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Level 1 Lesson 2A Reading assignment Pages 21-22
How would you describe your knowledge of religion and philosophy?
Exploratory and ongoing inquiry. I have never felt comfortable with exclusive concepts that made other beliefs inferior or wrong as I always felt there was a connecting thread. As I have been introduced to Shetaut Neter I have seen where all of these religions and philosophies originated, and it makes sense now to see the origin of the ideas and practices.
I think it is important to continuously explore and contemplate the knowledge as this helps to deepen the understanding and imbue the mind with these thoughts. This then impacts on the feeling nature and helps with inner transformation, which expresses in outward life so it does not just remain just at the level of knowledge
What do you see as the greatest obstacle to your happiness and fulfillment in life?
My greatest obstacle has been (certain practices of yoga have helped greatly) when my mind slips into misconceptions in thinking. For example- Emotional thinking, all or nothing thinking, zooming in on one small aspect(usually the negative) and losing sight of the bigger picture. I have had to work a lot with this.
Growing up in families I think we just take for granted that how we think is the norm as there are similar patterns of thinking around us.
It helped that I married someone who had a different way of thinking, who could decide this is enough time given to this train of thought and drop it completely and move on. This was something I really had to, and continue to work on.
What helped as well was being introduced (in the New Age movement) to ideas about the power of thoughts and feelings, words, actions and how these create our reality.
Subsequently being guided to the study of Yoga, with the practices of Pranayama and Asanas, the Shat Karmas, Yoga Nidra and Japa have given me the greatest happiness and fulfillment because it has led to greater balance in different aspects of my personality and greater understanding of life. And now I have been led to these teachings of Shetaut Neter.
What do you see as the most important need that you have?
Continued balance in all aspects of my life. Spiritual understanding of life leading to peace, and learning to be wise.
What is your previous religious affiliation or faith and how do you think that relates to what you are following now
I did not grow up in an overly religious home. My dad in his younger days did not want to have anything to do with religion as his mother and sister had been Christian Scientists and he had seen them both at different junctures in their life, refuse medical help when they most needed it and choose faith in God to heal, and my dad’s engineering mind rejected such decisions as being impractical.
My mother was open minded, an athlete (hockey player) and coach and she had a strong intuition. Growing up we would always refer to her ‘hunches’ as being correct.
Two events happened that led me to Unity school of Christianity.
I was going through an emotional upset and looking for a book one day, the book ‘Sermon on the mount’ by Emmet Fox fell off the bookshelf. I picked it up and began reading it.
This coincided with my mother recently beginning to attend Unity and encouraging me to come with her as she saw me drawing spider webs and intuited that I was feeling trapped.
I was inspired by the book Sermon on the Mount and realized this was also related to the teachings of Unity, so I went.
This was my introduction to New Age teachings as insufficient as they are/were, but it was the beginning of a path that among other things helped me look at life experiences in a different way, introduced me to meditation and keeping a spiritual journal, doing daily reading and reflecting.
I was subsequently led to Yoga and found there a comprehensive teaching that addressed all aspects of being, and there I have stayed.
I feel this relates to what I am studying now as the origins of Yoga began in Shetaut Neter, so it feels like an open door to a bigger room of discovery.
What role do you feel religion or spirituality plays in your life?
I never thought of religion as I am learning now, as a composite of Myth, Ritual and Mysticism. I thought of religion as Beliefs.
I think certain experiences played a role in opening up my insight into spirituality, and have influenced my life more than reason, more than logic, and more than religion. These led me to a different way of thinking and then different practices that began the inner change. Maybe this is an aspect of spirituality
One such experience went came to mind. In fact it was how I was introduced to Henry David Thoreau’s book ‘Walden Pond’
I was painting by a river one day and I must have become really deeply absorbed as something shifted and I heard the river whispering and laughing. Later that day I was standing outside of a bookstore and found myself for some reason staring at a book through the window. ‘Walden Pond’ by Henry David Thoreau. I went in and started looking through the book and came to a section where Thoreau had experienced something similar living by the pond.
I bought the book, so in this way different ideas and ways of thinking were being more impressed on me.
Have you had any previous yoga instruction? If so where and what was (is) your experience
My first introduction into yoga was through books my mother bought- one in particular – ‘The complete illustrated book of Yoga’ by Swami Visnudevananda
I read and practiced what I could on my own. I did Transcendental Meditation –TM, and went briefly to Ananda Marg where I sensed there was a subtle, and not so subtle manipulation and intentional mind control. In a dream I had about the monks (dadas) and nuns (didis) I was told to ‘beware of wolves in sheeps clothing’. So I left.
I then met my future husband and started going to his yoga classes, which were of the Sivananda, Satyananda Tradition. He had also studied Shabd Yoga so after we were married I was initiated into that tradition by Sant Ajab Singh (who has since transitioned).
In 2003 I went to Bihar school of yoga to do the Certificate course ‘Introduction to Yoga’. I wanted to start at the beginning even though I had been practicing yoga for years prior.
It was very inspirational to live for six months in an ashram of great sentience , of pure air, as there were no industries to cause pollution, practicing different aspects of yoga, nightly chanting, among other things.
Sebai Maa mentioned in the video talk Lesson 2A that the Eastern approach to yoga is different than the West.
