I love spring. Crocuses and daffodils bloom in the yard. The trees’ limbs unfurl fresh new leaves and blossoms. Spring feels like a celebration of life. Every day there are new signs of life. Every day feels fresh and new. I treasure that feeling. I used to rely on the newborn beauty of spring to trigger it for me.
That changed when I found yoga. Yoga says the entrancing newness of spring is always available to you. It’s a quality of your Divine Essence. This is described in a yogic text called the Shiva Sutras:
In every moment, the yogi enjoys the newness of life, the gift of the Goddess.— Shiva Sutras 1.13
Uma-Kumari is the Goddess. She is the energy that births the universe into existence. She existed before time began, and she exists now, creating every moment anew. She uses her Divine will, iccha-shakti, to blossom forth the world and everything that exists. Everything that exists is made from her own existence, out of pure delight. Including you. You are an expression of the Goddess.
You are made of her Divinity. Except she and you are not two. There’s only One. One Divine Reality, called Goddess, called God, called Self. Your Self. You are the One Divine Reality. Except you don’t know your Divinity, most of the time. You get glimpses, like the way springtime gives me a fleeting glimpse of the glorious ever-newness of life.
So how does the yogi enjoy the newness of life in every moment? This gift of the Goddess comes from another gift. It’s the mystical initiation called Shaktipat. Shaktipat awakens within you the knowing of your own Divinity. That capacity to know has been lying dormant within you. It is like a seed buried in the soil, awaiting spring. My teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, is a Shaktipat Guru. She is a yoga master who has the capacity to spark awake your inner knowing. When you receive this awakening, you’ll know your Self: immortal, ever-existent, ever-new.
And day by day, meditation by meditation, the energy of your Divinity arises within you. It’s the source of your aliveness, your joy and your happiness. It’s the source of life itself. So is it any surprise that you will become more fully alive, more fully present, more fully engaged in your life? Whether the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing, or it’s a frigid winter day. Or it’s a hurricane! You’ll embrace it all, celebrating every Divine moment. This is your destiny. Gurudevi will give you Shaktipat if you want her to. Are you ready?
You can find everything you ever wanted by looking inside. That’s a bold statement. It’s true because the source of everything is inside of you. Another even bolder statement. The yogic sages of India have been saying this for thousands of years.
In searching for a complete understanding of the universe, Stephen Hawking turned to look within. At age 21, he was diagnosed with ALS and given two years to live. He lived another 55 years and made significant contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology.
Hawking said, “Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free. I have spent my life travelling across the universe, inside my mind.” He explored the universe inside his mind. He didn’t travel across the universe to measure, feel and see blackholes on the outside. He explored them within himself. That’s where knowledge comes from, the inside.
I had a tangible experience of this in meditation. I was settled deep inside. Then an insight arose, answering one of the unanswered questions in my dissertation. After my meditation session, I contemplated this, surprised that this insight had come. I had not been thinking about my graduate research for over eight years. Yet here was new knowledge. And in that moment, I realized that all knowledge, all answers, come from within. The yogic sages say all knowledge can be found within.
The source of knowledge is within. The source of everything is within you. When I first heard this teaching, my scientific mind struggled: “How can the universe be within me; it is so large?” Yet the scientists now describe that the whole universe banged from a single point called a singularity. This point contained the mass of the whole universe in a space that is 0” by 0” by 0”. In these conditions, space and time don’t function like we are used to. Scientist don’t yet have the math or tools to understand this. But yogis do.
The yogic sages describe how the universe came from a singularity — called “bindu” in Sanskrit. In explaining the teachings from the sages, Gurudevi says:
In meditation, you see the bindu inside… You find it inside because the source of the universe is also the source of your own being.
The bindu within you is the source of the universe. This bindu is the source of your own being. That same bindu is in me and everyone else. There is only one source here, which you find by looking within. You don’t have to go searching in blackholes or far away galaxies. You find the source of everything inside. Everything is inside.
Though everything is inside, you don’t yet have access to it. Your mind keeps you distracted by turning your attention outward. With your attention turned outward, you see the world as separate from you. You feel incomplete and empty. This drives you to go searching for something to fill you up. You go looking for more external distractions.
There’s nothing wrong with the external world. The only problem is that you allow yourself to be distracted by it. In a Shaktipat tradition, the distractions melt away with time and practice. The more you do the yoga practices, the more you experience of your own Self. The more you discover of your own Self, the less external things distract you.
