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.

The Words of A Self-Realized Being

By Niranjan (Nathan) Matanich

Katha japa.h
Every word of a great Master is mantra.
Even their ordinary conversation is the repetition of mantra.
— Siva Sutras 3.27

This yogic text describes an enlightened being, plus it tells you how to get there.  Mantra is one of the most important tools.  When you repeat a mantra, especially one that has been enlivened by a Self-realized teacher, something happens on the inside. Repeating an enlivened mantra turns your awareness inward and gives you the experience of your own Self. But, for the Self-realized being, every word they speak is a mantra.  They’re not limited to Sanskrit.

I first became aware of this at Swami Nirmalananda’s ashram. A number of us were in the dining room having lunch with Swamiji.  I was fortunate that she sat right next to me. In our lunch conversation, I noticed that when Swamiji spoke, my awareness began to turn inward, just like when I repeat mantra or meditate. I realized in that moment that there was no mundane conversation with Swamiji. I realized that even in a seemingly mundane conversation, her words were revealing my Self to me.

Another thing I realized from that experience is the importance of having a Self-realized teacher. Yogic teachings have traditionally been handed down from teacher to disciple verbally. The reason is that the teachings are living teachings, something gets lost when they are just written down.

It’s magic really. When you sit in a room with a Self-realized teacher and hear them give teachings, you are having the experience of the teachings at the same time you are learning about them.  This can’t be found in a book alone.

To realize the Self you must have both knowledge and experience. If you only have knowledge of the Self, you understand it only intellectually. But if you have the experience without the teachings, you won’t know what you are experiencing. The Self-realized teacher will give you both the knowledge and experience of your own Self.

The closest I’ve come to having this experience outside of being with Swamiji is when I’m repeating mantra. It’s not a mantra that I got out of a book or on the internet. It is a living mantra, one that was verbally bestowed on me. The only reason I’ve really been able to have this experience on my own is because the mantra was given directly to me. Swamiji calls it “an investiture.”  This is the power of the words of a Self-Realized teacher.

Time spent with such a teacher is invaluable. If you have the great fortune of spending time with a great being cherish it. You are receiving something that cannot be found anywhere else, you are receiving your own Self.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

Mantras:  Mundane & Divine

By Mati (Sandy) Gilbert

Recently, I watched the Golden Globes Award Show on TV.  I realized that I have no idea who most of the nominees are or what they do.  My family and friends continually talk about stars, their shows and their lives.

Watching the show did allow me to put some names to faces.  What I did enjoy about the show was the variety of the ladies’ evening gowns — so colorful and sparkly.  They reminded of the time, many, many years ago, when it was so important for me to be pretty, to be liked and to be desired.

You can watch the Golden Globes or other award shows to enjoy the splendor of the celebration, OR you can be comparing their looks, bodies, hair and clothing to yours.  When your mind is caught in the comparisons, it is saying mundane mantras.

Mundane mantras are the statements you repeat to yourself and others about your worldly life.  Your mind is full of “clutter.”  You are constantly thinking of external stuff:  people you know, places to go, things you need to do, and what you have done or not.  You also probably think about what others should or should not be doing.

Comparisons make you think that if you were prettier/handsomer, had more money, accomplished a specific task or found the perfect soul mate, then you would be happy.  It doesn’t work that way.  What happens is that, when you get the external objects that you were fixated on, your mind stops, which creates an opening for your inherent bliss to arise from within.  It all comes from quieting your mind.

The paradox is, that to become happier, you must not depend on others and external objects for your happiness.  It is essential for you to find and know your Divine Essence, your capital-S Self.  How do you find your Self?  The easiest and most powerful gateway inward is by repeating a Divine mantra, one invested with Consciousness. 

Repeating such a mantra gives you deep meditation. In that stillness, you discover your Self.  Mantra and meditation are the tools to finding your own Divinity.

Both mundane and divine mantras are form of consciousness. Once you are settled in the knowing of your own Divinity, you will enjoy your daily life more fully.  Life’s goal is Self-Realization, ALWAYS living in that state.  How glorious!

You do not need to give up living in the world today.  Definitely not.  You continue your relationships and all of life’s experiences.  You won’t lose your life when you become enlightened.  You can have both.  You will be able to function on a very different level, being here now, but you will have clarity, capacity and compassion.  Life gets so much easier and calmer when you know your Self.  To get there, you need to use the Divine mantra more; it will lessen the impact of mundane mantras inside.  My teacher, Swami Nirmalananda, renders Shiva Sutra 2.1 as “Your own mind is made divine by mantra.”

The mundane thoughts that used to plague me, about  being pretty, liked, and desired, all came from my mind. Thankfully, I am different now.   I am so grateful to have received an enlivened mantra from Swamiji.

You get to choose.  You already know what your mundane mantras do for you.  A Divine mantra puts you on the path of enlightenment.  I know the path I want to take.  What about you?

