Monthly Archives: June 2019

Yoga & the Power of Grace

By Swami Nirmalananda & Vidyadevi Stillman

When you are becoming embodied in your own body, grounding and rooting into individuality (small-s self), you expand into your Self (capital-S Self).  People think grounding and rooting are limiting, but being spacey is what is limiting.  Being out of your body is completely limiting.

When you get present in your body, you get expanded when Guru’s Grace is part of the equation.  Without Grace, grounding into your self (small-s self) makes you feel small, lonely, needy, anxious and inadequate.  It’s Grace that turns the inward way into an expansive way.  In meditation, you invoke Grace when you repeat mantra and meditate on your own Self.  In poses, you invoke Grace when you lengthen your tailbone and open your spine.

This means that, as you become more embodied, you discover that Self (capital-S Self) is found in your own self (small-s self).  You come to know, “Oh, I am I!”  Most people think enlightenment is going to be, “Oh! I am something other than what I always was.”  In fact, the moment of recognition is, “I am I.”

Look at it from the other way around:  you won’t realize your Self (capital-S Self) by running away from your self (small-s self).  When you lengthen your tailbone, it is like lightning striking the earth from the sky, coming all the way down and grounding into being you.  This is the Self (capital-S Self) grounded in the self (small-s self).

Try explaining it to yourself it this way:

  • When I get present in my self (small-s self), I am
  • When I am present, I am
  • When I am aware, I am awareness — I am Self (capital-S Self).

Vidyadevi shares a recent meditation that showed her this.  “I was repeating mantra and easing back into my Self.  Then I felt a thin sheet of almost-liquid come down.  It was clearly Nityananda’s[1] presence.  At that point my awareness deepened even more.  I was behind my mind; I experienced bliss.  When my meditation period ended and I opened my eyes, I was still in bliss and behind my mind.  From a deeper place inside I was looking through my mind into the world.  I was still self (small-s self) but grounded in Self (capital-S Self).”

This means that Self (capital “S” Self) is found in self, revealed through Grace, as Nityananda did for her.  Yoga defines grace as one of the five Divine powers, specifically the power of revelation, meaning — Grace Reveals.  Svaroopa® yoga is the yoga of Grace.  Swami Nirmalananda explains, “It all comes from the initiation Nityananda gave to Muktananda, who gave it to me, and now I make that available to you. The blessing flows from one generation to the next, including straight to you.”  The lineage is like a riverbed, which concentrates the flow of water to make it accessible to all.  By doing any Svaroopa® yoga or Svaroopa® meditation practices, you step into the river, so you get wet.  You position yourself to get drenched with Grace.

The flow of Grace is concentrated in a person.  That’s the Guru, the one who carries it to the next generation.  A river without a riverbed is a flood; you need a riverbed to concentrate the water and make it safe and usable.  The Guru is the person who serves as the riverbed, so that the Grace can flow through.  Technically, it is the flow of Grace that is honored by the Sanskrit word “guru.”  The Guru is not a body make of flesh and blood.  The Guru is not a man or a woman.  The Guru is not an individual being or personality.  “Guru” is a function:  the bestowal of Grace.  That job is given to a person, who is acknowledged by the title denoting what they do, “Guru.”

Swami Nityananda (note 1) was asked by a member of the local legislature to define “Guru’s Grace” (guru-k.rpa).  He responded with the following questions: “Where is your hometown?  How long does it take to get there by road?  By sea? By rail?”  After the man replied, Nityananda asked how long it would take by air.  The legislator said that it would take less than 30 minutes.  “Guru’s Grace is like air travel,” Nityananda said, “providing the shortest and fastest way to the place of our origin — in the Infinite.”

How many lifetimes do you want to do, before you discover that the Self (capital-S Self) is found in your own self (small-s self)?  People go round and round in circles for lifetimes, focusing on distractions and mistaken goals.  Yoga’s ultimate goal is to give you your own Self.  Life’s ultimate goal is the discovery and ongoing experience of the bliss of your own Self, in your own self.