I had a tangible experience of this process a few years ago. I was having a difficult day. My mind was keeping me very distracted by external things. I felt incomplete on the inside. Driving home, I decided I was going to remedy my challenging day with a delicious meal. When I got home, I made mac and cheese, adding extra cheese for good measure. I took the first bite and was so disappointed. While the meal was delicious, I knew the food would not fulfill me. I knew that only knowing my own Self would address my feeling of incompleteness. And since that moment, food never distracted me like it used to.
And that’s why this blog began with my bold statement that everything you ever wanted is inside. The mac and cheese that I wanted was not about the food. It was about changing how I felt on the inside. With everything you’ve ever wanted, the reason you wanted it was in order to feel different — on the inside. You’ll only feel complete and full on the inside when you know who you truly are. Do more yoga. Then you’ll get everything you ever truly wanted — your own Self.
People ask me, “What are you up to?” I say, “Nothing”. Every day is the same. I have become boring! This monotony is not just due to the pandemic. I blame Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi), our Master Teacher, for my boredom and for me being boring.
For us Ashram residents, she has created a repetitive daily practice. We start a chant at 5:15 am six days a week and meditate every day at 6:30 am. We have breakfast with the same people, and then do seva (selfless service). We have lunch with the same people, and then do more seva. In the evening, we gather for a reading, chant, and meditation. Every single day is the same — day in and day out.
My mind has had nowhere to go except inward. When I was first beginning to look inward, I bumped into what my mind found important and interesting — but was not. I found my mind repeating things relentlessly. Rather than bringing up the best stuff in my life, it presented the worst. My mind was planning and worrying how to get everything done in a short amount of time. It kept me thinking about what I want, what I don’t want, and unpleasant experiences and conversations. Worse, it constantly asked about who’s to blame?
When you do enough yoga, whatever that is for you, the mind begins to quiet down. It’s more peaceful. Then comes the boredom. When this happened for me, I looked inside, and nothing was happening. Nothing. The entertaining mental and emotional rollercoaster ride had slowed to a crawl. When I looked outside, what most people like to do and talk about no longer entertained me. This being in the in-between is painful. I am not who I used to be, but not yet who I will be — abiding in my own Divine Essence.
It’s heartening to know that this boredom is a stage along the way to the knowing of your own Divine Essence — your Self. It is a stage of enlightenment. What a relief to know this is temporary. Gurudevi described this stage in one of the lessons in her 2018 Year-Long Programme: “Enlightenment in the Midst of Life”:
The 10th century Kashmiri sage, Abhinavagupta, writes:
nija-“si.sya-vibodhaaya prabuddha-smaranaaya ca
maya-abhinavaguptena “sramo’ya.m kriyate manaak.
For enlightening my own disciples, and for reminding the already enlightened ones (of their own enlightenment), I, Abhinavagupta, am making some effort (in writing this commentary). (1)
This means there are stages of enlightenment. It also means that, when you’re enlightened, you need help understanding your state.(2)
I have had the privilege of living and studying with Gurudevi for almost 30 years. I watched as she deepened and became fully enlightened. Now I watch as she continues to expand into that state of Self Knowingness. I see that it just keeps getting better and better. She lives in the steady, continuing, expansive, blissful inner state. I see it fill her heart, her mind and her life.
Gurudevi knows the stages along the way because she has been through them. Therefore, she can guide you. She can help you to understand your state and get beyond where you are stuck.
Patanjali says there are seven stages of enlightenment:
The highest stage of enlightenment unfolds by seven stages.(3)
He is not saying that you go through seven stages on the way to enlightenment. These are stages your mind goes through once you attain enlightenment. Boredom is on the list. Like a tour guide, Patanjali shows you the scenery along the way as you go upriver to the source. His system gives you arduous practices to work on your mind, specifically to free you from your mind.
Gurudevi’s teachings are based in a different yogic system, Kashmiri Shaivism. Through Shaktipat, she takes you more quickly and easily inward to the knowing of your own Self. You glide on the river of Grace to the source of your own Beingness. Grace makes all this happen, the revelation of your own Self to you.
Shaktipat is the turning point, creating an inner opening that overwhelms your mind. That inner opening stays open forever after. But most people don’t get instantly enlightened. Why not? Oh, your mind! Instead of looking through the opening deeper inside, most people continue to look outward. Then their mind must go through the processes Patanjali describes.
