Monthly Archives: January 2018

Your Heart is the Crossroads…

By Swami Nirmalananda

Your heart is the crossroads between the finite and the infinite.  This is why you have such a wonderful experience when you allow yourself to feel love.  The one for whom you feel love is within the finite or material world.  He, she or it triggers your experience of the infinite within your own being.

It doesn’t much matter who or what triggers this inner experience, except that you will always want more and more of it.  It becomes a dependency, even an addiction.  You need that external object in order to feel fulfilled.  It could be a person, one who is in your life now or someone that is not available to you anymore. It could be a physical location, a place you go on vacation or your home.  It can even be a physical thing, a favorite chair or a specific piece of music.  Whether it is a person, a place or a thing, it is an external object, the object of your love.

When you allow that object to affect you, you feel an amazing experience within.  Yoga acknowledges the central importance of this feeling in your life and calls it love, but also calls it bliss.  When your inner experience fades (as it always does), then you want the outer object to trigger your inner feeling again.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Then you spend lots of time and energy trying to manipulate the external world, including other people, into triggering this inner experience for you again.  This is because you must feel this inner feeling, for the feeling is life itself.  Life without this inner feeling is so barren that you may begin to question if life is even worth living.

This inner experience is the goal of yoga.  It is clearly explained in the texts that lay the foundation for the practices of Svaroopa® yoga.  These tantric texts guide you through the process of interweaving the two seemingly different realities: the finite outer world and the infinite reality within.  These are actually not two separate realities, though they seem to be separate.  They are just two different expressions of the One Reality.

Just as water can be liquid, ice or steam, the One Reality (Shiva) manifests in many forms.  One of the forms is you, and includes your own body, mind and heart, as well as other subtle levels of your being that you are not used to perceiving.  The purpose of yoga is to discover all the levels of your own being, and to live in the knowing of your Self as Shiva, the One Reality.  Then you recognize Shiva everywhere you look, inside or outside.  You live with an open heart, loving everything and everyone, because each is another form of your Self.  It doesn’t matter anymore if something is right or wrong, good or bad, pretty or ugly.  You love it all.

There is a process you need to work your way through before you can live in this experience.  All of the work that needs to be done is inner work.  You don’t need to open your heart to something on the outside.  You need to open your heart on the inside.  Pause here for just a moment, because this is a radically different principle.

This is not about learning to love yourself.  The cliché about loving yourself is the hardest thing in the world to actually do.  Even worse than merely being difficult, it traps you in a constant inner split.  This is because, in order for there to be love, there must be two.  For you to love yourself, there has to be you (the you is being loved), and the one that loves you (which is another you).  However, you cannot actually be two!  There really is only one “you.”  Yet, how can there be love when there is only one?  There must be two for there to be love.

Yoga’s definition of love is “the Recognition of the One in the Two.”  When you look deeply into someone’s eyes and see the light of their being, you feel this experience — inside.  This inner feeling arises because the One in you has met the One in the other.  It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does — WOW!

Now you probably want to jump up right now and go find someone you can connect deeply with in this way.  It is a wonderful experience, but it is not yoga.  Worse, it is destined to failure.    There are two reasons why:  (1) the person or thing that triggered the inner filling will not be a reliable trigger every time, and (2) even when the inner feeling does arise, it fades away — always.  Let’s look at both of these more closely.

The object that triggers your inner experience is not a reliable trigger every time.  If it is a person, sometimes they are being their most wonderful wonderfulness and sometimes they are in a rotten mood.  If it is a place, sometimes it is beautiful, and sometimes the weather is bad or the plumbing is broken.  If it is a physical thing, like ice cream, sometimes you can even eat a whole container of your favorite flavor and not really enjoy it.

What really happens is that it seems like your inner experience comes from the outer object, but it actually doesn’t.  It is all ultimately only about your inner state.  When you feel full on the inside, you can handle the bad weather and even the plumbing repair, while you laugh lovingly at the other person’s rotten mood.  You don’t need a dish of ice cream to make yourself feel better because you already feel better.  The “feeling better already” is yoga.

The second problem is that the inner experience fades away whenever something external causes it.  This happens because you have a limited capacity to stay in it.  You are used to looking on the outside, and cannot sustain the inner experience when it does arise.  You can watch it happen.  Someone or something triggers the upwelling of love inside and you allow it to fill you.  You feel your body change.  Your brain and whole nervous system is warmed with a wonderful feeling and your body floods your cells with bliss chemicals.  You feel relaxed and have expanded awareness.  Anxiety is banished, seemingly forever.  Even the texture of the skin on your face softens.  Your eyebrows widen and you smile.

