"Wait... what? How did THAt Happen?!"
Yoga students and teachers around the world recognize the importance and impact of studying with a renowned and esteemed teacher such as Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. He is the successor to Swami Rama, spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, and well-educated author of numerous books including his most recent Vishoka Meditation: The Yoga of Inner Radiance.
Hosting Pandit Rajmani Tigunait is one of the greatest honors to the festival organizers. His rare appearance here, outside of the Himalayan Institute, coincides with his initiative at the Himalayan Institute - the Year Long Meditation - and accumulating 1,000,008 meditation hours from participants worldwide. His presence reinvigorates the events dedication to awakening, living in oneness, and creating a compassionate world for all. Not surprisingly, though, it has a few of our heads spinning a bit, asking “how on earth did that happen?”
Credit to the two festival founders, Scott and Julia Theisen, owners of Body & Soul Wellness and Spa/Salon, and Inspire Café. The intention of the festival has always been to unite like-minded individuals, in yoga and other holistic modalities, in the spirit of oneness, to promote world peace, and raise awareness of unity-consciousness.
What an honor, what a blessing, and what a surprise that Panditji took them up on their request to speak at the 2019 5th Annual Midwest Yoga & Oneness Festival. How did it come about? Or, as Julia recently described it, how were they “bold enough to invite him?”
The pair had heard much about Pandit Rajmani Tigunait and his teachings. “There were points of connection with Panditji via his students who were having an impact in this area.” One of the points of connection is Jeff Masters, student of Panditji and co-teacher of the 300hr Yoga Teacher Training with the Theisen’s at Body & Soul. Masters is a presenter at the Midwest Yoga & Oneness Festival (’17,’18 and now ’19) and has also taught workshops at Body & Soul over the past several years.
Another connection is long-time student of Panditji and senior faculty member at HI, Luke Ketterhagen. Luke presented last year at the festival and taught a weekend workshop at Body & Soul. It was during this workshop that Julia read about the opportunity to attend Rudra Yaga: Ardha Kumbha Mela, a pilgrimage to India with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait through the Himalayan Institute offered in February 2019. “There was no question in my mind that I had to go," she said, "something was really pulling me.” After a chat with Ketterhagen, Scott decided to attend as well.
(Shari Friedrichsen, also of the Himalayan Institute and student of Panditji will teach at this year's festival and speak at the FREE "Inspiring People Series" at Inspire Cafe on Thursday evening, November 14th, before the festival - 7-8:30pm.)
The Theisens met Panditji at the HI campus in Allahabad during the Ardha Kumbha Mela. As Julia describes it, “It was said to be an auspicious time in terms of the timing of the event and the practices that we were there to undertake, and when I met him it was kind of mesmerizing because he carries so much light...This is a man that’s been practicing for more than 40 years, three to four hours a day, so being in the presence of unconditional love with such a teacher...It’s very palpable and he’s so approachable.”
by Julia Theisen, co-founder of the Midwest Yoga & Oneness Festival
Last year I was at a trade show in Denver, CO with Scott and we were gifted with two complimentary books from one of the publishing companies. I put the books in my bag and didn’t think about them for another couple of weeks. Unbeknownst to me, one of those books happened to be “Embodied Enlightenment” by Amoda Maa Jeevan.
I believe that the teacher finds you when you are ready!
Friends, this is the first time that Amoda will be teaching in the Midwest! This is an experience not to be missed. She will be accompanied by her beautiful husband Kavi.
The following link to one of her video teachings is an exceptional example of her message.
Click HERE for more information about Amoda Maa Jeevan’s sessions at the 2018 Midwest Yoga & Oneness Festival. For registration information click HERE.
Luke’s down to earth, accessible manner and genuine kindness could be attributed to his Midwestern roots, but is certainly cultivated with his adherence to the yoga lifestyle that has been a part of his life to some degree from a young age. As a popular teacher with a full schedule and busy family life raising two teenagers with his wife, he understands the importance of being grounded. Balance is what he considers a primary goal in the practice of yoga and is his overarching message in his teaching.
