Early morning dew clings to the neatly trimmed grass on the South Oval. A man trudges over the soggy ground, calmly moving toward the water fountain.
He plants his feet firmly into the ground. Hears the water cascading in the fountain. Feels the warmth of the sun on his skin. Breathes in the crisp morning air. Seeks spiritual fulfillment.
He uses all five senses to observe his surroundings. In only a matter of seconds, he has become one with the universe once again, focused solely on the present moment.
Some students see the South Oval as hectic come fall. In the summer, though, Asoka Molinas sees it as a place of serenity.
Molinas is a man of mystery to sleepy students on their way to summer classes, but one of great compassion to friends and family. He uses his time on the South Oval to connect to the world around him and all the individuals who inhabit it.
He performs his daily ritual, a combination of yoga and tai chi, on the oval almost every morning.
“It’s really my time to connect with the universe and myself,” Molinas said. “I do it just to be in touch with all the elements of life because everybody is a part of life. We are nature, nature is the same power as us no matter what you want to name it—god, no god, nature is powering everybody and everything.”
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Molinas traveled to Norman in August 1967 to enroll at OU. He was 17, and began as an architecture major.
He eventually changed to psychology and graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree. He also received a master’s in human relations in 1975.
After college, Molinas started his career as a caseworker for Child Support Services in 1978 and retired in 2013. In his profession, he dealt with things like wage withholding, contempt citations and IRS tax offsets or intercepts to enforce child support court orders.
Molinas said his ability to maintain peace of mind through meditative practice, as he continues to do today, helped him to cope with the job’s challenges.
“It was a stressful job because you were always understaffed and there was never time to process all the cases,” Molinas said. “There got to be a point when I was a supervisor that the first thing I would do was I would go in my office, close the door and take five or ten minutes to do a small chant and get myself clear. The next thing I would do is walk out of my office and say good morning to all my workers.”
Thanks to his time in college, Molinas’ career benefited not only on a level of succession but a level of sustainability in mental peace.
He found more than just degrees while at OU — he learned a way to overcome the struggles of a challenging world, gaining friends and even a wife along the way.
Discovering a lifestyle
While he was a student, Molinas began working at Lovelight Restaurant in 1972. Lovelight, then located on Campus Corner near Thai Delight’s current location, was one of the first vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Norman. Lovelight was a popular place back in the day, Molinas said. Civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy and spiritual teacher Ram Dass both came to visit once.
“We worked in a natural food restaurant before natural restaurants were cool,” said Lori Bacigalupi, an old friend Molinas met at Lovelight. Bacigalupi said she has always admired Molinas’ friendly nature.
“His love is deep and big and people feel it, strangers feel it and friends certainly feel it,” Bacigalupi said. “He’s unique in that way, he just wants people to be happy, he just wants them to find balance and find peace. That’s pretty much his desire, to be able to give a little bit, somehow, somewhere, every day to somebody or something.”
Lovelight Restaurant was also where Molinas met his wife Ola, who was also an employee there.
Although Molinas and Ola spent a lot of time together at Lovelight, they didn’t start dating until Molinas had a vision.
“I had this vision of a tall guy with dark hair and a short girl with blonde hair and it looked like they were getting married but their back was to me so I couldn’t see who it was. Then I went to the front and saw that it was me and Ola,” Molinas said.
In September 1974, Molinas and Ola met Swami Muktananda, the founder of Siddha Yoga, at a weekend retreat in Pink, Oklahoma. Muktananda was the one who introduced Molinas to the concept, which informed the discipline Molinas practices on the South Oval today.
“Siddha Yoga is an ancient path that basically originated in India,” Molinas said. “The goal of Siddha Yoga is to realize the divinity within oneself and all creation.”
Molinas has never looked back.
“It was the most life-changing experience I could have ever had, me personally,” Molinas said. “Right in the middle of his talk, essentially I received a transmission of his spiritual energy and it awoke in me and knocked me backwards.”
Molinas said the interaction was so strong, Muktananda asked him to join him for a walk outside after a lecture. At the time, Molinas and Ola were not married, so they sought the Siddha guru’s advice on whether or not they were ready. In response, Muktananda gave the couple his blessing.
Twenty days later they got married and have been together for almost 45 years.
For decades, Molinas and his wife have held Siddha Yoga meditations at their house every Wednesday night, hosting friends and others who discovered the group through word of mouth. Now retired, Molinas has much more time to spend practicing his yoga and meditation.
Joe Westerheide, a long-time friend of Molinas, has been going to Molinas’ Siddha Yoga meditations since the 1980s.
“He’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet,” Westerheide said. “He’s as honest as the day is long.”
Now retired at 69, Molinas continues to seek fulfillment through his daily routine of meditation. The South Oval provides him a peaceful sanctuary to deal with the stresses of daily life.
“It’s such a nice place out there, the space,” Molinas said. “You sit there or stand there where I’m standing and you look, it’s expansive, it’s beautiful. You know? So I just try to allow myself to harmonize with the elements and feel a sense of oneness, safety, connectedness. I tell my friends sometimes, it’s kind of like heaven, see? Because I go out there, I got these guys they mow the lawn for me, it’s so beautiful all I have to do is show up!”