught up in it or judging it.  I realized that Kundalini was just doing her work.  Usually I get quite fidgety.  That didn’t happen. 

I have been hitting a lot of my “stuff.”  In the last week, I’ve done three Vichara (guided self-inquiry) sessions.  They have felt deeper than usual.  Meditation Club is helping me get into these deeper inner levels, supporting deeper Vichara results.

I can feel the shakti when meditating with the Meditation Club group.  I am grateful to be getting more support than when I’m meditating alone.  With everyone’s support, I can sit for an hour without getting too antsy, which deepens my practice.

About two weeks after Meditation Club began, I had no resistance when my morning alarm went off.  I said, “It’s time to meditate,” and popped right out of bed.  The night before, I was dreading getting up early and feeling cranky about it.  Then in a moment of Grace, I decided to think about it differently.  I changed my thought: “I get to get up and meditate in the morning!”  Instantly feeling my body soften, I saw the tremendous power of the mind.

The spare room in my house is overwhelmingly full of stuff.  With no available space for anything else, the room is completely non-functional.  For years I’ve been avoiding it.  During Meditation Club several weeks ago, a Durga Puja at the Ashram was live-streamed to us.  Afterward, I walked into my junk room and suddenly decided to deal with it.  I cleared out stuff that has been there for years.  I was able to throw away things I thought I had gotten rid of.  The whole time I was working, it was just easy.  It didn’t feel like the massive, awful chore I had been dreading.  Now the open room has space for me to move, think and breathe.  I keep walking in, sitting, and noticing its very different energy. Even though I can’t yet put words to my internal shifts, I can see the external change in my process with this room.  That wouldn’t have happened if something hadn’t changed inside.  I’ve been trying to make myself take on this project for years.  It reminds me of the mind and vichara.  All the stuff churns and comes back again and again — until you finally just let it go and create more space!  I guess I just need to keep doing more meditation.

Book Review: A Yogic Lifestyle

By Ruth (Rama) Brooke

For Christmas, I gave my 94-year-old mother a copy of Satguru Swami Nirmalananda’s A Yogic Lifestyle.  Slowly but surely, my mother has been reading it.  She commented, “It’s very Christian!” — meant as the highest compliment.  Then she said, “The lady on the cover looks very nice!  How long has she been your teacher?”  I responded, “Since before she became a Swami.”  Mom asked, “How important is that breathing practice you taught me?  Did you get it from her?”

I don’t know if Mom’s been doing the Ujjayi Pranayama breathing practice.  But Gurudevi Nirmalananda and yoga’s teachings are now on Mom’s radar since she read the book.  She wasn’t much interested before.  Or perhaps I didn’t know how to effectively talk to her about yoga and “the Guru.”

Recently Mom asked, “What’s that name you call your teacher now?”  I responded, “Gurudevi.”  “Well, I can’t remember that, but you can tell her she can work on me now too!”  I marveled to myself that, by writing A Yogic Lifestyle, Gurudevi has already begun her work on my mother.  The Grace (mystical power of revelation) that flows through this book is abundant and easily accessible, even to my mother.  Several reviewers comment on Gurudevi’s approachableness in the opening pages:

“In this beautifully laid out book Swami Nirmalananda Ma provides us with the most profound teaching presented in the simplest way, universal truths presented with a very personal touch…” – Swami Asokananda, President and Spiritual Director, Integral Yoga Institute of New York

“This concise book is simple, clear and penetrating.  Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati guides you through a wide range of down-to-earth, personal explorations of how to live the yoga teachings…”  – Nayaswami Gyandev, PhD, Director of Ananda School of Yoga & Meditation, Co-Founder of Yoga Alliance

“Informed by her profound knowledge of ancient wisdom… her message is to share the guidance that touches the soul, that leads to living a more enlightened life.”- Yogarupa Rod Stryker, author of The Four Desires, founder of ParaYoga, creator of the app, Sanctuary

By becoming a vratin member of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, I took vows to live according to the yogic principles.  Gurudevi beautifully outlines them in A Yogic Lifestyle.  I have studied these teachings and read the articles that this book comprises many times before.  Compiling them in this book, Gurudevi has created an amazing resource.  It is gift to anyone — whether experienced or brand new to yoga — who wishes to delve into these universal principles. Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda presents profound wisdom based in India’s ancient spiritual legacy.  She offers these teachings succinctly, including personal, inspiring accounts relevant to the Western reader.  She does so in service to her Guru, Swami Muktananda Paramahansa, and to you and to me.  Her great reverence and devotion come across in every Grace-fueled word.

A Most Purposeful Place

By Cayla (Mangala) Allen

Journeying on yoga’s path to enlightenment, I can get in my own way and slow my progress.  Yet I do not have to go far to get up to speed again.  Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram offers teachings and practices for enriching, advancing and renewing spiritual progress.

Satguru Nirmalananda, spiritual head of the Ashram, guides me and other seekers at every twist and turn.  Other swamis also reside and teach at the Ashram, along with the support of many yogis doing seva (karma yoga) and an incredible staff.  All are extraordinarily helpful in making sure you find what you need.  Swami Nirmalananda, whom we affectionately call Gurudevi, knows what I need even when I don’t.  The Ashram provides my lifeline, and my lifeline is Guru’s Grace.

The Sanskrit word ashram translates to a place “that frees you from worldly weariness.”  Since ancient times, an ashram is also the place where the Guru lives.  You come to an ashram to step back from worldly demands and receive spiritual teachings.  You dive inward to your own Divine Essence, your Self. 

