Swami Shantananda, also known as – and most often addressed as – Mataji, formerly the Principal and spiritual director of the Australian College of Classical Yoga, is running its branch dedicated to meditation programs – Blackburn Meditation and Mindfulness -which trains Yoga teachers and Meditation teachers. It, with ACCY, is a school of reality-based spirituality. Here is Mataji’s meditation teaching CV:
Personally, she attributes her first notions of spirituality to her Catholic upbringing, although she believes she was a spiritual child prior to any formal teaching. “My first memory,” she says, “is a golden sunny sort of feeling.” Perhaps it was a memory related to being cuddled by her mother, but perhaps it was an intrinsic sense of the divine, too. Later there was a re-evaluation of doctrine as a means to experience. The non-dualism of Yoga (and also Zen) seems to her a more useful way of articulating what is beyond words and concepts.
Her first experience of Yoga was from an enclosure in a women’s magazine when she was 16. Somewhat of a klutz on the athletic field, she really enjoyed the postures of the asanas (postures of Yoga), and found herself doing quite advanced postures without any teacher to supervise. The asana practice suited her physique and temperament, and she loved it. After leaving home, she found a yoga teacher wherever she was living, and Yoga was a constant in her life.
After 17 years of Yoga as merely asana practice, she was astonished to find that Yoga aspires to the highest spiritual goals, and it is really much more about meditation and inner experience, culminating in self-realisation or enlightenment, than it is about asana. Perhaps that early experience established a possibility… but it didn’t teach her much about living, or consciousness, nor did it bring enduring contentment.
She accepted her guru, and plunged into the spirituality of meditation and the investigation of one’s Self. Yogic spirituality starts from the premise that there is but one Self, not the billions we suppose there are. In ordinary life, there is an example of how this can be: In an aspen forest, there appear to be many, many different trees… but really they are but a single organism, with many individuals arising from it. Not such a leap after all.
In 2009 her guru “gave her sannyas” and she went with his satsang to India for the diksha. If you would like to read more about what that means, read more here
She trained to teach Asana and Pranayama with Joy Spencer, and took meditation leader’s training with Ian Gawler. She became the founding Secretary of the Gawler Foundation.
Academically, she has a swag of philosophy in her background, with a major, sub-major and work towards an MA in philosophy at Melbourne University. Later, she went back to university to get training in psychology, with a graduate diploma in Social Studies, and a postgraduate diploma in Health Psychology, the latter at La Trobe university There was a graduate marketing diploma along the way, too, at CIT, which became a campus of Monash university.
For many years she ran life skills programs for an adult education facility in Warragul. Since 1988 she has been teaching meditation, and training teachers of meditation and of Yoga.
She says of herself these days, “Eventually I saw/experienced a bundle of processes inside myself. I discovered they were the processes by which my mind creates the me that is the ego. These processes are also tensions, and the mind develops strategies to deal with them and other people. Seeing them, the me-ego dissolved – I can only see processes, no substantial entity, and the mind has largely given up its strategic role. I feel a loving presence within myself, which permeates me and somehow is me.”
She adds, whimsically, that only the mind can say that, and it is as near to the experience as words can get.