When you use Svaroopa® yoga to align your spine, you place yourself in that flow of Grace. Nirmalananda’s studies and dedication to Muktananda guarantees it. This is why Svaroopa® yoga works so quickly, deeply and profoundly — this is a path of Grace.  Get drenched and hop on the airplane!  Do More Yoga!

[1] Swami Nityananda was the Guru of Swami Nirmalananda’s Guru, Swami Muktananda

Infinity in a Body

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

In 1905, Einstein shifted science’s paradigm in his article declaring matter is made of energy, summarized in his famous formula, E=MC2.  This includes everything that appears solid: your body, your yoga blankets, every rock and every springtime daffodil.  They are all made of concentrated energy.  This is now well known and accepted.

The physicists find words to describe their discoveries by quoting the ancient sages of India.

Every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction….without end…

For the modern physicists, then Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomenon.  — Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics

Physicists dedicate themselves to an outer exploration of this universe, down to the atoms and subatomic particles, yet they are finding common ground with poets and yogis, whose own exploration is an inner one.  Our yogic tradition, Kashmiri Shaivism, explains how it is that the scientists, poets and yogis can arrive at the same place:

citi samkocaatmaa cetano’pi sa.mkucita vi”sva-maya.h

— Pratyabhijnahrdayam 4

Consciousness willingly takes on contraction, in order to become both the universe and the individuals, who have the universe as their bodies in a contracted form.

Consciousness (another name for Shiva) is choosing to manifest into form; the formless blissfully dancing into form.  Shiva is concentrating the energy of His own Being into matter, outside and inside, being a grain of sand, being a wildflower and being you. Infinite Reality is taking on all the forms in the universe in order to experience being the forms.  Shiva is being you in order to experience being you. You are the One, the divine, scintillating light of consciousness, in individualized form.

As a human being you have the unique ability to know the whole of Consciousness.  In a Shaktipat (initiation) tradition like ours, these inner experiences open up so easily, which is the point of all the Svaroopa® sciences.

When you start at your tailbone, to release your spinal tensions, you also begin the inner opening that leads to spontaneous Shaktipat.  When you attend a Shaktipat Retreat, you receive intentional Shaktipat, an initiation that opens up the Infinity of your own Divinity.

Or you can simply lie down in Shavasana and listen to Swamiji’s Guided Awareness CD.  Or sit to do japa and meditate.  Turn your attention inward, so you find and know that you are infinity in a body; you are the formless in a form.  Do more yoga.

Originally published April 2014

Finding Infinity in Your Body

by Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.

— William Blake, “Augeries of Innocence,” 1807

William Blake’s ecstatic poem is widely quoted because it speaks to a truth that you know deep inside but usually forget. Consider for a moment, if the world is in a grain of sand, what is in you?  Yoga says you are the whole of infinity in an individualized form, and promises that you can know this by exploring within.

It’s easy to feel like your body is just a body: skin encasing muscles, organs and bones.  You wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and, instead of seeing infinity in your eyes, you see bed-head and teeth that need brushing.  Perceiving your body in this mundane, material way is normal.  It’s a scientific perspective.

It stems from the Renaissance, when Western science began developing logical analysis and systemic observations of the human body and the world. Previously the body was thought to be something that housed the spirit.  It changed in the 16th century, when scientists studied cadavers to understand the human body and learn its secrets, while considering the body to be material — nothing spiritual at all.

Now scientists study living bodies, using x-rays and other types of imaging, but they still consider it to be merely material.  There is a lot more to be found by studying a living body than a dead one, so science has developed incredible and valuable understandings of your body. Yet exploring your physical body is still a limited exploration.

Yoga honors your body as a divine body, while offering you tools and opportunities to cultivate a deeper knowing.  Yoga makes it easy for you to dive inside and find that you are more than you ever dreamed of, that your self is THE Self, the whole of Consciousness.

The Guided Awareness that begins and ends your Svaroopa®  yoga class is one of yoga’s tools.  Resting in Shavasana, a pose recognized as the most important of all the physical practices, you are guided to bring your awareness to each area of your body in turn, “outside and inside.” It can seem like ‘’inside” is an instruction to explore the inner physical reality of your body. Another Teacher Training student in one of Rukmini’s trainings described that she “went ‘inside’ during a long Shavasana, and found herself like Jacques Cousteau, whizzing through her circulatory system, as tiny as a blood cell, on a grand adventure in her body.”