If you want to avoid that laborious process, keep looking through the opening inward. How do you do that? More mantra. Repeating mantra is what Gurudevi did. If you do what Gurudevi did, you will get what she got. You will become fully enlightened. Do more mantra.
(1) Jaidev Singh, A Trident of Wisdom (Albany, New York, State University of New York 1989), page 5
(2) Saraswati, Swami Nirmalananda, Enlightenment in the Midst of Life: Stepping Into Life (Downingtown PA, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram 2018), page 5
You are pure, whole, complete, divine. You always have been. You already are.
When I first heard this teaching, I was delighted, amazed and … dubious. It rang a bell somewhere deep inside. But that contrasted with much of the time when I felt alone, empty and incomplete. So I wondered how the teaching could be true? But, inside I knew it was true. Better, I know that you can know, too.
An ancient yogic text gives the promise of your Divinity:
This is chapter one, verse one: the first and highest teaching. Your own Self is Consciousness. Consciousness is the One Ever-Existent Reality, the Divine Source and substance of everything that exists. It is who you are. You are the One, Divine Reality, who is embodied as you. When you know your inherent Divinity, you know that everything and everyone else is that same Divinity.
You get glimmers of your inner light when you do what gives you joy. You are radiant when you’re in love. You glow when you give with generosity. Others see it, but more importantly, you feel it. It’s the light of your Divinity.
You get glimpses of another’s Divinity when you look in a baby’s eyes or the eyes of a beloved. Perhaps you seek out glorious sunsets, majestic mountain vistas or walks in the quiet cathedral of a forest. The glory and majesty of nature reveals its Divinity, and triggers within you an experience of the Divine. It all happens inside.
But you don’t know your own Divinity enough of the time. The sun is gone. Sometimes weather doesn’t allow for climbing mountains. The quiet of the forest is ruined by someone on their cell phone. You have joy but you also have sorrow. Sometimes you feel whole but sometimes you feel incomplete. Most of the time, probably, you feel incomplete.
So is there a way to know your Divinity all the time? Yes.
You can always know that your own Self is Consciousness-Itself. It doesn’t come from learning the sutras, though the sutras do tell you how to attain that knowing. There are those beings who know their Divinity all the time. They live their Divinity all the time. And they have the ability to awaken that knowing in you. That awakening is called Shaktipat, so they are called Shaktipat Gurus.
My spiritual teacher is such a Guru. Her name is Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. When she gave me Shaktipat, my world changed. It was like I had been living in a dark room with blackout curtains, but I didn’t know there were blackout curtains over the windows. I simply thought it was nighttime all the time. Shaktipat opened the curtains to show me daylight.
Once you know, you can’t not know. I can pull the curtains over the window again, but I know the sun is shining outside. So if I make my world dark again, it’s my choice. Sometimes I make that choice again, from habit or old persistent patterns. But more often, I make the choices that support the light. Mainly, I meditate. It’s called Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation. And every time I do it, the light shines brighter because I’m blocking it less. I can’t even close those curtains anymore the way I used to be able to.
Here’s where the metaphor breaks down. Because you find the light inside. It’s the light of your inherent Divinity, of your own Self. You are pure, whole, complete, divine. You always have been. You already are. I don’t doubt this anymore. Though I don’t know it all the time yet, I know that one day I will. And you can too. If you want her to, Gurudevi will give you the awakening called Shaktipat. Then the curtains will open, and the light of your Divinity will be revealed. Do you want to know?
A new year, a new virus variant, a new opportunity to choose what direction you are going. Life is full of promise as well as challenges. Can you move into it with intelligence, applying needed caution, yet with enthusiasm? Enthusiasm comes from the Greek, en-theos, meaning “filled with God.” Once you find the Divine dimension within yourself, everything you do is inspired and inspirational.
It is my enthusiasm that keeps me teaching in these challenging times. For me, it is a sacred offering to all who want more out of life. Intelligence is how my mind uses the light of Consciousness so I can help you see inward. And caution demands I wear a mask when teaching in-person. I’ve gotten so used to it that I often forget to remove it.
Intelligence, caution and enthusiasm — weave them together in the brand-new year that is laying at your feet. Step onto the path and head in the direction you want to go. I say, “Head for the light!” You will find the brightest light shining from its inner source, your own Self.
