Dear Beloved MKY Community,
The month of June is widely recognized as Pride Month by the members of the LGBTQ+ community and the allies who support them. As one of MKY’s openly-gay teaching staff, I’m grateful to share with you all what this month means to me, especially so as a yogi.
Recognize that the other person is you.
I came out in January, 2013 at the age of 18 in what I’ve ultimately recognized to be the most decisive, fear-filled, and liberating moment of my life. For all my adolescent years, I firmly believed that if I could not conceal the fact that I was gay, I would be bullied, ridiculed, and––most terrifyingly of all–– friendless. The fear gripped me tightly. I learned to suppress and distort my sexuality by pretending to be straight at a time when my coming-of-age energies were most fragile and in need of awareness.
There is a way through every block.
After years of lying both to myself and to others, I had not only developed a chronic pain condition, my mental health had truly collapsed and I’d fallen into a dark sense of despair. Daily life was a prison, of which I felt the victim with no identifiable way out. Until one day, when I saw that the way out was through.
When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.
As I stepped on stage in front of my entire high school to receive an acting award and deliver a short speech–– for my performances in drama and musical theatre–– I became faced with a completely new destiny. My heart rate exploded and my vision went tunnel… and yet, somehow, the words left my lips and into the microphone and told the whole world that I was gay. The moment I finished speaking, something within me bloomed that has never left me since. A commitment to the integrity of a much deeper truth.
Vibrate the cosmos and the cosmos will clear a path.
After years of advocacy and dedication to social reform, I experienced a spontaneous & life-changing spiritual awakening (satori) that led me, in part, to the teachings of Kundalini Yoga.
As a yogi, I’ve learned so much about how to relate not only to myself as a gay person, but as a man and a spiritual being a part of something larger than myself–– my beloved community, my sadh sangat. By Grace, devotion, discipline, and meditation has slowly begun to bloom in me. My dedication to the practices of Kundalini Yoga is renewed with every moment of beauty and experience that flows through me when I teach and take class. Praying and chanting has brought my gay identity into a space where it doesn’t become a center, but just another piece of the foundation of my inner self-esteem.
After coming out, I relied too heavily on “being gay” as a source of “pride”. Quite frankly, that identity became a crutch for a deeper sense of insecurity, which has taken many years to accept and transcend. I don’t mean to imply that this is the case for others who strongly identify with their sexual (or other) identities, but it certainly was true for me. Kundalini Yoga has inspired me to go deeper and let go of so many aspects of my personality that despite their appearance were really limitations.
And yet, I am grateful that my gay identity has continued to be a foundation of service to others. Today I run an LGBTQ+ nonprofit that helps to foster heart-centered leaders in our community, and––cut short by the pandemic–– fellow MKY teacher KiMani Divine & I offered free kundalini yoga to homeless LGBTQ+ youth in New York.
Spiritual work has enabled me to integrate so many of my identities and lean on trust in God and the deeper wisdoms that pulse in unknown spaces of my heart. For me, Pride Month is a reminder of how far I’ve come, how supported I’ve been by so many people over the years, and where my work lies ahead: Choosing to love others and myself at all times, in all places, no matter what.
The Aquarian Age is full to the brim with collective challenges of body, mind, and spirit, but the most beautiful part is we are not alone. Everyone needs mirrors at times to remind them of the beauty inside. For some that may be a Pride celebration, and for others it may be a class with spiritual family at Montclair Kundalini Yoga. Or, for someone like me, it might be both.
Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand
Sat Nam!!! Wahe Guru!!
Manush teaches a weekly online Kundalini Yoga class & co-leads monthly Online New Moon Healing Ceremonies with Kimani Divine.
One of the upsides of moving our studio online during the pandemic is daily connection with Lori Gale. A dedicated and thoughtful practitioner, as well as a certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, she shares here part of her journey with MKY. Thank you, Lori, for sharing your heart and your Truth. Thank you for bringing your energy, your devotion, your kindness, your everything to our community day after day. It means the world!
