Tag Archives: Divine Light

Sharing My Yoga – By Vicharinee (Su Lee) Chafin

vicharblog4I recently learned an important yogic lesson when I taught a graduate counseling course. I was poised to teach potential school guidance counselors about the role of ethics and multiculturalism in their counseling sessions. I usually use this topic as a platform to give a political dissertation on all things being equal with humanity. I have always loved the sense of standing on a soapbox to deliver that lecture. However, I have been led to deeper understandings through my Meditation Teacher Training, as well as Swami Nirmalananda’s Satsangs, including her online audio recordings.

So this day, with my deeper understanding, I was moved to deliver a deeper teaching to my class. In this very conventional environment of a college classroom, I followed the format of Swami’s talk, “The Religion of Man,” and I wanted to credit her Baba as well as Swamiji herself. I wanted the Grace to have the credit. I didn’t want what I was saying to be confused with me, the professor. I wanted the counseling students to think bigger than that.

They are used to me showing videos, as I constantly use TED Talks to make points. So I brought up a video of Baba teaching in America, to show where the information on my talk originated. Initially, I had some fear and reservation about “religion” and spirituality talks in this environment, as everyone in my class is employed in public schools where the separation of church and state can be a big issue. But I tried to just settle into that fear and to move ahead with my plan. Swamiji and Baba talk of something beyond church and state, and I felt this was the perfect way to address the issue I was to teach. How better to assist these budding counselors in seeing equality and non-difference, in order to help those who walk into their offices?

After all, I know what it has done for me. Swamiji’s teachings, passed to us from her Baba, have done much more for me than has my academic and professional training. Those trainings did not open my heart.

Although I had some concerns, I felt completely supported by Grace and I knew where to go. I was just so moved, and I did what I felt called to do. Before I began my talk I did japa. Then I introduced Baba as a swami, describing what yoga is, and explaining why I chose to talk about him. I talked a little about the lineage and Kashmiri Shaivism and mentioned our modern Swami, who is near where I teach counseling. I also said if anyone had an interest in learning more about these teachings, I would be able to provide more information and direction.

In my talk, I used much of what Swami talked in her “Religion of Man,” including her examples from genetics, archeology, religion and the ancient sages of India as well as Baba to discuss the common ancestry of humans.

Grace, of course, did what Grace does. Faces opened, hearts opened. The comments of the counseling students were so sweet. They said they really liked looking at religion and humankind that way. Most of them said it really resonated with them. Of course it did! Why wouldn’t it? It is the truth.

They said the talk should be a TED Talk. I had joked before that it was my goal to do a TED Talk this year.  TED does university versions of their talks; the organization comes to my university.  I said, however, “This isn’t my talk, but I am thinking the world may be ready for a Swami Nirmalananda TED Talk!”

I think I was surprised there wasn’t more resistance or less understanding. Perhaps all of that is really just my small “s” self bubbling up and my fear about teaching yoga philosophy. But I felt I needed to test the waters of the conventional public or something. I know if I had been in a class of people gathered at an institute for studies about Consciousness I would have felt differently. But I was talking about yoga philosophy in a normal old graduate school offering coursework toward certification for guidance counselors in Delaware public schools.

It’s true that many of these students are there to change the world, but some want a master’s degree for the pay raise. So I was just amazed at their openness. I felt a different level of openness in this younger generation than I have in the past. I was excited by that and excited by the thought that the world may be more ready for the Guru than I expected. I am grateful to Swami Nirmalananda for being in service to the world as well as for guiding me.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

Changes in YTT/ATT Courses – by Swami Nirmalananda

Two days after Teacher Training programs were consolidated under the Ashram, our first program began — Foundations Review, leading to YTT Level 1.  I knew the “Sakti[1] shift would affect the students, so I had to set up a system that would make it seamless.  It’s like the astronauts blasting off from Earth; how do you subject them to all those G-forces and still make it easy?  That’s what Grace does: makes the hard easy.  That’s my job description.

