November 1, 2017
Welcome to the month of November 2017. In many countries and cultures throughout the world this is the time of harvest, when it is traditional to offer gratitude for nature’s abundance. People come together with friends and family to give thanks for the goodness in their lives. On the Siddha Yoga path, the entire month of November is dedicated to cultivating the virtue of gratitude.
My name is Lilavati Stewart Sutcliffe and I am a Siddha Yoga student from Melbourne, Australia. In December 2005, I visited Gurudev Siddha Peeth with my two children, aged three and six. Toward the end of our visit, Gurumayi invited me and several other visiting parents to receive her darshan. Before Gurumayi arrived, we sat in a room near the courtyard where we could inhale the exquisite fragrance of the flowers and plants of Gurudev Siddha Peeth. The atmosphere was still and calm. When Gurumayi walked into the room, it was as if a light had entered the space, and you could see that light reflected on all our faces. Gurumayi invited us to share about our stay in the Ashram and how it had supported our sadhana. As each of us shared, expressing our appreciation for what we had experienced, Gurumayi listened closely, looking at us with so much love as we spoke. After we finished sharing, Gurumayi said that the right kind of acknowledgment, at the right time, fortifies good qualities and enhances the atmosphere of a place. Then, with a big smile, Gurumayi exclaimed, “When we are grateful, we rejoice!” With great enthusiasm, in one collective voice, we sang out, “Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay!”
When I consider all that I am thankful for and why, the experience of joy and appreciation expands within me. I find myself becoming more aware of the good qualities and kind actions of others. The more I cultivate gratitude, the more I find to be grateful for, and the more I express my appreciation to others. I experience how my own gratitude and joy ripple out into the world I live in.
Above all, when I think of gratitude, I think of Gurumayi. I am grateful beyond measure that Gurumayi is my Guru. I am grateful for Gurumayi’s constant, loving guidance in my life and the lives of my loved ones.
This year we have been studying Gurumayi’s Message for 2017:
Breathe in deeply the fragrance of the Heart.
Revel in the light of the Supreme Self.
Breathe out gently the benevolent power of the Heart.
In A Sweet Surprise Satsang, Gurumayi also gave teachings to guide our practice of her Message. The teaching we are exploring in November is:
Recognize the power of your breath.
The next section of this letter is written by Mohini Ellen Saltonstall, a Siddha Yoga hatha yoga teacher from New York City, who will be sharing her insights about Gurumayi’s teaching.
Studying Gurumayi’s Message for this year has been such a wonderful experience. As a Siddha Yogi and a hatha yoga teacher who has studied and taught about the breath for many years, I have been grateful for the new insights that have come from practicing Gurumayi’s Message.
One of the ways I practice Gurumayi’s teaching about the power of the breath is by pausing from time to time in my day and bringing my attention to my breathing. I ask myself, “How does my breath feel right now? Is it shallow or deep? Choppy or smooth? What is the rhythm like? Do I feel nourished by the breath and connected with myself?”
I have found that I can soothe or energize myself using the breath. If I feel sluggish and in need of a pick-me-up, I realize that I may need more oxygen in my body. I raise my arms up to the sides as I inhale, expanding my lungs, and then release my arms down as I exhale. I find that this deepens my inhalation and invigorates me. If I feel agitated, fearful, or angry, elongating my exhalation calms me down. I exhale all the way to the end before the next inhalation. These approaches bring my breathing and energy into balance, which also creates balance in my inner state.
In my study of the breath, I have been drawn to this verse from the Shiva Sutra:
Evenness of breath brings equality consciousness.1
In addition to seeing a close tie between my breath and my energy level, I find that the power of the breath also influences my thoughts and understanding. When my breath is agitated, my mind becomes overactive. This can take the form of trying to do too many things at once, or focusing on obstacles rather than my goals. As I guide my breath to become steady—taking a few easeful, deep breaths and giving them my full attention—my mind also becomes steadier. I can perceive a deeper part of myself that is a constant support and refuge. It’s like looking into a lake with a clear, calm surface. From this place I can meet diverse challenges in my daily life, knowing that I am guided by my deepest intentions. I do this practice wherever I am—while running errands, waiting for an appointment, doing my hatha yoga practice, and especially when waking up and preparing to sleep. This ongoing relationship with the breath has led me to rely on my inhalation and exhalation as a pathway to equanimity.
Throughout the month of November, the Siddha Yoga path website will feature ways for us to explore Gurumayi’s teaching: Recognize the power of your breath. We will, for example, be able to enrich our inquiry about the breath by studying relevant teachings from the scriptures. We will also revisit teachings from throughout 2017, as a way to reflect on and assimilate all we have learned and experienced from our practice of Gurumayi’s Message. There is so much to look forward to!
During the month of November and beyond, may we expand our practice of the virtue of gratitude, may we rejoice in doing so, and may we discover the sacredness in every breath.
Lilavati Stewart Sutcliffe and Mohini Ellen Saltonstall