Monthly Archives: September 2017

Stand Here, Now!

By Yogeshwari Fountain

You can travel the world to visit holy sites.  Many of my friends have shared profound experiences of touching the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or walking the 500-mile El Camino trail through Spain.  My husband hiked down into the Grand Canyon this summer and felt he’d never be the same again.

Expansive, spiritual settings expand us back into the Self, the vastness of our own inner Being.  Yet Yoga says that the most sacred site of all is your own body, here in the present moment, in each breath you take, and on the very ground upon which you now stand.

“The spot where you now stand is sacred ground.  You, standing on it, and your body with which you stand are both sacred.  There is nowhere that God is not.”  — Swami Nirmalananda (formerly Rama Berch),

Tadasana teaches you how to stand firmly, with precise alignment and total ease.  While often-called “Mountain Pose,” it is more importantly the “pose of That” (the Supreme Reality).  Being grounded in your body is more than a physical feeling of strength and stamina, but a quality of quiet mind and surrender.

We are accustomed to looking outside ourselves for the holy.  Yet, whenever I stop what I am doing and allow myself to feel that shift back inside my body, I feel more my “Self.”  Standing in stillness opens up your breath, and releases your spinal tension.  Your eyes become clear and you gain a new perspective.

Consider the power of standing still.  Not rushing off to the next thing you have to do.  Not squirming in discomfort, or checking your smart phone.  Not worrying about your next move.   Instead, settle into an upright stillness that is both internally quiet and immovable.  You might even feel gravity’s gentle pull through your muscles and bones, while you feel taller and lighter.  It’s amazing!  A seven-year named Zachery once described this to me as, “I know what God is!  God is gravity!”

It’s true that standing in my bones connects me to God’s presence within me, as me.  By standing still, you trust that where you are, right now, is just where you are supposed to be, and can let go.

This is a radically different view of the world: there is nothing you have to attain, no one you have to be, for everything is already perfect, already Divine.  The ultimate Reality that pervades all of existence, Shiva, is being every thought, every breath and every experience you are having.  The mundane and the divine are inextricably interwoven.  This is called Tantric living, and it comes from Kashmiri Shaivism, the yoga philosophy I practice.  It has taken me years to slow down, to stand still, to become more aware.  But as I continue to surrender to meditation and my Guru’s Grace, the easier it becomes.

Later this year, I am going on pilgrimage to Ganeshpuri, India, a sleepy little village that is the home of my Guru’s lineage.  I’ve been there before.  I already know that every inch of soil beneath my feet will feel sacred to me.  Everywhere I’ll look I’ll see the face of God.

Yet as special as this is, I don’t have to go to India to find it.  I know the temple is within me.  Right here and now, the ground I am standing upon is sacred; as is the body I live in.   Perhaps you too have a special place of pilgrimage, one that will reliably make you feel quiet inside and filled with grace.  You need look no further: stand here, now.

Traditional Tales and Mystical Meanings

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

The mythic dimension of our lives is a doorway to the mystical dimension of our beings.  Today we welcome a new writer to our blog team, a yogi who grew up with these stories in her native Sri Lanka.  The classical Hindu tales always offer a yogic teaching, which I will draw out in each blog, both to warm your heart as well as to expand your understanding.

Nirooshitha Sethuram is a Svaroopa® yoga teacher in America, bringing both western and Hindu perspectives to our profound yogic tradition.  She explains, “The Mango Story is the first story that most Hindu children hear from their parents.  Very simple, yet very rich in its essence.”


The Mango Story

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

It was another beautiful day on Mt.  Kailash, where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were with their two children, Ganesha and Karttikeya.

On this day Sage Narada was visiting.  Narada is the son of Brahma, the creator, also known to be the creator of problems which end in goodness to the world.  Narada brought a special mango in his hand, claiming he had come to pay respects to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, but they knew that it was not the case.  He was there to start some mischief.  They were right; he had come to test the two children, Ganesha and Karttikeya.

Sage Narada offered the special mango to Lord Shiva, saying it was a very special mango, sweeter than the nectar of any fruit there was.  Narada also said it was to be eaten by one person only and should not be shared.  With a smile, Lord Shiva asked, “Have you started to execute your mischief yet?”  Then Shiva said, “I can’t eat it, as I share everything with Parvati,” so He offered it to Parvati.  Parvati said that She can’t have it either, as She also shares everything with Lord Shiva.

Sage Narada pretended to be sad because they rejected what he offered, though he was happy that his plan was working.  He says, “Oh my Lord, please, one of you in your family should eat it!  Maybe it can be one of your children.”  Knowing what was happening, Lord Shiva called for his sons, Ganesha and Karttikeya.