In the before times, I could only make it to MKY one Sunday a month. I was living over 30 miles away, had a demanding job, etc., etc. But what a treat to have Cate as a teacher and to be in community with the other students on those special Sundays. “Let the truth in you guide you” is the heart of why I love Kundalini yoga, and Cate makes this come alive in every class. I signed up right away when I learned that MKY would be offering online classes and moon ceremonies.
My first new moon intention of 2020 was to release pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders. Daily yoga was helping, but this pain was very stubborn. I have come to understand that pain in this location is often the result of feeling overly responsible, as if one is carrying the weight of the world. This certainly describes me, having been a single parent, taking care of a big house on my own, and being in a profession where mistakes could kill people. But now that I have downsized my home and retired from structural engineering, it was time to lay these burdens down.
With the help of our beautiful yoga practice along with Cate and Savitri’s new moon remote Reiki, the physical pain has completely disappeared. It feels great to be able to move freely again, but I continued to be haunted by memories of a bullying situation in my former workplace. Numerous times each day I would find myself engaged in churning thoughts of passive aggressive revenge. I knew I needed to forgive and move on, but the thoughts would not go away. I asked my intuition for guidance, and finally it came during a recent class with Savitri.
Savitri is an amazing healer with a wonderful way of sharing her deep spiritual knowledge. In each class, she lovingly expands on a spiritual topic while the students are doing the asanas. We learn about different spiritual beings, the various types of chi, practices around the world, water, trees, essential oils, fasting, and even coffee. One day Savitri talked about the importance of respecting and integrating our emotions, and it occurred to me to wonder what my emotions really were concerning my workplace bully. As I pondered, the strongest feelings to emerge were shame and embarrassment for letting myself be treated that way, and suddenly I realized that I had never fully let myself feel the shock and terror of being yelled at by someone at work. Recognizing that these were my true emotions felt like a huge thing that needed to come out, almost like having a baby.
When Savitri invited the class to locate the emotions in the body, I could feel them deep below my navel center and could sense another knot of similar emotions in the same location. These were from being bullied as a kid, which happened often because my family moved a lot. In this case too, shame and embarrassment covered up the real hurt. Amazingly there was now a path for all that pain to release, and I lay in shavasana thinking, “whoa, what just happened?” I know there was a deep shift because now I can see that the negative thoughts are just my monkey mind trying to help. I don’t need to engage with them anymore. What a relief!
I am incredibly grateful to all the MKY teachers and students for creating a welcoming and supportive space where we can give and receive the enormous benefits of Kundalini yoga. It has been so great to practice with everyone. Thank you very much! Wahe guru!
Cynthia Seva is a treasured member of the MKY community. In this blog, she shares her heart's truth about how she found herself at a low point and picked herself up with a daily spiritual practice.
When I started my practice in 2019, my goal was to find peace within and my ultimate goal was to become less reactive. This year I was challenged by emotional distress. My empathetic nature was truly withering my soul. The challenges in our world coupled with my heart mourning loss became unbearable and brought me to my knees on many occasions.
I am strong because I’ve been weak and this year I allowed myself to be vulnerable. But then, I could not find a way out. It’s ok not to be ok, but it’s not ok to stay in that place. This is where depression and mental instability can take over. I found myself there.
So, I reached out to my MKY family for support and decided to embark on a 40 day practice with Cate as my Kundalini Coach. Cate and I co-created a beautiful, nurturing meditative routine for me to do every day for 40 days in a row - every moment, every sound, every breath had a purpose. My 40 day Sadhana....
Day 1 my heart was heavy and my emotions heightened. Day 8 came around and I was able to function past moments of anxiety. Unexpectedly, I realized I no longer depended on coffee (true story). And I had a new love in my life, ME! Now I was open to life and new experiences.
By day 15, I was dancing around palm trees in Puerto Rico where I was vacationing. By day 20, I realized I was opening space for myself to fill and with that came a sense of expansion and growth.