Swamiji had a student in his sixties who enjoyed the opening and closing Shavasanas in every weekly class, but he didn’t talk much.  One day, she talked about “outside and inside” being more, that “inside” is not just bones and muscles.   He shared that he’d thought he was supposed to be developing his ability to see inside his body, to see his muscles and organs and bones, like he would have x-ray vision.

While yogis do develop an awareness of their body that other people don’t have, the Guided Awareness is about much more.  It is about the deeper dimensions of your being.  When you go “inside,” you’re not just going into skin, muscles and bones; you can keep going, into the energy they’re made of.  This energy is conscious.  In fact it is consciousness, which is swirling as energy in order to manifest as you.  When you track it to its source, you discover the One Infinite Reality that is its own source, which yoga names as Shiva. You just have to look a little deeper.

Originally published April 2014

Embodied Awareness

by Vidyadevi Stillman & Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

“At the end of a class, I had the students roll to their sides after their final Shavasana,” says Vidyadevi.  “One man didn’t move.  I looked over at him.  Honestly, he looked dead.  His skin was pale and I couldn’t see his breath moving.  I got up, came over and squeezed his foot several times before he opened his eyes.  For some reason I asked, ‘Where were you?’  He said, ‘Oh, I was at the beach.’”  I said, ‘You need to get into your body!’”

Unfortunately, most people float around outside their body most of the time.  They are a little above and a little in front of their body, which looks half dead — pale, dry and shriveled up.  No wonder zombie movies are so popular!

Svaroopa® yoga classes start with the Guided Awareness in Shavasana.  For the first few weeks or months, you track with the words all the way up to your knees or hips, then you lose the outer sounds, including your teacher’s words.  Have you yet gotten to the point where you can follow the whole Guided Awareness yet?  Being aware of each area of your body that is named, being aware through each of your body parts in turn, and being aware of your whole body all at the same time?  It’s an amazing experience!

As you continue to practice Shavasana and the Guided Awareness, your ability to be embodied increases.  This means that Shavasana is very important. As your ability to hear every word improves, you’re hearing the words without working at it. This is because the Guided Awareness is an “awareness practice,” not a body oriented practice.

Awareness is one of the technical terms of yoga, describing the true nature of your own being.  You have the inherent capacity to be aware without thought, without efforting, and without the doingness associated with your usual mode of perception. In the beginning of your yoga studies, you go unconscious at such profound inner depths, but your Shavasana practice makes you able to be very deep within yourself, yet aware while you are in there. It is not yet the fully empowered awareness that is your own Divine Essence, but it is the beginning of your inner discovery.

This happens because you are already Divine.  The innermost dimensions of your own existence are Consciousness-Itself, as clearly described in one of the Kashmiri Shaivite texts:

Chiti sa.mkochaatmaa chetano’pi sa.mkuchita vi”svamaya.h

– Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam Sutra 4

Consciousness-Itself assumes contraction to become both the universe and the individuals…

This sutra begins with “Chiti,” meaning “Consciousness-Itself,” naming the Reality which contracts to become the whole universe, and specifically points out that Consciousness becomes you. This means that you are pure consciousness, contracted into an individualized form. Consciousness doesn’t lose anything in the process; Consciousness is not diminished in any way.

Swami Nirmalananda uses a metaphor to make it clear:  do you remember running a foot race with a child, and letting them win the race?  Vidyadevi’s nephew wanted to run a foot race around the block to see who could run faster. They ran neck-and-neck all the way, yet at the very end, she let him win.  Did this mean that she was never going to have the capacity to run fast again? No.  It can even be fun to pretend to be small, but you don’t lose your greatness in the process.  Neither does Chiti.

The paradox is that Consciousness is grounding and rooting at the same time that Consciousness is expanding.  By grounding and rooting into self (small-s self), Consciousness is grounding into individuality; yet Consciousness is expanding into multiplicity at the same time.  It’s cosmic; it’s huge.  It is also totally personal.

Originally published Oct 2013