I've been quite busy programming all types of web sites and over time I've not been putting much energy in this blog or web site at all.
The Big Rebuild
I'm in the process of reorganizing my Internet presence with different web sites starting with a portal which just came up.
Please Change Your Bookmarks
This is the last post in this blog at this address. From now on new posts will come to this address: http://swamiatma.com/blog.
Similarly the RSS feed is moving. To subscribe to the new feed please point your feed reader to: http://swamiatma.com/blog.rss
... or in French for that matter.
In the past 25 years there have been very few times I have taught yoga in my homeland or my native language.
Since I'm getting a bit reacquainted with the language and since I'll have to spend some time over here, I've decided to teach occasional workshop on meditation and pragmatic yoga and see how it goes.
Here is the link if you happen to be in the area.
The Only Constant is Change
Over the last several years I have been mostly teaching as a guest teacher visiting any yoga centers or ashrams who asked me to.
Since my teachings have been evolving, or at least changing gradually but substantially, I have been feeling less and less comfortable teaching within the strict structure of the Sivananda tradition. Consequently I have been traveling less and less to give out programs.
Interestingly this quantitative decrease in teaching assignments has come in parallel with a qualitative improvement in both my personal practice and what I think is my level of teaching.
The next logical step is to organize my own events so that what I teach can be a true reflection of my personal yoga experience.
I'm putting together some programs here in Normandy and a few projects are in different stages of planning in Hamburg, Amsterdam, Speyer, etc.
I'm also in the process of updating my online biography so that prospective students can have a more accurate idea of who they will be dealing with.
The Power of Testimonial
I'm a strong believer in "testimonial shakti". Over the years I have met so many hundreds and even thousands of students that, call me a deluded optimist if you want, I figure a few of them might have something pleasant to say in regard to the different programs I have given.
The Call to Action
If you feel so inclined to share your impressions and would not mind them being printed on web sites or various printed materials you can go to this Facebook thread which I have set up for just that purpose.
If you have a personal blog or web site for your yoga center or ashram, make sure you mention the URL in the comment but outside the testimonial so I can link to you as well.
I think short testimonials are often more potent so I might not use everything you say even though I value any type of feedback.
Negative feedback is always fun to read so don't hesitate to leave this kind as well but it will probably not be used for publicity ;-)
"As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility." (ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah)Yoga Sutras - 2.35
Today we've reached our fundraising goal thanks to 44 generous donors. There could not be a better way to finish this intense year 2011.
This blog will now resume its normal programming. Look out for some good posts more or less related to yoga.
I pray you will have joyful holidays and a great new year 2012.
We have reached the fundraising goal!. My deepest gratitude to all 44 donors who have helped make this possible. All the best for the holidays and wishing you a happy 2012.
Most people will experience in their life a few turning points which will end up being critical, make-or-break events. I'm currently at such a crossroad and I need your help to assist me in moving forward to the next phase on my life.
Before entering the heart of the subject I would like to give you a little background information.
I started doing yoga at age 20 and took the Sivananda Yoga Teachers Training course in my mid-twenties. That life changing event was followed one year later by moving to North America to become a full time volunteer in the Sivananda organization (SYVC). That was the most exciting time of my entire life. Among other things I got to: learn English; discover California, the US, and their wonderful inhabitants; learn Yoga and its philosophy in depth and from fantastic teachers; learn about different aspects of skills such as running a non-profit business; and much, much more.
I've always felt that I have received much more that I have given during these 12+ years but by giving my life to yoga and its teaching I did make some sacrifices such as not making any money whatsoever and surrendering close to 100% of personal free time and privacy. That was done all in joy though so I've never harbored any regrets.
My primary motive to join SYVC was to learn traditional yoga as thoroughly as possible. Having been there for over 10 years I started feeling that I was learning less and less and it became more and more challenging to live in a community without the primary benefits coming in anymore.
I've always had an independent streak in me, for the better and for the worse.
At the end of 2000 I decided to leave the SYVC organization and continue my destiny as a Sivananda swami and yogi but on my own. Of course I left with big dreams, hopes, and plans. The least we can say is that things did not turn out as I was envisioning but do things ever do in life?
Most yogis and swamis who were in my position in the past found their own way to live a fulfilling life in their 'after-staff' time. Most gave up sannyasa and often times started a family, got a job, and used the good yogic principles acquired at SYVC to live beautiful lives. This was not, has never been, and is not my personal wish however. It's always been clear that even though I found myself outside an organization and outside India the values and spirit of sannyasa have kept burning high in my heart and mind.
The challenge has been and is to stay true to the spirit of sannyasa but finding a way to adapt it to this modern world and to my own personality with its strengths and weaknesses.
