Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian, Author, Speaker, Spiritual Leader
Living The Eternal Way
A Single Blade of Grass
The Jewel of Abundance
Live in the Soul
The Moon Reminded Me
She is the director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose California
She is also the author of several books on meditation and spiritual practice and enlightenment:
She has been quoted by saying “Your life is eternal and your essential self was never born and it will never die”
You are a spiritual leader.
What inspired you to do this work early on. How did you get here? It is helpful to look at our soul journey. You can see this in the lives of children. She has always had an interest in spirituality. She did not grow up in a religious household. Somehow she thinks that as a child, she was trying to balance things out. I wanted to learn about God and Spirit. She would go off to her friend’s churches. She was on a quest. Her parents didn’t discourage her. The root of being a spiritual teacher was right there. She loved to sit in her room and be quiet and contemplate things. She was having a meditative experience. She displayed leadership qualities as a child. She ran into a friend from Junior High, and we were reminiscing. She remembered Ellen always starting groups and being the leader. Young people are practicing what they are going to do later on.
Being a western woman, what introduced you into Indian philosophy. What took you there. She was searching for many years. In college, she started out in religious studies but she found them really boring. She was looking for a spiritual experience. She needed an avenue she could follow. She wanted to know about and not just read about it. The turn came at the juncture when she was 30 she met her spiritual teacher Roy Eugene Davis who was a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda who brought Kriya Yoga to this country. She was ordained as a minister in 1982. You are a teacher of yoga. You are a yogacharya. Teacher of yoga. Respected teacher like a Reverend. She was in this world of Interfaith interreligious and I need this term that fits better. She was deemed a Yogacharya.
What does a teaching experience look like? They have a leadership training program and yoga practice. It is not a religion. Students learn what kriya yoga philosophy is. And how to live it. Retreats, courses and developing your own spiritual life.
There are 8 limbs of yoga. It gives you pointers of how to live and meditate. It gives these guides at a high level. For example, there is a principle of non-violence. If I live my life in a non-violent way, how would I live, how would I eat. There are guidelines but you need to find your way. You watch your speech, you watch your thoughts. In terms of the yoga life, it is like that. The key is that you are trying to create a balanced, healthy, peaceful life. The whole of yoga is about being anchored in the soul. When we are out of balance, we are distracted about being attracted to yourself. Quiet your mind, balance your body. Be connected and live from your soul.
You are an author. Tell us about your books and the heart behind them.
Energy. How to have an abundance of it. How do you take an intangible and root it down. Mind vs spirit. Is it your soul, is it your thought, is it your mind? Is it compartmentalized? That is the best question. That is what we do in yoga. The practice of self inquiry. You are asking the fundamental question. What am I? Am I the mind? the soul? is there a boundary. In Yoga philosophy, we are consciousness. We are spirit emanating as souls. One reality. God, life, spirit it then expresses as individuals. That spirit within us is birthless, deathless and pure. It is the inner light that illuminates the mind. The body is a physical vehicle. The mind is a subtle vehicle for the soul. Both the body and the mind are subject to change. We observe the body. We observe the mind. We observe inspirations, emotions, thoughts. Then we say, what is observing? There you have it! It takes you right into the awareness of your true self as the witness and the observer. The observer is your soul. Can the soul change? The essence is unchangeable. You have a sense of your own self. Our existence is always the same.
When someone is deemed a terrible person, is their soul bad? There are different levels of the mind. The repository of karmic imprints. Their mind is computer and is recorded in the mental field. These impressions are like seeds and they remain until there is a situation that allows them to come to fruition. This is the expression of Karma.
If you react strongly to someone, and later you say, why did I react but something got triggered. Those buttons live in the mental field.
People who are difficult are acting out their own karma. Without an awakening, they deepen those patterns. They need to free up those patterns.
Can the karmic seeds go from lifetime to lifetime? The teachings say that at death the body falls away but the seeds remain. Those seeds, have the person draw to them a life circumstances that allow them to fulfill those karmic seeds.
Everybody at the core of their being is perfect and enlightened of supreme consciousness but it gets covered by seeds.
You cannot get any more spiritual than you already are. Yoga is about arranging conditions in your life so your wholeness can come forth. You don’t have to be ruled by your karma.
We need to live by the promptings of your soul and not by the reactions of your mind.
She gives an example of a teaching of a scripture. The spiritual path sometimes takes place as the battlefield which is in our own mind.
The desire to put at bay the negative thoughts and emotions. We need to be warriors and work through our battlefield. Yoga is freedom and liberated by the reactive nature.
The promise of yoga is the destiny of every person is to wake up. This is the purpose of your life. Express yourself in the highest way. We all have equal opportunity.
Life can be challenging at times with heartbreak. The distinction is important for women….waking up does not mean that we don’t feel anymore. It is part of being human. However, we no longer have to be controlled by anger, greed, lust, but we can still feel them but not be controlled by them.
How do you help people who are searching for their life’s purpose? That is wonderful. It is the beginning of the journey. The jewel of abundance. This prosperity is a rich life. It starts with the innate urge to know our purpose. We are all here to wake up. Learn how to live a spiritual life and cooperate with the infinite.
This is dharma. This is the foundation of all life. Then express individual talents. That is your svadharma. It is connected to your dharma.
Is the process continual? What about gifts, like music? Does it come in many formats? It is helpful not to confuse dharma with vocation. Your work supports your authentic being. It is a mistake to say that your job is your dharma. It says that you are looking outside of yourself.
She has three children, and she experienced their soul qualities that are playing out in their dharmas. Her daughter was sensitive as a child. And she is playing this out as an adult by fostering dogs and being a nurse. Her dharma is to express compassion. There is a connection of the divine qualities within you that find your way.
She started writing poetry as a child. It was a way to express her introverted nature. The Moon reminded me of her latest one. It has poems about the devotion of yoga, meditation and family. Yoga is about wholeness. These poems are like streams that come together.
Jewel of abundance is about to connect with your own abundant self.
What are the four universal goals. balanced.
1. Dharma authentic living. higher purpose. cooperate with the infinite.
2. Artha. Wealth. This is about how to attract the resources in life to fulfill your dharma.
3. Kama. Pleasure. Enjoy life. The nature of the soul is joy itself.
4. Moksha. Liberation of consciousness.
Those are like the four legs of the table.
What is the day in the life of Ellen look like?
She travels a lot. She meditates when she can. She does an hour of study and meditation every morning. She does 10 minutes a day of yoga. She likes to walk and cook. She loves to teach and connect with family.
Tell us about your non-profit.
Non-violence. How can we serve in our community? Bring some tools of non-violence into the community. Bring groups together. There is an educational Carry The Vision.org. It teaches stress reduction in schools and prisons. Yoga can be too focused on the self but you need to give back. This is giving back. We work with the vulnerable population.
They have on-line classes. On her author site she has year long programs.
We are honored to meet you and know that you are a change maker.
Does energy play into someone connecting to their own consciousness. There is a six week course that is about basic philosophy.
There are qualities in nature that are moving and changing all the time. They color our experience. They have energy. With the pandemic we feel the dark energy. The sorrow and suffering can be felt. We need to change the energy.
You can impact your energy.
In the heart is a well, in the heart is a well filled with the sound of silence, drink from it. One taste changes everything. How do I know? The day I sat on the edge and fell in told me this.
Jump into the spirit!