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

 

 

Transforming Pain

By Yogeshwari Fountain

Yoga changes your experience of pain. Whether it is physical, or emotional, you come to know that pain is merely your mind’s reaction.  It arises when you’ve lost your Self, your divine essence.  It’s easy to do.  You lose your Self in other people, places or things.

Pain is also the fear that comes when you object to whatever is happening in the moment. Pain is what happens when you’re anywhere other than right here, right now.  The mystical dimension within you is available only when you are in the here and now.

I struggled with this for much of my life, always wanting things to be other than the way they were. I was either lost in the past or worrying about the future. Even in the most sublime moments, I could find something to complain about. I remember one beautiful fall day, the sun streaming through golden leaves, being irritated by having to drive my son to his preschool. In the back of my mind, I knew something was very wrong about this. Why wasn’t I present? That awareness opened something inside of me that day. Not long after, I discovered the Svaroopa® Yoga Sciences, and my spiritual teacher, who would change everything.

heyam duhkham-anaagatam — Yoga Sutras 2.16
The pain yet to come can and should be avoided.

This sutra isn’t saying you should hide from your life, avoiding what might happen next. Yoga says that the pain you experienced in the past, is over. There’s no need to hang onto it or to run instant replays through your mind.

photo credit: ideafit.com

And the pain you feel now, your mind’s reactions, can be transformed.  How?  By the light of your own awareness.  When you are aware of the reality of what’s going on, but not lost in your reaction to it, it’s not painful.  This is because awareness is your Divine Essence. It shines through even your bleakest moments.

By being aware that you are aware, you get a handle on your mind. You can experience whatever is going on, but without your usual knee jerk reactions.  Instead of retreating from the experiences you’re having, you step into them fully.  Only then can you understand what’s happening, make decisions and initiation action to make changes.

Only when you are fully present, are you able to embrace your experiences and learn from them. Every experience is a form of the Divine, coming towards you. When you practice seeing this mystical truth every day, when future pain does come, you won’t get lost in it the same way. You will remain whole, undisturbed, because you’re coming from the depth of your own Divine Self.

I can tell that my mind is being cleansed of old mental patterns and fears. How?  Through repeating mantra and my daily meditation.  I am rooted, more and more, in the conscious awareness that is my own Self. I can now perceive that there’s a deeper dimensionality to the present moment, something I couldn’t have imagined before yoga.

Life is about having experiences. Some of these will be wonderful, some will be ho-hum, while others, painful. The gift of a human life is to experience it all, even the hard stuff, while you are in the middle of it.  As Swami Nirmalananda teaches:

“Experience the experience you’re experiencing, while you’re experiencing it.”

Words are Powerful

By Mati (Sandy) Gilbert

The first time I heard OM, it had a profound effect on me.  Why?  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first word in my spiritual life.  It is also the first word in my mantra.

Many mantras begin with the word OM.  OM is the primordial sound, meaning it is from before the beginning of time.  It is the vibration of which the universe is made.  It is what you are made of.

Mantras are in Sanskrit, a vibrational language, a very melodious one.  The actual letters in print appear so different from our Western alphabet.  But once you learn the Sanskrit words, the mantra just flows off your tongue.  The enlivened mantra of our lineage creates a current of energy.  Every time you say it, it starts at your tailbone and creates energy all the way up your spine.  This is the mantra’s purpose: to spark the arising energy that is the awakening of your own Self within you.  So that you can see who you are — you can see and feel and know. More than that, you can BE who you really are — at the deepest level within.

Swami Muktananda taught us that language has tremendous power.  A word can make us aware of something which exists at a great distance, even distant galaxies. Baba told us that every word and every single letter is a mantra, whether we use it in our worldly or in our spiritual life.   He means that words have power.

Everyone brightens up when hearing words of praise or thanks, but not so much with words in the opposite vein. And what about the words you use on yourself; are they on the negative or positive side?   It makes a big difference.   If you think of yourself as a doofus, how do you think you will act?  If you think of yourself as competent, how do you think you will act?  Even “doofus” and “competent” are mantras!  Yes, words have power in your worldly life.  However, words are so much more powerful when used in your spiritual life.  These mantras take you to your Self.

I am very aware of how my words affect others. I try very hard not to be negative toward or about others.  Am I perfect?  Definitely not!  The more I say mantra, the better I am at saying what I really mean, but without negatively impacting others.  Today, I could not exist without my mantra.  Not only does it take me into meditation.  It also keeps me on an even keel during my daily life.

Saying mantra is so very powerful.  When meditating, I start out silently repeating my enlivened mantra, which I got from my Master, Swami Nirmalananda.  It fills my head, slowly drifting downward into my heart.  The mantra fills my entire inner space — so easily and so simply.  The mantra is me.  I am it.  When the whole inside of my body and being is filled with mantra, I know I am my own Divine Self.

OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

Freedom from Harm

By Yogeshwari Fountain

It took me years of yoga to discover that physical perfection is not the goal of yoga.  Working on my body did begin a powerful unraveling of tension, but what was buried underneath needed looking at too.  My mind’s reactions and fears were blocking the light of my inner radiance from shining through.