I think an example of this was when as students at Bihar School of Yoga, we had the opportunity of travelling to the ashram Swami Satyananda had established after he left Bihar which he had been inspired by his guru Swami Sivananda to develop, to promote the teachings of yoga world wide.
After twenty years of this work, he handed Bihar over to Swami Niranjanananda whom he had mentored from age four, and after eight years of wandering again thoughout India, he was guided to Rikhia where he promoted predomininately karma yoga.
No asanas were taught there. Only in past few years this aspect of yoga has been reintroduced.
Anyone who came had to commit to helping to uplift the surrounding communities and villages. Dig wells, build houses. He organized an annual celebration based on a series of resolves he had made that spanned twelve years and focused on karma yoga in the form of selfless service and giving to the thousands of villagers who would attend. He had also included in this annual celebration the enactment of Sita Kalyanam.
During this celebration there was twenty four hour chanting over the several days and special rituals done with the priests reciting mantras by the sacred fire. About twenty thousand people came daily from the different surrounding villages to be part of this, and each was served and given gifts of grain and utensils and clothing, blankets.
We started daily at 4 a.m. either preparing the gifts that would be given as Prasad for the day, or preparing- peeling, chopping etc ‘mountains’ of potatoes, carrots, okras etc.
The meals were cooked on huge outside vats by male cooks who rotated over twenty four hour periods , and it was the most delicious food I have ever tasted considering it was done in such huge quantities.
We were working all day into the evening, and I was aware as we also took our meals, of food simply as fuel to keep going.
We always served the children and then the adults. This was particulary done as the villagers in that area were accustomed to being looked down upon based on the caste system in India.
It was interesting that the parents would keep their eyes cast down and they felt embarrassed that we were serving their children and in contrast, the children were so confident and took part in leading the program.
This Ashram in Rikhia had undertaken to take 500 little girls – one each from different families in the surrounding villages- and from age 5 to 13 they would come each day to the Ashram to be given an education which included certain aspects of yogic education such as devotional Bhakti Yoga with chanting and Karma yoga.
These little girls were subsequently joined by 500 little boys as it was felt if the consciousness of the girls was being raised and they continued to live in their environment, then it was also important to help raise the consciousness of the boys.
In the midst of all this wonderful experience however, I have to say I went through a challenge. I felt I had stopped thinking for myself. There was so much wisdom around, there was a lot of regimentation, we knew exactly what to do and when.
I realized the difference when at Christmas, we as students were asked to organize a concert and I felt my mind reach back into creative thinking. I was not the only person to experience this, but I remember sharing with a Swami and she told me the challenge was to work with my mind to overcome this.
So I who had thought it was the ideal to live in a spiritualized space, found it difficult in this way, and it took me a little while even when I returned to Jamaica, to make decisions, even simple decisions about what I would buy going to the supermarket.
I have observed however that since then, many of the Swamis are sent out to different parts of India, to other countries to teach etc. and I think this would be helpful.
Have you received any advanced religious instruction?
I do not think I would call it advanced religious instruction, but when I was attending Unity school of Christianity, I did courses in’ The Metaphysical Interpretation of the Bible’ ‘The Twelve Powers of Man’ – “Lessons in Truth’ and some others.
With my introduction to Yoga I would listen to videos and read the writings of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Ramakrishna, Swami Yogananda as well as the early publications from Bihar School of Yoga that my husband had brought back with him from India.
Having done the course of study at Bihar, I continued with the teachings of Swami Sivananda, Swami Satyananda, and Swami Niranjananda
Now I am putting these in context with the teachings of Shetaut Neter as I am seeing that even they have a link to another beginning.
How do you see your life
Life cycles I have gone through seem so brief when I look back. What might have been important then does not seem as important now.
Of course there have been personal internal challenges but overall I am thankful that I have been born into a loving and supportive family, including extended family. I am thankful I have always been able to be involved in work that I enjoy and I am thankful I was led on this path of spiritual discovery and growth.
What do you think of your own potential to succeed in life?
Now in my 60’s I was reflecting that I have seen different cycles of life, different successes and the ebb and flow of these..as a painter when I thought that would always be, then becoming a student again when I did a MA in Art Education, and now teaching art to young children.
Having friends 20 years my senior I have seen previews of cycles of life through their experiences that I am just now beginning to also go through, such as caring for an elderly parent…and also that all successes come and go and what is constant is the soul growth because all else passes away
Some of these friends now in their 80’s and 90s are making their transitions. Life changes.
I see what changes there are and how successes in life really mean very little when you get older.i mean how much are you going to strive for when you are 90. Although even as I write this I am thinking.. I have a father who at 93 still feels he has a lot he would like to do…. but his body does not keep up with his mind and I observe that for some the body keeps stronger than the mind and visa versa.
Even those who inspired me on my journey…. they went through changes too. So how much will we accomplish towards our goal?
And if Ra went through different stages.is it wrong that we do too..is that part of the journey too?
I think Sandra observed that if we look at it from and ‘Eternal’ perspective, and fill our soul with the practice and the disciplines, that will go forward with us.
If you could what would you like to do with your life?
At this point in my life I really enjoy teaching children and using the medium of art and including breathing and visualizations and simple meditation techniqes at the beginning of each class as I see how the children are receptive to this.
The requirements of the school are quite time consuming and also there are more demands on my personal time with helping my father so even doing these reflections I am aware of how it seems to take longer to reflect and record in depth because of the expectations in other areas of my life. This is a new aspect I have to balance.