Shakti Mata

When I was twenty-five, I began to practice hatha yoga and found out very quickly that my favorite part of the class was lying in shavasana at the end of class and feeling the bliss of a quiet mind. A couple of years later I read Be Here Now by Ram Dass and had my first real awakening. In reading about Ram Dass’ experiences with Neem Karoli Baba, I felt a deep longing for two things: a direct experience of God and a guru who could give me that experience. A friend told me, “When the disciple has the longing, the guru will come.” In 1975, on my thirtieth birthday, I received shaktipat initiation from Baba Muktananda and my life has never been the same. For seven years I followed Baba from place to place and discovered the bliss of bhakti yoga, the power or spiritual community, as well as the potent medicine of chanting the Divine Name.


In 1982, when Muktananda passed away, I decided to pursue the yoga of knowledge, jnana yoga, and began first a Master's program and then a PhD program in the religions of India at Harvard University. It was thrilling to learn about the roots of my experience as I studied Sanskrit and the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. It was an amazing blessing to be able to spend seven years researching and writing a book on one of the greatest spiritual beings of our time, Anandamayi Ma. I came to enjoy a direct relationship with the Divine Feminine as I simultaneously immersed myself in Ma and facilitated a year-long women’s spirituality program at Interface in Cambridge, MA.


After I completed my PhD, I taught in academia for several years but found that I was first and foremost a practitioner and that I preferred to teach in venues in which I was free to share my personal practice and experiences. In the late nineties, I began to establish a powerful connection with Tibetan Buddhism through attending teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and studying with Lama Tsultrim Allione at Tara Mandala in Colorado. I began to practice Green Tara practice and to teach workshops on many aspects of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.


In the meantime, the only thing missing in my spiritual life was the heart-opening chanting of the early days in Muktananda’s ashrams. How could I find a community to chant with that was inclusive of all of my practices and spiritual connections? When I went to the first Ecstatic Chant weekend at Omega in 2004, I knew I had found my answer. As I became immersed in the ecstatic chanting of Krishna Das, Deva Premal and Miten, and Wah!, I realized that my calling was to share my passion for chanting. I invested in a harmonium and, as soon as I got home, I began inviting friends over for kirtan. What began in our living room has become the monthly Lincoln Kirtan at St. Anne’s Church on the second Saturday of each month, bringing together old timers as well as those completely new to chanting to sing the infinite names of the Divine.


Our kirtan CD, Jai Ma!, came out in 2007, dedicated to the Divine Mother in all her manifestations, particularly as Anandamayi Ma, the subject of my book, Mother of Bliss. In 2013 I was blessed to be able to travel to Ma’s ashram in Omkareshwar, India and receive initiation into Ma’s lineage from a direct disciple of Ma’s, Shri Swami Kedarnath.


In the fall of 2102 I completed a year-long training in Mindfulness in Education as well as a training to teach .b, a high school mindfulness curriculum out of Oxford, England, to teens. Since then, I have been teaching mindfulness and council circle directly to teens as well as training teachers in schools from pre-K through 12th grade throughout New England to include mindfulness and social-emotional learning in their classrooms.


In November, 2014, I began teaching workshops on Swakriya Yoga, a powerful, contemplative form of yoga that has evolved from the teachings of Anandamayi Ma. In Swakriya Yoga, we tune the body to the frequency of the Divine Mother through meditating on the correspondence between the elements in our own bodies and those in Nature, thus, freeing our consciousness. I will continue to offer these workshops after I return from a 6-week trip to India to further study the practice with my teacher, Swami Gurusharanananda that begins in January, 2015.


My life is joyfully full with consulting, leading kirtan, teaching yoga, and enjoying the blessings of a large family.


Tasyai Shri Devyai Namaha, to you, Divine Mother, I bow!

 

 

Lisa Prajna Hallstrom

Contact me at shaktimata@aol.com