While working toward her PhD in anthropology at the University of Michigan, Girija traveled to India in 1970 on a spiritual quest. There she met Swami Muktananda and became his disciple. During the next 22 years she lived in a number of his ashrams, both in India and the U.S. In 1980 she was ordained as Swami Girijananda and began traveling, teaching and directing ashrams, including the Ann Arbor, Chicago, Houston and Honolulu ashrams.
It was during the early days in India that she began the study and practice of the art of astrology.
After leaving the ashram, she moved to a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center called Rigdzin Ling, which was founded by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. There, in the remote Trinity Alps of northern California, she spent the next 12 years studying, practicing and doing yearly retreats with his Dzogchen lineage holder, Lama Drimed Norbu. During her years there she studied and practiced the healing art of Jin Shin Jyutsu, which has ancient roots in India and more modern roots in Japan.
She spent nearly two years at the Shiva Ashram in Australia where she reconnected with her Siddha Yoga roots and taught meditation. She also offered courses there in Jin Shin Jyutsu and astrology.
In 2010 she received an inner inspiration to return to the U.S. and to teach independently as a post traditional teacher. She landed in Arcata, CA in 2011, where she teaches a number of weekly meditation classes drawing on her more than 40 years of immersion in traditional meditation paths. She was inspired to use her ordination name in teaching, out of respect for its power and blessings, though as a post traditional teacher, she is known simply as Girija. Her heartfelt aspiration is that people discover and connect with the essence of their inner being and develop a regular meditation practice which brings harmony and integration to their everyday lives.
About her approach to meditation, Girijananda says:
“In sharing what I have gained from more than 40 years of meditating and seriously pursuing various spiritual paths, I find that I want to present is the essence of what has been useful to me.
I think of the path of meditation as having two movements – waking up and growing up. Although there is an aspect of waking up which can be sudden and radically life-transforming, in my experience it more often takes place over time like other human developmental processes. It also happens as a result of practices which fall into the “growing up” category – self inquiry, a variety of therapies, spiritual study, and in fact anything which facilitates growth and spiritual maturity. So it isn’t that one first wakes up and then focuses on integrating the fruit of that waking up into one’s life. Meditation is viewed as an ongoing process of both waking up and integrating.
My work is to facilitate people waking up to what we really are – which I called the “Inner Self” during my years with Baba and which I learned to call ‘the nature of mind’ during my years with the Buddhists. In addition to meditating on our true nature, I also want to provide tools for working with our ‘stuff’ – variously thought of as our conditioning, karma, negative emotions, impurities or even sin. The obstacle to waking up is our denseness, our darkness – that which veils the light of pure awareness. I use a technique inspired by the traditional Buddhist practice of tonglen, which I call “tonglen for our own suffering,” in which we breathe in and give space to our own contraction or denseness and breathe out love and compassion. It follows the traditional tonglen format of breathing in the dark and breathing out the light, which is profoundly counter-intuitive, yet is in harmony with the development of greater inclusivity, wisdom and compassion. In the process of meditation we lighten up and move towards a more spacious, compassionate, wise and happy space.
As we develop a regular practice, our lives become more and more filled with light, love, wisdom and compassion. Baba’s daily motto was “Honor yourself, bow to yourself, love yourself; God dwells within you as you.” When one realizes this, one automatically sees that God dwells within the world as the world and there is an end to suffering. It is with this aspiration that I offer my work.”