From Fear to Freedom

By Mati (Sandy) Gilbert

I was born with a sense of being incomplete.  Something was missing in my life.  It turned out to be my spirituality.  Over the years, I tried many and varied methods to fill this void.  Most didn’t work,  some did for a short while.  Then the old sense of incompleteness came back.  It wasn’t until I turned to yoga, poses at first, then meditation.  Eventually, I found the inner yoga.  It placed me on my path to knowing my inner divinity, my Self.

Shiva Sutras 1.5: Udyamo bhairava.h
When the Guru’s Grace is received, one’s inner Shakti is unfolded… meditation comes spontaneously… the seeker turns within.  Awareness of the inner Self begins to throb all the time within him.  To stay in this awareness is the right effort for the seeker.  — Swami Muktananda

Why did it take me so long to find what was missing?  It was fear.  Some fears are small and others larger.  Some go away and some stay around for many years.  My greatest fear was my feeling of being incomplete.  It took the awakening by a Master Teacher to allow me to begin to understand what was missing, why it is so important, and the steps necessary to feel complete.  I had to put myself in the hands of someone who knew how to put me on the path of self-realization.

The world is made of energy. You, as part of that world, are made of energy.  When your inner spiritual energy is activated and unfolds within you, the experience of the wholeness within is clear.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “Yoga calls this your own Self, your Divine Essence.  You were born to know your own Self.  You were born with a feeling of being incomplete so that you would look for your Self.  Finding it is easy when you work with someone who has already found it.  That’s what my Guru gave me and what I give to others.”

While you are made of energy, there is a hidden dimension to that energy that must be activated.  This mystical upward rising energy is available to everyone.  Once awakened, this upward rising energy is like “Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, the world’s most recognizable geyser.  While it is not the highest geyser in Yellowstone, it is by far the most regular.

Your upward rising energy has a name — Kundalini.   It moves upward, starting at your tailbone, through your spine, your conduit to Consciousness.  This Divine Energy melts away your inner blockages, revealing your own Beingness.

Shaktipat initiates the awakening of your dormant energy.  It is a rare and special blessing, given by those who have dedicated their life to carrying the ancient yogic tradition to the next generation.  Swami Nirmalananda is such a Master.

There are two types of Shaktipat – intentional and spontaneous Kundalini.  Spontaneous Kundalini can occur when you hear of such a Master, if your practices thus far have prepared you enough.

Intentional Shaktipat happens when you ask for Kundalini awakening by an authorized Guru. With the transmission of this power of Consciousness, meditation comes easily.  You turn within.  Your fears dissolve.  You become aware of the Inner Divinity that is your true identity, progressively more and more, until you live in the knowing of your own Self all the time.

You start out with an early impulse that something is missing.  You search out alternatives and read how to books.  Your desire to know is coming from a deep impulse arising within you.  What is that impulse?  It is your own Self (named Bhairava in the above sutra) which moves you forward, as well as inward, so you can discover who you really are and have always been.  Shaktipat propels you farther and faster than you can ever go on your own.  It is the gift of Grace arising within.

Exploring the Mystery Within

By Mangala Allen

Your own human body is a mysterious place full of infinite wonder. When you look deeper than merely your body, even deeper than your mind, what you discover inside is a treasure that enhances your life in every way. You discover your own Self.  Yoga is the key that unlocks the gateway that allows you to explore within.

It only takes one taste of what is inside to propel you on your journey to realizing your own Self. You get that taste in the moment your mind becomes still. You have experienced this many times in your life. Perhaps it was gazing into the vastness of a star filled sky. Something happened inside; you experienced an uprising of bliss. You experienced bliss beyond thought. This supreme bliss continually vibrates within the deepest dimensions of your own being. The problem is you are not usually aware of this treasure within.

One day my granddaughter was miserable. I asked, “Do you know what miserable is?” She told me, “It’s when I want something and I can’t have it right now!”

This is the human dilemma. You want to be joyful, but you can’t always make that happen. You become lost in your misery and don’t know what to do. Don’t wait for external circumstances to be just right, for the bliss that provides is temporary and short-lived. The inner experience of the bliss of your own Beingness is accessible through meditation on the Self. The more you have this experience of Self inside, the more delight you find in your life.

