It’s a beautiful morning in Casa de Guru, the Satyananda Yoga Centre in Brazil. The sun is shining, hundreds of birds are singing their different songs and tiny swallows fly around the house swooping and diving, making me smile in wonder at their agility and speed. The trees shine with many shades of green in the morning sunlight, and the gentle wind rustles through the sparkling leaves. I sit here observing prakriti in all her beauty and splendour and I feel blessed beyond words to have these glorious experiences in my life. Everything is guided by the grace of guru and without him, none of this is possible. I am reflecting on the last month and my experiences and impressions . . .
The Janani Tour 2019 began in Colombia. Swami Satyananda and Swami Niranjan have always called Colombia their second home and I understand why. The people open their hearts and homes and care for us like family. I have many mothers in Colombia, who feed me and nourish me on all levels, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have brothers who take me on adventures; this time we went to Iguaque, a sacred lake, that is believed to be the birth place of humanity by the Muisca people. It was a high mountain walk that pushed me to my limits but made me laugh the real belly laughs of joy. Together, we explored prakriti in all her beauty, the forests, rivers and mountain flora and fauna. These sacred places are protected and nurtured by the indigenous people of the land, whose influence luckily has power over our modern materialistic society. In these sacred and divine places, we experience happiness. The happiness is spontaneous and natural and we experience it by simply immersing ourselves in the vitality, beauty and prana of prakriti-Janani, the mother to us all. Around the world these natural environments are under threat by companies whose lives are inspired by financial and economic gain. As individuals we must do whatever we can to protect and nurture these environments as we do our own families, our gold and money. These sacred and natural places are essential to human beings, we need them not only for the clean air, water and biodiversity they provide, but we also need them to live happy and inspired lives. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to protect these places. Without them there is little meaning to our yogic and spiritual lives.
The Colombian Yoga Ecology program took place in a beautiful town called Villa De Leyva, about 150 km from the busy city of Bogotá. To enter Villa De Leyva is to step back in time, to cobbled streets, small villas with bougainvillea growing colourfully on the terraces and the smell of coffee, sweets and a creative mix of ancient and modern life.
This seminar was dedicated to Janani 2 – Food is Prana. It was guided by the grace of Ma Annapurna and together we enjoyed delicious healthy food, cooked khicheri, experienced good weather even though the weather-man told us otherwise. We chanted mantras, sang kirtan and danced in joy, we cleaned the gardens, laughed with the elderly and children alike, and for two days we lived a special yogic and ecological life.
It was a weekend of reconnection and commitment to natural yogic living and most people realized the effect and importance of spending time in nature, away from the busy polluted city life.
The first generation disciples of Swami Satyananda who have been there since the beginning of the yogic mission united and connected with the new generation of the second chapter of yoga in a joyful and inspired spirit of yoga and the love of guru.
Along with the weekend seminar we had kirtan programs in the Satyananda Yoga Academy in Bogotá, and people from the city came to sing and recharge their batteries. I realized that one thing you can always be sure of in South America is high energy, joyful and happy kirtan.
This was my first time to Argentina, and as we drove from the airport in Buenos Aires, I was hit by a sense of suffering and pain. The streets were lined with plastic and rubbish, and the buildings were covered in rough graffiti that told a story of a nation in crisis. The psychic energy of pain infiltrated my mind and heart.
We had kirtan that night in the yoga centre, the room was crowded with warm smiling faces (mostly women) and I felt the warmth of these people amidst the pain I perceived in the city.
The weekend seminar was in a place about one hour from Buenos Aires. The weather on the weekend was cold but the sun shone most of the time keeping the cold at bay. The Argentinian people kept their distance from me, it felt like a weekend with a big rough brother who keeps an eye on his little sister but doesn’t fuss or spoil her. The seminar went well and we performed Ashwattha Aradhana, Jyoti Aradhana and havan. The Argentinian people love kirtan and it seemed kirtan was the soothing balm they needed most, to lift them from the difficulties of daily life.
Uruguay is a small country with a small population of three million, but the love and support I felt from this small country and its people was not small. I was greeted at the airport with flowers and instant affection, like meeting old friends and family. The Uruguayan people are warm, big hearted with open minds. The yogic movement is strong for a small country and the seminar attracted over one hundred people. This Janani seminar was to be the biggest in South America.
The weekend seminar was held in a place called Piriopolis, about a two-hour drive from Montevideo on the coast. It is a beautiful town, alive with strange history and architecture; some houses had thatched straw roofs and were surrounded by more modern housing. Our hotel was on a hill overlooking the water and city, and the sunsets were incredibly inspirational and beautiful.
