What would I have been happy doing for a living? Am I meant to become a doctor, a researcher, an artist, educationalist, engineer, manager, or a writer? As a child I wanted to become almost everything from an Ayurveda doctor to singer, to a fairy. The mind wants to become all that it is attracted to. Then one learns to walk a road steadily. Choices are made and progress happens when one is willing to have vision of where one wants to be. Consistency is the key. When one is walking a road then the human mind has a tendency to wonder what might have been. Would life be better if my profession and personal choices were different? It is good to introspect. It is good to want to direct the course of one’s life and it is good to want to better oneself. But one can get too caught up with the flow, yet, not become a drifter.

Fickleness can mask itself as wanting to move ahead. Inconsistency can mask itself as boredom. One can flit from one thing to another without having the courage to go deeper. One can constantly feel unfulfilled when what has to be changed is not the situation but the attitude. Sometimes one might need to retrace ones steps. Take a fresh look and re-charter one’s own course. With time and more awareness, we might have to redefine our visions and goals. We might have to make choices about profession and lifestyle. We might have to see what our barter is. Are we giving away our lives for a few extra bucks or for the goal we crave.

We have to see if our goals are in alignment with our highest potential and the spiritual laws. (spiritual laws do not mean laws that pertain to spirits but, the simple karmic law of “as you sow so you reap”-that helps us live a full and harmonious life on planet earth). Then we may have to shift out paths and rework our lives within the framework of what ever we are doing. Every time we look at what we have done and what we are capable of, we have a chance to better ourselves.

That is what Yoga is about. It is a path that wise and questioning souls have walked. It is a path that has already been cleared, so those moving towards the same goal can see. It is a path of the individual towards universality. It is not just a professional path. It is a path moving towards one’s essential nature. Sometimes the ego might want to cut through the jungle, just to feel that it has created it’s own NEW WAY. And ultimately, after all the toil and drama, the destination is still the same and the straight paths are parallel.

All mystics speak of the same truths. One can find one’s own different path if one is willing to walk in circles for a while. Even in a structured path there are many steps that we take that are our own. The structure is there, so that we don’t go way out. Some take detours and are like children who like to get lost and scare themselves while playing. We can laugh at our games of hide and seek.

In India, there are Satdarshans, or the six revelations or, views of reality, of which, Yoga is a legitimate path of Self Discovery. The path is not just the techniques, but the awareness and consciousness with which one leads one’s life. The more consciously one walks the path; the more aware he is if detours take place. India has produced many enlightened souls, as the path was there for many to see. Each enlightened soul did not start his own cult. In the west, we have a couple of new institutionalized paths and they seem like trendsetters. New religions are created after them. The west fails to understand that no path can be patented. The world religion comes from the Latin root religere, which means to bind. Yoga also comes from the root word Yuj, which means to yoke or to bind. We are yoking or binding the individual consciousness to the supreme or universal consciousness. From limitation, we become unlimited.

Yoga is the journey and the goal. It is a path that one walks if one wants to realize ones full potential, be in touch with oneself, move from fear to trust, become more skilled and more aware, if one wants to live life fully and relish every moment. Yoga is not a hobby, religion, cult or profession. It is a path to move beyond our patterns, be it emotional or mental. As Swami Gitananda taught, it is a path of conscious evolution. I am extremely happy and grateful to be walking the Yoga path. It is a blessing to be a student of Yoga. Yoga has the capacity to satiate my desire to be what ever I want to be. But, are we not supposed to be desire less? That’s the last rung on the ladder up to moksha (freedom for identification). A state that I can imagine yet not experience. I do not want to suppress my desires but sublimate them. I do not want to fool myself into wanting less out of lethargy. I need to know I am capable of actualizing my desires. I want to let go of them as they no longer hold me and not because of defeatism. My desires have definitely become more and more refined and more and more real. I remember as a child, I wanted to save and clean up the world. Now, I am content saving myself. When one is happy, healthy and balanced, it infiltrates ones relationships and one’s surroundings, unhealthy dependencies are avoided and fewer are played.

