It is quite complex to put on paper one's thoughts about something that so deeply permeates one's life and makes it meaningful in many ways as yoga does to me. I am in a relationship with yoga in many ways for over 20 years and it is the only constant thing in my life. I am not a classical yogi type of person. I am not good in asanas and pranayamas, I do not have required self-discipline. I do not know advanced meditation techniques.
The only thing I do have is faith. Enormous and non-wavering, unshakeable, firm faith. My faith is based on the ever-present Hindu gods and goddesses in my mind. My understanding and perception of the world and universe are direct result from this religious-philosophical system, and the feeling of physical presence of God in my life.
Like most people I went through many different experiences in life: sorrow, depression, loss, but also through moments of happiness and success - both in my family life and career. All those experiences I have shared with God. There were moments when I cried and begged for help, and there were moments when I rejoiced with Him in my thoughts. That connection is present even now. Every significant moment I share with Him.
Through yoga I have experienced richness and the precious experience of my relationship with a guru. Many times I have felt His grace and blessings and I feel grateful for that. His blessings usually came to me through advice of my yoga teacher and that advice and her care literally saved my life several times. Even today, talking with her is like a compass in a sea of temptation that life brings.
When I think of practical benefits of yoga, I would stress mantra and place it in the first place. The moment I received a personal mantra from my guru, not a single day I failed to practise it. I suppose that the mantra, on a deeper level, has guided me on the path of spiritual evolution, with no retrace. In day-to-day life, the mantra calms me, gives meaning to my days and reappears spontaneously in my mind while I am walking, working, before sleep, in the early morning. Mantra comforts me and reminds me that I do belong to a great unfathomed system that wishes me only good. It is sort of my compass.
The other important practice I am regular with is definitely yoga nidra. This miracle technique provides me with deep relaxation and insights into certain elements of the subconscious content. Many important decisions which I have made immediately after yoga nidra practice, proved to be righteous and good for me.
Practising yoga brought me closer to concepts of karma yoga and seva. Doing my daily and professional duties with components of karma yoga, I have achieved both success and harmony.
I have had amazing experiences during my two visits to the ashram. First of all, it was due to the meetings with Swamiji and the feelings that I have for Him is like a great, wonderful, elder divine brother who is always somewhere in the air around me and protects me even when I am not able or I do not wish to protect myself.
Living sannyasa life, even briefly, in the proximity of the guru, I had the opportunity to personally experience the power of the energetic field that permeates the ashram. I have understood that the perspective from which I usually perceive my life and my problems, is actually not right. Living in the ashram one begins to understand that one's problems and the way one looks at them and the ways one resolves them, is often completely wrong.
One more beautiful thing in the ashram is seva. Usually having a dissipated mind, I gave myself fully to seva with great love, dedication and commitment. I have experienced rare moments of complete peace and tranquillity, all experienced right after a hard day's work in the ashram. Apart from the work itself, the beauty was the communication and friendship with other visitors and residents of the ashram. Positive spirit and brightness that seva develops in people, and the joy of belonging to the same 'tribe 'are one of the best memories of the ashram which I cherish.
For me the fact that I came in contact with yoga is one of the most precious experiences of my life. This taught me that life does not only have two dimensions, that miracles happen, and the most important understanding was that we are all just small children awakening spiritually with difficulties and pain, but still awakening and there is a hope. Yoga therefore is hope, faith and optimism. Yoga gives the conviction that we are not all alone and that behind sorrow there is definitely a sun rising again.
Mladen Maticevic is the author of the documentary film 'Hero'