Category Archives: Mystical Living

Bowing — The Mystical Play

By Swami Satrupananda

Many yoga classes end with bringing your hands together in anjali mudra (prayer pose). You may bow your head to the teacher and say, “Namaste.”  Meditation programs with a Meditation Master might offer an opportunity to bow to them. Yoga is about knowing who you really are. It’s about you. So why do you bow to others?

Let’s step back and look at bowing around the world. I was introduced to bowing in church. Built into the pews were kneelers. Part way through the service, we would kneel, bow our heads and say a prayer. At an international conference, I was exchanging my business card with a gentleman from Japan. He held his business cards with both hands, bowed his head and handed one to me. Recently, I watched a video of the very popular Korean music group BTS. One of the group members spotted his parents in the crowd at a stadium performance. He immediately bowed down, fully prostrated, to his parents in front of thousands of fans. In many Eastern countries, children bow to their parents.

In the East, bowing is interwoven into their everyday life. In the West, we might bow at church.  But in our day-to-day lives, bowing is not as popular. It is perceived as being submissive, inferior, and subservient. This is part of the definition of bowing. Yet bowing also means to lower your head or upper body as a sign of respect. The businessman was showing respect as he presented his business card, not submission. The BTS band member was showing gratitude for his parents, not subservience.

With the popular namaste greeting, bowing is gaining a better reputation in the West. During the pandemic, a news article recommended namaste as a replacement for shaking hands. While bowing may be weaving into our culture, why is bowing part of yoga? It’s the expression of respect and gratitude that is important. In yoga class, your teacher says “namaste” as an expression of respect for you. When you respond with “namaste,” you are expressing your gratitude. And yet it is more than gratitude. In my Yoga Teacher Training, this definition of namaste was shared:

I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me. We are one.

When you say “namaste,” you are cultivating your ability to be in that place. That place in you is where you are the One. That place is the source of love, truth, light, and peace. And from that place in you, you see the same One, being everyone and everything. There is only One here. How do you get to know yourself as the One? By bowing. Namaste literally means “bow to you.” Bowing is an act of honoring.

You are what you honor. If you honor education, you’ll go to school and earn a degree. You become educated. If you honor family, you’ll spend lots of time with them, create family traditions and memories. You’ll be a family man or woman. If you honor a sport, you’ll know all about it. You’ll play it or watch a lot of it on TV. You’ll wear sporting gear or a shirt with your favorite team’s logo. You’ll be a sports person. You are what you honor.

Yoga says to honor the One that you are so that you become that One. My Guru’s Guru described it this way,  “When bow, you become one with that to which you are bowing.”

With the namaste greeting, you are bowing to the other person. Does that you mean that you become the other person? No. You are bowing to the One that is being the other person, while being you. This can get tricky when you are bowing to unenlightened beings. The not-knowing of their own One-ness blocks the light of the One shining through them. In contrast, when you bow to someone who knows their own One-ness and they see that One-ness in you, something different happens.

This has been my experience. Every time I bow to my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, I have an experience of my own One-ness. One day as I bowed to her, I had an inner vision of our universe. I was the whole universe and the whole universe was inside me. As I continued to surrender in my bow, my being expanded. I am not merely the universe; I am the infinity that includes the universe and beyond. I am the infinite One-ness. All of this from a bow.

When you bow to an Enlightened Being, they know their One-ness. They also see that same One in you. The One is being both the person bowing and the person being bowed to. The One is being the two honoring the One. That is the mystical play of bowing. Every time you bow, you play in that mystical non-dual duality. And when you bow to an Enlightened Being, they enliven that play. So you can know that you are the One bowing and the One being bowed to.

I Live in the Guru’s House

By Swami Samvidaananda Saraswati

I didn’t know I wanted a Guru, let alone to live in her house.  But from a young age I knew I wanted… something.  I was looking for something I couldn’t find in the choices that were presented to me.  I was told that when I grew up I could be a ballerina, teacher, wife, mother, secretary, nurse.

Then I met Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  She is a Guru, a spiritual teacher.  She offered an additional option: I could be enlightened.  She taught me about the Self, the Divine essence of my being.  It’s not just of my being, but of your being.  Your essence is the One Divine Essence that is being everything that exists, yet beyond everything that exists.  The One is called Self.  Because when you experience the One, you experience your Self.  There’s only One, and it’s you. 

Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi) doesn’t simply teach you about the Self.  She gives you the experience of your Self.  And she promises that one day you will never not know your own Divinity. You won’t merely have a glimpse of your Divine Essence; it will become your living experience.  You will BE the Beingness you are.  You will recognize everyone and everything that exists as another form of the same Divine Beingness.  In this tradition, this is called Self Realization.  It’s also called Enlightenment.

How can Gurudevi make that promise?  An ancient yoga text explains:

Gururupaaya.h — Shiva Sutras 2.6

The Guru is the means and the goal.

The Guru is the way by which you can know your Self and become enlightened.  Only if someone has something, can they give it to you.  If I wanted to give you a cookie, I’d have to have a cookie to give.  Gurudevi is a knower of the Self, so she can give that knowing to you.  She has the ability spark an inner awakening in you, so that you know your own Self.  The inner awakening is an initiation called Shaktipat. 

A Shaktipat Guru is extremely rare.  This initiation is her way of serving mankind; it is her gift to you.  Once your inherent Divinity is revealed to you, you can’t go back to not-knowing.  The pain and despair of feeling small, separate, and alone can no longer bind you.

At first, you can easily fall back into the old, limiting patterns in your mind.  They tell you are small, that you are “less than.”  But when you apply yourself to the practices, especially meditation, you dissolve those limiting patterns.  Meditation by meditation, you have experiences of your Self. 

You experience being happy, whole, fulfilled, peaceful, joyful, blissful.  These become new Self-made patterns in your mind.  Thus your mind will no longer block you.  So you must do the practices.  Once you receive Shaktipat initiation, your enlightenment is guaranteed.  But you play a part in how quickly it will happen.

And so, I live in the Guru’s house.  It’s called an Ashram.  One reason I live here is that it’s an option.  Gurudevi could live alone.  But from her unending generosity and dedication to supporting others’ Self-Realization, she established her Ashram.  She chose a home big enough that she can invite people in.  And she created a daily structure filled with yogic practices: meditation and chanting and seva (selfless service).  This structure ensures you are never too far away from your Self.

I live here because I’m dedicated to doing the practices that will get me enlightened.  I’m dedicated because I’m motivated.  Beneath everything else I’ve done in my life, there was a feeling that something was missing.  And there was: my Self.

I also live at the Guru’s house because I want to give back.  I want to support her and the organization she has created to give this inestimably precious gift to the world. There’s no amount that I can give that can equal the gift of my Self.  But I try.

This doesn’t mean you have to live in an Ashram.  Of course, it’s the purpose of a human life: to become Self-Realized.  It’s your personal destiny.  But you can experience the truth of your own being while you continue to live your life.  You can meditate, you can know the Self, you can be Self-Realized.  And you’ll continue to live the same life, with your same family.  You can do the things you’ve always done.

Except… you’ll be happy.  More than happy, you will know you own Divinity wherever you are in the world.  Whatever you see, you’ll be looking into the mirror of your Divinity all the time.  You get to choose if this is something that you want.  If you do, Gurudevi can help you get it.

Naturally Inclined toward Liberation

By Swami Shrutananda

Your mind specializes in repetitive thoughts focusing on negatives, worries and fears.  Most of your thoughts are not new, innovative, creative, inspiring and uplifting.  In fact, ninety to ninety-five percent of them are reruns!  If that were happening on your TV, you would turn it off.  Why don’t you do that with your mind?  Oh, because you can’t!  Your mind is like the Energizer Bunny.  It just keeps going and going and going. 

The quality of what you are thinking completely imbues your mind.  That becomes who you are.  If you are feeling angry you say, “I am angry.”  Not that you feel angry — but “I am angry.  This is who I am.”  This is called bondage.  Your mind keeps you bound in a limited sense of self.  You share this with others.  “Hello, I am angry.  Who are you?  Oh, you’re sad.  Hello, sad.”

Even creative thoughts keep you bound.  The mind can create uplifting and beautiful things, including fine art, great music, stunning landscapes.  The problem is that you follow your mind wherever it goes.  You never look deeper within to the One who has a mind.  So your experience is “I am my mind,” which is very limited, even when it’s creative.  You have a mind, but you are not your mind.  You are so much more. 

