We’ve all made choices that shaped our lives. For many of us including me, the 60s and 70s were a time of seeking peace, love and freedom. In 1976, I was a young 18 year old that had grown up in the Midwest. A choice I made rocked my little boat.
In those years yogis, swamis, and adepts carried noble teachings to America. They found peace in timeless practices of meditation, yoga, and growing consciousness. Like others that were seeking something not found in mainstream consumer driven culture of the time, I began to study with a guru or spiritual guide, Yogi Amrit Desai. He had founded an ashram, a retreat-like community. I became a resident at Kripalu Ashram. It was located in Sumneytown, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Ashram residents participated in a daily lifestyle of spiritual practices and service.
The ashram motto was “Love, Service and Surrender.” Love was intentionally first. “Grandfather” guru, Swami Kripalu explained ways to cultivate the flower of love in one’s life. When love was practiced, it was like a flower in a garland of flowers. By practicing of love, the flower of love was lifted up. Practicing it genuinely was so powerful that all other virtues came with it.
Service was based on several ideas that were novel in America in the 70s. The first was Sanatana Dharma – “The whole world is one family.” Previously one stumbled upon this idea only in ancient cultures. It was a universal truth that everyone was connected beyond any “right doing or wrong doing,” as Rumi wrote. All beings continued to evolve and expressed their best. It transcended any particulars of race, culture, or religious beliefs. It was about something eternal. It left nothing and nobody out. It was a way to imagine wholeness. It was like heaven, or Tao, The Way.
Service involved not getting paid. Ashramites gave freely of time, resources and skills. The service of others was an integral part of daily spiritual practice. The ashram grew into a retreat and educational center. The programs offered were taught first by the guru; then staff facilitated too. The programs taught spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation and practical tools for a balanced lifestyle.
The teachings said that two wings were needed to fly. One wing was effort. Surrender was the other wing. Surrender meant letting go of resistance to personal growth and change. It meant surrendering to ancient teachings that came from a true source, that had been tried, timeless, and tested by millennia of generations of practitioners to the present. Surrender meant cultivating faith in one’s practices.
Another idea came from early Vedic teachings. It boiled down to doing one’s best and letting go of the results. One gave wholeheartedly to the task at hand without being attached to whether the outcome was what one hoped for, expected - or not.
It’s interesting how timeless teachings are well, timeless. These teachings of “Love, Service and Surrender are a base for all my offerings: Yoga, Rewiring the Inner Critic, Neuroplasticity: Appreciating Our Wonderful Brain, and Retreats. Thank you.
Photo Credit: www.clarefeeney.com Two Wings of a Bird: Effort and Surrender