The yoga of laughter:
Swami Pajamananda came into existence at a time when he was desperately neededjust after September 11, 2001. Actor and yoga teacher Keni Fine, the man who created and embodies Swami PJ, was set to perform in October of that year at a benefit for a Long Island Unitarian congregation.
"For a week or so, I didn't know if the show would take place," recalls Keni, who brings the swami to the KYTA Conference, October 19 to 22, for a Saturday evening darshan. "When I found out that I would be performing, I started looking for a way to have it make sense after what had just happened. I wanted a spiritual presence in the show to lend a little reassurance, to give some comfort and guidance. Swami Pajamananda emerged out of that need."
Known as the Sleeping Swami of Bangalore, Pajamananda was trained in the yoga of sleeping and dreaming, says Keni, who has done extensive "research" into his character's past.
"That's how he got his name, since most of his practice time was spent in his pajamas," Keni says. "Before he knew it, he was traveling around the world and had become a self-actualizing, small-scale, international dignitary. What he specializes in is connecting with people right where they are, with no judgment and no agenda other than to relax and open to the simple joy and grace of being alive."
Since his first appearance, Swami PJ has given darshan at yoga workshops and retreats throughout the Northeast, scatterering his pearlsor perhaps rhinestonesof wisdom and bringing together the dharma of the east and the comedic stylings of the West. The sincere intention behind the swami's lighthearted approach to life, Keni says, is one of healing, acceptance, and transcendence, expressing the essential principle that life is too serious to be taken seriously.
Keni's own backstory includes degrees in film, theater, and law from New York University, forays into experimental theater and postmodern dance, Off and off-off-Broadway roles, musical theater, fine art photography, singing and songwriting, and, most recently, stand-up comedy at Caroline's on Broadway, New York City's famed comedy club. He has studied and practiced yoga, Tai Chi, Native American spiritual traditions, and spiritual healing, and earned his certification as a yoga teacher this summer.
"Humor is a divine attribute," Keni says. "Humor helps us surrender our attachmentto the roles we think we're supposed to play, the rules that family or society imposes, and our own pain and suffering. Laughter helps us release tension, stimulates beneficial biochemical activities, and restores our faith in the goodness and mercy of this world."
Quotes from the Sleeping Bag: The Wisdom of Swami Pajamananda
Long before I became the Swami, my father would say to me, "You are such a dreamer, you must get your head down out of the clouds!" But in the dream state, the holy beings kept saying, "You are so down to earth! You need to lift those feet up off the ground!" No wonder I found it difficult to get out of bed! Now I do the yoga and do not worry about categorizing any activity. I simply Am that I Am, in the waking, in the sleeping, in the lying down and the rising upward. It is all good, all part of the path to freedom!
Sometimes we must journey deep within to find our own Inner Drive to reach enlightenmentonly to discover we have been asleep at the wheel! So wake up! You are driving the Self and there is a sign by the road. It says, "Enlightenment2 smiles a head!"
With all the ups and downs of the spiritual journey, it can feel like an escalator riding up and down in the malls of Nirvana. Occasionally you may even see the yogi going up the down escalator, for an even greater challenge, or perhaps just confusion. My friends, please hold the divine handrail which is always by your side, so that you do not slip and tumble and fall off the path!