Yoga fulfills my need to be the many things I want to be. It helps me be a scientist where there experiment is I, the personality. I keep observing how I react in different laboratory conditions. In effect, the observer and the observed are i. The lab is the world and different people and situations variants. That’s quite an experiment. Now, if I don’t watch myself dispassionately, I have the tendency to influence the outcome of the experiment. The Heisenberg principle states the result of the experiment is influenced by the intention and expectation of the experimenter. That’s a law of modern physics.

The Rishis had discovered this law more than 10,000 years ago-they were the researchers of that age. They researched the human body, the breath and the emotions, the mind and its different faculties, the gr4eat cosmic energy and the interconnectedness of all of them. They knew that their consciousness affected them and everything around them. They lived in harmony with nature and applied their minds to create a life and environment that seemed beyond the natural. Yoga develops the artist in me. I can sculpt myself the way I want to be. Yoga helps smooth-en out the edges. Once I decide I want to mold myself, the divine sends me his bandwagon to help me. He is the greatest artist of all and I aspire to be like the great creator of beauty.

We also see horror and grossness. with free will, one creates ones reality. I am responsible for the beauty and the ugliness I see within me. Again what I see ugly can be just a matter of perception. Now, let us apply the Heisenberg principle. When my intention is “I am ugly”, then according to the thought, and to the intensity of the thought, I make myself ugly. So change the thought and you can change the outcome. That’s brilliant isn’t it?

Now I get to be an artist and a scientist at the same time. Yoga develops the manager in me. It helps me manage myself with all my idiosyncrasies. As Swami Gitanana said, “Yoga is the Right Usenet of everything”. This includes our body, emotions, thoughts, time and external resources. We need to learn to make optimum and responsible use of all that there is. We start with our body optimizing the energy in the system and directing it with our intellect to work towards a vision. We learn to be the CEO of our own energy system and manage and direct our resources efficiently. We learn to become leaders by motivating our body and emotions to do what our intellect knows is healthy and not force them. We build a healthy team of body, emotions, mind and intellect and make them work in harmony. We deal with conflict resolution and disaster management just by managing ourselves effectively. Yoga helps us to look at ourselves as a project-a project of self-improvement rather than give excuses or condemn ourselves.

My film making skills are also honed by yoga. My life is like interactive TV. I am constantly writing and rewriting my life’s script. Some scripts don’t work and others do. The more in tune I am with my power and consciousness, the more I materialize what I think about. Sometimes, I just sit back and see the great soap operas that unfold in my life and around me and I know it is all His Leela or play. Our lives surpass the dramas on television and are infinitely more engrossing. We can see the roles we play and know we have the capacity to move beyond our roles.

Whatever roles we play, teacher, father, manager, Christian, musician, or saint, Yoga will make us better at it. With yoga we address our being. We move closer to who we are, rather that what we posses. We develop a deep respect for ourselves as an individual and as a manifestation of the divine-not because of our acquisitions, be ti material, intellectual or spiritual. Yes, there are a lot of spiritual acquisitions also that one can start identifying with – like titles, visions or powers to heal and manifest objects. They can also be a pitfall, as one stops identifying with professional and emotional roles and, starts identifying with the spiritual roles one plays. Yoga helps one work on one’s being and that is reflected onto everything one does and all the roles one plays. The roles are a vehicle to fulfill ones learning on planet earth. Roles are necessary and are an expression of ones being. The stage is set, and we can decide how well we want to play our roles. Each role is crucial to the scrip. When we play our roles with joy and awareness, we realize that no role is too small or too big. No profession better than the other.

Each of us is not just a part of the whole but a reflection of the whole.


Where does one go in the wilderness? In a concrete jungle, the latest spiritual workshop gets a herd following. I do appreciate guidance from those around, but a dependency on any is far from what I had in mind. Which one of these stores, oops! Workshops are going to help me find the way?