You are vast, all encompassing, the One Reality in all that exists.  You are Absolute Ever-Existent Beingness.  To experience and to know this greater reality, you must transform your mind.  Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras describes:

Tadaa hi viveka-nimnam kaivalya-praagbhaaram chittam.

— Yoga Sutra 4.26

Then the yogi’s mind is inclined towards discerning [the difference between mind and Self] and is heading toward liberation.

When you understand the difference between your mind and your Self, you are headed toward liberation.  In meditation, I had the experience of the vastness of my being.  I saw my mind as an orb, an object.  I wondered, who is aware of my mind?  Contemplating this question, I realized the “who” was my Own Self — the deepest dimension of my being.  I realized that I have my mind and I am much much greater than my mind.

My mind can still ruminate over my likes and dislikes.  It can get caught up in these thoughts.  Yet I am now more aware when I am entangled in my mind.  I understand that my mind is obscuring my state.  Then I can step back into my Self.

I see the difference between my vast inner Beingness and universes created by my mind.  Those universes are puny compared to the inner vastness and depth of my being. 

It is your mind’s repetitive thoughts that keep you bound. To head your mind toward liberation you need to transform your mind.  You will still have a mind, yet you will know the One who has a mind.  

Doing your yoga poses and Ujjayi Pranayama transforms your mind from the outside-inward.  Yet the easiest, most powerful and most effective practices are yoga’s Grace practices.  Working from the inside-outward, they give you the inner experience of Self.  This profound experience transforms your mind.  This is the function of a Shaktipat Guru.  Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi) is such a Guru.

Yoga’s Grace practices include receiving Shaktipat and repeating the enlivened mantra.  Plus you spend time with the Guru or you simply keep her in your thoughts.  These practices are powerful conduits of Grace.  They reveal your Own Self to you when you are practicing.

When you repeat mantra for meditation, you invoke Grace, and your meditations are deep and easy.  You explore the inner realms of your being.  These inner experiences of Self transform your mind.  Through this transformation, you come to know the difference between your own Self and your mind.  Now your mind is drawn toward liberation more quickly and more easily. 

You will have the deep and immediate experience of your own Self again and again.  You can come to live in that state of freedom all the time — with your eyes closed and with your eyes open.  This is a beautiful way to live.

Change & the Changeless

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

“The one thing constant in life is change,” advises an ancient Greek philosopher. The last year has certainly proven this to everyone in the world! 

Yoga goes one step further, teaching that, in the midst of change, there is an inner principle that remains steady. The constancy of your own presence never leaves you. However, if you define yourself by the outer situations, your sense of self changes with the changes of life. One moment you will be happy, and the next moment you will not. If you measure your sense of self by your net worth, or if you are merely at the mercy of the evening news, you’ll be living on a roller coaster, rising and falling from heaven to an inner hell.

People react differently to change. Some people live for change. Others like to have a choice in the change. Some people resist change; others are relieved when it is thrust upon them. The most adaptable and flexible people are those with an inner sense core of stability. They handle and enjoy whatever life offers. One Sanskrit text describes this by stating, “Realizing the inner Truth, one can live anywhere.”

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Your inner Self is the one changeless principle. When life is swirling around outside of you, your inner Self remains serene and undisturbed.  A Sanskrit verse describes this as niralambaya, needing no support. You do not depend on an outer role or identity to prop up your sense of self. Your actions and words come from the changeless inner principle.

The goal of yoga is for you to live in this state. It is already familiar to you, because you get a taste of it at the end of every Svaroopa® yoga class. This inner assurance eliminates any need to defend or protect yourself. It is never affected by stress or hurry. It is the deep experience of your inner Self in every moment.

Once you’ve found it, it fills into the other parts of your life. This inner support becomes tangible in every moment of your day. The real meaning of life comes from your inner Self. This is what yoga gives you. You taste it in Shavasana (Relaxation Pose). It is there in every yoga pose. You can perfect it in meditation. In this way your practice of yoga becomes the perfect preparation for life — you are able to find the changeless principle even in the midst of life’s changes. Then, every change is a celebration of life itself! Do more yoga.

Calm within the Storm

By Swami Sahajananda

Walking to the window after meditation, I looked out at the life size Nataraja (dancing Shiva) in the garden.  So peaceful and more than peaceful — still.