Yoga specializes in giving you access to the Divine dimension of your own being. You taste it in doing Svaroopa®yoga poses. The physical benefits they provide are tangible, though superficial. The deeper effects are found in the inner stillness and peace the poses give you. Direct access is found by turning to explore inward. Dive deep by using my Baba’s sophisticated meditative methodology.
When you live from the inner depths, you soar into the skies like a bird surfing the air currents that carry you higher and higher. Shining with light, you are also lightweight. Yoga gives you an abiding tranquility and profound inner clarity. They make you able to fly high with an unerring sense of direction, even piercing through the clouds in your mind. You know what to do and where to go because the answers arise from within.
How do you access this inner stream of clarity? You have to look for it. Look into where it comes from. All your answers lie within. Your mind is the microscope by which you see into the secret inner realms. Like a microscope lens, it must be clean and clear to see what’s in there. You simply have to quiet your mind in order to see clearly.
— Yoga Sutras 1.2
Yoga is the quieting of your mind’s activities.
The sage Patanjali defines yoga as the quieting of your mind. You don’t wait for your mind to calm down; you intervene. Use yoga’s tricks to steer your mind in the direction you want it to go, into peace and clarity. Head for the light within. The best trick of all? Mantra, of course.
Based in Self, your own inner resources are more powerful than a nuclear generating plant. They empower you to choose what to do with this coming year. It glistens ahead of you, a golden opportunity. A luminous moment that you can stretch into infinity. I would love to show you how.
I grew up in the Harry Potter generation. My generation was in grade school when the first book came out in 1998. We would read the book in wonder and then wait in anticipation for the next book to come out. This was almost yearly until the publication of the final book in 2007.
Our family had a specific order for reading the newest book. I would get it first and read it in a day, maybe two. My mom would then read it to my brother. And finally my dad read it last. I remember inhaling the books like they were food. Diving into the world of magic — wands, spells, talking paintings — I was entranced. Looking back, I see I had a hunger for more than what life offered. I wanted the magic. I wanted “The More.” Unfortunately, no matter what I did, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Fast forward 18 years. I discovered “The More” in yoga and meditation and specifically by receiving Shaktipat initiation. Shaktipat is the awakening of your own inner power, the cosmic power of the universe called Kundalini. I received this initiation from my Guru, Swami Nirmalananda. This initiation opened up a whole new world for me. But this time it wasn’t in a book; it was inside me. And I remember thinking “this is like Harry Potter, but even better!”
Why was it better? Harry Potter was incredible, magical, fantastical, yet the book didn’t touch all the levels of my being. Once I received Shaktipat, the dimensions of my own being opened up. I began meditating every day, and in each meditation, new wonders would unfold within. This experience is described in an ancient yogic text:
Vismayo yogabhuumikaa.h — Shiva Sutras 1.12
The wonders of yoga are truly amazing. — Translation by Swami Nirmalananda
Yes! The wonders of yoga are truly amazing, especially, once you have received Shaktipat. Kundalini, the energy of the universe, moves up your spine in every meditation. Her movements are based on what you need. She clears up the junk that is limiting you from experiencing your own Divinity. While she clears up that which limits you, you get spontaneous movements, called kriyas in Sanskrit. You may see colors or lights. You may experience tingling or heat or cold. You may get physical movements, hear divine sounds, have deep profound meditations, insights and more. These are all symptoms that Kundalini is working within you, clearing that which limits you.
I needed a lot of physical healing at the beginning. So in meditation Kundalini would move me into classical yogic postures. I would sit to meditate and right away I would be moved into poses that I hadn’t even learned yet. The effect was blissful! My whole body felt alive, expanded and open.
As I continued meditating, my experiences became more subtle, and my focus turned more and more inward. Instead of focusing on what my body or mind was doing, I was guided inward to discover the multiple dimensions of my own being. And to discover the source of those dimensions — my own Self. I am still in the process of this inner discovery. And the more I meditate, the more wonders I discover inside.
“Who am I?” a devotee asked Ramana Maharshi, a sage living in a cave. Not understanding the first answer led the devotee to ask many more questions, 27 follow-up questions. Here are a few:
What is the nature of the mind? What is the nature of the Self? Is not everything the work of God? What is non-attachment? Is there no difference between waking and dream? What is happiness? What is the relation between desirelessness and wisdom? What is liberation?
