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Nurturing Insights

swami durgananda reflecting creativity

July 21, 2010 by Swami Durgananda

Our elders hold the key to a kaleidoscope of wisdom, inspiration and guidance. In this reflection, Swami Durgananda invites us to explore the latent creativity that awaits our awareness if we are curious enough to know.

Journal Reflection: January 9th, 1982

Today was my day off and I worked on dreams and the Divine Mother dance and then some chanting. After lunch I had a two and half hour session with Mataji (Swami Radha) going over my papers. She gave me some deeper ideas to work on in the asana papers. I guess what really stunned me was her response to the  Hari Om paper.

The Golden Flower of Consciousness

She said what I wrote about was an idea that had never occurred to her – that it was an insight that was totally my own. I was very surprised. She was amazed herself. Imagine her chanting all that time for so many years; I would think that she would have gotten every insight there was to get. It shows that even an ordinary person can get fresh insights. I left feeling quite high and ended up sledding down the hill with Garth and Clea, letting out whoops as we tore along from the Guest Lodge down the parking lot.

Tonight Swami Radha had us all come over for what we thought was a talk on the connection between the asanas and Kundalini Yoga. She fooled us and asked each one of us to comment on how we saw the connection in our own practice. It was interesting to see those who were unable to make the connection, the ones who couldn’t bring any depth to it, and those who had a grasp of the symbolism. There were some who didn’t work with the asanas enough to know.

'Inner Vision' lithograph 1969

Lightwaves: How did you as a spiritual aspirant and eventual swami nurture your insights?

Swami Durgananda: I drew them – made collages, looked up subjects to expand my knowledge. One of the insights had to do with working with the Hari Om mantra. I made drawings of the rhythms and the syllables of the words – putting it all together in a visual form.  Swami Radha also assigned a project in the early part of my arrival at the ashram and it was to keep track of our dreams for 9 months and write about what we learned. For me, it was a project I took to my heart as it was the kind of challenge I loved to do. I made a binder of my dreams and the work I had done and included a poster of cut-out images, drawings, and paintings to illustrate the dreams.

Swami Radha was very pleased that I had put in the time to do this and said no one else had ever done that. For me, it was a joy and project that I wanted to pursue. I continued to carry on with working on my dreams and illustrating them to nurture my insights. I now follow my insights more by looking up the subjects and reading about them. I am looking forward to making some pen and ink sketches of Swami Radha’s poetry which I have already illustrated but call me to follow through in a fresh way.

Lightwaves: What was it about Swami Radha’s approach with you that encouraged you to ‘dig deeper’, to investigate symbolism and draw connections?

Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language, Original Cover Art 1987

SD: She challenged me to go further and I did. I love exploring symbols. Swami Radha encouraged me by giving me some dreams of other people and asking me to comment on them – how would I handle them? This stretched my so-called limits and I learned more. I loved the challenge – I always loved symbolism. I liked the way Swami Radha gave me projects that stretched me.

She asked me to illustrate her books and this called on my drawing ability and required me to explore how to portray certain parts of her books. At first I held back but her encouragement brought me forward. An example of this was the cover for the original Hatha Yoga Hidden Language book. I didn’t think I could do it but she kept encouraging me and I finally just did it.

In 1967, Swami Durgananda, then Margaret White, met Swami Sivananda Radha for the first time. Four decades later, after a multitude of journals, art projects, and reflections, Swami Durgananda compiled her book In Durga’s Embrace – A Disciple’s Diary by timeless publishing.


  1. This is a fabulous post! What a wonderful window into Swami D’s inspired, creative, and industrious process of working with insight and symbolism. This post brings movement to the fingers and toes of my own engagement with the mysterious and personal unfolding of meaning that we all experience as we continue to work with dreams, mantras, and asanas. Swami D’s process has been lucid and helpful not only to herself… her artwork communicates deep truths, and her writing continues to inspire. Jai Durga!

    Comment by Cierra — July 21, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  2. Dear Swami Durgananda,
    Your creativity, book, paintings and more have been an inspiration for all who seek growth and transformation.
    Proof again of what it means to be connected to the Divine within your heart and whole being.
    The Golden Flower of Consciousness really touched my deepest longing.
    Through all these years I have not forgotten your help and kindnesses while at the Ashram.
    Bless you in the Light

    Comment by Francine Joly de Lotbiniere — July 22, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  3. I really like the “Inner Vision” lithograph. I find this article inspiring. I’ve actually been trying to get my mom to come to the Ashram for the elders workshop. She’s at least thinking about it.

    Comment by Dianne Noort — July 22, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  4. Thanks for this insight. I really enjoy reading old diary entries and reflections from those who had the chance to grow with and learn from Swami Radha. It makes her presence more clear for me and sheds light on her teachings…

    Comment by Paula Richardson — July 27, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  5. Thank you Cierra for your enthusiastic response which inspires me! One’s own process is often not lucid for others to understand so I am glad that you got something from my work.

    Comment by Swami Durgananda — July 29, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  6. Greetings Francine and thank you. Yes, I remember those days when we were staying in …….was it Many Mansions? My memory is not great any more but I do remember bits and pieces that bring back warm memories. I hope you are well and happy.

    Comment by Swami Durgananda — July 29, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  7. Thanks, Dianne, for your reply. I think if you look at the program calendar you will see that there is no Elder’s Retreat this year, but there is a Women’s Retreat starting August 26th. You may find out if you call the office for details.

    Comment by Swami Durgananda — July 29, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  8. Thank you Paula. I agree with you and that is why I wrote my book “In Durga’s Embrace” which is my diary entries covering the years I was with Swami Radha and lived with her.

    Comment by Swami Durgananda — July 29, 2010 @ 9:59 am

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