The total stillness of inner absorption shone from his face, captivating me.  All around him the universe dances in ceaseless movement.  Flames ring his body.  One hand plays a drum.  One knee is bent and lifted in the whirl.  Shiva’s other foot pins a small being, who embodies ignorance, to the ground.  Shiva’s dreadlocks fling wildly in all directions.  A snake encircles one arm; another arm holds fire.  Within all this frenzy, Shiva’s face radiates inner calm.

As I stood there, the stillness of Shiva’s face evoked pure inner peace within me.  I thought, “This is what I need, this is what the world needs right now.”  Can we stay calm, centered and fully alive in inner stillness while the world whirls?  For a year, the world has been whirling around us on many levels.  Sustained by yoga practices, you can settle within.  You can experience inner calm even with an uncertain, chaotic world outside.

Nataraja — dancing Shiva — embodies the state of being fully grounded and centered in inner stillness.  An ancient yogic text describes this divine inner state, which is called Turiya:

Madhye’vara prasava.h. — Shiva Sutras 3.23

Turiya should fill all three states, not just the beginning and ending of each. — Translation by Swami Nirmalananda

The three states of mind, which you cycle through daily, are waking, dreaming and deep sleep.  Turiya, the fourth state, is a state of being.  Turiya exists within and underlies all three states of mind.  Turiya is your entryway to the deeper, divine stillness shining through Nataraja’s face.  

You can understand turiya by thinking of the ocean.  Each wave on the surface appears to be an individual wave.  Yet what is each wave made of?  It is made of ocean water.  Even though each wave appears to be separate, when you look deeper, you see all waves are part of the vast ocean.  In the same way, you live in the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.  Turiya is the ocean, your own deeper state of being.  The other three states are superficial.  Turiya is a much deeper state, hidden under the other three.

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To see the waves as part of the ocean, you must dive deep into the ocean.  In the same way, you find turiya by diving deeper within.  Yoga’s meditative practices make this possible.  You can access this divine state of inner bliss and calm.  All yoga practices are for the purpose to turn you from outward focus to inward focus.  Looking inward, you are carried to experiencing and knowing your own Self.  Ultimately, you can abide in this bliss.

Once you realize you’re caught up in worldly bustle again, you can use a yoga practice to settle you back inside.  Simply take a slow breath or two.  Or, if you are standing, shifting your weight evenly into both feet.  If you are sitting, settle your weight into both sitbones evenly.

The most powerful — yet still simple — of all yogic practices is mantra repetition (japa).  You can do it silently anywhere.  The sacred words of the mantra take you within, opening the doorway to the deeper dimension of your own being.  You find your own Self, who you truly are.  Amidst the whirling activity around you, you can settle into your own Self and abide there.

Study with a Mystic, Become a Mystic

By Swami Satrupananda

When I met Gurudevi Nirmalananda, I didn’t know about mystics.  Yet it was obvious that she was having a different experience of being human than I was.  Answering one of my questions, she said, “I experience more bliss than you do.”  Bliss? What is bliss?  I wanted to know more.  I wanted to experience this “more bliss.”

By studying with Gurudevi, I learned that bliss is the experience of the knowing of your own Divinity.  Gurudevi is established in this knowing.  She also knows and sees that we are all the same One Divine Reality.  This is true, even if we don’t know it.  This was a radical concept for my scientific mind to grasp.  Yet, from my own experiences with Gurudevi, I could not ignore the evidence of its truth.

As I studied further, I learned those who experience their beingness as one with the Divine are called mystics.  This ultimate experience is not limited to one spiritual or religious path.  There have been many mystics throughout time and across cultures.  Here are some quotations from a few great mystics:

Saint Teresa of Ávila

Roman Catholic Saint

Lived: Spain 1515-1582

 “The Lord is very deep within their own souls… Within oneself, clearly, is the best place to look; and it’s not necessary to go to heaven, nor any further than our own selves.1

Julian of Norwich

English theologian and anchoress

Lived: England 1343-1416

I saw no difference between God and our substance, but, as it were, all God.2

Mansour Al-Hallaj

Persian Mystic & Poet

Lived: Persia 858-922

I am the Truth.3

I saw my Lord with the eye of the heart.

I asked, ‘Who are You?’