The challenge was that I couldn’t add more teachings nor remove any poses, not if I wanted them to get the comprehensive education that a Svaroopa® yoga teacher needs.  What could I do?  I wove japa into their day in two short segments, one before lunch and one before dinner.  Five minutes of out-loud mantra repetition together, honoring your own Divine Self by repeating the mantra…  It’s been amazing!

I also added a daily candle ceremony (arati). At the course opening, we honor the Divine Light within each student as well as in the Masters of our lineage.  One of the Teacher Trainers performs this traditional ceremony during the course opening mantras.  It only takes about 90 seconds but it transforms the room and everyone in it.

We also open with an arati every morning, with the YTT students getting the chance to sign up and learn how to do this.

Reports on How the Changes Are Working

Mandy Dixon

Mandy Down’s hands in Anjali Mudra

Teacher Trainer Vidyadevi Stillman says, “I have noticed that the practice of japa before meals helps the students in a number of ways. If stuff comes up in the classroom or in their lives (hearing from family and friends from home), they handle it with more ease and Grace. They are experiencing more equanimity — mentally, emotionally, and physically. There is a new level of support for the internal process they go through, the inner clearing of the stuff that gets in their way.  They are more inwardly settled. It’s truly amazing to see them completing their japa before their meal, and sitting with hands together in Anjali Mudra. They keep their hands much longer at their hearts and sit longer in their own Self all day!”

“The japa pulls them away from whatever they are caught up in as we approach their meal breaks,” describes Teacher Trainer Karobi Sachs. “They are caught up in their bodies or minds — engaging with a new, challenging pose, worrying ‘Can I do this?’ Japa pulls them back to the Self so easily, so quickly!

“After the Newcomers Class, our group went out to eat at a local restaurant and one person asked, ‘Shall we do Japa before the meal?’ It was clear that these practices are beneficial and meaningful to them! It’s nice for us Teacher Trainers to do japa before lunch and dinner, too, to also settle into ourSelves.

“In the mornings, the arati to our Guru photos and murtis brings a cohesiveness to our day’s practices in a new way. I’ve heard students say that their meditations are much deeper, and they are getting so much out of the chanting and meditation.

Many have told me, ‘I’m really enjoying the meditation; it’s really working for me.’ In the most recent training, they saw Nirmalananda on the first day, instead of closer to the middle of training as in the past. I could see that her presence shifted them/settled them deeply from the start.”

Prakash (DavId) Falbaum took the recent YTT Level 2, and he recalls, “As I drove into the Exton parking lot, it literally felt like driving up to the Ashram. I could feel that same flow of Grace, now at Exton. I began my week with Vidyadevi’s “Deeper, Deeper” Half-Day Workshop. Through my 10 days of training that followed, the biggest thing I noticed personally was a change in how I handled my resistance. When I hit resistance, I didn’t care; every time I hit my resistance, I expected to get upset, but I didn’t. I was able to deal with it and stay internal. I feel that has a lot to with the flow of Grace.

“For example, after working on Navasana most of one morning, I couldn’t just muscle through it. I finally had to use my abs, and I needed extra props. Normally I resist extra props, which I had to accept from Vidyadevi. In the past I would have gotten angry at myself. But this Level 2 had an atmosphere that was so very light. I just accepted where I was, and moved through the process. Also, I found that four hours of sleep per night was enough, and didn’t get tired.

“It was wonderful to see Swamiji three times instead of twice as in Level 1. With the MYF-SVA Consolidation she has the freedom to visit and offer teachings in programs more easily. I can see they will just get better when they become residential.”

This Stuff Works – in a Wonderful New Way

With the “bookends” of japa and arati happening morning, noon and night, no one ever gets far away from their own Self.  The bootcamp approach to Teacher Training, so well known in every Western style of yoga, has been softened.  It’s a warm-hearted approach, a deep-hearted approach, a tail-lengthening and core opening way of learning core opening.  The interweaving and consistency, outside and inside, is a true joy to behold — tangible in the eyes and the breath of the teachers-in-training.  They’re a whole new breed.


[1]   Pronounced shak-ti; this is the Sanskrit transliteration form I’ve been using for the last three years as it is computer friendly and easy on the eyes.  Read more about the Velthius transliteration here.