20 Jul Gurupurnima / Honoring The Teacher Within
As we move into the fullest brightest moon of the year called Gurupurnima, reflect on the role of the teacher in your life. Be filled with gratitude for the privilege of studying with many great teachers…teachers of the heart, the body and the mind.
Where did the celebration of Gurupurnima come from?
Gurupurima is an ancient practice of honoring the teacher.
A great teacher Veda Vyasa who compiled the 4 Vedas, translated the Maharabharata, and the 36 Paranas was the inspiration of this holiday. His students wanted to thank him for his contribution to their lives.
They asked him how they could honor him. He said to choose one day to bestow their teacher with gifts and their offerings. They choose the day of the brightest fullest full moon of the year to be Gurupurnima to honor this teacher.
This tradition was set many centuries ago and has been celebrated ever since.
Ways to honor our teachers this month.
- You can make a gift in their name.
- You can send them notes, presents and offerings.
- Please contemplate what would your teacher love to receive?
Your greatest gift to them is to live life to your full potential.
My own teachers have had a profound influence on me. When you meet a great teacher, you begin to hear an inner resonance. What they say touches your heart. You begin to see yourself through their eyes. A great teacher will recognize the greatness within you and you will start to see this in yourself.
I never feel diminished around great teachers, however, it’s not always comfortable to be around great teachers. In the presence of a great teacher you feel challenged to move into new territory, to face your inner demons of the small self/ego, and to step into your fullest potential.
Teaching that Wisdom is from Within
Teachers influence our lives through setting a great example of behavior. Sally Kempton, one of my favorite teachers, taught me to recognize that the guidance I am always looking for outside myself comes from within.This is such a powerful teaching. Everything we need is inside us. How can this be? There is so much help out there. I must need a lot of help!! I cannot tell you how much money, time and energy I have spent on self improvement seminars – it’s endless.
Honoring the teacher within and without is really what the month of Gurupurnima is all about. This is an especially important message to receive at this time in the world with so much chaos and uncertainty.
The other blessing we receive from our gurus, our great teachers is the glimpse of the divine, that feeling of being in the presence of something bigger and larger than us.
Experiencing The Divine Presence
Many yoga teachers talk about the Great Self, Universal Consciousness, Shiva, Shakti, Prana…
What exactly is it?
A great teacher will connect you to your inner guide… the guru within, the Great Self.
What is the guru within? How do you find it?
How do you experience this inner presence?
Some describe this presence as…
Vast stars in an endless dark night,
An ocean pulsating with love, emptiness, stillness
A penetrating blue light emanating from the 3rd eye
Waves of love washing over the body
Undulating energy that moves deep inside
Deep heaviness of the outer body and expansion within
A blue/black pulsating presence that envelops us
The seeker disappears into the feeling of love and oneness
A giant eye peering back at you from within
Some folks see actual saints, sages, gurus who are no longer in a body. They may have never seen nor heard of these people but they show up in their meditations.
Others see spirit guides in the form of animals, totems, mandalas, or hear celestial music or the sound of OM pulsating inside. Some feel a pulsating movement of the Shakti throughout their body.
All these are manifestations of energy that has been awakened.
How does this happen?
Through practices like asana, meditation or chanting. You can also experience this by coming into contact with a realized being like a Guru or through shared practices with a community of awakened beings.
There are so many questions as to where to turn to solve issues in your life, for your family and in our communities. What is the next right step (Swahdharma) for us as individuals, for our families and for our communities? The teachings and practices are there to guide us towards Self Realization. The recognition of the Self within.
The Hugging Guru
How do we connect deeper with the divine presence within?
I was in the presence of a real Guru recently. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi or Amma, as she is lovingly called by her students. She is also known as the hugging Guru.
There were huge lines of devotees queuing up to get her hugs. All around the hall people were buzzing with anticipation. Love filled the air as this compassionate realized being gives her devotees individual hugs sometimes for 22 hours straight without breaks.
I have been in this amazing being’s presence and received her hugs 3 times over the past 15 years. The experience was so beautiful. As she hugged me she chanted Namoh, Namoh, Namoh in my ear. It reverberated in my heart for days afterwards.
In this guru experience the divine mother is there holding you in her love and compassion. The name for this devotional love is Bhakti. You feel this divine love in her presence and when you chant with great kirtan masters like Krishna Das.Your heart melts in the presence of this deep transpersonal love.
We are living through a unique time in history when everyone on the planet needs a collective hug. The constant barrage of bad news blasting away at us on a daily basis is enough to drive anyone towards someone who might have the answer we are seeking.
Amma’s teachings are simple and beautiful.
“True love is that which helps us experience life and the life-force everywhere. If your love doesn’t enable you to see this, such love is not real love. It is illusory love.”