He replied, ‘You.’4

Adi Shankaracharya

Indian philosopher

Lived: India, 700-750

I am completely full and perfect.

I am Shiva.

I am my own Self.

I am eternal bliss. I am eternal bliss.

The mystics agree that you find the Divine within.  And the Divinity you find within is not different from you.

As the science of mysticism, yoga describes in detail the mystical experience.  Yoga also defines the stages and steps that take you to mystical knowing.  Yoga’s practices, tested throughout time, are proven 100% reliable in taking you to this destination. Gurudevi is proof of that as a modern-day yoga master and mystic.

Gurudevi discovered her mystical reality by studying with her teacher Swami Muktananda. Muktananda did the practices his teacher, Bhagavan Nityananda, gave him.  Gurudevi and Baba Muktananda followed the path defined by the science of yoga by following the directions from a Master teacher.  It worked.

Muktananda describes his mystical experience as:

“He is supreme Bliss

and supreme Consciousness.

He, truly, is God,

is Nityananda, is Muktananda.”

Swami Muktananda, Mukteshwari, Verse 22

In this verse, Muktananda describes himself many ways, showing each is equivalent:  

supreme Bliss = supreme Consciousness = God = Nityananda = Muktananda

Consciousness, the knowingness of your own Self, is a bliss-full experience. It is the same as the One Divine Reality, also called God. This is who Muktananda discovered himself to be inside. It is the same One Divine Reality that Nityananda found within himself as himself. And it is the same Divine Essence that you will find as your own Self.

When you discover your inherent Essence, you will make the same statement.  You can personalize Muktananda’s quote:

“I am supreme Bliss

and supreme Consciousness.

I, truly, am God,

 am Nityananda, am Muktananda.”

That has been my experience. Sometimes I experience myself as Bliss, other times as Consciousness. I’ve also had the experience, “I am Nityananda.”  The first time it happened, I was at Nityananda’s temple in Ganeshpuri India.  I was waving a candle flame in front of Nityananda’s enlivened statue.  On the outside, there appeared to be two: Nityananda and me.  But my experience was that there was only One.  I was Nityananda waving the flame to Nityananda.  The flame and the air between us was Nityananda.  The act of waving the flame was the same One Nityananda.  Then on the inside Nityananda said to me, “I am Nityananda.”  He wasn’t telling me his name.  He was telling me who I am.

The mystics promise this result from the science of yoga.  When you follow the scientific formula, you get the proven results.  Originally tested in India over millennia, principles of the science of yoga are now being proven around the globe.

What is the scientific formula of yoga’s mystical practices?  Study with a living mystic. Gurudevi Nirmalananda has mastered the formula by following her teacher’s directions. Now she guides you along the way since she knows both the path and the destination. Then you will also discover the mystical reality: Divinity is found within as you.

1 http://daughterofthechurch.weebly.com/visions-teresa-avila.html
2 https://www.imere.org/content/mystical-experience-julian-norwich
3 https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/anal-haqq-i-am-the-truth-the-most-famous-of-the-sufi-sathiyat-ecstatic-utterances-or-paradoxes
4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Hallaj

You Are The Light

By Swami Prajñananda

Darkness cannot resist the light.  In a dark room, if you light a single candle, it banishes the dark.  It works the same way when you do your yoga practices.  Whether you are doing Svaroopa® yoga poses, breathing, mantra, meditation or more, there is a common denominator.  You are invoking the light of your own being, which yoga names your capital-S Self.  This light dwells within you as you. 

Yet for most people the perception of this light is diminished or hidden — covered over by the darkness of not-knowing.  Instead of seeing and being the light, you focus on the limitations that keep you in the dark. 

Yoga gives you the tools to cut through those limitations, like a candle flame cutting through the darkness.  When you access your own inner light, it can then shine forth fully.  This quality of light and illumination is one reason that it is called “the fire of yoga.”  This fire consumes what holds you back from the knowing of your own Self.

Here at the Ashram, we live across the street from a river.  During the transition seasons we get heavy fog coming off the river in the mornings.  The fog can be so thick that you are not able to see even a foot in front of you.  Yet, like clockwork, when the sun rises, the light dissolves the fog. 

There is a yogic teaching that describes this phenomenon:

citi-vahnir avaroha-pade channo’pi maatrayaa meyendhana.m plu.syati.

