Every time I practice I work with my mind. I try to remain focused on the sacred by feeling my breath, by turning my eyes up and in to the third eye, by repeating sat nam (truth is my identity). When distracting thoughts arise, I refocus, reorient to the sacred.
Yesterday, though, when I came to class, the usual tools didn't quite work. My mind was churning over how to fix some pressing problems and on some tasks that I could not put off anymore. Then there was some self-judgment mixed in. Why did I put them off in the first place? What's wrong with me?
It didn't matter that I know better than to be hard on myself. It didn't matter that I know that when I'm hard on myself I only compound the anxiety. It didn't matter because the truth is it's not about knowing better. It's about embodying better.
Yesterday, my mind needed some extra help to embody better. Fortunately, Kathy (Harjot) was teaching the Kriya for All Chakras, and the kriya provided an additional framework for my messy, suffering mind. (Without direction, I contend that most minds will go to messiness and suffering to different degrees.) The kriya provided the focal points of the chakras, energy centers, and I was able to experience my presence, and in presence I found relief.
As we moved through the chakras, with Kathy's inspiration, I used visualizations to make each energy center's quality feel more real, and I used affirmations to remind myself that I (like everyone) am blessed with these qualities.
I wanted to share with you the visualizations and affirmations I used yesterday because they may be helpful to you. I hope these tools serve you when you need them most. I hope they bring you back into present moment awareness, back into an embodied state, when the mind threatens to overtake you.
(If you're reading this and thinking, what the heck is a chakra? No worries. Please check out Kathy's Blog, Floating Along the Chakra Cruise for more background. )
First Chakra, Root Chakra, Sense of Safety
With any exercise that involves the base of the spine (such as pulling root lock, spinal flexes, crow pose, and body drops), visualize thick roots shooting down and out from your base (if you're standing, your feet; if you're seated, your sits bones) and into the rich soil. Repeat to yourself: I am rooted. I am held. I am safe.
Second Chakra, Sacral Chakra, Source of Creativity
With any exercise that involves the pelvis (such as sufi grind or frog pose), envision a beautiful body of water within. Then, see a single pebble drop in its center and see perfect, concentric circles emanate out and out and out. Affirm: I am in flow. I am inspired. I am creative.
Third Chakra, Navel Chakra, Source of Will Power
With any exercise that involves the navel center (such as stretch pose, spinal twists, or leg lifts), see a fire at the belly. See your effort as stoking the fire that fuels your dreams and goals. Say to yourself, I am strong and determined. I persevere. I keep up.
Fourth Chakra, Heart Chakra, Center of Compassion
With any exercise that involves opening the chest or directing energy to the heart (such as cobra, holding the hands in prayer, or ego eradicator), envision a bright sun swirling at the center of your chest. Visualize that sun as melting any and all ice around the heart, any ways in which you've gone numb or stopped feeling. Repeat to yourself: I am open to love. I am love.
Fifth Chakra, Throat Chakra, Speaking Truth
With any exercise that involves the neck or chanting (such as head rolls and head turns and singing mantras aloud), see a lotus flower. Visualize the lotus at the throat opening, opening, opening with infinite layers of petals. Affirm: I speak my truth with confidence.
Sixth Chakra, Third Eye Chakra, Intuition
With any exercise that involves bringing energy to the brow point (such as bowing the head to the mat or holding the hands in prayer with the thumbs gently pressing the center of the forehead), envision a third eye. Imagine that your physical eyes disappear and your only vantage point is the third eye. Trust that what appears in your mind's eye, whether it's colors or images, is coming from the intuitive space. Repeat to yourself.: I see the way. My soul knows the way.
Seventh Chakra, Crown Chakra, Connection to Spirit
With any exercise that involves the crown of the head or directing energy to the crown (such as the arm position in the photo above and many meditations), visualize a beam of light entering from the heavens and into the top of your head to illuminate the center of the brain. Say to yourself, I am connected to spirit.
Eighth Chakra, The Aura, Magnetic Field of Protection
With any exercise that involves sweeping the arms around the body or extending the legs beyond the base (such as breath of fire with lion's paws or wide leg, life nerve stretch), see your aura, extending nine feet in every direction -- a beautiful bubble, a force field of protection. Understand your movement as clearing the aura. Affirm: I am protected. I am radiant.
Please make these visions and words your own. Trust that you can guide yourself into presence even in the most anxious moments. Sat Nam.
Our minds may reflect the chaos of our world. We may fall under the spell of chaos, seduced by endless threads of thought, endless dramas, endless worries. We must break this spell. This state of distraction can prevent us from seeing the right way forward, from living our Truth.
WE CAN BREAK THE SPELL. There is a simple, beautiful, and easy meditation that is the antidote to a mind going every which way but Truth. It's called Seven Wave Sat Nam Meditation. In this meditation, you pulse a mantra through the chakras and in so doing weave it through your consciousness. The mantra is Sat Nam, the seed (or bij) mantra of Kundalini Yoga, which means Truth is my identity. According to the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, each of us innately has the divine spark of Truth and within that spark is the potential for a fully authentic and magnificent life.
