Monday, 16 July 2012

Welcome to our blog from Swami Nishchalananda

Welcome to the Mandala Yoga Ashram blog. The purpose of this blog is to share ideas and insights with our friends worldwide who are looking deeper into their lives and their very existence. I would like to start this blog with a poem by William Blake with you and how it touches me so deeply.

He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.” 

This quote is pure Yoga and shows that we should not have too many expectations of the future but live in the present moment - giving total attention to the people we are with and whatever is going on around us. It is only the Now that is important. In terms of Spiritual realization the past has no value, nor the future.
Swami Nishchalananda

A haven of peace at the Mandala Ashram

Travelling by train I head towards the Mandala Yoga Ashram in Wales. As the miles slip by and the scenery clears my mind I wonder what I will find. Chance meetings with kindred souls begin my journey in a positive vibe. Set in the beautiful hills of southern Wales; with the black mountains in the distance, it is truly a magical place. After I arrive, I gaze out of my bedroom window, feeling a sense of peace, an undercurrent of serenity, with a hushed and purposeful silence. It is easy to make the transition from the rushed and hectic world outside. To consciously slow down, and wander in the nearby fields, tread the labyrinth, soaking up the peace and beauty. The ashram was set up by Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati in 1986 after extensive training in India, with Swami Satyananda Sarawati. At the time, all that was on the land was a dilapidated farmhouse. Over the next 10 years, Swamiji and other dedicated souls gradually renovated and restored the old buildings, and began the construction of the new. They have built a yoga hall and a beautiful sun filled conservatory. They have developed their garden to grow much of their own food and now provide accommodation for those that are residents and those who come to study or work at the ashram.

We spend the evening settling in and the following day begins at 5.30am (yawn!), starting with an hour of gentle yoga, followed by a guided meditation practice. We chant Sanskrit mantras, which, although I do not understand the words, pulse throughout my body and mind. They are powerful on many different levels, encouraging in me a release of tension I didn’t even realise I held. We eat breakfast and then begin our ‘work’.

Karma yoga has an integral place within the ashram, with everyone helping to provide what is needed. I was in the kitchen, helping to prepare our lunch. After picking much of it from the poly tunnels, and engaging in chat and laughter with my co-workers, I would occasionally remember to return to my breath, and take a moment to be still, quiet and content. Not only does karma yoga give you a sense of working for a community you are part of – selfless service for the good of all – but also the opportunity to return to our spiritual self on a regular basis, checking in with our thoughts and emotions, accepting them just as they are, with no attachment, allowing them come and go. We spend the afternoon again practicing meditation and chanting. In the evening we listen to Swamiji answer questions that several of us have submitted to him (satsang). For me, he echoed thoughts and emotions I had been observing within myself; he responded with humility, grace and humour, affirming some of the conclusions I had also reached.

Mouna (silence) is often observed in the ashram, at meal times and after 9pm, which I thought I would find strange, but actually relished after an intense period of meditation. It is inspiring to have the time to contemplate what has arisen, before returning to speech and interaction.

All the residents of the ashram are inspirational; they welcomed us with open hearts, a special quality of light shining from their eyes. On the website it states: “An ashram is a sacred place where the atmosphere is charged with transformative energy, providing nourishment, inspiration and inner strength to continue with our lives”
There is an energy that permeates the sadhana hall, and the grounds around the ashram. You can feel it emanating from those who chose to spend their lives dedicated to looking deeper into their souls, balancing joy and peace, observing the insecurities we all experience. Swami Nishchalananda rightly says “we take ourselves wherever we go”; whether its out in a busy world, or in a place of retreat, the mind will always offer us challenges to work with; if we chose to look and work with what we find. Looking back on the weekend I remember with a smile and warmth in my heart for all the wonderful people I met. I feel clear and focused, yet somehow not quite so integrated in the ‘real’ world. The mediation techniques still resonate within me, and I look forward to the day I can return.

By Karen Hills after her first Ashram visit in 2012