Christmas & New Year Symposium: Unity in Diversity: Let the Light Shine


Swami Swaroopananda

Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is Director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and Acharya (spiritual director) for the Sivananda centers and ashrams in the Bahamas and the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.

Swamini Pramananda (Ammaji)

Swamini Pramananda (Ammaji) is a senior disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. She has been teaching Vedanta, Sanskrit and Vedic Heritage for many years and is the founder of the Purna Vidya Ashram. Ammaji spends most of her time in retreat, occasionally leaving her solitude to share her knowledge with seekers around the world.

Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz

Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz is a novelist and teller of tales whose book, The Seventh Telling: The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan was a Los Angeles Times best-seller. Currently Scholar-in-Residence at Temple Israel of Greater Miami, for over two decades he was director of the Havurah of South Florida, a non-denominational fellowship that created programming to fill the interstices between synagogues and other established Jewish organizations. Rabbi Chefitz received his ordination from Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion.

Lama Thupten Phuntsok

Lama Thupten Phuntsok has taught meditation at numerous locations over thepast 15 years. He is a long-time student of Sermey Geshe Lobsang Tharchin Lobsang Khen Rinpoche, who passed in 2004, and has studied at Sera Mey Monastery in Mysore, India for the past 15 years. He has also taken teachings from many prominent Tibetan Lamas, including His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and has participated in Mind and Life Institute conferences held by the Dalai Lama and Western scientists.

Kyriacos C. Markides

Kyriacos C. Markides is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine, who has been researching the world of Christian saints, mystics, and unconventional healers for 30 years. He is the author of nine books, many on Christian mystics and spiritual guides, including his latest, Inner River, published by Random House. He lectures and leads workshops around the United States, Canada, and overseas and has appeared on national and international television and radio programs. His other books include The Mountain of Silence and Gifts of the Desert.

Ed McGaa (Eagle Man)

Ed McGaa (Eagle Man) was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and is a registered tribal member of the Oglala Sioux. He earned a law degree from the University of South Dakota, studied under Chief Eagle Feather and Chief Fool's Crow, both influential Sioux holy men, and is honored by the Sioux for having participated six times in the Sun Dance ceremony. He also served as a fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps in Vietnam, receiving eight air medals and two Crosses of Gallantry.

Snatam Kaur

Snatam Kaur is an American kirtan singer and peace activist, who learned to sing in the Sikh musical style with her mother. One of the most popular New Age artists of our time, she has been recording music since 2000; Her best-known CDs include Shanti, Grace, and Liberation’s Door. Her music can be heard around the world in venues from yoga studios to schools to Hollywood films and in the homes of her fans worldwide. Snatam Kaur has an amazing ability to transform traditional chants into a contemporary sound that appeals to the modern ear and awakens an ancient yearning in the soul. While traveling the world on tour she also teaches yoga and meditation to children and adults alike, a part of her commitment to give people tools for a daily experience of inner peace.

Gaura Vani

Gaura Vani began studying sacred music in Vrindavan, India, at the age of six. Today, he shares the magic he received and performs extensively with his kirtan ensemble throughout the world. His albums include Ten Million Moons and Nectar of Devotion.

Krishnan Namboodiri
Krishnan Namboodiri is a Tantric priest from South India, trained in the classical tradition of mantras (sacred sounds), pujas (prayer ceremonies), homas (fire rituals), and yantras (sacred geometric designs). He performs many daily and special rituals for the ashram.

Kabir Helminski
Kabir Helminski is a translator of the works of Rumi and others; a Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis, which traces back to Jalaluddin Rumi; co-director of the Threshold Society; and a director of the Baraka Institute. His books on spirituality include Living Presence and The Knowing Heart. In 2009 Kabir was named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. He has toured as Shaikh with the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, bringing Sufi culture to more than 100,000 people. Together with his wife Camille, he travels the world leading workshops on the teachings of Rumi and presenting at conferences.

Camille Adams Helminski

Camille Adams Helminski is the co-founder and co-director of the Threshold Society in Aptos , CA, along with her husband, Shaikh Kabir Helminksi. The Threshold Society is an educational organization, dedicated to preserving and disseminating the teachings of Mevlana Jelalludin Rumi, in the authentic Mevlevi tradition. With “The Light of Dawn” she was the first woman ever to translate a substantial portion of the Koran. Amongst her other titles are: “The Mevlevi Wird,” “Rumi Daylight,” and Jewels of Remembrance (with Kabir Helminski). Camille has also collaborated with Refik Algan on a translation of Ahmet Hilmi's classic, "Awakened Dreams". She is currently at work on a book on women in Sufism. Camille and Kabir are closely associated with Sufi teachers from other tariqats in Turkey and Syria, all of whom are committed to integrating the classical methods with modern needs.

Emily Markides

Emily Markides, PhD, received her doctoral degree from the Counselor Education Program at the University of Maine. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on Complementary Energetic Practices: An Exploration into the World of Maine Women Healers. She has written many articles, including “Creating a Stable World Peace,” “From Poetry to Community Building,” and “Energetic Healing and its Correspondence to Eastern Orthodox Spirituality.” She has taught courses in Peace Studies and served as Interim Director of the Peace and Reconciliation Studies Program at the University of Maine, where she currently teaches as adjunct faculty on issues concerning peace and the environment.