Some of you may recognize Luke from the widely popular publication from the Himalayan Institute Press, Yoga: Mastering the Basics by Sandra Anderson and Rolf Sovik. Published in 2000 it is still considered a valuable staple for teachers and students alike. Luke had already graduated from a bio-med program with highest honors from Marquette University and had been living at HI for two years when he was one of the models for that publication.
Recently Luke talked about his roots in the Midwest and his path to senior faculty at HI in Honesdale, PA and a bit more about the roots of the Himalayan Tradition that he teaches in workshops locally, nationally and internationally.
It’s interesting to see how his path unfolded starting from childhood. Luke grew up in an atmosphere of acceptance and diversity. His parents, described by Luke as “ex-hippies’, wanted to move from Milwaukee and open a community center for at-risk youth to get out of the city and spend time in the countryside. It was in this community setting that 8year-old Luke and his younger sister had much more exposure to many backgrounds and influences from people who came to live or spend time with them: a homeless man, a woman from Japan, a man from Africa, for example. “Our eyes were opened early in life” to cultures other than the more conservative viewpoint that they had been used to in Milwaukee.
In terms of yoga and Ayurveda, it all started when his 1year-old sister had recurrent earaches. Conventional treatment didn’t help and so his mother sought the help of a natural health practitioner. One appointment and eight dollars later the earache never returned. The homeopathic, ayervedic healer became their family physician, and, it turns out, the link to the Himalayan Institute. This healer had spent time at the Himalayan Institute and introduced Luke’s parents to systematic meditation, yoga, and relaxation techniques that became a part their lifestyle.
By the time Luke was a Junior in High school he knew that he wanted to go to medical school. “I wanted to help people and I thought being a physician was the way to do it.” Luke went to Marquette, earned straight A’s, had excellent references and experience in the field but didn’t score high enough in all four sections of the MCAT. He scored high marks on all sections except the reading portion. He was a slow reader and that presented a challenge in the reading portion of the test and kept him from scoring high enough to get interviews for a medical program.
In the summer after graduation, faced with studying for a third attempt at the and wanting some time away, Luke went to the Himalayan Institute with his father who was attending a workshop by the spiritual head of HI, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait.
“Every person I talked to (at HI) was like a long-lost friend; every bite of food was like nectar. I’m a scientist and this was a bit much.” Luke had a chance to sit down with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, who asked Luke to move to the HI. Motivated by the nurturing atmosphere and thinking it would be a great place to focus Luke moved, studied, took the MCAT for the third time and, remarkably, received the exact same scores as the first two attempts. Talking to “Pandaji”, the person who would become his teacher and great mentor, he asked Luke “Do you want to be a doctor, someone who helps a hundred people, or do you want to be someone who helps a hundred doctors?” With that, Luke was put into the training program by Tigunait himself, and, from the desire to want to help as many people as he could, Luke didn’t become a physician but started on the path to learn all he could, become an influential yoga teacher and ultimately become a senior faculty member.
This path may seem as though it unfolded easily for him but “as meant to be” as it was, that doesn’t mean his path and spiritual work was easy. “We all have opportunity and mine was unique to live at the HI under Pandaji’s guidance and tutelage, but it wasn’t easy. Tapas is not the easiest or the most comfortable way, but it’s what brings us spiritual fervor, builds our will and determination. We have to have good company, ‘sat sangha’, otherwise it’s too easy to stick with the old habits until we hit crisis mode and realize we need to change.”
What is the basis of the Himalayan Tradition?
“It’s a practice based on Raja Yoga. Its goal is to use all the understanding and practice of yoga, health and well-being – ayurveda and tantra - to create the most accessible path for people to follow to achieve freedom and fulfillment in this life; to live a life of meaning and purpose. Because there are so many different people, there are many ways, using specific tools and techniques of the philosophical foundation that is supportive of the human. You can approach from any path and get to this understanding that we are here for a certain reason. We are here for a certain time. We are here to achieve a certain purpose and dharma. All of this, I’d say is the Himalayan Tradition.”