My teacher Swami Nirmalananda puts it this way:

“Bliss arises from your core, expands to fill your heart and mind, and overflows into your life and into the world. This process is happening from the inside outward.”  

I know this to be true. I have learned that looking outside is going in the wrong direction. I take time to sit, to quiet my mind and experience the treasure within. Then I take my experience into my life and delight in the experiences I encounter in the world.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow.

You Are Consciousness

by Niranjan Matanich

“You are Consciousness-Itself. You are the Source and Essence of the Universe, and Beyond.” Swami Nirmalananda

I first heard this teaching in 2001. After many years of searching for the spiritual path that would answer my questions, this teaching stopped my searching. Somewhere deep inside of myself I felt like I found it, the Truth. I couldn’t explain it at the time but I knew I found what I had been looking for. I’ve been on this path ever since.

From the time when I was around 8 years old I knew there was more to life than just mundane existence, but I didn’t know what that “more” was. I was raised to be Christian. I tried hard to connect with God in the way that I was taught but, when I asked some of the harder questions, people in my church or my Mom told me, “God just doesn’t want you to know certain things.” I was never satisfied with that answer. It never made sense to me that God was “out there” somewhere.

I spent over 20 years searching for the spiritual path that would fill the void in myself that I was feeling.  Then I discovered the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism that says that I am Consciousness, that Consciousness is my own Self. I read that Consciousness manifested as this whole universe including me.  God is not separate from me. God doesn’t live in the sky somewhere.

An analogy for this is the ocean waves. You see many waves in the ocean and each wave appears to be individual. But really, it’s all the ocean. When you look around and see all the different people, animals, trees, grass, the sky, the stars, and beyond — it’s all Consciousness.  The essence of all things is the same, there is no difference. The teachings of Kashmir Shaivism explain this in detail and promise that you can know this experientially, within yourself.

The teachings are not theory.  Following the teachings and practices, given by Masters who have found this Truth within themselves, will give you the experiential knowing that you are Consciousness. You are the source of the Universe.

Swami Nirmalananda describes it this way:

It was Baba Muktananda’s presence that made the theory real for me.  He was flesh and blood, alive, tangible, undeniable.  Being in His presence propelled me into my own Self, precisely because Baba was established in Self.  He also gave me teachings and practices to do, so I could get there on my own.  And He made me able to share this with you.

By chanting, meditating, studying, and especially being in relationship with a Guru you will come to know that you are so much more than you think you are.

Swami Nirmalananda, the spiritual head of Svaroopa Vidya, is such a Guru. She is able to reveal the Truth of your own being to you, because she has found it in herself and lives in that knowing all the time.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h

To your inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

Clearing the Path for Your Light to Shine

By Yogeshwari (Melissa) Fountain & Swami Nirmalananda

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”  The teaching of the ancient yogic sages say there’s nothing “little” about the light of your being. Deep inside each human being radiates a light that is brighter than the sun. It is the source of the universe itself, ever pulsating, ever existent, illuminating your mind, heart and soul.

Far beyond what your mind tells you, this inner light is what’s guiding your thoughts, actions and sense of Self in the world. Yet it’s not always easy for you to recognize this.  Fortunately, the practices of yoga specialize in revealing your inner illumination, teaching you how to live everyday in the light of certainty and freedom.

“The light of your own being shines into your life, from its inner source, only when you clear the pathway – your mind.”
-Swami Nirmalananda

The source of your being is not your mind, but that which your mind is made of: Consciousness-Itself. Your inner Essence is vast, eternal, all-knowing.  You existed before you were born, and will continue to exist after your body dies. Who you are is both subtle and profound, like the silence between the roars of ocean waves or the stillness of a mountain. Swami Nirmalananda says that you will only bring this depth of being into your life when you have cleared the pathway of your mind.  And one of the most powerful ways to do this is with self-Inquiry, which we call “vichara.”

Even though I meditate daily, and repeat my mantra, my mind can still loop around itself and get tangled up! And the more I try to figure something out, the more confusing it gets. But there is an inner knowing, beyond the mind. Vichara is a way to question my own mind by opening it up into a non-judgmental spaciousness.