— Pratyabhij~nah.rdayam 14

The Fire of Consciousness, though concealed in the individual, burns away Maayaa’s limiting knowledge like fire burns fuel.

— translated by Swami Nirmalananda

In this aphorism, your own Self is named Chiti — the Fire of Consciousness.  Fire is a good description for Chiti because the qualities of fire are light and heat.  The light in this case refers to Chiti’s knowing, named Consciousness.  Consciousness is the knowing of your own being; you know that you are you.  This knowing is and can be described as light. 

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It’s like in those old-school cartoons when the character all of a sudden realizes something and a lightbulb goes on above their head.  The light in the lightbulb represents understanding and knowing. 

Chiti’s knowing also has the quality of heat.  Like how fire burns fuel, the heat of your knowing burns away the density of your not-knowing.  The not-knowing is named Maayaa, the contracting energy that conceals the light of your own being.  When you are stuck in Maayaa, you think that you are this small and limited individual, lonely and alone.  Svaroopa® yoga specializes in the turning within, to invoke your own inner light, which is the Fire of Consciousness.  Like fog in the sunlight, Maayaa’s limiting knowledge is dissolved by this inner fire. 

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So how does this affect you in your day-to-day life?  When you do Svaroopa® yoga practices, you shift your focus from Maayaa to Chiti, from outside to inside, from not-knowing to knowing.  With this shift in focus, the density and thickness, which had been blinding you from seeing your own brilliant Self, simply melts away.  You get immediate results.  In your spiritual practice, you settle more deeply into your Self.  It is a feeling of ease within your own skin.  You feel like you.  When you feel like you, you show up in your life with that same sense of ease. 

Because you are based in the light of your own being, everything in your life becomes easier and more joyous.  Even when you experience challenges, you face them with surety and steadiness.  Darkness cannot resist the light because the light is who you truly are.  To live in the light, to know and be it, do more yoga.

Treat or Retreat?

By Swami Shrutananda

My friend texted, “ “My feast is finally ready.  No veggies.  Just carbs.  I love that Mac & Cheese.” On Christmas Day, she sent a lovely picture of steaming Mac & Cheese, homemade wheat bread and a pecan pie.  Later she texted, “I can’t stop eating it.  I have no control.  I want that bliss feeling over and over and over.” 

Especially during the holidays, many people find themselves in this food frenzy.  They go from one bliss bite to another.  Some even get bliss from veggies like collard greens, kale or a fresh green salad.  Your body knows these foods are what it needs.  You can feel your body absorbing the vitamins and minerals.  Bliss treat!  Unfortunately, it’s temporary.

You are propelled into seeking bliss because your essence is bliss but you’re not in touch with it.  Your bliss need is built into you.  Anytime bliss is missing, you don’t feel like yourself.  When you are in bliss, you stop chasing and settle into who you really are.

We not only seek bliss from food.  We also seek bliss from places, people, pets, music, etc.  If I get to sit in the garden, if I talk with that person, hug my pet, listen to beautiful music or go for a walk, I will feel happy.  It works most of the time, though not always.  On a cold winter day when it’s sleeting, you cannot sit in your garden.  You cannot enjoy the sun and the view of the beautiful trees, flowers and birds.  When you call a dear friend, sometimes they are needy or grumpy.  At times, your pet is whiny, not cuddly.  Sometimes your favorite music does not give you a bliss hit.  Walking can be no fun when your body is hurting.  The things on your happiness list are not always reliable.  In fact, they can cause you pain, especially when they don’t give you the bliss treat you wanted and needed. 

Later that same day, I phoned my friend.  She had a belly ache and sadly announced that she no longer loves pecan pie.  After all these years of giving her a bliss treat, the pie was now too sweet.  My friend asked what I was doing on Christmas.  I replied, “I am doing a full-day yoga retreat at the Ashram from 5:15 am to 9:30 pm.  We are doing three rounds, each with a yoga class, chanting and meditation.  With each round I experience more and more bliss.”  My friend said, “For bliss I do treats, and you do retreats.”  We laughed. 

Yes, you can do bliss treats that give you momentary experiences of bliss.  This is called dependent bliss.  You depend on something outside of you to give you bliss.  That thing, however, will eventually lead to pain in one of two ways.  It leads to pain when you do too much of it.  Or you experience pain when that thing fails to give you the bliss you wanted. 