Many subtle yet meaningful touches were given by the organizers during the seminar; ID cards made of seed paper, home made origami love hearts containing the mantras for eating and sacred medicinal plants as prasad for each participant, these small efforts of the organizers showed the care, intention and feeling of the people.
The menu for the weekend was designed and prepared by sevaks of the group. In line with the theme ‘food is prana’, every meal was healthy, nutritious and tasty. We cooked khicheri together, sang kirtan and chanted mantras in the kitchen while preparing food, it was a happy positive environment and the food reflected that vibration.
The blessings of Ma Annapurna permeated the food with love and nourished us on all levels. How we prepare and cook food is as important as the ingredients. If we cook food with love and care the food will reflect that. Our diets in modern life have lost these values and we eat fast food and take-away food, with vibrations unknown to us. This can lead to many physical and mental problems.
We had Mahamritunjaya mantra havan in the horse paddock, far away from the eyes of prying neighbours, it was an adventure to settle ourselves amongst the trees, grass and rocks, but the night was alive and the energy of the havan was strong.
On the last day the weather was exquisite, the sky a radiant blue and the ocean reflected a calm serene beauty as if prakriti herself was showing her love and gratitude to the small group of people doing positive and good work for her. The children sang the sweetest kirtan with confidence and joy, and the adults danced in happiness. It was one of those moments in life where you feel ‘things can’t get much better than this!’ We were happy simply because we were happy. It showed us how a few days away from the city, sharing inspiration, yoga practices, havan, mantra, kirtan, good food and good sleep in a natural environment leads to a simple and happy life. It is as simple as that and that is yogic life. We don’t need much to be happy, but we spend our lives searching for happiness in such complicated ways that we miss the point. Living yoga moment to moment is appreciating the simple beauty that nature has to offer us in all areas of our life. How easy it is to forget our birth right of happiness!
The poornahoti of prakriti and the finale of the weekend, was the incredible geru sunset, a beautiful show of colour created by the divine shakti herself. It inspired in all of us the vision of our guru and his grace in our lives. His grace had blessed us all and filled us with love and inspiration. I am sure this weekend has transformed the lives of many, as I feel it transformed my own.
Now, back to where I started this story . . . in Brazil. The sun is setting behind the mountains and a chill fills the air. Casa De Guru is an offering to the guru from the disciples in Brazil. It is a place of guru, yoga sadhana and lifestyle. The weekend attracted young and old, but unlike the other venues where we had to create a yogic environment and routine this place is already established as a place of yoga and yogic lifestyle so we started with high energy and inspiration.
The weekend began with kirtan and Hanuman Chalisa. Brazilians experience the joy of kirtan and mantra and the children and adults danced with spontaneity and happiness. The weekend was simply a beautiful weekend of living yoga in a natural yogic environment. It is an environment perfect for the practices of yoga ecology and the trees smiled and connected to the people through Ashwattha Aradhana. The small fames of the deepaks shone into the night and it seemed the devatas of the trees were smiling with happiness.
We performed the Mahamritunjaya mantra havan on Saturday night in the garden, the rays of the full moon were filtered through the trees, bathing us in a golden light, creating a very special feeling of being one with prakriti, with Mother Nature. The healing havan, mantras and kirtan were offered to Mother Earth to help her manage the stress of the human species and its devastating effects on her ecosystems and other species. The mantras echoed around the valley and not another sound was heard.
People were given a small clay havan kund as prasad and together were taught a small individual daily havan for healing both the individual and the planet. These small daily sadhanas designed by Swami Niranjan give people a way to connect to nature and in their own small way heal themselves and the environment around them. They provide people with tools to do their little bit for the planet and to live yoga in a creative and constructive way. Through the power of Agni people connect to the divine within themselves and in the environment around them. These are the sadhana of yoga ecology, for people who care about Mother Nature and wish to connect to her and nourish her, whether in the city, the villages or farms.
Brazil is a vast and beautiful country, with a great variety of special and natural ecosystems. We explored the local rivers and waterfalls and I was so happy to learn that there are still rivers on Earth where one can drink fresh clean water full of prana and vitality directly from the rivers. I pray that
the Brazilian people have the strength to protect these pure waterways. We need them for life on earth.
I am proud to have met so many wonderful people on my South American Janani tour. The Satyananda Yoga tradition around the world maintains its purity, tradition and strength through these brave people who are determined not to be tainted by the material and commercial drive that has poisoned yoga around the world. It is not an easy task but they are doing the best they can with seriousness, sincerity and commitment as per the mandate of their guru Swami Niranjan. To them I offer my love and respect and I hope I can return to South America again and again to be inspired by their hard work and dedication, and I hope that through the Janani seminars they are inspired to live yoga and connect to Mother nature and protect her.