Whether I’m facilitated by a trained Vichara Therapist, or doing it on my on with pen and paper, vichara begins with asking, “What am I aware of?” As my thoughts unspool, the questions, “How so?” and “In what way?” shine the light of Consciousness through my mind. It’s never about finding an answer, but more about unmasking my reactions and objections. It’s like rearranging stacks of boxes in the basement, and finding a shaft of light streaming through a window I’d forgotten was there.   I am always amazed at how much lighter and happier I feel after dissolving unrecognized mental patterns.

Your inner light is always shining, it is your own Self, the Source of Life-Itself. Yoga turns your awareness inward; Shaktipat gives you the experience of your own Divinity.  But because of inner resistance, you have to meet your mind, again and again, with a question or two: “How so?” and in “in what way?”

All of yoga’s techniques are to help you quiet your mind, so you open the doorway to your own Self.  You can then learn be free from the landmines  your mind used to lay for you.  Not only do you gain greater clarity and understanding about your “small-s” self and your life, but ultimately the goal is freedom    Mantra and meditation reveal  the fullness and truth of who you really are: Consciousness-Itself.  Self-inquiry helps you bring it into the world.

Happiness — Then and Now!

 

By Mati Gilbert

Happiness is pleasure, as the thesaurus says.  It’s a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment, something most people want more of.  But that was never much of a motivator for me.  For decades I got happy by getting feedback from external sources:  by accomplishing things, plus how my family and friends treated me, as well as how I presented myself to the world and its response to me.

My whole life used to be about using outside sources to make me happy, multiple outer sources that rarely lined up together.  Today, I know different.  Through the practice of yoga, I have found happiness on the inside.

Swami Nirmalananda, explains this process is revealed in yoga’s ancient texts:

In the moment your mind becomes still, you abide your own Divine Essence.

Yogas-chitti-nirodhah — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.3

You have certainly found the Absolute Reality of your own Divinity in everyday events, here and there along the way.  Think about when you had to have – and I mean really had to have – that piece of chocolate.  You have an experience your Divine Essence just after you bite into that chocolate, in the first moment of tasting it.  You can even remember the moment, the second that you actually taste the bite you’ve taken.  This is the experience of the Self.

Every time your mind stops, you have an experience of your own Divine Essence.  This is the inner happiness that yoga promises.   You experience “svaroopa,” as Patanjali names it, which is the bliss of your own Beingness.  This is technically “meditation-in-action.”

Sitting to meditate is actually an easier and better way to access your Self.  Yoga has tools for your mind, tools that quiet your mind, so your meditation takes you beyond your mind, where your own Self is already waiting for you.

You do so many things to keep your mind active: socializing, over-indulging and other relentless activities.  You keep doing things in order to keep your mind from being still.  Maybe stillness is a little scary.  Yet, stillness allows you to experience your Divinity, who you actually are, deep down inside yourself.  Once you attain the goal of abiding in your own essence, you take yourself with you wherever you go.  What is scary about that?

Learn how to meditate.  You need a teacher who can propel you past your mind, to experience your own Self.  Then you can easily meditate daily, and you will notice many differences in your life.  Your daily life is still there.  Your activities may not change, but how you react to them will be so different. Once you find your Self, you will no longer depend on outside sources to make you happy.  You will abide in an inner fullness that is even better than mere happiness.

I no longer depend on the approval of others or outside sources to make me happy.  While I experience happiness during meditation, it keeps me on an even keel during all my day-to-day activities.  I feel so much more grounded each day knowing that I am Divine.  Mantra and meditation provided me this security and peace of mind.  Wouldn’t you like to feel this way all the time? Mantra and mediation will give you your own Self.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

Divine Emotions

By Mangala Allen

Riding the emotional rollercoaster can be a thrilling ride as well as a dedicated lifestyle. It is also a ride that keeps you from experiencing the greatest joy you have ever known.  It blocks your ability to live in the ever-arising bliss of your own Beingness in every moment of your life.