Fortunately, yoga offers ten lifestyle practices, specifically designed to help you unveil the consciousness that you are.  They empower you to live more consciously with others as well as with yourself. The first and most important of these is ahimsa: non-harming or non-violence.

I always considered myself a kind person, trying to be nice to others, even holding my tongue when angry.  Unfortunately, I discovered that this did not mean that I was being non-violent.  My outer actions did not always match my thoughts.  I found harmful thoughts in there, even when I didn’t act on them. I discovered that sometimes I was kind as a way to winning someone’s approval or to make them feel better — pure manipulation!

This kept my mind churning, obscuring the light of my own Divinity, just as Patanjali warns:

Vrtti-saaruupyam itaratra — Yoga Sutras 1.4
When you are not established in Self-Knowingness,
you are lost in your churning mind.

From yoga’s perspective, non-harming isn’t about being a better person, although you will be.  Non-harming is about quieting your mind, so that you can experience “svaroopa,” the bliss of your own Being.

Yoga says that no matter what kind of day you are having, good or bad, you are still the Light of Consciousness.  This divine energy has manifested all that exists, becoming you: your body, mind, heart and soul.  If you don’t feel fully “divine” as you read this, it’s because your mind limits you so well that you cannot catch it in the act.

Yet, after a yoga class, you feel more open, relaxed, even blissful.  This is the real you, hidden just beneath all the stuff you get caught up in.  Unfortunately, after yoga, it doesn’t take long for your mind to kick in again, to throw you for a loop.  Noticing how quick this happened to me is how I realized I was ready for the other yoga practices:  meditation, chanting and paying attention to how I treat others.  This dimension yoga is opening me to a richer and fuller life.  And to the deeper dimensions, the mystical dimensions, within myself.

It’s simple, but not easy. Practicing non-harming is most challenging in relationships.  When your buttons get pushed, how do you react? By practicing non-harming, you learn to respond to a situation or person, a response that comes from a deeper place inside. Swami Nirmalananda describes what happens:

“The light of your own Being arises from its source, spills into your life, and fills your relationships with light, love and joy.”

The ancient sages knew this, which is why they made ahimsa the prerequisite before teaching their students anything else. It was the first step for becoming a yogi. Whether yoga gives you a perfect body or not, ahimsa gives you a quiet mind.  Peaceful, free from the confusion and darkness that has been covering your heart. In the process of discovering your own Self, your inherent Divinity.

Let each day begin with the vow: I will do no harm.

The Liberating Power of Words

niranjan-yogaatthewellBy Niranjan Matanich & Swami Nirmalananda

One day at work, I watched my supervisor go into his supervisor’s office. I just knew he was going in there to talk about firing me. I was sure of it. As the morning went on, I was increasingly more sure of it until I was almost in a panic attack. This, of course, was not true. I was not being fired. I actually have no idea what they were talking about. It was all made up in my mind.

As a yogi, I’ve become reflective and aware of my mind, so I was able to trace my thoughts back.  I could see an underlying sense of unworthiness, a sense of not being good enough, which gave rise to words in my mind.  Those words gave rise to the thought that I was going to be fired. It affected my whole day but it wasn’t even a reality — except in my mind. This is the power of words.

170112-swami“The truth is that words have power. The words others say to you, the words you say to others, and the words you use on yourself – they all have power.”  — Swami Nirmalananda

This is easy to see in daily life. Someone is rude to you and you have a reaction; it can affect your whole day or week.  Maybe even years later, you remember it and still it affects you.  Or someone tells you that you did a great job and you have a reaction. These are obvious ways words affect you.

The sneakiest words that affect you, though, are the words you use on yourself. Like my story about being worried that I was being fired. Before I started practicing yoga, I would get caught up in a situation like that and never even know it. I would be so blinded by the power of the words that I wouldn’t identify that it was my own mind creating my experience.

170112-pic-1Words are powerful. They keep you bound to feeling inadequate and not good enough. They keep you from knowing your true worth, your inherent Divinity.  They hide the mystical reality within you, which is you.  Yoga calls this, your “Self.”

Thankfully, yoga has many ways of dealing with the mind. In fact, all of yoga’s practices deal with the mind: asana, pranayama, mantra, self-inquiry, and meditation all help you with your mind. The practice that directly targets the way you use words is called japa. Japa is repeating a sacred mantra, out loud or silently within.

Just like words can make you feel small and limited, a mantra reverses this power of contraction, to liberate you. Both the meaning and the vibration of the mantra are liberating.  Especially when you have received an enlivened mantra from an authorized teacher.  Mantra reverses the contractions in your mind so that you can experience your true worth. Through repetition of a mantra you replace self-destructive words, so you begin to live from an inner depth that is beyond your mind. When you live from that depth, your mind will no longer harass you!

Swami Nirmalananda says, “You become a light unto the world, with the light of your own Divinity shining through a purified mind and heart.  This is yoga’s mysticism, revealed.”

You are freed from the world created by your mind.  You discover that you are more than you think you are. So much more…