If he had known his true nature, his confusion would have fallen away with the first answer. Swami Muktananda described it this way: “God dwells with you as you.” This is easy to understand because God, the Ultimate Reality by whatever name you chose, is omnipresent. Therefore, God exists everywhere. And “everywhere” does not end at the edge of your skin. Your body, heart, and mind are also part of “everywhere.”
However, Muktananda takes it a step further and adds, “God dwells within you as you.” God is being you. This is the answer to the question “Who am I?” When you can answer this question, all other questions fall away.
Literature explores the same question. All stories fit into seven basic plots, according to author Christopher Booker. In The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, he shows these plots are true for everyone across cultures and time. A friend doing a PhD in literature added that all these plots explore the question “Who am I?” Whatever the story, the hero is on an adventure to discover who they really are. The same is true for your life. Your life is an adventure to discover who you really are.
Yoga leads you to the realization of your true nature. Yoga is not merely a philosophical system that gives you a theoretical answer. Instead, yoga is more like a full-contact sport. It includes practices that engage all your capacities: body, breath, mind, heart and more. You don’t merely intellectualize who you are; you experience it.
What does yoga promise you will experience? How will you answer the question “Who am I?” You will realize that you are you, yet the you that you are is mystical.
When I first started yoga, I could sense the truth in these teachings. But my mind misunderstood them. I thought I had to let go of the non-divine parts of me and add the missing divine pieces. I started to give away stuff that I didn’t need anymore. One afternoon, I was stuffing bags with things to give away. When I noticed my Canadian engineering ring on my hand, I paused. An engineer is not divine, so I needed to give the ring up. I took the ring off. I panicked. “If I am not a Canadian engineer, then who am I?” asked my mind in fear. I quickly put the ring back on. I knew that one day I would be freed from the ring. But I knew I wasn’t ready yet.
Two years ago, I faced the sacred fire to become a sannyasin (a renunciant). I decided to let go of everything. During the initiation, the hooks of desires dissolved, and the weight of worldly aspirations lifted. I settled deeper into my own Divinity. For the first few days, I was learning how to live from the new depth and freedom. The world was familiar but my experience of being the Divine in a divine world was new. Two days after the ceremony, noodles were served at a meal. As I took the first bite, an internal voice shouted in delight, “I still love noodles!” I was surprised that, while being the Divine, I still had the same preferences. My mind jumped in, “I wonder if I still know calculus. What’s the derivative of x2? 2x. Yup, I still know calculus.”
In that moment, I knew who I was. I knew that I was God. I knew that everyone and everything around me was also God. And, at the same time, I was God being the same Canadian engineer who loves noodles.
You don’t stop being you. You stop being merely you. You work so hard to be unique and special. Then you get caught up in your uniqueness. You compare your unique quirks and traits to others. You work hard to maintain or change your unique qualities. It’s hard work that never ends. Worse yet, you are so much more than your uniqueness. You are the One who is being unique. When you find the Beingness that is being you, you find God. And God is being you. You find You.
Yoga is the mystical science that gives you practices for discovering who you truly are. You simply need to do them. Of course, guidance along the way is helpful if not necessary. Swami Nirmalananda has done the practices and knows the path. She guides you along the way. She helps you to embrace your uniqueness. At the same time, she insists that you look deeper to find God being you. Come spend time with Swami Nirmalananda and learn from her. . Do the practices she recommends. They will help you answer life’s ultimate question: “Who am I?” You will then one day give the divine answer “Me.”
The Self is free from old age, so says yoga. Take it personally: understand that your essence is free from old age. Yet the human experience begins with, “I am my body.” Thus, so much time is spent beautifying the body and trying to keep it looking young. You diet and exercise. You buy hair products as well as oils and lotions for your skin. There is so much time, money and worry around aging.
It is true that your body is getting older. This process has been happening since you were born. It is the human condition. As you get old, you lose the capacity to act in the world. You lose your potency. You feel less aliveness, enthusiasm and joy. This is a description of your future.
While you do have a body, there is more to you. You have a body as well as a mind and heart, yet you are more. You are Consciousness-Incarnate. When you know your Self as Consciousness, you are free from old age. How can this be?
The Shiva Sutras describes how such a yogi lives in the world:
Iccha “saktir-umaa kumari. — Shiva Sutras 1.13
The will power of a great yogi is the Divine creative force, Uma-Kumari.