Your emotions are merely physical sensations, triggered by the thoughts that pass through your mind. When you think about something, your body reacts the same as if it is really happening. Your thoughts and emotions are inseparable.

This morning I woke from a dream, startled and confused. I was in a panic trying to figure out how the incidents in my dream could have happened. It was playing out in my head as if it were real. Physically, my experience was as though it all had really happened.

Your experience of your life is not based in circumstances. It is based in your thoughts about them. If you approve of how your life is going, you feel happy. If you don’t, you are not. And there is a large range of emotions to experience in between.

Your emotional condition is created by your thoughts. One researcher estimates that the average person thinks 65,000 thoughts a day. How many are positive and uplifting, and how many are negative, assuming the worst? Unfortunately, many of these thoughts are repetitive; you keep living through them over again and again.

The only way to get off the rollercoaster is to find a deeper dimension of your own being.  This changes your reactions to circumstances, as Swami Nirmalananda describes:

Like a three-year old who cries when their block tower falls, you crumble in the face of life’s difficulties.  But when the three-year old grows up, she or he takes the falling of the block tower in stride.  When you grow into your Self, the experiencing of your own Divinity, you’ll take life’s events in stride, too.

Yoga’s goal is for you to experience your own Self.  Most people focus on the external benefits of health, beauty, youth and vitality.  As wonderful as these are, there is more available to you.  To find the Self, the sages knew that you need to quiet your mind. Fortunately, every yoga practice is actually for your mind.

When I awoke from my dream, startled, confused and in a panic, my physical experience was as if it all really happened. Mentally I knew it hadn’t. I reminded myself of this and stopped the thought train from rushing on. Calmness ensued. I have learned a lot about my mind from my yoga studies. My yoga practices hone me for living a life focused on stillness and the opening it provides.  Yet yoga promises more:

“As the mind is stilled, the emotions are also stilled. Through the practices… the mind can be freed from the forces (that drive it), and it is possible to live in purity and light all the time. You will still have feelings, but they will be purified and positive; they will be divine emotions.”
– Swami Muktananda

Yoga’s practices quiet your mind. When your mind becomes still, you open to the bliss that is you; you experience your own Self. Each experience of Self enables you to be more present in your life. You become calm and steady on the inside. You experience your life from an inner fullness that affects how you react to your circumstances. See the incredible simplicity. Use yoga to still your mind and the magic will occur.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namah

 

Make Your Mind Dance

by Yogeshwari Fountain

I used to be a modern dancer. I spent years training my body so that I would be able to move across the stage with lightness, freedom and grace. It was a perfect blend of mental focus, physical skill and bliss, which also describes the practice of Yoga. While dance expressed my yearning for God, yoga gave me what I truly longed for, deeper inside: the tangible experience of God, in my own Self.

Although I didn’t realize it in the beginning, yoga is a training for your mind, to make it based in freedom, dancing with light, moving with gracefulness and ease. All yoga’s practices are for the purpose of quieting your mind, so you will experience your inner Self, named svaroopa by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

Yoga reveals your inherent divinity, both on the inside and outside of your being. There’s nothing to “perform.” There’s no “technique” you must perfect. Your only commitment is to know your own Self, at the deepest level.

For this you need the help of a sacred set of syllables enlivened by a living master. Such a mantra is a vibrational force of energy, charged with an incredible power to transform your mind and sense of self. Your mind needs the help, because listening to what you tell yourself all day can drive you nuts.

“Your mind makes you dance like a monkey all the time…Now you have to become stronger; you have to make the mind dance. Make it dance on the stage of mantra.”- Swami Muktananda

Yoga’s sages say your mind is made of Consciousness, a form of the one Divine Reality. While your mind has the capacity to be expansive and serene, it is also as mischievous as a monkey. It flits about from one thing to the next, getting into trouble. It nitpicks and conjures up stuff that will probably never happen.

Your mind is a creature of habit, reinforcing mental patterns that obscure the light of your own divine radiance. In fact, your mind makes you dance like a monkey! Swami Muktananda says you must become stronger than this, by becoming the master of your own mind.

Enlivened mantra and deep meditation are the key to this mastery. At first you repeat mantra to intervene with your mind, giving it something more uplifting to repeat. Over time, your mantra becomes more a part of you, from the inside out. It becomes intuitive.

