Over the following few years, Jyoti Ma taught preschool for the Oakland Unified School District. In 1977, she created the Sunflower Afterschool Program for Kindergarten Children in San Francisco. At this time she also became involved with Integral Yoga and shared some of the spiritual aspects of Yoga with the children. They were quite curious about the deeper meaning of life. The children would take the universal truths, shared by Jyoti Ma, and give them their own unique and colorful spin. Jyoti Ma collected and saved their bits of whimsically expressed wisdom.
During her years with the Sunflower Program, the seed for Sparkling Together sprouted and began to take shape with the participation of the children. In 1982 Jyoti Ma decided to move to Satchidananda Ashram Yogaville in Central Virginia, in order to deepen her spirituality and experience community living. (For information about Yogaville and Sri Swami Satchidananda go to "Links" on this website)
The Sparkling Together project went on the back burner for over a decade. Under the guidance of Sri Swami Satchidananda, a world renowned Yoga Master and Ecumenical Leader, Jyoti Ma established an interfaith museum as part of Yogavilles Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS). In 1986 she was initiated as a sannyasin (monk) by Sri Swami Satchidananda and given the name Swami Jyotirmayananda Ma. Jyoti Ma became the shortened version of her name. For a term she served as Vice President of the Ashram, and currently serves as the Ashram Events Coordinator.
Over the years, Jyoti Ma periodically took Sparkling Together off the back burner to write new stories and rewrite the old ones. A true artist, she rewrote various parts of Sparkling Together up to production time. Her rewriting reflects Jyoti Mas own spiritual growth and new insights. Although religious herself, Jyoti Ma created Sparkling Together to benefit both non-religious children, as well as religious children. The message of universal love is the common ground. Sri Swami Satchidananda brilliantly defines universal love: "Love everyone and everything equally. By loving everything, you are really loving yourself. Everything is nothing but the expression of yourself. All others are none other than you, they just appear to be different."
To give universal love a visual home, Jyoti Ma uses the human heart and its star equivalent on Planet Om. Bringing the outer space fantasy down to earth, she explores the various challenges common to childhood experience. The dichotomy of fantasy/reality greatly enriches the stories. The interplanetary setting of Sparkling Together was created with the help of friends, as Jyoti Ma is not a science fiction buff. The peace and harmony, found on the fantasy Planet Om, is exemplified in the ideal of Yogaville as an intentional, spiritual community. The characters evolved over the years. Sky and Rose, were originally Skip and Sandy. The title of the book started out as the Planet Star Stories. Then it was changed to Stars and Hearts Together before ending up with Sparkling Together as the final title.
With her artistic talent and sense of rhythm, Jyoti Ma crafted each sentence in Sparkling Together to resonate visually and rhythmically. As figure drawing is not her forte, Jyoti Ma interviewed several artists to clothe her "baby" in colorful, magical illustrations. She found a gold mine with Integral Yoga teacher and artist Chandra Devi of Somerset, England. Together they shared the same vision for bringing Sparkling Together to life. While Chandra worked on the illustrations, Jyoti Ma joined forces with Ananda Siva Herve of Yogavilles Graphics Department. They expanded and contracted the type, added and cut text to make each page visually appealing.
Jyoti Ma arranged with Integral Yoga Publication of Yogaville to publish the book and Palace Press of San Rafael, California to lend their expertise in producing the book.
The result of this project, spanning over a quarter of a century, is a fully matured masterpiece for children to enjoy while learning the language of the heart.