The One Reality has the power of choice, the ability to initiate action. This is Shiva’s power of will. You have the same power of will to a lesser degree. But Shiva’s will is completely unimpeded. Shiva’s will is perfect will.
Omnipotence is Shiva’s power of potency. Shiva can do anything, making a choice and then following through on that choice. This is will power or the power of will. Shiva emanates the universe within his own being through his power of will.
Your essence is already Shiva, the One. At this level, you already are omnipotent but you don’t yet know it. Therefore, you don’t have access to that power. But how about when you know you are Shiva? What kind of power will you have? Your age won’t matter! Your experience will be like that of Uma-Kumari. Uma and Kumari are both names of the Goddess. This omnipotence of Shiva is expressed through Shakti, energy, and Shakti is the Goddess.
Uma is the mature goddess, like a grandmother. My grandmother had big cushy thighs, a soft belly and big heavy breasts. When my grandmother wrapped her arms around me and nestled me in, there was nothing that could touch me. Do you know what I mean? Also, she had a constancy in her love that a mother is not able to attain. Only a grandmother can do this. A grandmother can give everything else up for that grandchild, at least in that moment. She can be that safe harbor. While your relationship with your mom can be stormy, a grandma is a whole different thing.
Uma is has this incredible inner stability and constancy in love and support. This is so incredibly beautifully expressed in the ancient statues of the fertility goddesses. In many countries, a woman is considered beautiful when she has a little flesh on her bones. She is so beautiful both physically and spiritually. Her mind is so clear, so pure, and her emotions are stable. The American ideal of feminine beauty does not correspond to most of the world.
The Goddess Kumari is the 12-to-16-year-old girl, still developing, with a beautiful face. She dresses up in silks and golden bracelets. The bangles on her ankles have little bells on them. She wears earrings and flowers in her hair. Her long hair flows down her back. She is absolutely intoxicating.
Dressed like this, young maidens draw your attention. How beautiful the young girls and even the boys can be at that age. While still virgins, they have never been touched and never been kissed. They are on the verge of life’s promise, “The whole world is ahead of me. I can do anything. I can be anything. I don’t even know what I want to be.” This is Kumari.
Now what does all this have to do with you and omnipotence? Experiencing your own Self is having that ability to manifest anything, to do anything, to bring anything into existence. This is the feeling of Uma and Kumari together.
You experience the innocence and the joy of discovery that Kumari has in every moment. When you were young, you experienced that everything was new. You had a curiosity about the world. You wanted to go places and do things. You felt, “The world is my oyster.” You were open to everything and anything.
When you live in the knowing of your own Self, you have all of this with the stability, the depth and maturity of Uma. You have both at the same time — Uma Kumari. As a yogi, you have the energy — the power of will — that is both Kumari (ever new) and Uma (full, stable, mature and all-knowing).
You see this capacity in the great masters of Consciousness. They are free from old age, omnipotent, ever young. They are the embodiment of knowledge. Gurudevi Swami Nirmalananda is such a master. She has not retired from life, but fully participates. For the Ashram she is involved in program development, marketing and management. She oversees interior design and decor in the Ashram’s two buildings. She makes yoga’s ancient teachings relevant and available in the modern world through her writing and discourses. As an active citizen in society, she votes and keeps current with the news. She is up to date with technology, scientific studies, etc. This is Uma.
And I also see Gurudevi’s delight in the newness of a sunrise, a monarch butterfly, a returning student. She makes me laugh when she marvels again and again over what she calls “golden globes of goodness” — chickpeas. There is a delight that arises from within her in every moment. This is Kumari. There is a newness of things, even though Gurudevi has seen it or done it before. Everything in every moment is ever new! Except it is all known thoroughly. This is Uma Kumari. This is how a great master lives in the world.
This is also a description of your future. Your essence is free from old age. When you know the Self, that newness and maturity both arise within you. You experience this incredible capacity to do anything you choose, pouring yourself into this divine play of the world. Every moment will be fresh, new, and known. What a dynamic joyful way to live in the world. How do you get there? Do more mantra. More yoga and more meditation.
“You matter.” “Don’t give up.” “You are not alone.” These signs touched me deeply when I saw them around our neighborhood. I looked them up online and found that they are called “signs of hope.” They all started with a mom in Oregon. She started these “signs of hope” after a string of suicides in her hometown. They made a difference. Starting with only 20 signs, now her signs and tokens number over one million. They are located in more than 28 countries and all 50 states. I was not the only one touched by these signs. What is it about them?