Your field of awareness expands, a knowingness that is happening at a deeper level inside, deeper than your mind. Swami Nirmalananda describes it this way, “Your own Self is Consciousness-Itself. That means that, at your core, you know. This core knowing is not thought, but an inner knowingness that is the source of all the sages’ teachings and insights. This becomes the GPS that guides you through your life. You are living from the inside-out.”

Your inner Self illumines your mind, showing it what to do, what to think about and how to help. What a change! You’ve been used to the other way around, your mind leading you around like a bull with a ring through its nose. It’s a delightful and meaningful shift in perspective: your mind becomes the servant of the light of your own Self.

How many repetitions of your mantra will it take for you to make your mind “dance on the stage of mantra?” The teachings of a Great Being like Swami Muktananda make it possible for me to imagine the impossible. This is because his words are imbued with grace.

Whatever mantra you have been given by such a Master, know that it is an audible form of grace. Still, you must apply yourself to repeating it. Mantra will then effortlessly carry you to your own Self, until your mind becomes Consciousness-Itself.

One mantra repetition at a time, over time, will make you lighter, stronger and freer. Until your thoughts dance to the tune of Consciousness, based in the foundation of your own Beingness.

Delight of the Self

by Niranjan (Nathan) Matanich

When you do any of yoga’s practices, you experience something change inside. You can meditate, do japa (mantra repetition), pranayama (breathing exercises), or asana (yoga poses).  The change you get is not merely the good feeling after a workout or from sitting quietly; something deeper is happening. That something deeper is your Self, the Self that is beyond all your perceived limitations. That experience feels more-than-good and it motivates you to apply yourself to having even a deeper experience of the Self.

Sometimes you have this inner experience but then you lose it. Or you experience it in your meditation space or a yoga studio, but then you go to work and lose it.  Yoga’s goal is that you remain in that deeper state all the time, even in the midst of life. How do you do that? Through the practices you do, and through the blessings of the Gurus who did those practices and have become established in this state.  This is promised in the yogic texts:

lokananda samadhi-sukham.” — Shiva Sutras 1:18

In every moment the yogi experiences the delight of the Self, and there is transmission of this experience to those who come in contact with him.

This sutra promises that you will remain in that blissful state wherever you go, whatever you are doing. You will always know your own Self.  While this is a really important aspect of this sutra, I think the second aspect is even more important: there is transmission of that delight to those who come in contact with you.

This points out the importance of having a Guru. When you are in the presence of one who has attained the Self, they easily transmit that experience to you.  Their teachings and practices come from that place of knowing and experience. It’s not mere theory. More so, by just you being in their presence, the delight of the Self is being shared.

In 2016, in Meditation Group Leader training, we were chanting the Guru Gita, a text that explains the Guru principle. We were chanting it in English instead of Sanskrit.

While we were chanting, I realized that I was having an inner experience of what the text was speaking about. Though I could see myself and I could see Swamiji sitting in her seat, internally there was no difference between us. I realized that I was having that experience because I was in the presence of a Guru who lives in that state.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “My time with my Guru was irreplaceable.  I could never have imagined such great heights of attainment as he showed me.  I could never have dreamed of such love.  I would never have been able to find the deeper dimensions within myself that he opened up for me.  It’s true what he told us, ‘The way you become a Siddha is by spending enough time with a Siddha.’  I am the recipient of so much Grace that I can never measure it, nor can I ever sufficiently thank him.  My life is my way of expressing my gratitude.  It is why I teach – to serve him.”

The importance of spending time with a Guru cannot be overstated. Having the undeniable experience of the Self when you are in the presence of a Guru will help you to find that experience when you are at home, or at work, or wherever you are.  Now all you have to do is… more yoga.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

Yoga Promises Freedom – what is that?

 

by Swami Nirmalananda

Today’s Ashram E-Quote says:

     Living fully, yet free from desire 

     or expectations, and free from fear. 

     It’s a profoundly meaningful way to live. 

