Swami Ramananda (credit: Jai Mitchell)

Swami Ramananda is the President of Integral Yoga Institute, New York City and a greatly respected senior teacher who has been practicing Yoga for over 30 years.

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Q: Do you think that 9/11 has given people the chance for positive change?

A: With 9/11, everyone, regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, was willing to help out, give blood, and serve in any way they could… so it did show the potential, so I think that it is important to bring differences and different peoples together. Celebrate and enjoy the differences that we have.

Q: How would you like 9/11 to be remembered? What further lessons can come out of it?

A: I would love for 9/11 to awaken us to the fact that we can work together. We can find peace within the world bit by bit by making peace in our own hearts. There is an underlying unity amongst us all. 9/11 showed us that when we need to, we can drop the emphasis on our superficial differences and come together and work together. There’s a beauty in that.

Q: How does one best deal with the realities of a collapsing economy, out of control politicians and fear-based news from around world?

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A: We respond when there are major events like 9/11, but every day we have the choice and the potential to think about the well-being of others; forgive someone’s mistake or to correct each other, but with compassion. We have that choice. Beneath all of the superficial differences, there is a oneness. There is a human need for respect. And there’s the potential to experience not just tolerance of our differences but to even celebrate and enjoy the differences that we have.

Q: What other words that you would like to speak to help sum up this 10th Anniversary of 9/11?

A: When we only dwell on diversity, we miss the underlying unity where we can find peace, where we can respect each other, or even love each other and where we can learn to work together. We can come together and ultimately almost all of the spiritual traditions share the same underlying message: learning to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Help each other, work together, inspire one another. Big change happens one person at a time. As long as we see each other as apart and different than we will remain divided and thinking about ourselves.

Q: How can someone best put these words to practice?

A: You need some form of spiritual practice where one learns to disengage from our me-centered lives. If we only identify with ourselves we fail to recognize this deeper aspect of ourselves. Practice some form of spiritual life mediation. Be more forgiving with one another. Learn to have respect and forgiveness and goodwill towards fellow human beings and towards other forms of life.

Integral Yoga offers more than 100 yoga classes each week at all levels, hundreds of workshops and courses each year, Kirtans and special events and a renowned and respected Teacher Training program. More at Integral Yoga Institute.

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Swami Ramananda will be speaking at A Celebration of Our Oneness: In Commemoration of September 11 at Integral Yoga Institute NYC on Saturday 9/10/2011 at 6pm.