We’re ordained lineage holders in the Kriya Yoga tradition.
As a couple, we’ve been practicing and teaching this path for over 49 years, integrating the deepest spiritual principles into a full life of marriage, children, entrepreneurship, and creativity.
It started with a National Geographic.
There was an article on India with a photograph of a yogi seated in full lotus. Something about that photo ignited my imagination. I clipped it out and kept it on my dresser.
In the summer of 1970, I thumbed through the New York City phone book in search of a yoga class.
I’d begun reading books on yoga philosophy. My brief romance with mind-altering drugs was losing its appeal. I wanted to experience what the books described. There were only two centers in New York. When I called the Integral Yoga Institute, a friendly person answered the phone.
My first class changed my life.
I rose from savasana (deep relaxation) in a state of meditative bliss. In the changing room, I turned to another student—who turned out to be the renowned theater critic Eric Bentley—and enthused, “Do you realize how amazing yoga is? Do you see how important this is?” He nodded and smiled in agreement and told me to calm down. (I’m not sure I ever have.)
I became a regular student taking 5 classes a week.
Before class I would sit on the couch to read and re-read Be Here Now by Ram Dass. The images, stories, and scriptural references were calling me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I would be a yogi!
“I’m not going to college. I’m going to an ashram.”
That’s what I told the headmaster of the college prep school I attended. He gave me a long, tired look. He’d been putting up with quite enough sex, drugs, revolution, and rock n’ roll, thank you very much.
“Well, don’t just talk—do it.” He threw down the gauntlet.
So, following high school graduation, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, in search of an ashram.
Three days after arriving, I attended my first Kriya Yoga class. I’d read about Kriya Yoga in Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi. This wasn’t just physical yoga. This was the inner teachings.
I was thrilled by my good fortune. The teacher, a bearded young man calling himself Arcturus, gave a talk that wove together yoga philosophy with myth, symbolism, and Jungian psychology. It was as elegant as it was esoteric.
In a few months, I had moved into the Kriya Yoga house.
There, Arcturus and a handful of other devoted yogis practiced, studied, and lived together. And then, at the end of a Wednesday night class, I saw her.
She was so beautiful.
And she was signing up for the upcoming retreat—just a week away. I looked forward to talking with her and introducing myself, once we were up in the mountains.
Unfortunately, it was a silent retreat.
So, while I couldn’t say anything, I could offer her a cup of tea and a smile. She accepted the tea and smiled back. I wrote her a note and we exchanged names/phone numbers. I was smitten. Her name was Deborah Bliss (yep, Bliss is her real name). We’ve been together ever since.
In 1970, I was a college freshman taking a required Speech 101 class.
Our assignment was to present a “demonstration speech.” I decided to do mine on yoga. I’d heard about yoga and wanted to explore the practice.
I bought The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda and began to practice.
I talked the girl in the next room, Vickie Hesterman, into doing a nightly yoga practice with me. We worked our way through the book. I’d light a candle and proceeding page-by-page, twist and stretch into pose after pose. We’d end by chanting Om Shanti with our eyes closed. It felt strangely familiar and really good.
On the day of my demonstration speech, I glided to the front of the class.
After giving a brief introduction on the meaning and purpose of yoga, I demonstrated several poses. I wrapped my legs around my neck, stood on my head, and dropped back into a full back bend. Dramatic!
I continued my daily practice with a personal goal to be able to perform every pose in the book.
I kept at it all year and over summer vacation. My mom hated me chanting Om and thought the yoga poses barbaric. Of course, that added incentive to my 19-year-old mind. As a sophomore, I transferred mid-year to the University of Colorado at Boulder and immediately searched for a yoga class.
I wanted to study with a real teacher.
I found one listed in the Free University newsletter. The class met on Wednesday nights in the Lutheran Church near my dorm. A few other students and I waited on the main floor for over half an hour.
A guy with super-long hair came in laughing. We were in the wrong room. The classes met in the basement. We’d missed the hatha yoga portion but the meditation/lecture on Kriya Yoga was to begin soon. It wasn’t what I’d come for, but out of curiosity I stayed.
I loved sitting in the stillness of meditation.
A quality of peace and silence filled the room. I loved sinking deeper and deeper into the breath. And there was also this very cute guy in a red flannel shirt who sat in the front row—spine straight, not moving a muscle. I won’t say how low he wore his pants.
I signed up for the weekend retreat wanting to go as deeply into yoga as I could.
The cute guy in red flannel was on the retreat.
Although we were in silence, I did notice him noticing me. He brought me a cup of tea and after the retreat he invited me over for dinner. His name was Eric. (I think you knew that by now).
When school was over, I moved to the mountains outside Evergreen, Colorado.
I lived in a tent in the National Forest. I would hitch-hike down to Boulder to visit Eric on weekends. I loved the solitude of living alone in the forest. I spent long days in the silence of the trees. Walking, sitting, practicing yoga, and bathing in the stream.
