June 7, 2024

Dear reader,

Since March of this year, we have been reading, studying, and sharing with one another our insights about Renewing Your Inner and Outer Landscape, a set of six teachings imparted to us by our Guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. The scope of these teachings is vast—more than once I’ve thought of them as the “A to Z” of Siddha Yoga sadhana. Yet for all their richness and variety, there’s also a very specific ethos that runs through these teachings, and it is perfectly encapsulated by their title.

When Gurumayi first told me she wished to give these teachings the name Renewing Your Inner and Outer Landscape, I was struck by how right this phrase felt, how inevitable it seemed. It was as though this is what the title was always going to be, and Gurumayi had simply plucked it from some fragrant ether so that we, too, could breathe it in. On the Siddha Yoga path, we speak often about renewal. We celebrate many new beginnings; we honor the new years of different cultures and traditions. It is all part and parcel of something I have always experienced from Gurumayi, which is a belief in the endless capacity of a human being to change, to evolve, to make themselves new in a way that—paradoxically—returns them to a Self they have always been.

Gurumayi once told me a story of a man who came forward to receive Baba Muktananda’s darshan at the conclusion of a satsang. This man was eighty years old and new to the Siddha Yoga path. When he came before Baba, the man asked if he was too old to begin his sadhana. Baba smiled at him and said, “You are never too old to start sadhana. You can begin at any age. And if you apply yourself, you will surely experience the fruits of sadhana.”

When I read these Renewing teachings from Gurumayi, I get the same feeling that I imagine this man must have had after hearing Baba’s words. On the one hand, I feel reassured—that no matter how old I get, or what happened yesterday, or how many times I feel like I’ve tried and failed, I can renew myself, here and now. There’s also a sense of expansion and possibility—an invitation to reevaluate certain ways of seeing the world and being in it that I may have accepted as “correct,” or at least as the most I could aspire to, given my own particular idiosyncrasies and life circumstances. I’ve heard Gurumayi speak about how, when people are asked why they act in a particular manner, they will throw their hands up in the air and misguidedly declare: “That’s just how I am!” They make this statement as though it were some kind of incontrovertible fact, as though they have no agency in shaping their own behavior and personality, and no reason to question how it is they’ve always gone about their lives.

But if we really take to heart what Gurumayi is telling us—that our inner and outer landscapes can, in fact, be renewed—then we start to see the fallacy in the limitations that we have held up for so long as truths. We create space for something new, and actually true, to emerge. With the Guru’s teachings as our guide and the Guru’s grace at our backs, we can make remarkable progress.


Gurumayi has said, on many occasions, that her intent in imparting the Siddha Yoga teachings is for people to truly come to know themselves. A big part of this is coming to know the Self—that is, the supreme Self, the divinity that resides in everything in the universe, including in our own person. But it also entails becoming deeply familiar with the specifics of our individuality: our habits, our histories, our unique proclivities. It is, after all, through the individual self that the supreme Self can be known.

I have always marveled at how, in her teachings, Gurumayi will draw upon the seemingly mundane activities of our day-to-day lives—the actions we consciously and unconsciously take, the routine phenomena we encounter—and show us that in these, too, are opportunities to get in touch with the truth of who we are.

That is certainly the case with the six Renewing teachings. Take, for example, the act of renaming, which Gurumayi speaks about in the first of these teachings. So much of how we understand and operate in the world is premised on the names we’ve given—to people, to places, to objects. Names are an immediate marker of identity, a means of classifying and organizing the information that our senses are continually taking in. A name indicates who someone is; it can also make a statement about where they are from, what groups or cultures they are a part of, even how it is they should be perceived. In this way, a name can facilitate expansion, and it can just as easily create constraint.

Perhaps this is why we find many examples—historically, as well as in the present day—of people engaging in a process of renaming. We see this in countries that have regained their independence after having been ruled by a foreign power. Under colonial rule, the towns, cities, and states in these regions may have been given certain names; once that rule is lifted, these names may be discarded and, in a pointed reassertion of national and cultural identity, replaced with the names those locales originally had.

We also see this happening in religious and spiritual traditions. Those who take the vows of monkhood will shed their given names and assume a name or title that is consistent with the order to which they now belong. Their renaming is emblematic of their decision to forego the trappings of worldly life. It is a signal of their renunciation and of their dedication to their chosen path.

In her teaching, Gurumayi encourages us to take this principle of renaming—to harness the inherent power in names—and apply it to our own inner divinity. Just as a new name for some outward aspect of our lives can encourage new ways of seeing it, so too can a new name for our inner Self prompt us to reconceive of the Self and our relationship to it. Just as a name can serve to lay claim to a physical territory, it can also help us to repossess an inner terrain that we may not have even known existed. (Tellingly, the two activities in addition to renaming that Gurumayi highlights in this teaching are reclaiming and reconceiving.)