It’s called “normal” to try to get in as many bliss treats as you can every day, so you will make yourself happy.  Yet, in-between the bliss treats you will be dissatisfied, even in pain.  My teacher explains that you must find bliss within:

For lasting bliss, for ever-expanding ecstasy, you have to find the inner source. Your own Self is the source of cosmic bliss.  Once you’ve experienced it, it is the only kind you’ll ever really be satisfied with.

— Swami Nirmalananda, Practical Mysticism 5: Pleasure, Pain & Sex

What if you could live in bliss all the time no matter where you were, who you were with or what you were doing?  This is independent bliss.  To build this capacity you need bliss retreats.  Yoga retreats are about finding your source of bliss — inside.  You don’t need it to be a whole day.  A bliss retreat can be just a minute or a little more.

For an instant bliss retreat, you can repeat mantra, chant or meditate.  How does this work?  While you do these practices, your brain is rewiring itself.  This capacity is called neural plasticity.  Few people grasp how quickly this shift can happen and how extensive brain changes can be.  How much control each of us has over the process is surprising!  In Bliss Brain, Dr. Dawson Church finds stunning evidence of rapid and radical brain change.  In just eight weeks of meditation, 12 minutes a day, he found that measurable changes are produced in our brains.  These changes make us calmer, happier, and more resilient.

Dr. Church says, “When we cultivate these pleasurable states over time, they become traits.  We don’t just feel more blissful as a temporary state; the changes are literally hard-wired into our brains, becoming stable and enduring personality traits.”  His research shows that neural remodeling goes much farther than scientists have previously understood, with stress circuits shriveling over time.  Simultaneously, “The Enlightenment Circuit” — associated with happiness, compassion, productivity, creativity, and resilience — expands.”

Long before these discoveries by researchers, the ancient sages knew this experience and described it:

Lokanandah samadhi-sukham.
— Shiva Sutras 1.18

In every moment, such a yogi easily experiences the bliss of Consciousness.

— Rendered by Swami Nirmalananda

Who is such a yogi? Such a yogi is established in the experiential knowing of their own Divine Self.  How do you get there?  Church states that during deep meditation “the 7 neurochemicals of ecstasy” are released in our brains.  These include anandamide, a neurotransmitter that’s been named “the bliss molecule.”  Notice that aananda, the Sanskrit word for bliss, is the root of the neurotransmitter anandamide.  Your brain makes bliss chemicals.

How does this work?  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation specializes in carrying you to the source of bliss, your own Divine Essence, your own Self.  This feeling of your own Self has a physical effect on your body and your mind.  Your mind becomes saturated in bliss of your own being.

Starting right now, through the Svaroopa® Sciences practices developed by Swami Nirmalananda, you can begin to rewire your brain for bliss.  It will not take 8 weeks.  It won’t even take 12 minutes.  In this Shaktipat tradition, the effects are almost instantaneous.  Our practices are infused with Divine Power.  This Grace flows through our lineage — Swami Nirmalananda, her Guru, Baba Muktananda, and his Guru, Bhagawan Nityananda, and meditation masters back through countless ages.  Each has added their energy, support and blessings to these practices. 

You put forth even a little bit of effort and you get an avalanche of benefit back.  The practices that return the most bliss for your investment of time are chanting, japa (repetition of mantra), and especially meditation.  Even a minute of these practices will begin to rewire your brain for bliss, revealing your own Divine Essence to you. January is a lovely time to make a New Year’s Resolution.  You choose — treats or retreats.  Yoga promises that, when you do more and more yoga, your state will be continuous ever-expanding ecstasy.

The God-Feeling

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

While you’re waiting for life to get back to normal, you’re still limited in where you can go and who you can see.  Sheltering in place means you can’t do a lot of your usual things.  However, the truth is that most of them are timewasters. 

I remember arriving at a rural hotel in India near an Ashram I was visiting.  The staff member taking me to my room proudly pointed out their pool, tennis courts and a game room.  He encouraged me to make use of their amenities but I demurred.  Shocked, he asked, “What will you do to kill time?”

Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame in the 1958 film

I don’t want to kill time.  I want to make full use of every precious moment.  Life is for living, I learned from the fictional sage named Auntie Mame.  I’m still sure she was right.  But what kind of living can you do in a pandemic?  Well, it turns out that living fully is not about being busy in every moment.  It’s about being more alive, whether you’re busy or quiet.  The whole point of yoga is to make you more alive, more present, more fulfilled and full-filled within yourself.

For that, you need to find your capital S-Self — the Divine Reality within you that is you.  Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation opens your access to this vast, pure, sacred and holy interior dimension.  The specialty of this tradition is Shaktipat, the inner opening which gives you easy access to the God within.

It’s the God-feeling that I’m talking about, not the personhood of God, not your idea of who or what God is – but what you feel inside when you experience God.  My Guru explained it this way:

Bhave hi vidyate devo.

God is in your feeling

You know the feeling.  I know the feeling.  You look for this inner feeling in so many places and in so many ways – but the reality is that, when you feel it, it’s inside.  No matter where you go or what you do, the experience is an internal experience.

I went to a concert put on by the Tibetan Gyüto monks; each man sings a chord on his own.  And they sing it all together.  It is amazing!  But it’s not the sound that’s so incredible – it’s the inner experience it provokes.  Time stops as these sounds hang in the air, combining and twining around each other – total timelessness, pure space and vastness, deep inner opening and pure bliss.  The God-feeling.  That’s the point.

At the summer camp I went to as a teen, there was a quiet area, a lookout point, reserved for those who joined a special group.  We got special badges and only those with the badge could go to this spot.  It was a place of silence.  I loved it there, but I couldn’t figure out why.  I’d go look at the view of the valley, but the feeling didn’t come from there.  It didn’t come from the trees, not from the earth or the rock I liked to sit on.  What I couldn’t figure out was that it was coming from inside me. The God-feeling. That’s the point.

I sat in the sunroom of my home the other day, sipping some hot tea.  After a while I stopped sipping and just enjoyed the light filtering through the clouds and trees.  No words.  No reason to be there, no reason to leave.  No memories or plans.  Just being.  The God-feeling.  That’s the point.

Meditation is the best pathway, of course.  We use mantra to get past the mind’s churning, to dive deeper within.  It’s amazingly easy, thanks to the energy planted in the mantra by my Guru, and by his Guru before him as well as the many preceding generations. 

Maybe this is what you can do with yourself during remaining months of the pandemic — get filled from the inside out.  Maybe this could be your New Year’s resolution:  to discover your own capital S-Self.  For that, you must meditate.

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A Single Flame

By Gurudevi Nirmalananda

A single candle flame washes the dark out of a whole room.  No scrub bucket needed, you can’t wash the dark away with water.  Only light devours dark.  This theme pervades the holy days around the upcoming solstice.  The shorter days of the Northern Hemisphere celebrate light when we’re missing it; the longer days of the Southern Hemisphere celebrate light in the abundance of its gifts.  Yoga celebrates light all year long, but it’s the inner light that matters.

The pandemic changes the outer landscape, probably affecting your holiday traditions.  It makes each person matter more, because you get to see them or because you don’t.  It’s like your life lights up when they come into it.  As meaningful as that can be, yoga urges you to focus on your own light.  That inner light that you so readily share with others is meant to lighten your own inner landscape.  When you base yourself in the light of your own Beingness, it vaporizes all the dark memories, dissolves all the dark predictions of your future (worries) and makes your burdens easier to carry.  Light banishes heaviness as well as darkness so only one thing remains:  the light of your own being.

oncologynews.com.au

This is yoga’s focus. This is Svaroopa® yoga’s specialty:  to open the doorway inside, to make it easy for you to find your Self.  This is why I have posted free teachings online for you, hundreds of audios and articles that shine the light for you, illumining the pathway inward.  Please allow me to help you discover the pathway inward, especially at this powerful time of year. 

Enjoy the lights shining outside and the people parading through your life so beautifully, but don’t forget who you are while you see all these forms of light.  Be the light.  As you’re looking outward, check and see — who is looking through your eyes? 

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There is only One Reality, being all and seeing through everyone’s eyes, including yours.  There is only One Presence, being you as well as all.  There is only one Light, shining in all, shining as all. Find the sacred source of that light within you.  You are that candle flame that lights the whole room.  When you bring your Self with you, everyone and everything you touch is made sacred.