When I left SYVC I thought I would just continue in a very similar way following Swami Vishu-devanandaji's teachings to the letter and very soon opened up a SYVC like yoga center in California and a non-profit ashram called A.Y.A. (Advaita Yoga Ashrama). I soon realized that I was not meant and did not want to teach Yoga 1 courses for the rest of my life so that did not last too long.
Soon after that I was drawn to Austin, TX where there were a few Sivananda teachers and a nascent and promising community which was building up. Turned out this fizzled out for a number of reasons.
Making a long story short I felt compelled to move back to Europe and for the last few years I have been teaching here and there, very much living in a nomadic way.
Right now, about 10 years after I left SYVC I can now look back and I realize that in the first 5 years I was trying to copy the SYVC model in all its ways and in the last 5 years I've truly tried to find my own way. This has been related a bit in these few blog posts.
I believe I'm currently making tons of spiritual progress and, if I may say so, I'm a much better teacher now than I was 8-12 years ago. That's great and vindicates some difficult choices I made.
I had to give a name to my ever changing teaching style and attitude and I settled on 'Pragmatic Yoga'. Some of the principles which I value highly in this approach are:
- spiritual approach. More so than yoga centered around fitness, health, stress management, etc.
- pragmatic, which means centered around making actual spiritual progress (meditating deeper)
- empowering to the students
- free of dogmas
- free thinking
- with as little structure as possible
- with as much spontaneity as possible
Here is a good starting page for information.
Better Teacher may be, less Popular for sure
You would think the key points above would resonate with a lot of modern yogis but it does not seem to be the case at all. The irony is that the more progress I feel I'm making as a teacher and the fewer students I seem to draw in the programs I give internationally. I'm still trying to figure out why.
One reason might be that any true progress is predisposed on change. One cannot really grow spiritually, or as a human being, by parroting the same truths and thoughts, however noble and inspiring they are, for decades on end. With change comes a lack of comfort. My students from 10 or 15 years ago would probably like me to be more or less the same type of teacher they have known in the past and it's just not the case at all.
Additionally most students like to have their current views pretty much reinforced rather than challenged.
Psychologically many folks feel more secure with a fixed set of rules, teachings, ideas, and techniques which promise quick and lasting progress. Fuzziness does not seem as attractive although some spiritual teachers of the past have done really well teaching free thinking and personal freedom.
I did make a conscious choice and resolve (sankalpa) a number of years ago: I will not fit my teaching to the demands of the market. I will teach what makes the most sense to me and I do not want to take a marketing approach to the teaching of yoga. So I'm definitely ready to live with the fact that I will probably not have many students in the future.
The easy way to success seems to package the teachings into a defined course offered in the form a training with a diploma at the end. I'm not planning to offer anything like this at this stage.
That was the sound of Swami Atma falling back and down to earth reality. I have to admit that on a material level I did not picture myself homeless and penniless after these 10 years of following the path of independent spiritual pursuit. Furthermore I haven't had any health care for almost 25 years and this seems more important in one's fifties than in one's twenties or thirties.
Where are the Revenues Coming from?
Something has to give in. If I don't want to get a job and I'm not ready to compromise my yoga teaching for the sake of profit and commercial success then some money has to come from somewhere. It's not that I've been sitting on my hands or anything. In the last few years I have been learning web programming and found a lot of personal fulfillment in that endeavor. That's a great training for the mind, a good challenge for my little intellect, and in the process I'm building something good.
It's taken longer than I thought it would to reach professional proficiency but I'm finally there. A couple years ago I started a web design and programming company and things are finally taking off on that level.
In the near future, besides deepening my yoga sadhana and formulating it in a clearer way, I will be investing more time in that direction so it seems that I'm just about to finally earn more money that I spend.
Just as some Western and Eastern monastic orders do generate or have generated for centuries some revenues via non-spiritual means, I do feel truer to my path to follow this non-conventional business way that will enable me to always teach yoga and meditation free from financial considerations.
Future is Looking Good
Despite all this the future looks great on all levels:
- spiritual - practicing and teaching meditation much more successfully. The sky seems to be the limit.
- inner growth - on the yoga and non-yoga level I am learning more than ever. I feel like a child again.
- health - I made a big breakthrough over 6 months ago having found the diet that fits me best. Very nutritious, satisfying to the palate, leaving me free of cravings as well as much lighter.
- financial - although it's bad now the work opportunities with web programming are very promising.
