I’ve always had escapist fantasies of soulful travels in far off lands unencumbered by timetables or life’s constraints. Grabbing a backpack with just a few things and jetting off, filling my days and nights with deliberate wandering and  seamless integration with people and other cultures. While sipping tea at street-side cafés, I am holding no expectations, remaining completely open to the exquisite vibrancy of each person and place’s “is-ness” — all journaled and sketched out (Rob Goldin a hand-bound journal of course). However, since Svaroopa® yoga entered my life, these escapist dreams have changed. I find myself now yearning to visit exotic places inside, and if there’s a physical element to the travel all the better. I’m still up for traveling half-way around the globe but also know that I don’t need to do so in order to find the wonders of the world; the greatest riches and bigger adventure lies within.

For me, this year’s conference is an opportunity to combine both old and new fantasies —lots of travel and a weekend of programs to guide me deep inside. I can see it so clearly that it’s almost real and begins with finding the last seat on a too-cheap-to-be-true flight arriving in Philadelphia with extra time to reunite with old friends in the area. Then I head off to a hotel filled with grace-full Svaroopis flowing in, out and about the building, with more things to do and see, all capped off by Satsang with Swami Nirmalanada, including a magical spot for me right in front for her opening address. I’m guessing this may sound at least a little familiar …


My regular travel fantasies are pretty well satisfied these days by living in Hawaii; however, it’s also a very long way from other teachers and Svaroopa® communities. Yes, I get to swim with the sea turtles and watch humpback whales as the sun sets, but I can count on one hand the number of adjustments I’ve received in the past two years. So I’m not surprised that my fantasies now border on yogic gluttony: dreamlike scenarios where I can pig-out on classes and sessions and basking in an ocean of Svaroopa® yoga, filled with the presence of other Svaroopis to make up for the isolating effects of certain life choices I have made.

Trainings and retreats are always alluring, and the Course Catalog is downright dangerous for me. I’ve fantasized scheduling my life around trainings rather than trying to fit them into my existing life. But even so I hold back, usually don’t enroll, and work with the knowledge and skills I have already been blessed to receive and maintain my connection through seva. But this is different: it’s that whole “more” thing again just like the Guided Awareness reminds us. A weekend-long conference with hundreds of Svaroopa® yoga teachers about? My first teachers? My favorite teachers? Classes and workshops woven through the Conference like nadis filling each day to the brim with Svaroopa® yoga? Finished off each grace-filled day with Satsang and Swami Nirmalananda? There’s no question, if it were humanly possible I’d enroll in everything.

2013 Alignment with GraceThe conference schedule shows me so clearly the limitations of my mind and imagination. My fantasies couldn’t have come up with that much Grace and stuffed it into a month or year let alone one weekend. I think I may not be alone on that one either. How will I change? What will I see, feel, Know during and afterwards? And the fun part – what about the people I sit next to on the long flights home to Maui? What do they get in that short encounter? And that’s one of the really sweet parts about the Conference —you get to keep the deepest, richest elements and take them home with you.

What exactly is it that you take home with you? And how do all these openings affect the people around you? A few years ago I picked up Swamiji at the airport after one of her trips to India, a highly exotic travel destination in its own right, at the top of my “to visit” list and, of course, the home of yoga. I had picked her up on previous occasions, but this time was clearly different. I could see and feel the effects of her being in India as I approached her dressed in bright red (she was still Rama then), standing amongst a sea of black jackets at the baggage claim on a gray winter’s day.  We went to the baggage office to inquire about a big wooden box full of devotional goodies that hadn’t arrived with her suitcase. While we waited, she gently pointed out that it was an excellent time to stand in Tadasana and practice Japa. I have NEVER had my spine open like it did that day just standing in line, my sacrum just kept going and going and going…

Nirmalananda 2 croppedWhen our turn came, she asked about the box which they produced in short order. It was magical like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, built out of scrap wood. pinned together with tiny nails. with a deep musky smell to it. Taking it to the car I was grateful for the cart I pushed as it felt like I was learning to walk all over again. My hips and legs were moving completely differently than they had just a half-hour before. My mind was focused on the box and its contents but clearly something else, something bigger was happening.

This is what Swami Nirmalananda brings to us and in turn what we bring to others. It may be you who wants to go, but this is what you bring back. Sure, you can travel far and wide and come home to share pictures and stories, but it’s not the same thing. Not even close. All you really need is a backpack, a few things and a reservation —so what’s keeping you from making yours?


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    Caroline Kennedy & Barbara McCarthy