Then your mind starts up, “I don’t know how long this will last.  I remember the last time I felt this way, and everything turned out to be…”  You shut the feeling down because you have been practicing looking outside for fulfillment all your life long.  If you had practiced looking within, you would immerse yourself in these inner sensations, even to the extent ignoring the one who triggered them!  Because the feeling itself is the most important thing.  This feeling is the Infinite Reality Within.  This is yoga.

Your heart is the crossroads between the finite and the infinite.  The finite external object can trigger the experience of the infinite reality of your own being, Shiva.  But the external object is not the important part.  Your capacity to feel this inner feeling is what matters.

The only thing that blocks that capacity is fear.  Every time you shut the feeling down or when you have trouble allowing it to arise inside, it is because of fear.  The crazy part of this is, when you allow yourself to be filled with this feeling from the inside, you become free from fear!  So, you have to ask, “What can I do to increase my inner capacity?”

Do more yoga.  This does not simply mean that you should do more yoga poses, though they help.  Especially those tailbone release poses, because they free you from fear.  Test it out for yourself.  Anytime you feel any form of fear (anxiety, worry, concern, etc.), just do one of the Svaroopa® yoga poses that release the tensions in your tailbone muscles.  Within a few minutes, the fear is gone.

Now look deeper within for the source of love.  Open your heart on the inside.  Allow the feeling to arise from the infinite within, without depending on any external trigger.  That inner experience will further establish you in freedom from fear, and it becomes something that supports from the inside.

Real yoga is more than just doing yoga poses.  The real yoga is learning to live with your heart always open — open to the inside.  Live with your heart being filled from the inner source, Shiva.  Then you don’t live in the waiting, waiting for an outer object to trigger your inner experience.  You live in the feeling of eternal fulfillment within. Open your heart to the inside — do more yoga!

Originally published February 2003, online access

Process & Purpose

By Swami Nirmalananda

Your body is made of atoms.  Atoms are contracted energy.  The entire life process is one of contraction.  The sweet face of the toddler turns into a teenager in due time, with the requisite negativity and cynicism.  You continue to contract until you die. Except for a few moments here and there, you become more and more contracted until you see the silhouette of your mother or father reflected in the store window you are passing by.  Then you realize you have contracted to be just like those you rebelled against.

Your body shrinks as you age, the adage says.  You see it in your elders and you may have even lost some height yourself.  But it is not “shrinking,” it is just contracting.  Shiva, the One Reality, has chosen to contract for the purpose of manifesting as an individual — you.  Shiva is being many individuals simultaneously, about four billion of them right now.  The purpose is so that Shiva can have the experience of being you, without you knowing the truth that you are individualized consciousness.  This is all just a great masquerade ball.

Process and purpose:  Shiva uses the process of contraction for the purpose of experiencing being an individual.

There are so many different ways of working with your body.  They are not all compatible.  The physical conditioning that produces an Olympic gymnast does not produce a good football player.  The physical changes you get when you begin snowboarding, perform as a dancer or do Pilates don’t help with sciatica or with childbirth.  A furniture mover is not conditioning himself for playing tennis.

Similarly, different systems of yoga are not all compatible.  One system emphasizes strength and stamina, another emphasizes constant movement, and yet another emphasizes attaining a photo-perfect pose.  All of these activities are based on contraction.  You contract certain muscles to accomplish certain types of movements, and along the way (knowingly or unknowingly) you compress your spine.  Svaroopa® yoga decompresses your spine.  It is a completely different process, for a different purpose.

Process and purpose:  exercise uses the process of contraction for the purpose of accomplishing a specific type of activity.

In Svaroopa® yoga, in contrast to exercise or other styles of yoga, we release contraction.  Every class is carefully choreographed to release tensions in the muscles connected to your spine, from your tailbone progressively all the way to the top.  The reasons for this are multi-layered and exquisitely complex, the most important of which is that your body is made of atoms.  Atoms are contracted energy, which contracts by descending from the expansive All-ness and Is-ness, to a single point just below the tip of your tailbone.  This point is smaller than a dot, even smaller than an atom, and it is waiting the opportunity to expand.  Svaroopa® yoga is finding it and expanding it.