Shiva said, “I have a mango which cannot be shared, so one of you can have it.”  Both Ganesha and Karttikeya said, “I want it, I want it…”  Sage Narada, pretending to be shocked, said, “I had no idea that the children will fight for it.”  Lord Shiva smiled and said to Narada in a low voice that only he can hear, “You purposely brought this mango, knowing this would happen…” Goddess Parvati continued, “Yes, I agree, but we need to resolve this now.”

Lord Shiva said, “My dear children, this is the time in your life in which you must face the world.  Unless you know your world, you cannot lead your life in prosperity.  Both of you must travel around the world three times.  The first one to return will get the mango.”  Narada was extremely happy that his plan was being executed.

Karttikeya was a beautiful strong boy born to defeat demons, whereas Ganesha had the head of an elephant, with a potbelly and short stubby legs.  Kartikeya’s vehicle was a peacock and Ganesh’s vehicle was a mouse.  Karttikeya was thinking his brother didn’t have a chance, so without a word he jumped on his peacock and off he went.  With great determination Karttikeya flew around the world.  Along the way, he faced terrible storms, fought with demons and helped people in danger.  His journey was much more difficult than he thought.  His thoughts went back to his brother, “Oh, my poor brother.  How is he going to survive all this while competing for the mango?”

Ganesha knew he will not be able to win the race on his mouse and started thinking.  Then an idea struck him.  He said, “My parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, are my world, therefore I will go around them thrice.”  Ganesha fastened a tiny harness around Mushika, his mouse.  He went thrice around his parents and was just receiving the mango from Goddess Parvati when Karttikeya returned after circling the world thrice.

Karttikeya saw Ganesha holding the mango in his hand.  He was so angry!  He said that Ganesha had done nothing while he traveled around the world.  “So have I,” replied Ganesh.  He said, “I traveled all around my father and mother.  They are my world.”

Karttikeya knew what had happened, and though he knew his brother won it fair and square, he still got angry with his parents.  Seeing this, Ganesha offered the mango to Karttikeya.  But Karttikeya flew away on his peacock, leaving all his luxuries, including all his clothes.  He went to a hill known as “Palani” in the south of India (palani = palam + nee in the Tamil language, meaning, “you are the fruit”).

Goddess Parvati came right behind Karttikeya to bring him back to Kailash.  When She arrived, She said to him, “You both have won in your own ways.  Karttikeya, you won by your single-minded determination and endurance, while your brother Ganesha won by balance of heart, mind, love and intellect.”  Hearing this from his beloved mother, Karttikeya was satisfied and lifted out of his anger.  He became calm and happily went back to Kailash with his mother.  He apologized to his father, Lord Shiva, and to his brother Ganesh, for his earlier behavior.

Lord Shiva, through Sage Narada’s drama, wanted to show everyone that their parents are their first world.  He also wanted to show that you could gather knowledge and answers by traveling the world as Karttikeya did, or stay in the same place looking inward to get them as Ganesha did.  Om Namah Shivaya.


Mystical Meanings

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

My Guru told us this story many times, but with one small alteration.  Ganesha decided to circle his parents three times because they are the source and container of all the worlds.  Shiva is the primordial reality, who has taken form within this universe, sitting on Mt. Kailasa so that He is in the world that He has created.  He is not merely an observer; He is a participant-observer.  That makes Him available to us!

Shree Parvati is a human girl who became a Goddess, specifically for the purpose of marrying Shiva.  She had a head start, of course, for She was an incarnation of the primordial energy, Shakti, drawn into human birth by the pleas of humankind.  Her intense practices transformed her into a Goddess, which She already was, as are you.  But you need to do some work on yourself before you discover your inherent Divinity.

Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati sit on Mt. Kailasa, both in the world and beyond the world.  They are the substance and energy of which the world is made, which means the world is within them, while they are within it.  Ganesha used this mystical truth to win the race, and his boon was not only a mango, but that he would be invoked at the beginning of every ceremony and every venture.  It is Ganesha that opens the doorway to the celestial and cosmic realms, so every puja (classical ceremony) begins with worship of Ganesha .

This mystical truth is true of you as well, you are in the universe, but the universe is within you.  When you look outside, you can see only part of the universe, plus you get ensnared in it,  When you look inside, you see the whole, which is the universe and the One who has become it, who is Shiva, who is you.

Perception: What Color are Your Glasses?