- psychological stability - I might finally have a home very soon
Settling down is the Key
Something that has been weighing down on me for the last 6-7 years is that I've had no place to call home. I've been drifting from friend to friend and teaching place to teaching place rarely resourcing anywhere for an extended period. Over that time I think I have slept more than 2 consecutive months in the same bed only 3 or 4 times! This has resulted in the intense traveling burnout I'm currently experiencing.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of a couple students I made two recent attempts to settle down and finally drop my luggage to the floor but karma had it that neither attempt worked out in the end.
This is about to change. In the next few weeks I will be looking aggressively to rent out a little, as-cheap-as-they-come apartment and do 'my thing' with the benefit of solitude. A cave in a city. In the last couple years every time I could stay more than a few weeks in a given place and by myself I got to blossom in many ways and make breakthroughs in the different areas outlined above. I can visualize myself going down that path for the next couple years, doing relatively little teaching or traveling, and then coming back out renewed and as it were a 'reconstructed' yoga teacher.
So What's the Bad News you Ask?
After this long preamble you just know that something painful is coming. Over these last 10 years I have built up a considerable amount of debts. Some to credit cards in the name of the Advaita Yoga Ashrama which I share the responsibility with same one else and some in my name to various individuals.
This post is about the credit card debts which have accumulated beyond reason and which have been unmanageable in the last few years partly because of the high interest rates which make it impossible to get out of the quick sands.
I need your Help
This post is about doing a very last fundraising effort in the name of Advaita Yoga Ashrama. The amount of debts was more than significant but a student who has been my main supporter since my early days at SYVC Los Angeles has already stepped up to the plate and, as incredibly as it seems, has donated the larger part of the debt. From our original 4 credit cards, 3 have been paid off in the last year or so.
There is one card left and I need to appeal to your generosity a last time to bury this problem once for all and allow AYA and myself to thrive forward in a financially sane manner.
How you can Help
- Buy something from our online store
- Contribute with a donation
- Exchange a donation for some web work. Bartering programming for donation
1. Online Yoga Store - Total Liquidation
We've had a good inventory of yoga items in our store, many of them in stock for a long time. We would like to use this as a part of this fundraising drive. Please do consider purchasing some items in addition to or instead of a donation.
AYA is a 501 c(3) non-profit corporation so If you happen to live in the US your donation will be tax-deductible.
If you find it in your heart to help us lessen our burden I will be immensely obliged.
How Much Should You Give? Obviously this is entirely up to you but may I suggest the different factors to help you decide on an amount
- How much can you afford? Obviously we don't want to ask you for money and put you in a dire situation yourself
- How much were you affected by my or AYA's contact in the past? Since I don't want to make promises about teaching or anything which I might not be able to keep in the future, I ask you humbly to consider how we have influenced your life through the teachings.
- How much you feel sorry for me :-( I won't lie to you it's a bit hard for my big ego to do this appeal to your generosity. I count also on your pity.
Although a 'bigger' donation would give us a bigger chance to totally clear that debt right away we would be very grateful as well should you be able to pledge 5 or 10 dollars (or euros, or pounds).
3. Website Programming
I'm ready to work hard to end this unfortunate situation. If you are in need of a professional grade web site and find that our work is up to par with your expectations, I could give you the normal quote for the job and then could discount it substantially if you made the payment as an upfront AYA donation.
It is my sincerest hope that you will not be offended by this fundraising request.
Regardless of the outcome of this fundraising drive I feel my life has been immensely enriched by the direct contact with the many thousands of yogis and yoginis over the last 24 years since I teach yoga. And for that, THANK YOU.
In eternal gratitude. Om Tat Sat. Swami Atma
We have reached the fundraising goal!. My deepest gratitude to all 44 donors who have helped make this possible. All the best for the holidays and wishing you a happy 2012.
Charlatans who give a bad name to Religion
Derren Brown is at it again in this fascinating and entertaining video. He set out to expose 'fake' faith healers.
His message is very similar to Swami Vishnu-devanandaji's who staged a similar 'fake guru' demonstration with an actor who happened to be a student of his.
A problem in all traditions
This problem is not unique to Christianity and as a yoga teacher I'm very careful not to abuse the power conferred by the student.
If all atheists left the USA, it would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences but less than 1% of the prison population.Unknown
All movements go too far.Bertrand Russell
"If there is no God, who pops up the next Kleenex?"Art Hoppe
"What some people mistake for the high cost of living is really the cost of high living."Doug Larson
Good for her
The title says it all. Poignant video.
Olga Kotelko starting practicing Track & Fields at 77 years old and is now 91 years old.
She broke over 10 records just last year!
This video is very inspiring.
I will be teaching another workshop this Sunday in Zurich. We'll do 2 sessions of spinal breathing + meditation, some asanas, some hatha yoga pranayama, and learn some mudras and bandhas.
This will include the discussion of different variations of techniques such as mula bandha, tri-bandha, etc.