The problem is that you are not fully present, not fully enlivened and not fully embodied.  Your body needs you to be present in it.  A vacated body is called a corpse.  The parts of your body where you have pain or problems are the places where you have not been present — they are dying on the vine.  Svaroopa® yoga works expressly to “interweave” you into your body, which creates a powerful healing on all levels of your being.

Probably without realizing it, you spend a lot of time out of your body.  You live in the future or in the past.  Even worse, you spend much of your time in constant frustration because you’re always comparing things with your idea of the way they should be.  The purpose of Svaroopa® yoga is to make you actually arrive in your life and in your body, which is the “interweaving.” In Sanskrit, the word for interweaving is tantraSvaroopa® yoga is a tantra.

Badly misrepresented in the USA, tantra actually means “loom,” the vertical and horizontal threads weaving together to make a whole piece of cloth.  It refers to the physical and the spiritual dimensions of your own being, weaving together to make your life whole.  As a tantra, Svaroopa® yoga shows you how to live your whole life as yoga, how to embrace your life more fully, wholly and completely.

Process and purpose:  Svaroopa® yoga uses the process of systematic and progressive internal release for the purpose of making you more fully alive.

We begin with bringing you into your body.  It is so easy to open up the tensions in your body.  In a few minutes you are genuinely more alive.  You feel and look younger, healthier, and have more strength and stamina, even though you didn’t exercise.  When you release the tensions in your body, you also you calm your mind.  You are less stressed, more joyful, kinder, more loving and more understanding.

Most importantly, this opens up inner experiences beyond your mind.  When you land fully in your own body, the energy of the universe will boomerang from that point at the tip of your tailbone and go back up your spine — from contraction into expansion.  As your practice develops, you will have more and more experiences of the vast reality inside, until you realize you are embodied consciousness.

When you do yoga on a semi-regular-but-still-erratic basis, you get benefits, but with really minimal results.  Your yoga practice is just a way of recovering from life, instead of a way of enlivening yourself fully.  Svaroopa® yoga teachers want to move you in a new and more effective way — to help you become more fully embodied and more fully alive.

Process and purpose:  the process of committed practice provides more progress toward the purpose of becoming more fully enlivened and knowing yourself as embodied consciousness.

You can use yoga to improve your body, and you can even use your body to deprogram your mind.  More than that, you can open your body as the beginning step on the pathway to the more profound dimensions of your being, to discover that you are embodied consciousness.  Do more committed yoga!


Originally published January 2003, online access

Story of Ganga

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Ganga was born as the eldest daughter of Himavan, the king of the Himalayas.  She was not only beautiful, but also had the power of purifying anything she touched.  This quality made her a favorite among all, especially the Devas (Gods).  Led by Lord Brahma, they came to Himavan requesting him to let Ganga go with them to the heavenly realm.

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King Himavan was saddened by this request, but for the greater good of the three worlds he agreed to part with his first-born.  He blessed his daughter to go with them and told her to serve them dutifully.  In her absence, it became impossible for the people to live peacefully on the earth.  The Asuras (demons), who hid in the ocean during the day, came out at night and started harassing everyone.  Not knowing what to do, the people decided to hide in caves.

Lord Brahma and the Devas felt sympathy towards the people of earth and decided to help them to find and conquer their mysterious tormenters.  They went to Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of the three worlds, to ask for guidance.  Lord Vishnu told them the only way to defeat the Asuras was to dry up the ocean they hid in.  He then said that Sage Agastya was the only one capable of doing that job.

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Hearing this from the Divine Protector, the Devas led by Lord Brahma went to see Sage Agastya.  The great sage agreed to help the Devas by drinking up the ocean.  This exposed the Asuras, helping the Devas vanquish the Asuras.  The Devas pleaded with Agastya to fill up the ocean with the water again, but the sage couldn’t do it as he had already digested it.

Devastated, the Devas ran back to Lord Vishnu seeking help to solve the new problem.  Vishnu told them that only the descendants of King Sagara could cause the ocean to be filled up again, so they needed to be patient as Sagara had no children yet.