By Mangala Allen

When life’s challenges seem insurmountable, you are caught in the tangled web of your mind.  Swami Muktananda described it like you’re looking at the world through tinted glasses, altering the color of what you see.  Your mind is colored by your past experiences and the reactions you still suffer from.  Your expectations for how things should be add another layer to your inner process.  Your get lost in a chaotic cycle of expectation, desire and disappointment.

image from

“Change the color of your glasses,” Muktananda used to say.  When you dissolve the tinted lenses of your mind, you are liberated from the chaotic cycle.  How do you do this?  Look within.  Discover the treasure inside that is your very own Self.  You are Consciousness-itself.

Consciousness contracts to become you but, while contracting, makes you forget who you are.  As your mind clears you recognize your Self as Consciousness.  Then, you see everyone and everything as an expression of Consciousness.  Your perception is profoundly different when the light of Consciousness illumines you from within.

“The world exists solely to support your spiritual upliftment.  Everything is conspiring to liberate you.”

— Swami Nirmalananda*

I always had a fear of using computers.  When I started my Master’s degree, at the age of 50, I had to learn to use a computer so I could research and write papers.  I never got beyond this stage.  I was afraid I would push the wrong button and create an entanglement that no one could unravel.  Circumstances kept arising that required me to have more computer skills but I shied away from learning anything new.

I was reacting to the clutter in my mind with anxiety; my fear was holding me back.  Eventually Swami Nirmalananda gave me seva that required learning new computer skills.  This time I chose to face my fear.  It ultimately dissolved.

This profoundly simple choice would not have been possible for me before yoga.  My practices have helped me discover what is inside.  I am more than I knew.  I discover more about myself everyday, now that I see life’s challenges as ways to experience the Consciousness I am.

Practice yoga to find the deeper dimension within you.  As you become aware of the ever-arising flow of bliss inside, you no longer need externals to support you.  You are supported from within, experiencing things as they are, without longing for them to be different.  No longer compelled to action, you choose how and when to respond — based on a clear view of the circumstances at hand.  You’re looking at the world through Consciousness-colored lenses.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow.

* Contemplation Article – It’s All for You! – February 2017

Mind, Intellect, and Ego

By Mati Gilbert

Mommy-Ears!  If you have had a child or cared for one, you know what this is. It is your ability to know, without hearing a sound or cry, that your child needs you — before or just as it happens. At this time in life, this is a blessing. When my son was an infant, I would sit outside his bedroom door, just listening. Later, somehow, some way, my Mommy-Ears were activated. I could sleep comfortably in my bed, being aware. This was before electronic baby monitors.

This ability becomes a curse when you take comments about your child to heart, even taking it as a criticism of your parenting. This can happen if your child fails a test, gets into a fight does something not sanctioned as good. “OMG!  People will think I am a terrible mother. How could I let this happen?”

The opposite is also true. You might like to share stories about your child’s good deeds with others. “See, I am a good Mom,” patting yourself on the back. This is your ego kicking in! In reality, your child is an individual who must grow into taking credit or blame for his or her own actions. And you must deal with your ego, without taking it out on your kids or using it to hog-tie them.

Ego is one of your mind’s three functions:

  • your outward-looking (always busy) mind,
  • your intellect which analyzes and names,
  • and your ego which uses outer things to create your sense of identity.

When you accept credit or blame for a thought or action, you’re using it to create an identity that you feel good or bad about.

Mind and intellect work together to empower you to perceive things, as well as analyze, classify, and categorize. Your highest use of them is to prioritize finding your own inner Self — your Divinity, which is already complete within. Ego, the function of mind that creates your identity, then identifies with Consciousness, which is your own Self.

“The ego knows that if your sense of smallness were to go, it too would have to go. The ego shows you to yourself in a wrong light.” — Swami Muktananda

Ego is your mind’s ability to build a sense of self when you say “I,” creating the limited sense of “I am a woman,” “I am a mom.” When you remove the last word in each of these phrases, you end up with “I am.” Now the “I” is pure Consciousness.

Swami Nirmalananda says, “Once you receive Shaktipat, you are on the path toward the knowing of your own inner Divinity. As you grow into your Self, your ego is transformed.  It is put in service to Consciousness.”

When my son returned home from college, my Mommyy-Ears were again activated. They hadn’t gone away, but had been dormant. I would lie in bed waiting for him to come home, not asleep and not awake, just aware.

Finally, my intellect told me my ego was not involved in this. My son, now an adult, is responsible for his own actions. I care but I’m not in charge. That night, I turned off my Mommy-Ears. I let go of that identity, moving past my ego and past my mind, which freed me to open my heart and find the inner knowing of my own inherent Divinity.