I was a spiritual window shopper. Not that I wanted anything in particular-didn’t even know what I was looking for. I attended a few workshops as they were recommended. I was already spiritual (in workshop sense). I knew I was connected to something bigger than my personality, but I was more concerned about my ground realities. How do I find balance in my relationships? How do I become emotionally expressive, or street smart? How do I deal with the manifest world? How do I relate to money and power? How do I bring higher concepts into my body and emotions, not suppress or fight them, but have them work in harmony. That was my spiritual quest.

My film making/advertising lifestyle was gnawing at me and I wanted OUT! I knew if I worked the way I did, I would not age gracefully, and end up with some money and a sour spirit. I had seen many in my family who were great achievers, extremely intelligent and well read, but who were emotional fools. I definitely did not want to head that way.

Oh God, where will I find a place that will train me and help me grow? Who is going to guide me without wanting to control my life/ who is going to help me deal with how to become a better and more skilled individual…. To help me work with my body, my emotions and mind? Who is going to help me unlearn a lot of the dysfunctional patterns I had picked up, make me get more assertive and help me have a deeper understanding of myself? Who is going to show me the way?

What I was looking for was a Guru without knowing it.

I had never thought of myself as spiritual. I rarely attended church or went to temples. No one but mom went to church anyway. So I did not feel too guilty about it. Whenever a wave of guilt was passed on from mom to me, I’d land up in church and later have some lighthearted fun about the boring sermons. Was not Jesus, whom I loved and trusted, supposed to save and deliver me? I asked his Mom to find me a place to learn. And she did! Mother Mary passed the message to me during a Reiki meet. George Kurian at the meet told me vaguely that there was some place in Pondy that teaches yoga and since I was looking for centers, I could also check this one out. I landed there, and that I had been guided was clear to me. Surrender saw me through. When the intention is strong then the way is automatically cleared.

My trainer at the ashram, Amma or Meenakshi Devi, called herself an acharya.. She explained the difference between a guru, acharya and a teacher. When we left the course we would be acharyas. A teacher teaches without the subject having any impact on one’s life. A teacher could teach physics or maths or aerobics and it was something they did for a living, maybe even loved, but nothing beyond. An acharya had to be much more than a teacher, Yoga had to be in one’s blood and bones. An acharya had to walk the path, not teach it like a subject, but live it. Hmm!! I decided then that I was going to go back to advertising. Teaching was not something I wanted to seriously take up. And yet, my desire for growth materialized in life, making me an acharya. Every time I teach, it is a re-enforcement for me, a reminder of my evolution.

Amma was there to guide us, without making us dependent on her. The teachings were provided to help us understand ourselves better and see the different stages in evolution and the quirks in human development. Aha!! So the emotions come from the animal brain, it was not just my problem but the problem of the whole human race. That felt a lot better already. The awareness inculcated the day-to-day observations, and the lifestyle got rid of a lot of what I did not need. Amma, at every step, warned us of the possible potholes to watch for, if in our enthusiasm we drove too fast. Yoga is balance. It is not competition or achievement oriented. The questions, doubts and the low moments that one went through, she warned us of, and I was able to observe my own fickle mind. Whatever we needed for our refinement and our growth, she provided us with. We of course had to utilize it. As one who was walking the path herself she told us of the detours, how sometimes it could be an up hill task-one step back and two steps forward. Yet we had to diligently row up the stream.

Amma was a spiritual mother who helped the child take his first few steps and stayed beside. Happy to have a few aware children, than a multitude of cattle, she guided us through the classes that were a framework for our lives. If we put in effort, we needed to learn to let go of it. Do our best and leave the rest. She provided many instances where we could understand ourselves and relate to others harmoniously. Amma in a lot of ways was a channel of the guru spirit. But she reserved the word for a very evolved soul. Nowadays, every new kid on the block is called a Guru. Right from management gurus to style gurus to the street-smart gurus, there seems to be an influx of them. The intensity of the word is not understood.

The word Guru means dispeller of darkness. By shining the light of self- knowledge, the guru helps us see those aspects that we are hiding from; recognize the universal potential within us.