Because of the deep yogic practices of Gurudevi and the other residents, you notice a palpable atmosphere of peace when attending Ashram programs.  The Sanskrit word for this energy is shakti.  This sacred energy brought the world and everything in it into existence, says yoga, beginning with the Big Bang.  Gurudevi grounds and nurtures the shakti in her Ashram, sourcing the flow that comes to us through her teachings.  This transmission happens even when her teachings reach you through modern day telephone and Internet technology.

For more than 30 years, Gurudevi has extended her mystical teachings into the world, which are now online for free.  Her purpose is to serve seekers of the Divine.  Her teachings and practices reveal your own inherent Divinity to you, guiding you toward Self-Realization.  When you are seeking enlightenment, having a teacher who has already traversed the path is imperative.  She is able help you understand your experiences along the way and guide you to your next step. 

The number of her programs and free services awes me.  It all begins with Gurudevi.  Well, she would say it all comes from her Baba, Swami Muktananda.  She lived in his Ashrams in India and the US for many years.  From that experience of transformation in her own Guru’s presence, she developed the Svaroopa® practices.  Baba Muktananda, of course, would say it all comes from his Baba, Bhagavan Nityananda.  This lineage has passed the authentic, ancient teachings from generation to generation.  Each has infused the practices with their blessings.

We are fortunate to have Gurudevi guiding us through these ancient teachings now.  She keeps them alive in a way we can understand them.  We see how to apply them to our lives in this modern world.  The practices she offers provide an experiential knowing of your innermost Self, Shiva.  When you know this inside, then you look into the world and know this Self is the same in everyone and everything.  This blessing is especially fortunate during the current pandemic.  Gurudevi says, “I cannot treat the Coronavirus, nor help you with your increased hygiene during this time of Social Distancing.  But I can help you with your anxiety and feeling of separation.”

The Freebies on our website offers decades of articles to read and audios to listen to.  During this time of “staying home” for public safety, the Ashram also offers subscriptions to Online Services.  They include online yoga, meditation classes and even home healing retreats via Zoom.  In the Meditation Club you meditate with Gurudevi, other Ashram residents and yogis worldwide.  Thus, her Ashram is a place of powerful spiritual teachings serving seekers everywhere.  They support the Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram’s sacred mission:

We provide yoga and meditation programs and services,

teacher training and a vowed order.

As a conduit of Grace in an ancient yogic lineage,

we serve seekers of Self-Realization.

Taking Care of Your Body is Not Enough

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

Staying home in these times is a way of protecting your body.  The face masks, other protective gear and hand-washing is to protect your body as well as others’, so they’re not exposed to the virus.  These rituals are becoming more normal, which is good because they’re going to continue for quite a while.  Yet this quiet time has proven that merely taking care of your body is not enough.  You get antsy, even feel depressed because you cannot have all that you want.  You want more.

Yoga’s ancient sages knew this about humans.  Mere physical satisfaction is not, ahem, satisfying.  Our mental capacities and need for relationship are as important as physical needs, often more important.  Fortunately yoga’s physical practices empower you to use your body to improve the condition of both your mind and heart — and even more importantly, to open access to your innermost spiritual dimensions. 

Yet it can be confusing. You might think that mastering the poses will make you enlightened.  Nope, it doesn’t work that way.  Working with your body and breath can help you heal traumas that prevented you from being fully present in life.  But that’s not the same as getting enlightened; I call it getting enlivened.

You might think that doing more poses will give you more mental clarity or make you smarter.  Nope, but the physical practice does make you more focused, so you can use your mental capabilities more fully.  Still, it’s not the same as getting enlightened; I call it getting grounded.

Don’t confuse physical and emotional fulfillment with spiritual progress.  For example, your body and heart are fully involved when you fall in love, which can be tremendously exhilarating, but it’s not spiritually uplifting.  A modern-day sage, Ken Wilbur, calls this the “pre-trans fallacy” — that you pursue pre-rational goals but you hope for transcendent fulfillment.  It doesn’t pay off.

Svaroopa® yogis can get stuck in the body, thinking they are fulfilling the goal of life when they trigger a few minutes of bliss every day.  Svaroopa® yoga excels as a way access bliss.  However it is the Bliss of Consciousness, not mere physical bliss.  When you confuse the two, you remain in the pre-rational state that Wilbur warns about:  like an adolescent or like an animal who lacks rational thinking.

How can you tell if you’re using yoga to stay stuck in your body and emotions?  One litmus test is a simple question:  Do you believe anyone can get enlightened in this day and age?  It’s curious that many practicing a spiritual discipline cannot imagine that it delivers on its promise. 

In my years with my Guru, I saw people around him becoming more and more brilliant, shining with the light of Consciousness.  They didn’t parade around with a special hairdo or button that said, “Look at me!”  But how could you not notice their light?  The yogi who cannot see another’s upliftment misses out, not only overlooking others’ brilliance, but also losing out on having a role model who leads the way.

Worst of all, such a yogi doesn’t imagine their own future as being radiant with light.  If you cannot see that someone else can get enlightened, how can you imagine you getting there?  That means your future is limited to getting more of what you’ve already got.  Please reconsider what choices you are pursuing so intently!  Yoga offers you more, so much more.  I recommend you focus on enlightenment.  Your own Self is so close to you — closer than your breath.