What is your goal in teaching the workshops and classes that you teach?
No matter what the topic, whether it’s foundational work, mula bandha, postures, mediation or mantra, whatever I teach, if there’s one philosophical, overarching goal, that I really shoot to disseminate it is BALANCE. It’s through this practice we can learn to balance ourselves in our busy lives. Through the practice we can create stability and grounded-ness to be balanced.
Luke will teach a Friday intensive: From Sthira and Sukha to Bhoga and Apavarga (5 CEUs) and several workshops throughout the weekend including Stoking the Light of Compassion and Power: The practices of agni sara, nauli kriya, and surya bhed, Prana Samvedana,: The pranic subtle counterpart of breathing, and Mantra and Meditation for Peace. Visit the registration page here. To see Luke Ketterhagen’s bio, go here.
AMODA JEEVAN, JANUARY 19, 2018
In my role as a spiritual teacher, I meet an incredible variety of people who seek truth. Some of these people have been longtime seekers, some have sat with countless spiritual masters, and others are curious newcomers. They are young, old, and everything in between. They are from all walks of life. I have met yoga teachers, therapists, artists, entrepreneurs, firemen, builders, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and many more. Although I teach primarily in the Western world, I also receive numerous emails from people in other parts of the world, such as Africa and the Middle East. What unites this broad spectrum of people is the burning desire to discover that which is deeper than surface reality. What does it mean to awaken in the midst of ordinary life?
Certain questions come to the forefront of the dialogues in my meetings over and over again. Mostly they are questions about the relationship between awakening and the body, love and intimate relationships, money, work, and creativity, as well as questions and concerns about the suffering of the world.
Traditional spiritual teachings have all emphasized the cultivation of an inner state of stillness that awakens us to the truth of our being-nature. And they say this is achieved by turning away from worldly activity. While the recognition of our essential nature as this being-ness is indeed the foundation of awakening, what was relevant thousands of years ago is not so relevant today. It seems that a transcendent experience of enlightenment is not enough these days; people need guidance and support in embodying the light of awakened consciousness in every aspect of their lives, as fully functioning human beings in the modern world with all its complexity.
In my new book Embodied Enlightenment I speak directly to the new paradigm of awakening that is emerging amid challenging times today. What is needed now is not more of the ancient spiritual wisdom passed down through the ages, but a cutting-edge conversation that acknowledges this wisdom as the foundation of awakening and then goes beyond that to include a dialogue about topics traditionally excluded from spiritual teachings. Some of these topics and questions include: What’s the difference in the way awakened consciousness is expressed in men and women? What happens to sex in awakening? Is there such a thing as an enlightened relationship? Does physical well-being matter in awakening? How do we live selflessly in the modern world? How can money and spirituality be friends? This is uncharted territory. What is coming alive in the minds and hearts of those I meet with is an increasing helplessness in the face of escalating world horrors and a desire for personal empowerment and spiritual awareness. There’s an urgency to end the insanity, both within and without, and to find peace in our hearts and on earth at last.
Enlightenment or awakening (I use the terms interchangeably) is no longer a secret reserved for mystics, nor a luxury indulged in by privileged westerners seeking to become “more spiritual.” Awakening is a necessity if we are to survive and thrive in a world gone crazy with ego’s voracious appetite for “me” and “mine”. To rise above this erroneous identification with form (“my body”, “my thoughts”, “my feelings”) and recognize the eternal truth of an inner dimension of formlessness is to evolve out of ego into an enlightened consciousness. But if this enlightenment is to be of any use, it needs to come down from the mountaintop and get its hands dirty in the marketplace of human affairs. It’s in the darkest places — where it hurts, where there is fear, where we are triggered — that we either choose to succumb to the reactive mechanism of ‘fight or flight’ or have the courage to rest deeply in an unbounded openness that brings an end to the war both within ourselves and within the world. It’s right in the midst of political opinions, religious dogma, social rights and wrongs, and in the push and pull of intimate relationship that we are offered the opportunity to awaken out of the dream of separation.
