I know in that way of knowing something without actually knowing it that I have always been a deeply spiritual person.
As a child my religion was nature and my church. They both opened my heart and gave me a freedom of soul that I craved without realizing I was craving it. It was just something I innately gravitated towards.
There was a long empty period of my life when I did not have a church, I had no container for my spirituality outside of my journaling until I started my teacher training with Nora Vimala Pozzi through the Integral Yoga Center of Richmond. That was back in the fall of 2004. It was early December when the training took me to Satchidananda Ashram Yogaville for a long weekend to learn yoga philosophy from some of the Swamis. I felt something twitch in me that had long been dormant. After noon meditation one day I was walking alone on the high road up the mountainside to Sivananda Hall for lunch. It was cool and cloudy as I came around the bend of the road and there the sun broke through the clouds and a chant entered me and my heart broke open. That was how I received my first mantra. That was my first heart opening experience, there would be several more over the years.
So for a long time my meditation was that mantra, using mala beads to count each recitation 108 times. It became my staff in life as I went on to graduate as a yoga teacher, began to teach kid’s yoga, and then even branded myself as Yoga with Nitya with the release of my DVD. I learned many really tough lessons during those early years of teaching. I received the name Nitya, eternal one, upon my graduation and couldn’t imagine how I’d ever live up to such a name. Self doubt plagued me, I wondered if I was even on the right path when so many obstacles were thrown in my way. But I persevered. I had to learn to surrender over and over again.
Then one very cold late night in the winter of 2013 my personal life was falling apart; my daughter was in crisis, my marriage was falling apart, and there I was with a broken down car on the side of the road. I was hungry and cold and lost in my life. Quietly a mantra entered my heart and I began to chant it. A wave of comfort and acceptance of the situation rolled over me. I felt bathed in Light on that dark, dark night. It turned out to be the mantra Mahatma Gandhi chanted his entire adult life. It is a powerful mantra for healing and protection. It became my meditation mantra and the first one, I let it go. I guess I thought I’d graduated to a new one.
Then this spring afer 12 years on this journey, I was asked if I wanted to go to Yogaville to be initiated. It seemed like an auspicious time to do this. I felt that I would then have THE mantra I was meant to chant for always and that would seal my spiritual path with my guru Sri Swami Satchidananda. It is said the repetition of the sacred mantra is like holding the hand of your guru. It is part of the branch of yoga called Japa in which you invoke the blessings of the guru, of God, of the Universe through singing or chanting their sacred names. It is not something to be taken lightly. So I began to prepare for the initiation by having one more night to chant the mantra I’d recited for the past 4 years. Then this happened….
As I was sitting at the altar in my living room, I lit candles, burned incense, and began to speak to Gurudev, my beloved guru. I shared my sorrow, even grief of letting go of my first 2 mantras for the one I would be receiving the next day. I felt in that moment that I was also letting go of some of the more difficult parts of my journey and myself and was starting anew. I started to recite the old mantra as my fingers worked each of the rose quartz mala beads. As I sat in meditation, I wondered if my mala would fall apart during the initiation, I had used it for so many years. Just then, I heard a POP, and the mala broke in my hand. I looked at Gurudev smiling through tears of realization. Ah, indeed the mala breaks ending this cycle. So I chose an amethyst one to replace it and off I went to Yogaville for initiation day April 29th 2017, just a month ago.
As I sat there that afternoon with all the magical ceremony of ritual, I wondered if the mantra I was about to receive would be either of the ones I had already been given. When the time came, I was given a little white envelope and there inside written so lovingly was my first mantra plus one extra word. The picture of Gurudev inside the envelope was like the one on my altar. I felt affirmed. I realized the path of this spiritual yoga journey I had been on with so many challenges, and setbacks, with self doubt and questioning all affirmed that from the moment I stepped on the path, I became Nitya before I ever had the name given to me. I have been living this name all along.
And what does it me to be eternal? It means, for me, that like the mala beads, I am unending, no beginning or ending but just abiding in the now. I also see it as a reminder that all that I do will have an everlasting impact and that reveals my mission for teaching Yoga with Nitya programs: “If I achieve nothing else in my life, I hope to inspire as many children as I can to honor themselves, to treat others with compassion, and to love and treasure this beautiful world we all share and call hOMe.”
Thank you for being part of my journey, collectively we are a community of people all seeking peace, love, harmony, and understanding. All that we do leaves a legacy, and this holds us accountable, this ensures that we do as Gurudev inspires us to simply “Be Good. Do Good.” Always. Without End. Nitya.