One evening in 1971, while sitting in her Manhattan living room, Sally Kempton was overcome by a feeling of all-encompassing, unconditional love that seemed to come out of nowhere. She had never known that love like this was possible. The experience lasted for 24 hours, and turned her life around.
At the time, Kempton had a flourishing career as a New York journalist, writing on popular culture, the arts, and feminist issues for Esquire, the New York Times, New York magazine, and the Village Voice. Spirituality was the last thing on her agenda. But her experience that night affected her so powerfully that Sally began the inner search that led, two years later, to encounter her Guru, Swami Muktananda.
An enlightened master in the Indian yoga tradition, Muktananda (1908-1982) was known for his ability to ignite the latent meditation energy (kundalini) in others simply by a look or a touch. When Kempton met him, he was traveling in the United States, where he awakened thousands of people to their spiritual potential.
Sally recalls that one of the first things Muktananda told her was "Love your Self." She says, "It was such a simple instruction, and like so many spiritual truths, it sounded obvious, almost boring. It turned out to be the key to my practice, because to really love yourself you need to discover the you that is always, unconditionally, loving. That takes meditation and self-inquiry. In meditation, you let go of your conditioned ideas about yourself, and make space for the true Self, the Heart to come forth. Then love becomes the most basic fact of your existence, rather than something you're always trying to find."
Kempton traveled with Muktananda and lived in his ashrams from 1974 until his death in 1982. She edited his books, received intensive training in the texts of advaita, yoga and the north Indian tantric tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, and taught courses around the world. In 1982, Muktananda initiated her into the traditional Saraswati order of Indian swamis, or monks, and gave her the name Swami Durgananda. For the next twenty years, under the guidance of Muktananda's successor in the Siddha Yoga lineage, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, Durgananda served as a senior teacher in the Siddha Yoga meditation community. She created and taught workshops, courses and trainings in meditation and spiritual wisdom, edited books and magazines, and wrote extensively on all aspects of spiritual life. As Swami Durgananda, she became known in the Siddha Yoga community for her ability to open doorways to the inner world.
In 2002, her book The Heart of Meditation: Pathways to a Deeper Experience was published by the Siddha Yoga foundation. At the same time, with Gurumayi's blessings, Sally put aside her monastic robes to begin teaching independently. From her home base in California, she travels extensively, and offers workshops and retreats that integrate meditation, yoga wisdom, and spiritual life-skills.
Though Sally offers many courses for beginning meditation students, she is regarded as a 'teacher's teacher', whose approach inspires long-time practitioners to free themselves from routine meditation practice, and move deeper.
She teaches meditation as part of a process of inner exploration, in which we learn to integrate heart, mind and body in order to experience our natural state of wisdom and love. Students say that her classes create an atmosphere of support and joy that allows deep exploration. "She can take a whole room into a state of oneness," said a student at one of her recent classes. "When you meditate with her, meditation seems natural and easy."