A Cosmic Woman: Yashoda Devi Ma On Mastering The Mind
By Rachel Nichols
In today’s fast-paced world, it is so easy to get caught up in incessant thinking, multitasking, being “super busy,” filling up our lives with externals—the career, the romantic partner, the vacation, friends, the home filled with things—in hopes to find inner fulfillment. But as yogis on the path tend to discover, even with all of these “things” you may still end up feeling empty in a way you can’t explain or understand, and feel as if you’re just going through the motions in life.
But there is another way that can bring you back to your true nature: beginning the journey of mastering the mind. That might sound like a tall order, or even just downright impossible, but we have a story to share that we hope encourages you: the story of how Yashoda Devi Ma, a master teacher of Vedic Meditation, Sattva Yoga and the founder of Cosmic Women’s Tribe, overcame “standing in her own way" through her Vedic Meditation practice. “The path is you,” she says.
We are excited to share with you how she created the space to allow the calling of her heart to be heard through the practice of mastering the mind, and how you can move toward doing the same.
A Quest to Master the Mind
“Ever since I was little girl a voice within me always told me that if I were to do one thing in this lifetime it would be to become a master of my own mind—that those who held the wisdom and true power in this world were those who were in ownership over their thinking and emotions while living in authentic bliss,” said Yashoda.
With that, Yashoda began her spiritual journey, finding herself attracted to psychology, religion, spirituality, western/eastern literature, wellness and living an authentic life. In her 20s, she became a fitness trainer in Beverly Hills and very passionate about about wellness, working with physical therapists, chiropractors and others, but felt deeply unfilled.
“I could get your body fit, make a meal plan for you, have you eating healthy, but I couldn’t transform your emotional eating, nor teach you true intuitive eating, heal your trauma, body dysmorphia, self-hatred, lack of self-esteem, eating disorder, frame of mind, guilt, shame, anger, sadness, unhappiness, etc.” Yashoda, said. “I found this to be very frustrating because I wanted to help on a deeper level. I personally knew there had to be more to life and wellness than what I was experiencing. At the end of the day I personally did not feel fulfilled. I felt an endless, bottomless void.
“My mind had always been that of a hyper-sensitive, analytical, critical, mystical deep thinker—very wise, deep within me but layers of a lot of negative chatter weighing me down. I was plagued by massive over-thinking, which was mainly negative, full of lack and very self-defeating, which made me feel stuck in life. My mind had become my worst enemy. On the outside, I seemed peaceful, beautiful, healthy, intelligent and calm. On the inside I was dying a slow death through my negative thought patterns. ‘I’ was in my own way of being happy.”
Yashoda met Light Watkins—who, now, is a well-known Vedic Meditation teacher—at a laundromat in her 20s around the time she was going through her inner turmoil. Watkins gave her information about his Meditation Master, Thom Knoles, which led her to attend a one-hour intro talk on Vedic Meditation, followed by his four-day course.
“He spoke to everything I was seeking and mostly my heart. The words he spoke all made sense to my soul and nothing was weird nor hard. I had instant results during the first few days of my ‘Intro to Vedic Meditation Course.’ It was a science and technique I could apply to my everyday life rather than some guided meditation that left me dependent upon my teacher for the experience,” Yashoda said. “For me, I needed to understand how the meditation was affecting the body, mind, chemistry, and my teacher (Guru) Thom Knoles provided me with everything I needed to understand and how to make my practice one that was self-sufficient, effortless and easy to get to. The rest is history.”
Since Yashoda found this path, she has been teaching students around the world. The following is a Q&A with Yashoda, in which she shares her amazing wisdom about her spiritual journey and Vedic Meditation. We hope you feel as inspired as we did by the end of the interview!
Can you explain what Vedic Meditation is to those who may not have heard of it before?
Vedic Meditation is an effortless, eyes-closed technique practiced for 20 minutes twice daily. It’s a simple, natural and highly beneficial practice that absolutely anyone can learn. There is no effort, no concentration and no focus. This technique and its teachings draw from the cognitive sciences and the 5,000 year-old body of wisdom derived from India known as the Veda—knowledge governing the unity of the laws of nature and human consciousness from which yoga, meditation and Ayurveda are derived.
How is Vedic Meditation different than other types of meditation?
Great question. Most meditations fall into two categories: contemplative and/or concentrative. A contemplative technique involves some sort of visualization, imagination or memory. A concentrative technique involves focusing or directing the awareness on something. It could be candle, breath, japa (mantra used with mala for mental repetition) or being exclusively silent while working against thoughts as they come into the mind.
