AHYMSIN newsletter, issue - June 2011  

“I’m telling you of the joy I have experienced.”

An Interview with Nina Johnson

by John Barry Stutt

Editor’s note: Nina Johnson is a disciple of Swami Rama. She was made an initiator and asked to teach by him. She founded The Yoga Society in Milwaukee, which is affiliated with AHYMSIN. This is their website: Now in her 80’s, she divides her time between Malethi, India, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. She has a strong practice and still continues to teach and give mantra initiation.

Nina indicates that she only teaches what she experiences.

She was an only child.  She took care of her Mother who passed at the age of 107.  Her husband was quite ill during his life.  While she would care for these two relatives, she felt sorry for herself.  These two relatives passed during the same year - 2005.  Thereafter, she was totally free to pursue her spiritual practice.

Her first India trip was in 1974 for the Kumbha Mela.  The next time she went was in 2006. 

When she arrived in India for the third time, Nina was anxious to advance her practice quickly.  She was surprised to hear from Swami Hari the remark to do her mantra and sleep.  She was disappointed.    Yet she did her mantra and slept and later contemplated and read yoga books.  Her practice improved.

A lot of her friends by now had gone or were old.  She abandoned grumpiness.

She recommends to householders that they tend to their family and work and get your yoga practice in anyhow.  When kids were sick, she also got sick.  She was glad when school was out because the sick periods disappeared.  She continued to do her practice.

She recommends that you lay the ground work.  Writers say when you reach enlightenment, all cares leave.  She is very happy.   How did she reach this stage?

Nina’s comments:

As a householder, you are like a juggler, multi-tasking. 

There is no magic to spiritual progress.  No instant enlightenment.

Brother Lawrence, such progress in his book.  It is like a tree branch in winter…looks dead but isn’t.  Make a resolve to serve.  Brother Lawrence joined the Carmelites.  His adviser told him to practice, and he felt God was with him all the time.  Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen and was not a scholar.

In the beginning, it is hard, arduous.  For example, in India during cold periods, there is no heat in the room, no real electricity in remote places; solar heat is not effective.
It is not a vacation.  [She has spent 6 years of practice in rather austere environment.]

Yet the Himalayan Mountain foothills is the Land of the Gods, a special place.  Because of the mantras and their vibrations, one senses a spiritual haven.

People are kind to the sadhakas, the students seeking spiritual truth. 

Watching the native people, foreigners see how hard it is for families in the foothills.  Women carry on their heads and shoulders great weights.  Even while pregnant, they walk up steep slopes.  They deliver their young without medical personnel.

They have adversity; parasites are quite common in their systems.  It is rare to see an old native woman because of their adversity.  Schools are canceled because of landslides.  The men are gone to far away villages for work.  Bugs, rats and crawling creatures are common.  We intrude on their homes, their environment.

Yet sitting on a chair of a 2nd floor veranda, there is something magical about the mountain vista.  The mantra comes, easy to meditate.

I say, students, your time will come!  You need to have good soil to grow anything; same in spiritual practice you need to have good soil…you cannot rush things.  It’s a process.  Give your best and you still may think: I’m not getting anywhere.

Keep the practice going.  How can I fire you up?  I’m telling you of the joy I have experienced.

In the past, I dragged a lot of garbage with me into my practice. 

Swami Rama would say: “that has to pass”.  You’re missing the now if you only dwell on the past or on the goal. 

Nina recalls in 1965, when she was a young student, her first hatha yoga teacher instructed her to peel the potatoes, focus on peeling the potatoes and nothing else (no distractions).  The same instruction applies to your practice.

Do everything conscientiously. 

Another anecdote:   Observe the second hand clock’s tip and observe its movement without thought. Be centered on the second hand with total concentration.  When a thought comes, go back to focus on the second hand of the clock. You can't do that for more than a few seconds.

Swami Rama says the Bible indicates: Be still and know that I am God. 

If you are going for broke, you won’t fool around.  Lay all Karma on Swami Rama’s shoulders and just let go of all expectations. 

When she dies, she wants to be left alone.  For example, in India, it is okay to quit eating.  

She recommends avoidance of all the Western life sustaining measures at death’s door.  Dying is ok.  She’s having a marvelous time.  She has no visions.

She was born Baptist; there were pieces missing in her spiritual upbringing.  She never considered what Asia could offer.

Swami Rama told her: Your Jesus came from the East.  When he finished his commentary on the Enlightenment without God book, Nina told him it was a terrible title.

Swami Rama replied to her:  You will know where you’ve been; you will know where you will be; you will know where you are.  You will have great joy! Do you need God then?

Feel total surrender, by God. 

Do your practice.  She does not always hit the jackpot…all the time.  She claims to know a little more, not a whole lot.

Practice your meditation.  Once upon a time, an Indian living in Louisville asked her: do you really meditate?  She replied no, and then described her practice and the nature of mantra.  It turned out that the woman did not know more about meditation.

Many things may happen because of your practice…bad dreams, pain.  Empty your mind.

Let it come…it is part of the process.

Keep on doing your practice if you are serious like having another joyful job.  It is not easy, but a joyful job. It's not a drudge.

What is the yogic passage related to death?

She replied: “beats me.” Many people die with desires.  There is the concept of reincarnation.  Life is like a pattern.   

Swami Rama asked Nina:  Don’t you recognize me?  Her reply was no.

When you mother dies and your husband dies, then you come to me!

Swami Rama was gentle.

Keep doing the practice!

Death is sweet. She professes no knowledge about dying but she cannot wait.  She indicates she has many fears in living.

We are just sort of covered [by the Himalayan Masters].

I have to get better, I know.  I’m not there yet.

Editor’s notes:

You can hear Nina speak yourself on YouTube:

Regarding Brother Lawrence mentioned above: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (c. 1614 – 12 February 1691) served as a lay brother in a Carmelite Monastery in Paris. Christians commonly remember him for the intimacy he expressed concerning his relationship to God as recorded in a book compiled after his death, ,The Practice of the Presence of God. (from

Malethi, where Nina spends her time in India, is the site of the SRIVERM (Swami Rama Institute of Vocational Education and Research, Malethi) Project started by Swami Hariharananda. This mission was entrusted to him by his Guru Swami Rama. The project is located in the village of Malethi, in the Puri Garhwal District of the Himalayan Mountains, in the State of Uttaranchal, India. This mission was entrusted to him by his Guru Swami Rama. SRIVERM is a non-profit educational institute serving poor Himalayan communities with primary education for children, adult vocational education, and agricultural outreach services for the local farming community.  Its current initiatives include a public school, vocational training and an herbal plantation.    More information about Swami Hari and SRIVERM can be found at this link: