The End-of-Life Project is a living, breathing, and ongoing initiative to bring the Integral Yoga teachings to the end of our lives and beyond. We are grateful to Integral Yoga Magazine for supporting this program.
During the dormancy of the pandemic a new branch of Integral Yoga was planted, has taken root, and is sprouting 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 taking the basic principles and teachings of Integral Yoga, as taught by Sri Swami Satchidandanda (Gurudev)—showing how to live a life that is peaceful, easeful, and useful—and applying these 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, after meeting Gurudev. She had spent years working with Swami Sarvaananda and Reverends Bhagavan and Bhavani Metro on a way for any member of the Integral Yoga community to reserve a spot for their ashes to be interred in the Yogaville Memorial Garden between Chidambaram and the James River.
In January 2021, Karuna held a series of Zoom meeting with senior Integral Yoga teachers and Integral Yoga ministers to brainstorm the new end-of-life 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 websites about Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Magazine, and other Integral Yoga websites more), she figured that what she could do with the copious notes from those meetings was to build a website on the topic of yogic end-of-life. The resulting site may be found at https://yogicendoflife.org. It was launched officially in July 2021, at the 40th anniversary of the Integral Yoga Ministry. The Integral Yoga Institutes of both New York and San Francisco, along with Sam Eberle of Mercury Multimedia 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 Integral Yoga Institute 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 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 registrations, which is free or by donation.
To date, we have offered four of the six planned workshops. We are awed and humbled by the positive results, the high attendance, and the desire for more learning that we had anticipated. 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 life.
The first talk, in May 2022, Spiritual Preparation with Swami Karunananda, brilliantly illuminated what the yogic teachings have to say about the journey of life and how an understanding of these teachings can alleviate the fear of death and attachment to the earthly realm. In June 2022, Dr. Sandra Amrita McLanahan’s talk on “Physical Release,” outlined the concept of a “healthspan” beyond the better known term of “lifespan,” with teachings on maintaining the easeful body that can come from a conscious and healthy approach to food, exercise, stress management, and more.
Practical planning for our demise was the subject of a talk by David Deva Barrett, Esq., that laid out the nuts and bolts of wills, trusts, estate planning, and other final wishes we all need to put in place for ourselves and our loved ones. In August 2022, Swami Sarvaananda provided a talk on memorials and interments to help us plan for the physical disposal of our remains and introduced the idea of using the Integral Yoga classrooms and facilities to host memorial services for lost loved ones, lead by Integral Yoga ministers.
Two more workshops remain in the series. In September 2022, Swami Chidananda and Karuna Kreps will talk about community service: how to ask for help when you or a loved one needs it and how to be a source of help for others. Then, to wrap up the current series, in October 2022, Chandra/Jo Sgammato will explore the concept of leaving a legacy and the many ways we can understand our own lives’ meanings and be a source of positive memories for those we leave behind.
To benefit from this project, you can visit the website where we have posted recordings of the workshops with Swami Karunananda, Dr. Amrita McLanahan, David Deva Barrett and Swami Sarvaananda. Recordings of the last two workshops will be available a week after those take place.
We thank the program heads and center staff for helping to promote the workshops. We are also grateful that the website is listed as a resource on 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 end-of-life issues. To enable continued discussion, we have set up an email group, [email protected]. This many-to-many list provides a venue for students to continue to discuss what they learned in the workshops and to share resources they have found of value. Initial posts are moderated, and the list is being used appropriately.
So far, we are finding much interest in grief counseling, caregiving, downsizing homes, and dealing with family conflict, so Integral Yoga might offer talks and more interactive talkbacks on these specific topics. May the Integral Yoga End-of-Life Project continue to serve participants well into the future.
About the Authors:
Karuna Kreps met Swami Satchidananda in 1967. Initiated by him, she taught classes of all levels at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York,1968–1982. She has traveled with Swami Satchidananda, staffed Yoga retreats, and lived in the Integral Yoga Institute. In 1986, she was awarded the title of “Guru Tattwa Ratnam,” or “Jewel of the Guru’s Teachings” by Swami Satchidananda. She built the original websites swamisatchidananda.org, lotus.org, iyta.org, and for a decade she helped to edit Integral Yoga Magazine and maintain integralyogamagazine.org and sent out the “Weekly Words of Wisdom from Sri Swami Satchidananda.”
Chandra Jo/Sgammato served at the Integral Yoga Institute of New York in many capacities for more than twenty years, mostly as General Manager. Today, she remains a certified Integral Yoga instructor in Levels I and II and teaches two regular Yoga classes over Zoom each week. She is the founder of Yoga At School™, which brings the Integral Yoga teachings into New York City public schools.