An even more immediate example of something we do all the time—and which is also a portal to our inner divinity—is breathing. Gurumayi speaks about breathing in the Renewing teachings, most notably in Teaching 6. I have been intrigued by what Gurumayi has said about how even an involuntary breath can clue us in to the depths of our inner world. Gurumayi refers to the story of The Long Sigh, in which a simple sigh from the main character is evidence of his most profound yearnings. Don’t you find this so relatable? Think about it: when you are not able to be with your partner on your anniversary, or you miss your child’s recital, or there’s some other person with whom you wish to be or some place you want to go but just can’t—aren’t you bound to sigh? To exhale? Yet your exhalation is as much an indication of your love, of the deep and abiding tenderness of your heart, as it is of regret. Within the sadness is an opportunity to recognize something about yourself, to become even more attuned to the promptings of your heart.


These are just two examples, one from the start and one from the conclusion of the Renewing teachings. But there are many more tools and practices Gurumayi gives in these teachings, avenues for renewing your inner and outer landscape that can be explored in just as much detail.

It has been my experience that the efforts we put forth in sadhana are cumulative. They build on each other, they are fuel for each other, and they are buoyed and lifted by the Guru’s grace. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the affirmation Gurumayi gives us to repeat in the third teaching. It concludes with these words: “Now all my efforts to do my sadhana will shine with effortlessness because I know grace is my companion.”

Some time ago, I had asked Gurumayi about these lines, and specifically about the relationship between effort and effortlessness. In response, Gurumayi gave the analogy of any kind of artist—a musician, a painter, a writer, an actor, a dancer. It is necessary for the artist to first master the technique, to put in the hours required to learn the rudiments of their craft. Eventually, after doing this day in and day out, they are able to transcend those strictures. They discover the freedom in a time signature, the emotion in a brushstroke, the way a sentence can grow legs and set a pace all its own. The discipline transmutes into art.

Gurumayi also explained to me that when you like what it is you are putting effort toward—when you enjoy making the effort or are otherwise motivated to do it—then it doesn’t feel like “effort” as such. In that sense, Gurumayi said, effort is similar to love. Yes, the potential for love may be everywhere—but when you find someone or something that is easy for you to love, then doesn’t it come a bit more naturally to express that love?

It has been a joy for me, as a fellow Siddha Yogi, to speak with you and to read your shares about how you have been practicing these teachings from Gurumayi. What you have shared illustrates all of the points I’ve just mentioned—commitment to sadhana, the snowball effect that such committed efforts have, and the subtle and big transformations that occur as a result. One of you, for instance, recently wrote:

For me, one of the most notable benefits of this set of teachings from Gurumayi is that my relationship to my own sadhana has shifted. I feel these teachings are giving me greater confidence, as well as an increased vocabulary for understanding, describing, and experiencing my own “inner landscape.” Most of all, these teachings have encouraged me to approach my sadhana with a playful spirit of adventure…

I imagine that many of you, like me, will return to these teachings. When you do, you are bound to unearth something new—about the teaching itself and about you. You can also revisit the stories that are referenced in each teaching and linked below them; they are rendered in full to support and enhance your study, and many of them are available as audio recordings.

You might want to linger, as well, on the visuals that accompany these teachings. I have written before about how the designs on the Siddha Yoga path website often have specific and deliberate meaning. The Renewing teachings are no exception. Each teaching, as you may have noticed, is presented on a background of hammered silver. Gurumayi shared with me that the image of hammered silver is what came to mind for her when she was writing these teachings.

I have always associated synchronicity with Gurumayi, so it is perhaps unsurprising—while also totally miraculous—to learn that silver, and specifically hammered silver, have qualities that feel pertinent to these teachings. Pure silver is lustrous, one of the metals most reflective of light, and it does not rust or corrode. At the same time, silver is known for being soft and malleable, so much so that it can be hammered into thin sheets or beautiful shapes without cracking or shattering. When it is worked on in this manner, the silver becomes stronger and more durable. Throughout history, hammered silver has been crafted into objects of high value, such as jewelry, currency, decorative objects, and items used in religious and spiritual ceremonies.

The analogy is evident, I think. It is also heartening. Many of you have shared that these teachings from Gurumayi seemed to come at the exact right time for you. You were certain that Gurumayi was speaking directly to you, and about your particular circumstances. How wonderful, then, that with these teachings as our guide, we might consider ourselves and our lives to be like a brilliant canvas of silver—growing stronger, more beautiful, more wondrously refined through our sadhana.



Eesha Sardesai