Swami Geethananda is the guru in the paramparya (lineage) of Rishi Brigu. He was a channel for the supreme consciousness. If his students hung on to his personality, he trampled it. If the student was hung on the personality of the Buddha he ripped the Buddha apart in class; he definitely was not your popular candyfloss, all smiles Guru. He was not attached to his image. If the student still idolized him he’d burp and fart loudly in class. Gurus are supposed to be perfect; they should walk on air and look like they came straight out of a commercial. Or the guru should have “peace” painted on his face and make the student sing or chant all day in ecstasy. The student’s conception of the Guru was formed to fit into his world. The world he had created in his head had to be intact. If a guru threatened it then he was not a guru.

The guru spirit that manifested through Swami Geethananda helped break that which the student held on to; be it a belief or the ego. What came through him for that particular moment for that particular person was given. He was all that life needed him to be at that particular moment, especially, when his students need to grow. Each needed different treatment. Each according to their vasanas or conditioning needed to have some belief system shaken out of his/her head. If the student was tamasic (dull, inert) he had to break the Tamas, if they were Rajasic (restless) he trained them to become satvic (alert, still). He would shout at his students saying they had “spinal cord mentalities”. He did not even credit them with using their brains! If Einstein used only 6% of his brain how much are you using, he would ask. He wanted them to grow, and in a controlled environment, worked their karma out for them. By giving them knowledge of the true self he opened their minds. By allowing them to experience themselves he opened up the cosmos to them.

So does each one of us go looking for a guru? Even if there was an evolved Master, do we want to work on ourselves? Do we really want awareness, or are we attached to some silly fantasy of what awareness might be? When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Swamiji never gave anyone sanyas (except one). To cultivate a harmonious family in a yogic way was to be the sadhana of all his students. He was a tough taskmaster and made it even more difficult by not having an organization. He wanted us to go out and create our own oasis. We had to create our own yogic space in the midst of bhoga (solely seeking sensory gratification). He was like the ferryman helping us cross over, guiding us to get in touch with our inner Guru. We have to help ourselves find the way.

A Guru is the vehicle that takes us closer to the divine. But he does become personal, and like with a father, an attachment is natural. But it is important to see that attachment. Not condemn all other fathers because they are not our own. Or form clans instead of embracing the universality of yoga.

Swamiji was a symbol for the guru spirit. He had purified himself and was a pipe or channel for whatever had to flow through. It might have been tinted with his personality but it did not originate there. All of us have a rigid conception and experience of the world and ourselves. Anything that threatens that image could never flow through. If we are non-confrontational, then, even if a situation requires it, we never address it, but push it under the carpet. If we are short tempered or insecure then we feel defensive, even if the other person did not mean to put us down. Yet we want to improve the quality of our lives. That’s why we have internal conflicts that manifest as external conflicts.

The people in our lives serve as a vehicle for the Guru spirit. Each of them reflects parts of us. Which part, has to be figured out. Life is constantly giving us messages about ourselves. Are we attentive and alert? Do we find ourselves in the same situations again and again? Do we find the same people triggering the same reactions? Do we allow the will of the divine to manifest through us? Do we notice our blocks? Do we listen and are we present to what is happening? Are we aware of the Guru Spirit that flows through life? Or are we sleeping, too busy when our guru is knocking at our hearts.

I offer my gratitude to Swami Geethananda and Guru Patni Meenakshi Devi for raising the consciousness of many including myself. Pranams to Dr.Usui and all the ascended master for guiding me. My love to Christ and Mother Mary for giving me such a blessed life.

Time For Gnyana

Yogic Awareness:

When we procrastinate,tension builds up. As the deadline nears, the rush of adrenaline propels us to act. Energy is lost if decisions are delayed and the conflict and worrying saps one of prana or life force. Any good manager is also a good decision maker, who keeps in mind not only his own well-being, but also that of his team.

The Technique:

Sit comfortably with spine straight on the ground in padmasana or on the chair. Let the tips of the index and thumb touch each other forming a nice circle. The other three fingers are together,straight and stretched out. Place the hands on the thighs with the palms facing upwards. Focus on the area between your eyebrows.

If you find yourself unable to focus or agitated, then do the simple cleansing breath that we saw last fortnight. Then you can practice the gnyana mudra for 3-5 minutes. Intend that whatever decisions you take will be in accordance with natural laws.