When folks ask what do we bring Amma as a gift. She tells them their suffering!
Here is list practices that were given to me by my teachers that will help you find your inner GPS. The practices are a way of reconnecting to your own inner Guru.
Practices that will help you through a dark time in your life
There are many meditation Apps right now but there is nothing like going to a good meditation teacher. Being in the same room with a group of experienced meditators when you are new at this practice is incredibly helpful.
Sources for meditation
Books & Online courses
Sally Kempton Meditation for the Love of it http://www.sallykempton.com/products/
Paul Muller Ortega https://www.bluethroatyoga.com/programs/
Kripalu https://kripalu.org Many great teachers come to this center to present workshops on meditation and hatha yoga
Omega Institute https://www.eomega.org ( many famous meditation and hatha yoga teachers present workshops at this center)
Himalayan institue https://www.himalayaninstitute.org
Siddha Yoga https://www.siddhayoga.org Gurumayi Chidvilasananda This is my teacher. Her international organization has ashrams and centers all over the world. This path is a bhakti and Jnana path of yoga that mostly practices meditation, seva, and chanting. Hatha yoga is practiced to support your seva and your meditation. It is secondary to the main practices of chanting and meditation.
The book store has many beautiful talks , books videos, CDs and DVDS. There are great programs like the October Meditation Intensive and the New Years Message. You can tune into some of these programs on line or find a center near you by going to the website.
If you are in NYC come the the World Yoga Center. The classes are Anusara Yoga and meditation is taught in every class. Rudrani Farbman is the Director and teaches a weekly meditation class on Monday nights and a monthly Satsang in her home. http://worldyogacenter.com/
There are many great hatha yoga teachers in the world.
Please check out my blog on how to find the Hatha yoga teacher of your dreams
You can get recordings of great Kirtan musicians but live kirtan or chanting is very powerful. It prepares the mind for meditation
I again refer you to Siddha Yoga. Their weekly local Satsangs include both chanting and meditation. This is especially recommended for people new to meditation.
Go to the Siddha yoga bookstore for many amazing chants
Here is a link to my favorite https://siddhayogabookstore.org/omnamahshivaya-bhupaliraga.aspx
For live kirtan music , there are many great kirtan bands around
Krishna Das has great CD’s full of beautiful chants http://krishnadas.com/
Shantala is my favorite Kirtan Band http://www.shantalamusic.com/
Make sure the your restorative teacher has studied how to modify poses for different levels and injuries. These classes need a patient and loving presence to draw the students into a deep stillness.
I have a 30 minute restorative class on YogaVibes. To tune into this class go to https://www.yogavibes.com/ You can sign up for 15 days of trial membership.
This practice helps you get nourishing sleep. You are in Savasana,the corpse pose, doing deep relaxation working that methodically goes through the 5 layers of awareness.
You can access free guided yoga nidra meditations through the Insight Timer App
You can also go to this link for an amazing yoga nidra by Jennifer Piercy
I used a recording by Jennifer on the insight Timer app when I was recovering from my bike accident and was having trouble sleeping through the night. It really works. You go through each body part and then into deeper and deeper layers of awareness.
Shinrin-Yoku is the name of this practice that was started in the 1980’s in Japan.
Taking in the forest through our senses Average American spends 93
% of their time indoors!
Leave your phone at home. Listen to where it wants to take you. Savor the sounds smells of nature. Listen to the birds and the sounds of the leaves. Smell the scents of the forest. Touch trees, the moss, the soil, put your feet in a stream, drink the water.
Take your time and be in the silence and beauty of nature. Meditate on your walk, Do pranayama . Take in the air. Cleanse your lungs.
Means conversation or in the company of the Highest Truth. In order to practice Satsang,it is helpful to have a guide who knows how to move folks deeper into the awareness of the Self. Satsang is done with a collection of fellow seekers. It is not group therapy or socializng.
People get to share their transformation. The leader asks the group questions, shares teaching tales and wisdom teachings from the yoga teachings and encourage folks in the group to share experiences.
Satsang is the best way to assimilate the teachings of yoga. If anyone has tried to study the yoga sutras, teachings on the Vedas, The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita on their own without the help of a good teacher and Satsang knows the potency of this practice.
My experience of satsang has happened in the Yoga teacher Training sessions, Immersions and Retreats that I co-lead at the World Yoga Center in NYC with Rudrani Farbman. I have also led Satsangs on my own retreats and teacher training sessions in Japan. The power of the kula ( community) coming into deeper understanding of the yoga teachings together in community is beyond powerful.
You can also experience Satsang at Siddha Yoga.( link to Siddha yoga)s