Christmas & New Year Symposium: Unity in Diversity: Let the Light Shine


Swami Swaroopananda

Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is the director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and the Acharya for the Sivananda centers and ashrams on the West Coast of the United States, the Middle East, and the Bahamas. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers.

Swamini Pramananda (Ammaji)

Swamini Pramananda (Ammaji) is a senior disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. She has been teaching Vedanta, Sanskrit and Vedic Heritage for many years. She is the founder of the Purna Vidya Ashram and spends most of her time in retreat, occasionally leaving her solitude to share her vast knowledge with seekers around the world.

Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz

Mitch is a novelist and teller of tales. His novel, The Seventh Telling: The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan (St. Martin’s Press, 2001) was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. For over two decades he was the director of the Havurah of South Florida, a non-denominational fellowship that created programming to fill the interstices between synagogues and other established Jewish organizations. He is currently Scholar-in-Residence at Temple Israel of Greater Miami. Rabbi Chefitz received his ordination from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (New York, 1975). He did his undergraduate work at M.I.T. and the University of California at Berkeley.

Venerable Thupten Phuntsok

Venerable Thupten Phuntsok has been an ordained member of the Gelugpa Sangha (Gelong) since 1993. He is a long-time student of Lobsang Tharchin Khen Rinpoche, who passed in 2004. He has taken teachings from many prominent Tibetan Lamas, including His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, and His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, and has participated in Mind and Life Institute conferences held by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Western scientists.

Kyriacos C. Markides

Kyriacos C. Markides, PhD, is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maine. His research ranges from projects related to political sociology and nationalist movements to the sociology of religion, non-medical healing, and Christian mysticism. He has been researching the world of Christian saints, mystics and unconventional healers for the last thirty years. He is the author of several books about Christian spirituality such as "The Mountain of Silence", "Gifts of the Desert" and his latest "Inner River", all three published by Random House.

Ed McGaa (Eagle Man)

Ed McGaa (Eagle Man) was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and is a registered tribal member of the Oglala Sioux. He received his Bachelor's degree from St. John's University and earned a law degree from the University of South Dakota. He studied under Chief Eagle Feather and Chief Fool's Crow, both influential Sioux holy men, and is honored by the Sioux for having participated six times in the Sun Dance ceremony. He also served as a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, receiving eight air medals and two Crosses of Gallantry, and was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Snatam Kaur

Snatam Kaur is one of the most popular New Age artists of our time, selling over 70,000 albums a year. Her music can be heard around the world in venues from yoga studios to schools to Hollywood films and in the homes of her fans worldwide. Snatam Kaur has an amazing ability to transform traditional chants into a contemporary sound that appeals to the modern ear and awakens an ancient yearning in the soul. While traveling the world on tour she also teaches yoga and meditation to children and adults alike, a part of her commitment to give people tools for a daily experience of inner peace.

Gaura Vani

Gaura Vani started studying sacred music in Vrindavan, India since at the age of six. Today, he shares the magic he received and performs extensively with his kirtan ensemble throughout the world. His albums include Ten Million Moons and Nectar of Devotion.

Krishnan Namboodiri

Krishnan Namboodiri is a Tantric priest from South India. He is trained in the classical tradition of mantras (sacred sounds), pujas (prayer ceremonies), homas (fire rituals), and yantras (sacred geometric designs). He performs many special rituals on a daily basis for the ashram.

Kabir Helminski

Kabir began his Mevlevi training as a student of the late Shaikh Suleyman Loras. In 1990, he was appointed A Shaikh by the late Dr. Celaleddin Celebi of Istanbul Turkey, head of the Mevlevi (Tariqa) Order and twenty first generation descendant of Mevlana Jelalludin Rumi. Under Kabir’s direction, the Mevlevi Order in North America works to apply traditional Sufi principles to the heart of modern day Western life. Among Kabir’s book titles are “Living Presence,” A Sufi Way to Mindfulness and the Essential Self,” and “The Knowing Heart.” Together with his wife Camille, they travel around the world, leading workshops on the teachings of Rumi and presenting at conferences.

Camille Adams Helminski

Camille Adams Helminski is the co-founder and co-director of the Threshold Society in Aptos , CA, along with her husband, Shaikh Kabir Helminksi. The Threshold Society is an educational organization, dedicated to preserving and disseminating the teachings of Mevlana Jelalludin Rumi, in the authentic Mevlevi tradition. With “The Light of Dawn” she was the first woman ever to translate a substantial portion of the Koran. Amongst her other titles are: “The Mevlevi Wird,” “Rumi Daylight,” and Jewels of Remembrance (with Kabir Helminski). Camille has also collaborated with Refik Algan on a translation of Ahmet Hilmi's classic, "Awakened Dreams". She is currently at work on a book on women in Sufism. Camille and Kabir are closely associated with Sufi teachers from other tariqats in Turkey and Syria, all of whom are committed to integrating the classical methods with modern needs.

Emily Markides

Emily Markides, PhD, received her Doctoral degree from the Counselor Education Program at the University of Maine in May 1996. She has written her doctoral dissertation on Complementary Energetic Practices: An Exploration into the World of Maine Women Healers. She has written articles on “Creating a Stable World Peace,” “From Poetry to Community Building,” and “Energetic Healing and its Correspondence to Eastern Orthodox Spirituality.” She has taught courses in Peace Studies and served as Interim Director of the Peace & Reconciliation Studies Program at the University of Maine, where she currently teaches, as adjunct faculty, on issues concerning peace and the environment.