Yogic Concept:

The index finger signifies the ego. It is the finger that points,separates, threatens and indexes. The ego is a necessary step in evolution where we experience our individuality as well as separation and one must consciously transcend it to find oneness.

The thumb stands for universal consciousness. In the gnyana mudra , we are uniting the ego finger with the fire of consciousness. This gesture with our hands sends a signal to our sub conscience to behave in accordance with the natural/universal laws. The other three fingers signify the senses, which are disciplined by the intellect.


How far from here is a place for growth and learning? Where are the metaphysical centres? How far do I need to go to find out why I’m doing what I’m doing? How far before I rework my life and recondition myself. How far to change what needs to be changed? How do I know change what needs to be changed? How do I get to where can improvge on myself? These questions were rolling in my head.

Soon the rolling became a rumbling. Life moved things are such an amazing speed that I cannot but be enthralled by the beauty of it all. Why would I want to set time aside for study after so many years in the visual midia? Why should a normal [maybe not] and happy person like me question things so much/ what was I looking for? I was looking for something that lay buried. I could find the location myself by trial and error but a road map would definitely help. My mind took me to a healing center and school in New York. Then it took me to north India. Then to my surprise I found myself in Pondycherry. After contemplating travelling across a continent, a hundred miles from where I lived was not a bad deal at all.

The Ananda ashram or the International Center for Yoga education and research in Pondycherry is a lovely place. But the architecture did not match up to the acrs of open space I had in mind. Speak of my –mega movie mentalitay. Yet I discovered a lovely garden athat not many ventured into. My animal brain had already marked my territory there; not that anyone ever competed for it. It was my little space. I frequented it often, either to practice my “Hakaras”[a yogic exercise], my singig or to just be. The space opended up an expanse within.

The acharya, Meenakshi Devi and the few students she took each year did not have halos around their heads. Were they not supposed to wear long pointed hats! My stay there happened before exposure to Haryy Potter and I drew my inspiration from fairy tales. I met her week before the program started and I committed to staying for three months in the gurukula.

No leaving the ashram for typing out the assignments and buying some essentials. I was not looking to be entertined and I was finenwith it. I could always leave, I told myself. I did not have to endure anything. Especially after decided to keep a check on my masochistic side. I stayed on, not just for three months but for six, and also went back there for another month, and will go back there for regular stays. The road maps proved there were too well drawn out, to not move ahead.

The rhythm of the programme was set. The wake up call at 4.30 a.m, pooja, chanting, quiet sitting, hatah yoga and raja yoga practices, anatomy and physioogy, yoga chikitsa, mantra, Sanskrit, bhajans. Two meals a day and soup being the last meal at 6.00pm, not forgetting Satsangha from 7.00-9.30 pm. In between, we had to write our assignments and could choose to learn carnatic music and bharatnatyam. Amma, as Meenakshi Devi is lovingly called, took only five students that year. I was one among them. Now surely, I must learn to fly at the end of such intensive work. If not atleast read auras. But as the course progressed none of that seemed to matter.

My original questions were being taken care of. How do I work on myself, how do I grow? The adult in me took over the child, which was fascinated by magic. The magic of life was too strong to ignore. The discipline instilled and the ability to put time to good use were worth than any magic portion. The real magic lies in our ability to deal with time and space.

The more I distanced myself from my patterns and observed, the less I was caught up in my own dramas. I learnt to acknoledge the animal as well as the divine in me. I learnt to see the escapist as well as the realist in me. I thanked god for the greatest blessing of making me happy to be me. I left the ashram with more of myself. That was a wish fulfilled.

The Swayamthaka is a magic gem that grants the owner any wish. Many fake ones were demons disguised as the gem. A man who was looking for it saw the gem a few miles after he started his surch, and thought to himself, that it surely cannot be so. The precious gem could not be so close. So, he traveled many miles for many months and finally saw another Swayamthaka. This was the fake one. He thought that since it was so far from where he started, it must be real. He picked it up and was burnt too ash by the demon. That which is distant or unapprochable, though dangerous, seems precious.