                    – Swamiji & Rukmini

Even though I had a hand in writing it, as co-author of the article it comes from, this morning I found it tremendously inspiring.  It is an outer statement of an inner state, for which I thank the one who gave it to me, my own Guru, Swami Muktananda.

To be free from desire means that every choice I make is unfettered.  There’s nothing I am trying to gain or attain.  Whatever comes comes; whatever goes goes.  I remain the same – full, expansive, free.  Nothing and no one has control over me, not even food!  It’s an easy way to live.  Everything that was previously propelled by desire was so ha-a-ard!  I still do hard stuff, of course, for life delivers my karma to me on a conveyer belt, but the one it’s being delivered to welcomes it.  All of it.  With open arms.

To be free from expectations means that I never know what’s going to happen.  I can predict certain things, like when I turn on the shower – that water will flow.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  And it’s not disturbing to me.  It’s just part of the never-ending surprises of life.  When I talk with someone, I’m not trying to predict what they will say or think, nor am I trying to manipulate their words or the outcome.  I do my best to support and serve, but I have no idea how it will turn out.  Every day is a new day.  Everything is a surprise.  It’s like being a child again, in the delight of everything being new.

To be free from fear is the truest freedom.  It underlies the others.  Because anything can happen, and does happen, but I don’t fear what might come, so I don’t worry.  I do plan, like organizing my activities for the day.  I buy insurance, not because of fear, but because it’s an intelligent way to handle the practicalities of life.  No matter what someone says or does, or even if the shower doesn’t turn on – I’m not holding my breath, waiting to see what terrible thing might happen.  Life is full of ups and downs.

credit www.travel.com

Now I like roller coasters!  I remember when I didn’t – I brought my fear with me when I boarded.  But now they’re great fun.  So is life.

I highly recommend freedom.  It’s the only way to live.

But you have to work for it.  Like anything worth attaining, you have to apply yourself.  Do more yoga.  And not just poses…

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

Mystical You

By Mangala Allen

Yoga says you are Shiva. Shiva is the Being of all things, the One Ever-Blissful Essence pervading all of existence and beyond, including you! Yoga’s true goal is for you to know this essential truth, within yourself, as your Self.

Everything is made of contracted energy. This energy becomes various particles, which move in patterns to create everything that exists. This energy is Shiva, so all the contracted particles are Shiva, and everything that they become is also Shiva.  As Shiva contracts to become you, you forget you are Shiva. The forgetfulness is an intentional contraction, created by Shiva:  a veil of illusion called maayaa.  It is part of the Divine Plan.

As you progress through your human life you unfortunately contract even more, further limiting your experience of who you really are. You move through life as though you are defined by the things outside of you. You identify with your name, where you live, your occupation and your relationships. You get wrapped up in these many identities and are easily captivated by the things that support them.

How do you get from here to the goal of perceiving yourself as the One Ever-Blissful Essence, pervading all of existence and beyond? Yoga is the mystical pathway to your Self. Yoga gives you tools so you can revel in your Shiva-ness, in complete freedom and joy abounding, affecting every moment of your life!

“The truth is that to realize the Self is to get what we already have. There is nothing apart from Shiva. There is nothing other than Shiva. Whatever there is, is Shiva.”
Nothing Exists That Is Not Siva by Swami Muktananda

To live in the truth of this awareness is attainable. For this you need a teacher who has traveled the path and can illumine your way. Not just any teacher, but one with the power to create an inner awakening that opens you inward to your Self. This teacher is called a Guru, one who can lead you from the darkness (gu) of your delusion to the light (ru) of your own Divinity. I got this from my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda. She fulfills yoga’s promise of revealing my Self to me.

She explains, “The reality is that you are so much more. You are Shiva, the whole of Divine Consciousness. Everything that exists, everything you see and hear and feel and touch is Shiva too.”

As I learn from her, the layers of who I think I am are slipping away. This changes everything. I feel complete from within. I radiate love. I feel it shining within me, affecting my ability to see Reality inside and outside. My ability to bring my Self into the world is enhanced, which deepens my ability to see the blissful essence in all that surrounds me. All I can do is rejoice in the gift I have been given. This mystical path of revelation moves me toward the enlightenment I seek and I am ever grateful to my Guru.