As I see it, the meditation both reinforces that you are truth as it also cleanses you of all that is not Truth. How does it do that? Your focus is Sat Nam. And it's more than just focusing on the sound. You're vibrating it in a very specific way that requires all your concentration (as you'll see below). So the other stuff -- dramas, worries, falsehoods -- recede to the background. At the same time, the vibration of the ancient sound moves through your consciousness, cleansing all the background noise that doesn't match the resonance of Sat Nam. According to 3ho.org, if you can practice the meditation for 31 minutes, "...the mind will be cleansed just as the ocean waves wash the sandy beach."
To do Seven Wave Sat Nam Meditation, follow the instructions below. It is very helpful to use this recording by Madhuir Nain-Webster on her album Meditation Collection.
Here's what Yogi Bhajan said about the cycle of the mantra -- six beats for Sat and one beat for Nam.
"You have seen the law of tides. The tide takes six coils, on the seventh coil it goes up and then it strikes and cleanses the shore, and goes back. This is the law of tides. If the vibrations can be created by the bij mantra, it will cleanse the body of negativity and the remainder will be positivity and that is a divine light."
A divine light. A divine light within.
This morning the quote attached to my tea bag was from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." Such a beautiful awareness! The seed for infinite growth is in a tiny, humble container. So too, the divine spark of Truth within each of us is the seed for a life of purpose with infinite possibilities.
May the Truth in you Guide You. Sat Nam.
If you try out this meditation or have a question or comment about this post, I'd LOVE to hear from you! Let's get the conversation going.
Cate discovered Kundalini Yoga by accident over 20 years ago and was surprised and thrilled by how engaged, energized, and inspired it made her feel. She's been practicing ever since. In 2008, Cate completed her Level 1 (200 hr) teacher training with Hari Kaur Khalsa of Hari NYC. In 2012, she broadened her knowledge with a very special Holistic Hatha Yoga training (300 hr) with Amy Witmyer of Sacred Space. Kundalini Yoga is her home, her go-to sanctuary, her point of peace and insight. She believes that it is a wonderful tool for busy times and busy minds. Join Cate on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and Friday mornings for Kundalini Yoga & Meditation.
During the summer months, I decided to focus my Thursday morning Kundalini yoga classes on the eight chakras (in Kundalini yoga we recognize not just seven but eight—the eighth being the Aura or electromagnetic field). Since it was summer, I called the class series the “Chakra Cruise” and some of us, really got into it, even wearing the chakra colors: red for the first, orange for the second, yellow for the third, and so on. We learned a lot and had a good time.
I will admit when I first heard about the concept of the chakras—subtle wheels of energy in the body—many years ago, I thought it was a bunch of silly gobbledygook. If I could not see them, then why should I believe in them? If my doctor could not identify or treat them, then why should I care if they were “balanced” or “blocked?”
But, as with so many things in life, over time I began to realize that indeed the chakras—even though they didn’t show up on an X-ray—were quite real. And, when I began the practice of Kundalini yoga, their qualities and effects became even more apparent.
During our “Chakra Cruise,” I used two wonderful books. One is called The 8 Human Talents by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, and the other is The Kundalini Yoga Experience by Guru Dharam Khalsa and Darryl O’Keeffe. If you’re interested in the chakra system I would highly recommend both books. I took most of the kriyas we practiced during the eight-week series from Guru Dharam’s book and used Gurmukh’s text to give background. I love the way Gurmukh describes the qualities of the chakras. For instance, writing about the first chakra, which relates to the Earth element, she observes, “It can be the red of the burning ember at the center of a roaring fire, or it can be the musty red of clay, or the deep crimson of a ruby forged by pressure deep within the earth.” Gurmukh brings the chakras to life, and her book is a great way to dig deeper.
Just to review, here is a brief summary of the chakras, all of which work together to create harmony and balance:
After our metaphorical “Chakra Cruise” ended, I took a “real” cruise on the Seine River from Paris to Northern France and back. I’d never been to Europe, and the experience was amazing. In my past life—before Kundalini Yoga, that is—fear would have kept me from flying to France and I would have imagined and invented many obstacles that would have prevented me from such a journey. But all that has changed since I opened to this practice, and as I sat on the deck of the river boat, watching castles, swans, and barges float by, I thanked my lucky stars (and the Divine) for…
The Chakra system is a wonderful tool to help us navigate our human experience. I hope you’ll join us the next time we leave port!
What is your relationship your chakras or the idea of chakras? How do they come up in your life. We'd love to hear from you. Please comment below. Sat Nam.
Kathy (Harjot Kaur) has been practicing yoga for more than a decade and completed her Level 1 (200 hr) teacher training with Gurudass Kaur Khalsa. She began practicing Kundalini yoga six years ago; a breast cancer survivor, she found it to be a wellspring of courage, trust and joy. The author of the memoir Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace, Kathryn blogs frequently for the Kundalini yoga music website SpiritVoyage.com. Her spiritual name, Harjot, means “light of the creative Divine.” Kathy is excited to share her light and love with her students at Montclair Kundalini Yoga; she strongly believes that Kundalini yoga is for everybody and every body: There is something for everyone on this uplifting, heart-centered path. She is also a practitioner of Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga and is deeply grateful to all her teachers. Join Kathy on Thursday mornings for Kundalini Yoga & Meditation. She plays the gong for relaxation.
Co-owners and Instructors of Montclair Kundalini Yoga, Cate Baily and Savitri Narayan Kaur. See their bios here.