I live by a lake in New Jersey, and I often did my practice outside by the water. On my 40th day of practice, I opened my eyes and there were swans floating by just in front of me. Coincidence? I think not.
The rest is history. Here I am after 40 days, loving myself like I’ve never loved me before. I'd become so accustomed to filling everyone else’s cup first that I'd forgotten to fill my own.
For the first time in my life, I am single for months and loving my own companionship and open to what comes along my path. To know my worth means nobody ever gets to decide it for me. You cannot come to know yourself as grand until you've known yourself as small. Thank you to everyone that has entered and exited. Blessings! Cynthia Seva
I pray that each of you has everything you need to be sustained throughout this time. If you've got what you need, this is a list of affordable and FREE resources to bring epiphanies, laughter, depth, and good energy into the mix during your time at home. So here it is: based on a collaborative discussion with some of MKY's teachers, Savitri, Andy, Kathy, and myself (Cate) and some suggestions from our community. May it serve you. Stay healthy, safe, and happy!
#1 Podcast Series on The New Earth
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle is a life-changing book about how we can repair our world through awareness, acceptance and enjoyment. In this 10-part podcast series, Oprah Winfrey and Tolle discuss the book and take questions from callers about implementing its teachings into real life.
#2 Good News Web Series
I hope you already know about Actor John Krasinki's Some Good News, which is such a fun, beautiful, exciting, funny and uplifting response to these times. If you haven't watched this Web Series, watch it soon and get ready for some happy tears, as Krasinski surprises a young girl who missed out on seeing Hamilton with a Zoom performance from the cast, brings amazing speakers -- like Jon Stewart, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah -- to an online high school graduation, and officiates a Zoom wedding for two fans of the The Office, followed by dance party with all the cast members. Word is that Comedy Central picked up the series, so the wonderful, heartfelt-ness won't end.
#3 Mantra Resource
We, at MKY, regard mantras as a gift, a gift that helps us shift from our churning, monkey minds to peace. And we all draw on this marvelous resource of Kundalini Mantras often for our own practices and when we plan our classes: Spirit Voyage's Mantrapedia lists the mantras from A-Z and includes the meaning, the effect, and the musical versions of each sacred sound.
#4 Spiritual Journey Book
Surfing the Himalayas by Frederick Lenz tells the story of a young man who travels to the Himalayas seeking the ultimate high. While snowboarding the great mountains, he unexpectedly meets (literally plows into) a wise Buddhist Monk named Master Fwap who completely transforms his life. Lynn Andrews, author of Medicine Woman, states it best; "A magnificent journey to the mountain within." (Those of you who take Savitri's classes have probably heard her mention her teacher Rama. Rama is Frederick Lenz's spiritual name, and this is one of his most important books.)
#5 The Suburban Monk Playbook
Our dear friend and yoga student, Ellen Atkins (aka the Suburban Monk, aka maker of Syd, a bright spot on anyone's altar) has created a very special (and completely free) gift. It's called the Playbook, and it includes 14 simple practices that are designed to help you become a Suburban Monk. If you own a Syd (big or small), you can use it with these practices. If you don't own a Syd, you can get one through our Website (MKY is an affiliate). I absolutely LOVE my red Syd.
#6 Montclair Kundalini Yoga's Online Classes
If you haven't popped online with us yet, give it a try. It's just $10 a class. And we really try to deliver the teachings, the music, and our caring hearts. If you're shy about being on camera, I understand how you feel and you don't have to be. It's your choice. On camera or off, we'd like to be your spiritual family. We'd like to help you get your daily dose of Kundalini Yoga, the yoga of awareness, the yoga that focuses on getting your energy and creativity flowing. Sign up here.
#7 Outside (Not an App)
I suggested to my team that I include on this list a step counting app because we all know that walking is sooooo beneficial, but Savitri responded with a resounding "NO! Leave your phone at home." So there you have it. The link is your front door.
