The 7th Integral Yoga European Reunion was held in Montpellier, France from April 20-24, 2019, at L’Hameau de les étoiles. The theme of the reunion was: Re-enchantment: Gaining the Wonder of our Practice Again. Each year Integral Yogis—teachers and students—gather for a reunion and each reunion is hosted by a different member of Integral Yoga Europe. In 2019, France was the host country and Michelle Jacobi, director of Centre de Yoga du Marais was the main organizer. She shared this report after the reunion.
I chose this theme for the reunion because sometimes life will indeed do its best to throw us off balance, and at times like these I feel connection with like-minded souls is the port in a storm or a sudden life raft, if you will forgive all these water metaphors, (It did rain a lot in the south.) Our organizing team chose the “Etoile” which translates as Hamlet of Stars, because of its rejuvenating atmosphere, its tranquil location in the south of France and because it could comfortably house perhaps 100 of us.
We were 89 Integral Yogis gathered. Our hosts were very familiar with furnishing the needs of a large spiritual community and they were wonderful in accommodating all these. A strictly vegetarian venue, no meat is ever even prepared on their site. The energy was pure and inviting, the pre-historic history of our environs captivating to the eye. The air pranic. Gentle rolling hills covered with spruce, fir, mountain pine and extremely tall cypress trees. We had this wonderful place to regain the wonder of our practice and now the rest was up to us.
“Us,” was the easy part. I mentioned at the end of the European Reunion outside of Helsinki two years ago, that it really didn’t matter where we were as long as we were together. I always feel this way when we come together at these reunions/conferences/trainings. We are in the spirit of sharing with each other, of coming into union with our surroundings, we have an esprit du corps that makes us realize there is no difficulty we cannot overcome; we are together.
It’s well understood that for human beings to thrive they need community. And, a community that reciprocates in kindness, gentleness, and compassion is the best kind of community there is. This is what heals us and ultimately our world when we touch the lives of others. This was how I felt the wonder of my practice manifesting itself, just being. I have felt this at each of the three reunions I attended and, even though in this one there was a degree of responsibility, it felt wonderful because I felt that someone was always around who had my back. There was someone on the team always checking in to see if anything could be lighter for me.
Suraja, my amazing assistant, expressed her memories of the Reunion in these words:
“Yoga is sangha. Even though we all know the Integral Yoga teachings and do our best to share them in our daily lives, coming together on a regular basis as Integral Yogis is a profound opportunity to bring us closer to the core, for connection with like-minded people takes us to a deeper level of consciousness. It actually goes beyond words. The same applies to being in two Swamis’ presence for four days in a row. The way they embrace the teachings is a constant reminder of what truly matters in life and where we are at the moment. This experience has been a fertile soil to nourish my day-to-day life, whether it’s raising a child, working as a cook, or envisioning relationships from a more genuine perspective.”
We come because we are eager to hear from our teachers and simply be in their presence, and, even more simply to be in Presence. Swami Asokananda opened our talks with this offering to us: Signs of a Spiritual seeker—16 Ways to Become More Attuned to your Soul’s Aspiration.” His talk gave us very practical tools on how to become more earnest and honest on our path. Swami Ramananda’s talk was on “How Yoga Enlightens”— through the 8-Limbs and how they build one from another. Nalanie Chellaram’s talk utilized the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita to help us decipher spiritual knowledge in the way that we could try to transcend the material world and its challenges. There were also many more sources of inspiration and information coming from within our sangha but for this article I would like to re-iterate how enchanting it is to be face to face and voice to voice: When we hear the timbre in our Swami’s voices which gently soothes us; when we see the sparkle in Nalanie’s eyes as she lights up with what she is passionate about; when we raise our voices and sing together. These sharings can only come to us live and in person, and this is where we heal and regain our wonder.
I would like to thank the organizing team for this beautiful European Reunion: Paola-Parvathi Faini, Heike Amma Farkas, Lucy Luckshmi Cannon, Maud Muktadevi Dreyer and Eglantine Suraja Fournier. Thank you to Gurudev and our dear Swamis and teachers. We are blessed to have you and your teachings in our lives. Thank you to all of you who made this 7th European Reunion a success.
About the Author:
Michelle Jacobi, BFA, ERYT-500, C-IAYT, is the director of Centre de Yoga du Marais, an Integral Yoga center in Paris. Michelle founded the centre in 2001 and created the space in honor of her Yoga sangha in New York. The “Yoga Marais” grew to offering day and evening classes to suit all levels of practice, a program for teens, a program for Yoga for kids as well as adapted classes for seniors and those requiring a gentle practice. Consequently Yoga workshops from international teachers and yoga summer retreats became popular requests and were added to the curriculum. As a Yoga therapist as well as a Yoga teacher, she is certified with the International Association of Yoga Therapists, graduating from l’Institut de Yoga Thérapie headed by Dr. Lionel Coudron, in 2014. She received her initial advanced teacher’s training from Integral Yoga International founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda. Michelle graduated from UCLA with a degree in Dance, and has danced in professional classical and contemporary dance companies for over 30 years. She has been teaching dance since 1987, and yoga since 2000. Michelle is currently an adjunct instructor for the University of South Florida’s Dance in Paris Programs where she has been teaching Yoga and its philosophy since the programs’ inception in 2007.