King Sagara was yearning for heirs, so he decided to perform intense tapas (yogic austerities) dedicated to Lord Shiva, to win the boon of having children.  Lord Shiva responded, appearing to King Sagara and his two wives.  Shiva was pleased by their devotion and granted the boon.  By this boon, Keshini gave birth to one son and Sumati gave birth to the 60,000 sons.  While Sumati’s 60,000 sons grew up conscious of their royal status, Keshini’s son Asamanja was a wicked prince.  However, Asamanja was the only son who had a son, Amsuman.  He was opposite of his father, strong and brave like his uncles, also kind and loving.

King Sagara decided to perform the great Ashwamedha Yaj~na to earn the blessings of gods, making him a mighty king.  In an Ashwamedha Yaj~na, a horse was set free with an army following it.  As the horse goes where it likes, if no one opposes it and imprisons it, it then returns to the yaj~na location.  If the horse is imprisoned, the king must free it by peace or by force.

Indra, the king of Devas, suspected his own position would be threatened by Sagara’s Ashwamedha Yaj~na, so Indra stole the horse and tied it to a tree at Sage Kapila’s ashram.  When the horse didn’t return, King Sagara ordered his 60,000 sons to find it.  After a long search, they found the horse in Sage Kapila’s ashram and accused Sage Kapila of stealing the horse.

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Angered by their audacity, the powerful sage opened his third eye and burned all of them to ashes, cursing their souls to be stuck in the world with no liberation and no heaven.  When his 60,000 uncles didn’t return, Amsuman went in search of them and the horse.  Finding the horse at Sage Kapila’s ashram, unlike his uncles, Amsuman greeted the sage with great respect and inquired of his uncles.  Discovering what had happened, grieving, he asked the sage for a way to liberate his uncles’ souls and send them to heaven.  The sage replied that the only way would be to bring Ganga to earth and make her touch the ashes, thus purifying their souls.  Kapila allowed Amsuman to take the horse back with him because Amsuman was patient and righteous.  Amsuman told King Sagara, his grandfather, about his uncles’ ill fate and the remedy given by Sage Kapila himself.

For many years, King Sagara, Amsuman and his son Dilipa tried but failed to bring Ganga to earth.  Day and night, the thought of the fate of the 60,000 princes tormented all of them.  Dilipa’s son, Bhagiratha made a vow at his father’s deathbed that he wouldn’t ascend the throne until he brought Ganga to earth.

Bhagiratha did severe tapas and meditation for several years, dedicating them to Lord Brahma.  Pleased by Bhagiratha’s efforts, Lord Brahma appeared before him and granted him the boon to bring Ganga back to earth.  He also said that Bhagiratha would need the assistance of Lord Shiva to soften her fall onto the earth, as no one else would be able to bear the force of her descent from the heaven.

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Hearing this, Bhagiratha performed many more years of tapas and meditation, dedicated to Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva appeared and agreed to receive Ganga on her descent to earth.  But Shiva warned Bhagiratha that Ganga should be conducted properly on earth, because she is so used to flowing anywhere at her own will.

After all Bhagiratha’s great efforts, at last Ganga started to descend to earth.  Being willful and powerful, she decided that she would come down in a torrent and sweep away everything in her path.  Shiva foresaw her intention and imprisoned her in his matted hair, only letting her flow onto earth after Bhagiratha’s plea.

As Ganga started flowing as a river on earth, Bhagiratha steered her to Sage Kapila’s ashram.  As Ganga was sanctified again by Lord Shiva’s hair, on the way to Sage Kapila’s ashram, she washed away all the sins of the people whom she touched.

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But, along her way, she capriciously flooded sage Jahnu’s ashram, only to be swallowed up by the great angry sage.  Again, Bhagiratha had to pacify a great sage to release her.  Jahnu poured her out through his ear, so she is called Jahnavi, the daughter of Jahnu.

After being released, Ganga flowed over the ashes of the sons of Sagara, purifying them and releasing them to go to heaven.  Then she reached the ocean bed, filling the ocean up again.  Since she was brought back to the earth by Bhagiratha’s great penance Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi.

Her earthly body as a river still flows today, with her purifying everyone who comes to her.  When Brahma granted the boon that brought her back to earth, she resisted because she would collect so many sins and impurities from the millions of people who would bathe in her.  Shiva promised her that she would be freed from the weight of those burdens any time a great being stepped in her waters.

How Much Yoga is Enough – For You?

By Swami Nirmalananda

When you decide how much yoga you are going to do, you are deciding two things:

(1) what to do with some available time (a simple thing), and

(2) what your goal in life is (a really big deal!).