I re-watched this one on demand with my kids and, for our sense of humor (which may not be so elevated, I grant you), it was worth it! A great escape from the seriousness of the moment. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play perpetual children, ne-er-do-wells who still live at home. When their parents marry, they become step brothers and rivalry, childishness, hilarity, and eventually redemption ensue.
#9 List of Weird & Little-Known Words
My college-age son is a studious sort, so I always try (and rarely succeed) at stumping him with stuff I know and he doesn't. In this case, I cheated because I looked up "little-known" words and then tested him. Stumped him on 26 out of 26, which was super satisfying. Bonus: most of the words are pretty funny sounding, too, like winklepicker and tittynope. Enjoy the A-Z List.
FYI: Some members of our community responded with comedy recommendations that I didn't have a chance to check out myself but plan to: Middleditch & Schwartz, Long Form Improv on Netflix and Stay F Homekins: a Quarantine Podcast.
#10 Lucid Dreaming
Dive into your own dreams for healing. Savitri has discovered this awesome book about lucid dreaming which I'm about to explore, too. Here's her recommendation:
Want to ramp up your spiritual practice? Why not learn to meditate or do yoga in your dreamtime while sleeping? That’s what the book Lucid Dreaming Made Easy by Charlie Morley teaches us how to do.
We have probably all dreamt lucidly at least once in our lives, where we are awake and aware in the dream and able to exert some control. But Charlie Morley teaches us how to lucid dream on a consistent basis: During lucid dreaming, we can receive important messages from the higher self, the psychological self and the collective psyche. We can cultivate our spirituality by bringing our spiritual practice to the dreamtime. When we learn to really utilize the nearly one third of our life that we spend sleeping, anxiety can be reduced, creativity can be boosted and solutions to problems can be found, among so many other benefits.
Some tools Charlie gives us are: Keep a dream journal, identify recurrent dream signs, set an affirmation before sleep that acts as a queue to lucidly wake up in the dreamtime, perform reality checks to verify you are indeed in a dream, and learn how to extend dreams - among many other valuable practices.
#11 Remote Reiki
Reiki is a healing energy that can be directed and transmitted by a Reiki practitioner to address disturbances in the subtle energy bodies. A Reiki treatment restores order and balance to the subtle bodies which can then positively affect the physical body as well as all other levels of our being. Reiki is a light bath that helps your body-emotions-mind-spirit to heal itself.
Reiki energy can be directly applied or can be transmitted anywhere in the world to anyone at any time. When performed remotely, it is called remote Reiki or distance Reiki and the practitioner often uses special symbols and visualizations to bridge and transcend space to transmit the healing energies to the one receiving.
Savitri and I both offer distance Reiki. You can book a 30 minute session with one or both of us. For the rest of the month of May, we are offering a 50% discount on Reiki. For a 30 minute session with one of us, it's only $30. For a 30 minute session with both of us simultaneously, it's only $60. Please contact us at email@example.com to book a session.
#12 Introduction to EFT (Tapping) Video
This healing technique is really worth a try. It's a combination of Chinese Acupressure and Modern Psychology. It's easy and quick to do, and can apply to physical pain and emotional issues. This video is from Nick Ortner, the author of The Tapping Solution and is a great introduction. If you've never given this a try, I really encourage you to if there's any area of stagnation. See if it helps.
Infuse Your Instagram Feed with Positivity!
#13 Folks to Follow
I believe that we need positivity and heartfelt-ness in our feeds -- to balance out the COVID news. This helps me a lot. It helps me to see what my postive-minded real-life friends are up to and also some folks I admire from afar.
For the from afar folks, we've chosen a few that we hope will brighten your feeds and your days. Our choices are:
And by the way, we hope you'll follow us because we keep things positive: @montclairkundaliniyoga, @catebaily, @brynnlacey1, @kathrynyogini, @andys857
#14 Daily Live Devotional Music & Meditation
Deva Premal & Miten are chart-topping new-age musicians on a mission to share the medicine of mantra with the world. During these times, they are offering a Daily Facebook Live with their beautiful music and meditation. They exude such peaceful, beautiful energy.