Many spiritual seekers who experience a glimpse of enlightenment believe the world is an illusion. While this is true at the absolute level of pristine emptiness prior to form, the attempt to transcend the world and its messiness often leads to an “existential numbness” that is mistaken for spiritual liberation. There’s no real peace in this, but a subtle and pernicious war that perpetuates both inner and outer conflict. If awakening is to be more than just a state that comes and goes, if it is to be an ongoing reality with a very real impact on our everyday world, there must an intimate meeting with the depth and breadth of feeling that arises in response to the vicissitudes of our human experience. In other words, the light of awakened consciousness must filter out from the mind into the heart.
It’s right in the midst of the raw tenderness of the heart — those places where old patterns of withdrawal, closure and self-defense may have a grip on us — that the cloud of denial and avoidance can be transformed into the clarity of unbounded acceptance. It’s right in the midst of revulsion, regret, shame, and horror that we are called to surrender to what is here as the naked truth of our experience. When this surrender happens, over and over again, eventually the heart overflows with the light of awakened consciousness which then pours into the belly and comes to rest in an uncompromising embrace of both the waves of phenomenal existence and the ocean of inner stillness. It’s at this point that enlightenment is embodied. And it’s at this point that a new world can be born.
Embodied Enlightenment is an invitation to discover this new world … by devoting yourself to living the truth of your awakening in every aspect of your life. It’s an unending invitation because the embodiment of enlightenment is not static but an ever-deepening intimacy with life itself. If you are willing to wholeheartedly embrace this invitation, then perhaps this book will support you in the fulfillment of a life lived in the infinite openness of awakened consciousness.
Click HERE to see Amoda's workshop schedule. Amoda's bio can be seen HERE. For festival registration click HERE.
I am sharing this post as an offering to those who may be experiencing discomfort or anxiety as a result of the tumult of duality unfolding in the world around us.
Whether it’s the condition of the world or perhaps even our own lives, the one place in which we can take refuge from the storms of the outside world or the inner tension of our mind, is within our dedicated practice or sadhana.
Our sadhana is a vehicle that, through our humble efforts, it is able to transmute the present and impending darkness into light. It is within the refuge of our sadhana, that we bear witness to the small (and potentially huge) ways in which our practice impacts our lives.
In modern times, when the tides of darkness arise in the form of strife or subjugation, many feel hopeless and confused about what to do in order to make a meaningful difference. Fortunately, the ancient Sages have left us with very specific formulas to transmute this darkness and bring about balance. The beauty of this process is that is starts within and ripples outward. First, transforming our own lives and then extending outward – transforming us into nexus points of light, aarti lamps, which then shine their divine light into the world.
When joined together in concentrated practice, this collective light feeds and ignites global and universal transformation. Our sadhanas become one.
Thank you all for your commitment to your practice, to your journey, for who you are and all you do.
I look forward to sitting in sangha and sharing practices with you all!
May we work together uniting our strength for the good of humanity.
Oṁ Sahanā Vavatu
Oṁ Śānti Śānti Śāntiḥ
"May the Lord protect us together.
May he nourish us together.
May we work together uniting our strength for the good of humanity.
May our learning be luminous and purposeful.
May there never be any animosity amongst us;
May there be peace, peace, perfect peace."
Join Jeff Masters at the Friday intensive or one of the sessions during the festival weekend. Click here for more information.
Jeff Masters LMT, C-IAYT, E-RYT, MPCT, Msc. (Hon.), an Integrative Yoga and Somatic Therapist, specializes in assessing and treating somatic-based trauma, chronic pain, and neuro-energetic dysfunction. He has been researching and practicing Somatic Therapies for over thirty years.
Jeff is the founder and director of The Masters Institute and the SevaSoul Foundation, Arizona based organizations dedicated to vibrant health, wellness and the realization of the fully actualized human potential. He is an international speaker, teacher and author. For more information about Jeff or the Masters Institute visit www.JeffMasters.net or www.TheMastersInstitute.net.
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.
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