You are really choosing —do you want to be happy or do you want to be bliss-full?  These are very different things.  The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider why you do the things that you do — are you using yoga to help you pursue success, to improve yourself or to delve into consciousness?

In the name of success, you try to manage the people and things in your life, or you try to acquire more of both.  If you are able to manage everything, then you can finally be happy.  But you run into a few hurdles.  Happiness through attaining success is possible, but just barely.  Along the way, it is very stressful.  You can do yoga just to recover from the strain; it balances out the rest of your life.  In this case, attending a yoga class once or twice per week will be enough, or your home practice makes you better able to handle everything again the next day.

The Yoga Vasishtha says that a wise person is one who learns from the experiences of others without having to repeat them personally.  If you look around you, you will see that those pursuing success are not happy.  Whether they are pursuing success in things or in relationships, their experience of happiness comes and goes.  It never lasts because something always needs fixing.  You can learn from their life, a form of wisdom.

A wise person knows that happiness actually comes from an inner change, not from managing outer events.  As you open the tensions in your spine, your whole sense of self opens up — this is called transformation.  Your reactions to external events become different; you take things in stride more easily.  You see your life more clearly and to make decisions based on your newfound inner clarity.  The people and things in your life benefit from your inner transformation as you use yoga as the catalyst to personal transformation.  If you are doing yoga for personal transformation, then you need to do more yoga.

Patanjali explains this in a sutra:

mrdu-madhy-aadhimaatratvaat tato’pi visheshah. —Yoga Sutras 1.22

Your rate of progress depends on how much practice you do:  mild, medium or intense. [rendered by Swami Nirmalananda]

Mild practice is described above:  to balance out the stress that comes from your pursuit of the perfect life.  Your weekly yoga class or 20-minute daily practice clears tensions from your muscles and stress hormones from your blood, so you can go back to the endeavors that will create success in the significant parts of your life.

To live in the inner peace that arises from doing yoga, you need to do more — a medium amount.  You need at least 45 minutes per day, and to include meditation in your practice.  The inner world is fluid:  you are either progressing into more openness or you are backsliding into fixity.  You cannot maintain — you must progress.  For this, you need a medium amount of practice.

Using yoga in this way, to create personal transformation, is a beautiful and powerful practice.  Yet yoga offers you much more.  Yoga is specifically for the purpose of transcending your idea of who you are, not merely transforming it.  You know this from the best Shavasana, or from even a few moments of sitting perfectly still in a seated pose or after a twist.  The vastness of your own inner essence becomes undeniable.

Each time that you do Svaroopa® yoga, the spinal decompression creates an opening to the innermost dimensions of your own existence.  To take advantage of this opening, you need to take some time to delve inward more deeply so your inner experience leaves an imprint on your mind.  This is especially true in meditation.  Each time your mind is imprinted by the Self, it becomes less of an obstacle and more and more clear — so you can see through it to the Self.  Now you’re using yoga for its original purpose —  for the inner discovery of your own Divinity, and for living in this expansive inner Beingness all the time.

If this is your goal, you need to do even more yoga.  If the inner experience is the most significant thing in your life, then meditation becomes the cornerstone of your daily practice.  The opening of your spine opens you into meditation, and the poses also prepare your body to hold the richness of that inner experience.  Your body must be transformed in order to be the vehicle of the Self — the means by which that joy and love is expressed into the world.

Your entire life becomes the conduit of consciousness, but only if you want it to.  For this goal, one hour daily can be your basic practice, with a few days each week where you allow yourself the indulgence of more time — up to three hours, but not more.  Your maximum is three hours per day.  As long as you have your work and your relationships, this maximum will work well for you.

At this point, some of you are thinking that three hours of yoga and meditation a day is pure craziness — and others are thinking that anyone who tries to get by on 20 minutes per day is crazy.  Please read through all of this again; the important part is not the amount of time.  The important part is your goal.

If you want success most of all, then you should not do three hours of yoga a day — you will be supported in achieving success by doing 20 minutes per day.  This is a good choice for you.  If you want transformation, or if you want to know consciousness, then 20 minutes won’t do it.  You have to make a different choice.

You do decide, every day, how much yoga you will do and what your goal is.  Even if you decide to not decide, you have made a choice.  It’s time to make a choice, even to make a resolution — a New Year’s resolution.  For my choice – I always say, “Do more yoga!”

Originally published January 2004