The Serenity of Summer

View from the Yoga Retreat's beach - sand, transparent sea and skyscape without end.

Karma Yoga: Best Way to Open the Heart
Q&A with Swami Swaroopananda

Swami Swaroopananda is the Acharya (spiritual director) of Sivananda Yoga Centers and Ashrams in the West Coast of the United States, the Middle East, and the Bahamas, and is one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda. He is renowned for his spontaneous yet clear, concise, and complete answers to every question. This Q&A is from this June at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California.

Q: Most recently I have felt a great joy and love in my heart; however, in the last month I have lost this feeling of kindness and compassion. How do I regain this feeling of expansiveness in my heart?

A: Lots of practice of karma yoga, mainly. Serving others. Serve, serve, serve. You also should learn the wisdom of karma yoga, because real karma yoga is service combined with the wisdom of karma yoga. Serve just to serve others; don't think so much about yourself. Suffering comes from thinking too much about ourselves. Think as much as you can about others, not about yourself. It doesn't matter what you feel. Whatever you feel -- for example, let's say that you are not joyful. Try to cheer another person; you will become joyful in the short run, not in the long run. Just go to the kitchen and cook, clean the toilets, immerse yourself in karma yoga. The more karma yoga, the better. While practicing karma yoga, repeat your mantra as much as you can. Just repeat your mantra and serve others, that's all. The heart will open, joy will come, love will come, and it will stay open.

The last thing is, if you have a guru, remember your guru and everything is just going to come right. If you don't have a guru, pray to God or pray to the Supreme Being to send you a guru, so you can find your guru. This will help a lot. If you find your guru many, many things become right.

Until then, lots of karma yoga, with lots of mantra repetition. Don't think about yourself; think about others. The more you think about others, the happier you're going to be. Wake up in the morning if you don't know what to do, go to Swami Sita, she will tell you what to do. Swami Vishnudevananda would keep us busy from early morning till late at night, and we never had problems sleeping at night. We were very, very busy in karma yoga. And karma yoga was his main method of meditation, which is a very good method of meditation. So that's my advice.

An Ounce of Practice is Worth Tons of Theory

“Karma yoga gave me a fresh, new outlook on life and inspired me to a whole new level.”
-- Radha, USA

The ashram provides the perfect setting to put the teachings of karma yoga into practice. As part of a community of like-minded people and guided by the ashram's senior staff you can deepen your knowledge and practice of yoga, open your heart, learn some useful skills and enjoy the beautiful white sandy beach and the variety of ashram programs in your free time. You do not have to be a yoga teacher in order to join any of the ashram's karma yoga programs – all that is needed is willingness to serve and lead a yogic life. Click here for more information on our Residential Study Programs or to request an application form.

Kirtan with Swami Sivananda in the Early Days

In anticipation of this month's Joy of Kirtan weekend August 13 – 15 (see details in column opposite) and in celebration of Swami Sivananda's love for Kirtan, here is a short excerpt from Life and Works of Swami Sivananda, Biography of a Modern Sage:

“In the early days there were only about 10 or 15 ashramites and perhaps ten visitors, who all sat in two rows. The satsang started with opening prayers and then the lamp was passed to the first person sitting on Swamiji's left, who would read a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. As soon as that was finished that person would lead in chanting a kirtan and then the lantern would be pushed to the next person, who would read from some other scripture. This person would also lead the next kirtan and so it would go round. Everyone had to lead in singing a kirtan, it was not enough to sing in chorus. Swamiji would not accept any excuse or explanation. He pointed out that shyness wa an obstacle to spiritual progress.

“Swamiji once said that when he went to Rishikesh all that he wanted to do was to sit under a tree, to sing God's names and do japa. He was so fond of kirtan that there was not a single function which commenced without it. Every occasion demanded the singing of God's names. If someone was sick, dying, born or married; for laying a foundation stone or pulling a building down, he sang the Mahamantra:

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

. . .which was his favorite. He was so fond of this mantra that he instituted the continuous chanting of it at the ashram on the 3rd of December 1943, and this chanting has been going on continuously day and night ever since, generating an all-powerful spiritual current, invisibly helping all aspirants in their spiritual endeavor.”

Ashram News

A Labor Day Week of Unity in Diversity

From a Labor Day Weekend retreat on The Art of Positive Thinking (Sept 3-6) to Swami Sivananda's birthday (Sept 8) to the celebration of the Jewish New Year (Sept 9), the ashram in September will feature the kind of variety that characterizes the Retreat, with it all coming together into a beautiful whole for those who can be here the first full week in September. Stay for the weekend, the whole week or the whole month. Many of our rooms, including the popular beach huts, are now equipped with air conditioning for your summer comfort.

Vibrant Music Schedule Takes Shape

A diverse and talented group of artists are scheduled to appear at the ashram starting later this year. Please mark your calendar with these special dates so you can plan ahead for a music and yoga retreat in paradise!

Krishna Das will be at the ashram next February.
Nov 26 – 28, 2010
Karnamrita Dasi,
December 17 - 21, 2010
Snatam Kaur and GuruGanesha Singh,
Dec 29 – 31, 2010
David Newman (Durga Das) and Mira,
Jan 13 – 15, 2011
Krishna Das, Feb 4 – 6, 2011
Classical Indian Music and Dance Festival,
March 6 - 10, 2011
Russil Paul,
March 24 – 25, 2011
Ken Whiteley,
April 3 – 5, 2011
Jai Uttal,
April 25 – 28
Kirtan with Ragani,
May 28 - 31, 2011