What we are doing in Vedic Meditation is something called “effortless transcendence and learning how to be all-inclusive.” It is in its own category. We are not trying to make the mind settle down. We are just allowing for it to spontaneously do so. We are not thinking about thinking. We do not concentrate. We do not control the mind. We are learning to transcend thinking. Vedic Meditation is a very effortless and natural form of meditation that you simply do sitting comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed. Twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening.
If you were ever to step back from your own mind you would find it is incessantly thinking. Always projecting itself into the future or reviewing the past. Imagining something or remembering something. What we are actually learning to do with this technique is to transcend activity. To de-excite the mind and take the mind into a very settled state.
If you think of the mind as being like an ocean. Our awareness is typically constrained to the surface (the busy frantic part of the mind) where all the choppy waves are. The deeper parts of the mind are more quiet and blissful so naturally your mind would love to make contact with that bliss yet it is the intense activity that keeps the mind on the surface. So what we do with this technique is give the mind a certain medium or vehicle which allows for it to go within. If it was left to it’s own devices it would never do that. So rather than trying to focus the mind to make it settle down or to simply contemplate something, what we are doing is giving the mind a medium (mantra) which allows it to do that.
Mantra when broken down means: Man (mind) and Tra (vehicle). It’s literally a vehicle which takes the awareness from the surface, into the subtle and then into the transcendent. The Vedic tradition recognizes that there are many different mantras and they all do very specific things. The mantras we use have absolutely no meaning. By using something that has no meaning the mind can’t associate it to anything.
How long have you been practicing this form of meditation and what has this practice brought to your life / how has it changed your life?
I have been practicing Vedic Meditation for 13 years now. I have done every advanced technique, advanced course, lived/traveled the world with my Guru for seven years and trained intensely (14 hrs of meditation daily) in India while living there for five months to become a teacher. I knew in the first week of learning this effortless technique that I would become a teacher of it. In my 20s I had been waiting for the one thing I could teach a human being that would transform their thinking, heal their body, put them in their hearts and launch them toward their fullest potential and it was Vedic Meditation.
For me this practice revolutionized my life, refined my thinking and continues to in ways I can’t fathom. It truly saved my life in every way possible. It taught me how to be a master of my own mind, what thoughts to give power to, how to feel without being chained to the emotion, to live purely from my heart, to move from a place of pure intuition into action, to be in harmony with nature, to move with pure intention/vision and see the demand/need of the time and to live in present moment awareness. It brought me to a place of living of my Dharmic (the individual purpose for which you exist for being brought into contact with others) path.
This practice has given me greater capacity to move easily, more frictionlessly through my life with what I create and give to the world. To be a ‘Seer’ of the world and in alignment with what Nature is organizing. I no longer move from a place of ‘Me, me, I’ which feels damn good. I trust fully and resist nothing. Thankfully I am not the person I was 13 years ago before this practice who felt a bit confused, hopeless and frustrated with life. I am the refined, more subtle version living from the core of my heart who is able to live life in more simple, natural, innocent and effortlessly way of Being. I wake up daily feeling truly fulfilled no matter what is happening in the world and to me this is the greatest gift a soul can receive in a lifetime. My practice continues to feed my soul and opens up in ways I can’t imagine which feeds my ever unfolding curiosity of what is possible.
How can one begin to learn/start practicing Vedic Meditation?
Vedic Meditation comes from a 5,000-year-old lineage of some the greatest yogic Masters of all time. A person who is ready and willing to learn can find a Vedic Meditation teacher in most big cities. Each one of us who teaches Vedic Meditation teaches with the same standard and approach. We always offer a free one-hour intro to Vedic Meditation talk, followed by a four-day Intro to Vedic Meditation Course. Most of us offer a four-day course at least monthly in the city we are based in and travel to different locations if the demand is enough.
Yashoda also teaches a four-day Intro to Vedic Meditation Course monthly out of a private residence in Boulder, Colorado as well as travels to Aspen, NYC and LA. In addition, she works with corporations and does one-on-one Skype and/or in person mentoring sessions. For more on Yashoda, visit: www.yashodadevima.com.
Upcoming opportunities to study with Yashoda
*Vedic Meditation Retreat (Rocky Mountains near Aspen, Co) August 21-25, 2017
*India Retreat Nov. 1 - 13, 2017 Details coming soon!
*'Sattva Summit’ Rishikesh, India November 7-13, 2017
*’The Road to Dharma,’ TV Documentary Series due out in 2017 (www.mysattva.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for info)