By Karuna Kreps & Chandra/Jo Sgammato
During the dormancy of the pandemic a new branch of Integral Yoga was planted, has taken root, and is sprouting out with great promise. It is the Integral Yoga End-of-Life Project. Its purpose is to create a new Integral Yoga offering that will serve a large population of aging baby boomers and those who love and support them.
It is re-purposing the basic principles and teachings of Integral Yoga, as taught by Sri Swami Satchidananda, – which teaches us how to live a life that is peaceful, easeful, and useful –to the way that we take our leave from this worldly form. May we learn to make our exits with grace.
The idea was developed by Karuna Kreps, who began teaching Integral Yoga half a century ago, a year after she met Sri Gurudev. She had spent years working with Swami Sarvaananda and Revs. Bhagavan and Bhavani Metro to draft and get approval from the Ashram board a way for any member of the Integral Yoga community to reserve a spot for her ashes to be interred in the Yogaville Memorial Garden between Chidambaram and the James River.
Last January, Karuna held a series of Zoom meetings with senior Integral Yoga teachers and Integral Yoga ministers to brainstorm the new program. This resulted in the creation of a very long text document filled with notes, links to other websites, and papers on various aspects of hospice care and end-of-life planning.
Since Karuna is a professional web developer (she had built some of the first sites for Swami Satchidananda, IYTA, Integral Yoga Magazine, and more), she figured that what she could do with the copious notes from those meetings was to build a website on the topic. The resulting site may be found at https://yogicendoflife.org. It was launched officially a year ago in July, at the 40th anniversary of the Integral Yoga Ministry. The Integral Yoga Institutes of both New York and San Francisco along with Mercury Media are co-funding the costs of hosting this official website.
The website organizes a vast amount of information into six modules: spiritual preparation, physical release, practical planning, memorials and interment, community service, and leaving a legacy.
After the site was launched, Chandra/Jo Sgammato, who was stepping down after serving as the General Manager and Executive Director of the New York IYI for 18 years, proposed that Integral Yoga turn the six modules into workshops for the general public. Karuna offered to host the monthly Zoom meetings. Chandra and Karuna identified the senior Integral Yoga teachers and renunciates who could best lead these workshops and the two women have been co-hosting each event—all as Karma Yoga. All the Integral Yoga Institutes in the USA and Yogaville promote the workshops and take registration, which is free or by donation.
Now we have completed four of the six workshops. We are awed and humbled by positive results, the high attendance, and the desire for more learning that we have seen. It takes a village and, thanks to a village full of effort and support, this valuable program is reaching many people, changing lives, and promising to have a long tail.
The income across all the centers from the workshops has SO FAR totaled over five figures, with the lion’s share going to Yogaville whose income includes all six workshops.
The talk in early August introduced the idea of using the Integral Yoga classrooms and facilities to host memorial services for lost loved ones, lead by Integral Yoga ministers. It can bring the centers much-needed revenue and be a source of comfort for families and friends of the departed.
To build on this momentum, we ask you, the instructors of the New York IYI, to please:
First, visit the website where we have posted recordings of the workshops with Swami Karunananda, Dr. Amrita McLanahan, David Deva Barrett and Swami Sarvaananda. You can also learn about and register for the Community Service workshop with Karuna and Swami Chidananda in September and Chandra’s Leaving a Legacy presentation in October. Leave your comments and suggestions for additional programming in a form set up for that purpose on the bottom of each page.
We thank the program heads and center staff for helping to market the workshops. In addition to their official promotions, we have been promoting the workshops on various Facebook groups for the sangha and in public Facebook groups dealing with End-of-Life issues. And the website is listed as a resource on the website for Nomis Publications, ttps://nomispublications.com/links.aspx, a major publisher for the funeral industry.
We also appreciate all the technical assistance we have received in delivering the programs, editing the recordings, and posting them for the public.
During the Q&A sessions, the students participated in very candid, personal discussions about EoL issues. To enable continued discussion, we have set up an email group, firstname.lastname@example.org. This many-to-many list provides a venue for students to continue to discuss what they learned in the workshop and to share resources they have found of value. Initial posts are moderated, and the list is being used appropriately.
On November 5th, we will be addressing the monthly Integral Yoga Therapy Certification program’s Sangha Circle to invite the students and therapists to consider how they can offer End-of-Life counseling and grief therapy services. And the Integral Yoga Global Network has informed our centers throughout the world of the recordings and resources on the website that they can share with their communities.
At this point, Integral Yoga instructors, ministers, therapists, and sannyasins may also begin to think about what revenue-generating service they and the other teachers in their center can offer and they can build on the momentum for the project after the last workshop is given in October. By then, all six workshop recordings will be perpetually available for free on the website. On the bottom of each website page is a form inviting contributions to the New York IYI and to Yogaville, so revenue should continue to trickle in long after the sixth workshop is delivered.
So far, we are finding much interest in grief counseling, caregiving, downsizing homes, and dealing with family conflict, so IYI might want to offer talks and more interactive talkbacks on these specific topics.
May the Integral Yoga End-of-Life Project continue to reincarnate well into the future.