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A Mother and Daughter: Two lives in the Light

September 12, 2009 by Lightwaves


Sondra Marshall recently spent time at Yasodhara Ashram to reconnect and celebrate her daughter Paris’ 32nd birthday.  Sondra has a long-time connection with Swami Radha’s teachings.  In 1969 she discovered one of Canada’s first Radha Centres in Ottawa where she took classes with Nancy Mulitz.  Swami Radha visited the Centre and offered a workshop where Sondra got her “first glimmer of what yoga was about.” No sooner she was living back on the coast, where she made a connection with the Ashram, and answering a spiritual longing within, she started to take courses and then the YTC in 1975.  It was transformative experience for her.


Sondra Marshall

Sondra: Someone had asked about family patterns, or unresolved issues that continue to be repeated from one generation to another. In response, Swami Radha made an analogy and the image has remained a powerful aid to understanding my work in this life.  She said, the grief, anger, resentment, guilt, etc. that we carry in our psyches is often unconsciously passed along to others – our children, other family members, those we are close to.  If we don’t tackle the work of dismantling the issues/obstacles, then the pain continues.  She likened this passing along to the tail of a kite.  “If we are not conscious, and mindful about our thoughts, attitudes and actions, then we will add to the tail of the kite.”  But if we intentionally seek to unlearn and let go of damaging patterns, then we will be able to cut off sections of the tail.  This is the work of people who are aware in this life.  She encouraged us to find ways to liberate ourselves from harmful, negative patterns so that our kites are free and we are not adding to others’ kites as well.  Throughout my adult life, I have been reminded of Swami Radha’s teaching about shedding the tails of the family kite so I can live and act from a more generous and compassionate spirit.

Sondra has since been integrating the teachings into her life as a mother and into her spiritual life as a practicing Christian. The Divine Light Invocation has been the constant in her life.

Sondra: The Divine Light Invocation has been a constant companion to me and I use it consistently in my life.  It was part of Paris’ upbringing even though she was raised in a Christian Church.  It was always a part of what we did, especially when we needed a lot of assistance. I remember, for example, when Paris had to do a piano recital or a piano exam she would feel anxious and I said, “okay, let’s do the Divine Light Invocation and just imagine everything is going to be resolved. ”

Not long ago a neighbor knocked on my door at eleven o’clock at night and she was just beside herself.  There was no way I could calm her except a little talk and then I said, “Would you be interested in doing the Divine Light Invocation?”  It’s a very easy aid to pass on to people and I’ve used it a lot in that way.  So, Swami Radha has been very powerful and influential in who I am and how I’ve lived my life.  I’m very, very grateful to her.

Paris Marshall was blessed to have a mother, Sondra Marshall who had a foundation in Swami Radha’s teachings and who had the companion of the Divine Light Invocation in her life.


Paris Marshall-Smith

Paris: The Light was the most significant teaching that supported our foundation at home. I learned early on how to visualize and see myself in the Light. My mom would use the Light to help support me during piano exams, public speaking, when I was ill and even when it was very difficult between us. The Light was a bridge on which we could stand together. While I was here at the Ashram this summer, I went through my life tracking when I could distinctly remember being connected to the Light. This process helped me to realize the power of what I tell myself and what I choose to remember.  As I reflected back through the years it became increasingly clear that the Divine has been with me all along and that I actively sought out a relationship with the Light. While I have had some very dark times, I have never felt alone and my mom was a significant force in helping me to remember that. Also when communication was most difficult between us, my mom urged me to bring my thoughts on to paper, to reflect and develop a more active relationship with my own inner knowing. As I am writing this, it suggests to me that I lived in a bounty of abundant Light. One could say that Swami Radha brought great Light into our lives.

Paris managed the Ashram vegetable garden this summer.   We asked her about her experience of tending the plants of our beloved garden.


Paris: It has been a huge honor and privilege to work in the garden and to mature my own relationship to the Divine and the Ashram-it was like coming home. I have had this need to be deeply connected to the Ashram, but over the course of the last couple of months living and working here I feel like I’ve matured to a place where I’ve embodied the relationship more strongly within myself and that I can leave more easily and carry the Light within me. And that feels good. I feel like I’ve gained a certain level of independence and a maturing process has happened.

The tale of the kite has been an important metaphor for Sondra and today the Lightened tail lives on in her daughter Paris.

Paris: My teenage years  were more of a struggle between the Light and the dark.The Light channeled through my mother was a buoancy element that kept surfacing and bringing me back to centre.  Mom was integral in bringing the Light as a force into our lives and today lives on in me.

Om Radha


  1. It feels so timely for me to read this! I have been spending time and sharing space with my ma this summer, and it’s fertile ground for both of our ‘stuff’ to come to light, which is sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but joyful on a deeper level because it feels like we’re co-evolving out of our “tails.” And the other night I was feeling so grateful for the intention and effort she put in throughout my life (and my sisters) to work on herself and not add to our tails. I love that image, and I love to hear Swami Radha’s less documented teachings through the memories and stories of her students :)

    My mom also used a light visualization with me when I was little, lying in bed, and scared of monsters. At a young age, I was lucky to learn that I can fill myself with Light and be protected.

    Comment by claire — September 14, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  2. I enjoyed reading this interview and seeing how the Light flows from one generation to the next. My mom, grandmother and aunts were involved with Unity and the Light was an important symbol for God when I was growing up. After my mom met Swami Radha she began a mantra practice and she, as well as my aunts, were 100% behind my decision to move to the Ashram. I think my grandmother would have been too!

    Comment by Satya — September 18, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  3. Wow! What a great and interesting article! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Comment by Monica — October 1, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  4. Beautiful! Thank you Paris and Sondra. YOur relationship (to eachother and to the light) is inspiring.

    Comment by Andrea — October 4, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

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