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Learning and living with Ammaji Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

‘You little English girls are all the same’ was one of the things Ammaji said to me one day at the 6-month residential (1500hrs) Yoga Teacher Training course At Ananda Ashram. I was feeling quite offended at the time, thinking to myself how very different I was for the other UK based women on the course, not to mention I considered myself welsh! Ofcourse she intentionally provoked me, but with kindness and love always! I look back and laugh at all the stupid petty things I used to think, say or even worse put into action!

Ammaji really did open my mind up to many aspects of our mental conditioning and programming, especially that of the culture we are born into. Once I opened my being up to the Indian culture it was like the frog that leaps out of the water well, but whilst one is in the well doesn’t really imagine there is life beyond the well? Ofcourse Indian culture or any country has its own programming that comes with being born there too, but you can never really see your conditioning until you step outside of it.

I always found religion quite fascinating, I loved the way that when I first stepped inside a Hindu Temple I never in my life saw such devotion on peoples faces. I suppose this could be down to the expression levels that we allow ourselves to show in different parts of the world, but to me it was very beautiful. The warmth and depth of the Indian people I met was also quite remarkable. I think once you become familiar with Indian history and the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata which are very deep, thought provoking tales which every Hindu has to grow up with it explains a lot.

I find the fact that the concept of reincarnation is quite widely accepted and understood as a reality also gives another dimension the way of life. I met many Indian Christians there who worshipped Jesus in a similar was a Hindu would worship any other deity, some said they were a mix of Hindu and Christian which I thought was great, its was like there was no possession, ownership or feeling that you had the right religion or you were one of the chosen few! I really felt that the Divine was the bright white light behind the stained glass pattern, everyone is free to choose which colour they want to see the Divine through, because ofcourse to see the Divine directly it too much for our mortal eyes, just as Arjuna experienced in the Bhagavad-Gita. Nobody has chosen a better version of God than the next person, all is Divine and right for us.

Anyway by the end of my training I thought … yeah I guess us English girls are all the same…! When you step back and zoom out, you see all the similarities all the connectedness the group karma our unconscious behaviours, thought patterns everything we need to eventually break free of. The Guru breaks us apart to put us back together again in a healthier and happier way. We have many destructive habits that we cannot break because we do not even know they are there. Swadhyaya was Ammaji’s favourite teaching and it is so important - Swadhyaya Self knowledge, self study, self reflection. Yoga is to become aware of our body, mind and emotions and finally awareness of awareness itself! It requires a constant checking on how when and why we do say and think things. What are our motivations for everything we do and from what place are they coming from? If you want to clean up your life, change your life you can do it though Karma Yoga - this means though your actions, through transforming your thoughts, words and deeds to only pure selfless intention. This is not an easy thing ofcourse, but as Swami Gitananda said ‘to make bigs changes we must make small changes’.

Yogacharini Deepika Giri

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