In 1990 when I began teaching the beginning yoga class for the City of Plano Parks and Recreation Department, there was only one other yoga teacher offering classes there; as I recall she was teaching two classes a week. From this small beginning a groundswell of interest in Yoga that had begun on the East and West Coasts in the 1970’s arrived in the heartland of America by the mid-1990’s, and suppliers of yoga props were having to tell their customers that the demand for yoga mats had grown so much that mats had to be backordered. At the time this was astonishing news.
There were still very few yoga teachers in the Dallas area and only one small yoga studio. Most classes were offered by recreation centers and a few open minded churches. Dallas Yoga Center began to host visiting yoga teachers of national and international standing. The roots were taking solid hold. Even a few corporations, such as Texas Instruments, Northern Telecom, and Frito Lay were offering yoga classes for their employees, having discovered that doing so promoted wellness and productivity, decreased stress levels, and lowered illness-related absenteeism.
In business for myself, I offered bodywork and energetic healing, yoga classes, and private lessons. My business earned a small profit in the first year and has sustained profitability ever since. The freedom of owning my own business and being my own boss offered me exactly what I needed to take my practice of Yoga to much deeper levels. It also put me in contact with many among the growing Indian population in this part of Texas.
1993 was probably the single most momentous year for deepening threads of connection with Yoga and India. That year I began teaching two yoga classes weekly at Northern Telecom (later NorTel). The Dallas area was a big center for telecom businesses, which employed many Indians in technical, engineering, managerial and other positions. Many who attended my NorTel classes over a 16-year period have remained friends, and several have gone on to become certified yoga teachers themselves. They invite me to events offered in their community to be in the presence of learned Indian Yogis, spiritual teachers and Gurus for lectures, Dharshan, Satsang, fund raising community productions to benefit India, etc.
Near the end of 1993, I had the opportunity to experience the presence of Shri Anandi Ma in a public meditation gathering. That evening was a mountaintop event for me, and I went on to attend training, receive shaktipat, and be initiated into the lineage of Kundalini Maha Yoga, now under the spiritual leadership of this quiet, unassuming, deeply compassionate Guru, regarded as one of the women saints of India. The mantra meditation practice Shri Anandi Ma teaches has changed my life and helped make me the person I am today. Her teachings and her Presence, whether in the physical or non-physical state, have been an enormously beneficent influence, one that I can pass on to my students as well.Two of the concepts from India’s spiritual heritage that resound most deeply within me are:
1. experiencing deep veneration, respect, and gratitude for one’s Guru – the destroyer of darkness – and
2. embracing divine transformation, visualized in the traditional Shiva Nataraj icon – Shiva dancing in the cosmic ring of fire, at once stamping on the head of the dwarf of ignorance and transforming ignorance into wisdom, liberation, and light, into ultimately enlightenment. We have nothing like that in America nor in the varieties of Christian belief systems I am familiar with.
Especially I embrace the understanding that our task is to directly and personally experience God, rather than to simply believe in God, have faith in God, or know about God. Yoga asks us to go beyond these
limited states and through committed, individual practice to become expansive, to cultivate transcendental consciousness, uniting us with Source Energy, with bliss consciousness, with cosmic consciousness, with God. The field, the knower of the field, and the action of knowing the field merge into Oneness, undivided Intelligence, the All That Is, Brahman, God. Nonduality is the state of Beingness itself – beyond thought, faith, feeling, or belief. It is a mystical experience that no words can describe, unbound by the limits of the physical dimension. And yet in spite of all the mystery, Oneness is who we truly Are.
Perhaps it is easier for a non-Indian to fully appreciate the gift presented in the experiential hands of Nondualism. Perhaps if you grow up hearing about these ideas and their seeming senselessness to the rational mind, it is easy to overlook and dismiss them. For me, the experience of Nonduality is rain in the desert after decades of drought. It feels like Home. I come Home to a place that I never truly left. A place I could never have reached or even imagined had I remained in the box of the religion I learned, grew up with, and experienced as a child and teenager.