It was wonderful to be in a relationship with someone who loved yoga as much as I did.
When Eric talked about moving to Chicago to study with Goswami Kriyananda, a living master in the Kriya Yoga Lineage, I agreed.
We moved to Chicago in 1973 to study with Goswami Kriyananda.
Kriyananda, who transitioned in 2015, was the founder of the Temple of Kriya Yoga and a brilliant teacher of the Kriya Yoga lineage. We enrolled in the Kriya Yoga seminary—the second class in a program that has continued for almost five decades.
We have have two beautiful surfer sons - Nathaniel and Aaron. Nathaniel is a world traveler, art professor, and artist. Aaron is a masterful yoga teacher and entrepreneur.
We live in Encinitas, CA—the town where Paramahansa Yogananda built his seaside Kriya Yoga ashram in the 1930s. It’s a surf town overflowing with yoga centers, juice bars, kirtan events, and excellent Mexican food.
We’re lineage holders in the Kriya Yoga tradition.
Kriya Yoga is an ancient practice. While it’s been around for millennia, Parmahansa Yogananda brought the basic teachings of Kriya to the West in 1920.
Yogananda publicly communicated the teachings in ways that fit the culture of his times. But, he also transmitted the deeper, more esoteric aspects of the teachings to his closer disciples. Among these was Shelly Trimmer.
Shelly was born in Pennsylvania.
His brilliant mind and profound mystical awareness were obvious even as a child. His parents were students of Western Mystery teachings and so Shelly was born into circumstances that supported his natural inclinations towards the spiritual.
In the 1940’s he came to California, wanting to study with a Master who could deepen his already significant inner awareness.
Organizational life was not compatible with Shelly’s independent character.
Yogananda instructed Shelly to carry on the lineage and to teach but in a more hidden and less “institutional” manner. Shelly moved to the north woods of Minnesota, where he lived with his wife and children. Over the decades, a handful of disciples found their way to his farm/ashram. One of these is our guru - Goswami Kriyananda.
Goswami Kriyananda was American by birth.
Though at an early age he felt the inner call to practice yoga. (This was before there was a single yoga book in the main branch of the Chicago Public Library). He’s the founder of the Temple of Kriya Yoga, based in Chicago, Illinois.
We visited Chicago to meet Goswami Kriyananda in the fall of 1972.
We had each in our own way been meditating and praying for a spiritual preceptor who could guide us on the path. But, walking down State Street on a brisk Autumn evening, it seemed unlikely that we’d find a guru in such a rough, urban environment.
The Temple of Kriya Yoga was located on the top floor of a seven-story brick building.
The building was squeezed in-between much taller buildings and flanked by garishly lit movie theaters. The flashing marquees announced films like SuperFly and Shaft. Having just arrived from the hippy mecca of Boulder, Colorado – we were in shock.
During the meditation, Kriyananda made the statement, “God is knowable.”
There was something in the inflection and tone of his voice that went all the way into our souls. It was a confirmation of the heart’s deepest longing and an affirmation of what we sensed (remembered) in moments of stillness. We knew what we had to do. No words were needed.
We moved to Chicago.
And we entered the Kriya Yoga Seminary in January of 1973. For the next twelve years our life revolved around our studies at the Temple and the one-to-one transmission of our guru.
Lineage is transmitted heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind.
It’s not about affiliation with an organization or completion of a certification programs. It’s more fundamental. It’s direct. We are direct disciples of Goswami Kriyananda.
In 1985 we relocated to San Diego.
We settled in the surf town of Encinitas which remains our home base and the headquarters of the Wisdom Heart Community.
More Fun Facts
Along with being a spiritual teacher, for the past three decades, Eric has been a leading voice in the movement to bring greater spirit, mindfulness, and meaning to the workplace through his writing, training, and speaking through his company Dharma Consulting.
He’s worked with over 30,000 leaders from a wide variety of settings: Fortune 500 companies, healthcare, governmental and non-profit organizations as well as mid-size companies.
Eric is the author of the bestselling book Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work (over 200,000 copies sold). His book You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For won a 2008 Nautilus Award as a world changing book in the conscious leadership/business category.
Devi is trained as both a family therapist and art therapist. Her teachings blend deep psychological work with creativity in a way that breathes life into the yogic teachings. As a spiritual counselor, she helps individuals and couples transform suffering through undefended honesty, not-taking-self-so-seriously, and loving kindness.
For 25 years, Devi has led and taught The Spiritual Path for Women. This series of in-depth trainings and retreats applies spiritual principles and yogic practices to all aspects of a woman’s life—relationships, health, money, work, self-care, dreams, etc. (And there is a lot of laughing along the way.)
Devi is a master designer of ritual and sacred space. In her own home, and those of clients, she creates simple, elegant, and spiritually uplifting environments.
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