In the story of the Alchemist by Pauto Coelho also, the boy travels the world before he is led back to the treasure, which was buried where he had started off. The Ananda ashram is the Swayamthaka that led me back where I started off. It helped me deal with the world in a more balanced way. Not escape it. It is a second home where I have been reconditioned. The qualities I have imbibed have become second nature. The morden gurukula [clan or family of the guru] provided a second family. The name I received there is a resonance of the qualities I have to bring forth from within. [Using the original version now] The guru’s family provided a better set of patterns and conditioning than my own. I was able to appreciate my own family better as it provided the training ground. I could see the continuity of consiousness. Both my homes were only a hundred miles apart.

Amma was a reflection of my own mother who was interested and invested her emotions in my evolution. Swamiji, are flection of my grandfather who instilled love for perfection. My dad a strong reminder of conflicting emotions and the grey areas I had to accept. All of them were a reminder of the forces that I had to grow fom and not escape or negate.

Each of them ultimately was a reflection of me. I had to see the qualities they possessed or that which was complementary in myself. The Swayamthaka gave me tha location of the treasure. Each time the location shifted to apoint closer to me. Dedication, discernment and discipline [as my dad says] will help me get there. I had scoffed many times at those who spoke words that were not reflected in their own lives. Now I take it is a blessing. I know it is the good in them that is giving me the message to find it in myself. The closer I aom to myself, the closer I am to my original home, the abode of the divine. That is where the real treasure lies within me.

I am thankful I did not doubt the authenticity of the Swayamthaka, because it was there without much hype. The Ananda ashram is nota populist place. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the proof of the teaching is in my own growth and increasing clarity. The Swayamthaka or the wish-granting gem is sometimes so close, that we don’t see it. It lies there without any fanfare and we undermine it. We miss the diamond on the ground and go for the glass on display. Do we need to go around the world and run after the fantasy in our heads or can we learn to appreciate that which is close to us?


Driving, when I started, was a daunting task. The brake, accelerator and the clutch were more legwork than I could deal with. Then, I had to coordinate my hands as well. The gears had to be changed in the midst of clinging on to the steering wheel. It took a while before I could practice non-attachment with my steering wheel. It did not matter that I stepped on the accelerator instead of the break or that I changed gears before I stepped hard on the clutch. The steering wheel was my hold on life. The huge buses and the lorries did not make it easier for me. The cyclists and bikes constantly cut across. Couldn’t these guys be less irritating? The brakes and the steering wheel were my two life saving devices. My legs, at every instance, reached for the brakes and my hands held on tight. I slowly learnt that there were other parts to the car and to driving. I did not have as many knee-jerk reactions with the break. There were not as many crisis situations as I had imagined and I eased my grip on the steering wheel.

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He had a big van that could accommodate all the little birds in his nest. He called them“eaglets” , as he wanted them to soar on their own. Their stay with him was a preparation for their flight. Everyone was taken care of and he drove them to where he thought was best for them. The little ones might have sometimes thought that he was going too fast or might have wanted a shorter ride, but that was not left to them. By calling them “little” I am not indicating their age, but their growth in the Yoga Life. They were part of a Gurukula [experiential educational space] and had to look at themselves as children who had a lot to learn, rather than grown ups who thought they knew everything.

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She rides the roads of Pondicherry with a speed that belonged a century ago, happy to accompany the bullock carts and the cycles. She is careful not to allow life to zoom past her. She is in no hurry to get anywhere. No adrenalin rushes for her, a steady pace that allows her to be with herself. Not to confuse her with one who wastes her time. She has more full time jobs than anyone I know. She is the Director of the ” International Centre For Yoga Education and Research”, the resident acharya of the six month programme that trains teachers in Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga , she runs the Yoganjali Natyalaya that trains non resident students in Baratnatyam, Yoga and Carnatic music in Pondicherry city, the editor of the monthly magazine “Yoga Life”, author of four books and has been awarded the ” Puduvai Kalaimamani ” award for her contribution to Bharatnatyam.

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