For one, they are beautiful expressions of affirmation. Yet, what really touched me about them is what was left unsaid. They are a response to the pain and despair that leads someone to take their own life. They are signs of hope when you feel like you don’t matter. They lift you up when you are ready to give up and feel completely and utterly alone.
This angst and despair is called the human condition. You feel that you are small and unworthy. It is the “human” condition because everyone feels this way. You may not notice it all the time. Most people do a very good job of distracting themselves. Yet, instead of merely distracting yourself, what if you could discover the more that you are?
In our yoga retreat center, a dorm room sign says, “You are more than you think you are.” And it’s true. You are more than your mind could ever imagine. Our Master Teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, describes it this way:
“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.”
You are so much more than you think you are. You are the Divine Reality that has always existed, exists now and will always exist. You are Shiva — Infinite Reality. Shiva is being this entire universe: from the atoms to the planets, the trees, animals and very personally you. You see it in the phrase “You matter.” You are made of matter, made of energy. But what is the source of that energy? Shiva. You are not only made of Shiva, but Shiva is being you.
This can seem quite abstract, and yet it is actually extremely personal. I really understood this when I experienced it after taking vows as a yoga monk. There was both a deepening that happened and a crystallization of my individuality. The deepening was an inner opening and settling into my own essence — Shiva. And at the same time, there was this blissful tangible embodiment of my body and mind. It’s like I finally accepted that this body and mind are Shiva. And they are the equipment Shiva needs to shine into the world. From then on, I have loved myself more than I ever had or could before.
This is what happens, and more, when you discover who you truly are. To discover your own essence, you must go deeper than your body and mind. While they are made of Shiva, they will never give you the knowing that you are Shiva. For that, you must meditate. Meditation is your pathway inward. It gives you the tangible experience of cosmic Shiva while in your own individual form. When you open your eyes, you are sitting deeper within yourself. As you continue to meditate, you will fully embody your own body and mind. You will shine into the world. You can enjoy your life knowing that you are the One experiencing your life. For you are Shiva being you for the pure delight of being you.
When I was a teenager, I felt my face and body did not measure up. The “look” promoted in all the movies and magazines seemed completely unattainable. Especially I disliked my nose. I remember telling a friend that I thought she had a perfect nose. I wished mine was like hers. Surprised, she shared that she thought my nose was perfect and she wished hers was like mine. I was shocked! We were both wishing for what the other had. Worse, we were in pain about it. Any time you see differences, you will be in pain.
Just as noses come in all sizes and shapes, so do trees. Recently I walked through the woods on a sun-dappled afternoon. I sat and watched the light flickering through the leaves of a stand of trees. The trees featured many shapes and sizes, all of them so beautiful. It’s easy to see beauty in the differences when you look at trees, but not when you look at people. Why?
It’s because you don’t feel threatened by a tree. But with every person, you wonder if they are friend or foe. Your mind harbors a background anxiety that undermines your ability to be welcoming and friendly. Worse, you compare yourself with everyone you see. It’s painful, whether you come out on top or they do.
There’s another way to live. You can see the differences, yet love and appreciate them all. My children taught me this – all so different, yet all so loveable. I have the same experience with meditation students. They bring their mind and body, which have been through life experiences as well as prior studies and trainings. Each of them that asks a question gives me a gift, an insight into their starting point and an opportunity to help them with their upliftment. It’s so beautiful to see their uniqueness, yet with the Divine shining through.
It’s like a building with stained glass windows. The light shining through is the one light, yet each window colors that light in its own unique way. But a visitor will walk down the row and say, “I like this one and don’t like that one.” What if you looked at the light that’s shining through? Every window is a marvel, a work of art that can move you, if you let it.
In the same way, this entire world is a glorious creation, with one light shining through all beings. People, like trees, are all worthy of being treasured and cared for. Regardless of the shape of their nose or color of their hair or skin, they shine. There is one light shining through all eyes, regardless of their color or shape. Look at the light! See it in all its glorious forms.
This is easy to do when you have found it in yourself. This is your starting point. Once you find the light of your own Divine Essence, you see it in all. The differences remain, yet they don’t matter. This is mysticism. This is yoga.