#15 Andy's Meditation Offerings
Every single day, Andy posts free video meditations on our Facebook page. Plus, he teaches in his friendly, open, accepting way a FREE Meditation Class for MKY online every Monday night. Sign up to join in.
Bonus for Parents
If you're home with kids, this looks like an amazing resource: The Ultimate Guide to WFH with Kids. It's full of ideas for activities and searchable by age, outdoor vs. indoor, screen vs. no screen, and need for parent involvement. I didn't get too deep with it yet. But I did find an activity I'm dying to do with my daughter: create a fairy house with only items found in your yard.
We'd love to know what resources you've been drawing on in this time at home. Please share in the comments. Let's help each other out.
Kundalini Yoga engages me: the breath work opens me up; the mantras inspire me; the movement enlivens and challenges me; the meditations shift me; the internal, silent repetition of Sat Nam (I am Truth) brings me back to who I am again and again. The engagement is what makes it such a doable practice. If I'm not fully engaged, I'm distracted. If I'm distracted, my thoughts take over -- and that is not what I want in my spiritual practice.
In this series, I explain 5 of the elements that make Kundalini Yoga an all-consuming, enjoyable, beautiful and healing practice. Each ingredient is, on its own, good for you. And together, they are a recipe for physical, mental, spiritual health and happiness.
PART ONE: BENEFICIAL BREATH OF FIRE
Breath of fire is a breath practice that is used throughout Kundalini Yoga. The three things I love most about it are: 1) how practicing it interrupts my churning mind, 2) how I feel a little buzzy and wonderful after a round of it, and 3) how it helps me through challenging postures.
It's an activating, fueling, fast (about the speed of a panting dog), belly-moving, and audible breath, usually done through the nose. With all that going on, it's actually difficult to let the mind wander. You're in it. You're present.
In addition to how it brings presence, breath of fire offers MANY tangible benefits, including:
Like everything in this practice, it's in the experience of it. So, try it (unless you are menstruating, pregnant, or fewer than three months post-partum, in which cases breath of fire is contraindicated). Here are two ways to learn or continue to move toward mastery of this awesome breath:
And you'll love it! You'll love doing it. You'll love the benefits. You'll love how it brings you in the moment. And, if you're like me, it'll help you fall in love with the practice of Kundalini Yoga.
PART TWO: BEAUTIFUL MANTRAS
When I first began my Kundalini journey, the mantras (sacred sounds) were a strange and confusing element to me. My first teacher used to shout out Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Wahe Guru with no explanation. Back then, I regarded mantras as an inaccessible aspect of a powerful practice that I could just choose to tune out, and in so doing, not embrace the full “weirdness” of it all.
Little did I know that mantras would enter my heart and remain there ever-available for my healing, for my soothing, for my transformation. In fact, much to my surprise, mantras became the most accessible aspect of my practice. Over the more than two decades I’ve practiced, my body and mind have been in different states. I’ve experienced minor injuries, fluctuating strength and flexibility and my mind has moved all over the spectrum from chaotic to peaceful. At times, I’ve had to pull back from a robust physical practice. At times, the mere suggestion of sitting in silent meditation will send me running away from the mat. But mantras — Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Wahe Guru — are always there in my consciousness, rising to the surface when needed, redirecting my distracted mind, reminding me that I am a spiritual being, and bringing a feel-good aliveness to every cell.
The word mantra means mind projection, and that definition tells so much of the story. In Kundalini Yoga, we repeat sacred sounds to bring our attention to beautiful and uplifting messages and to give our bodies the experience of a higher vibration than our everyday thoughts and language achieve. We draw on an extensive cannon of mantras, which come mostly from sacred Sikh texts. Although they come from a religious tradition, these mantras are for people of all faiths. They access something deeper — heart and soul — than tenets.
The above beautiful mantras, along with many others, are another tool in the toolbox of things that make Kundalini Yoga, oh-so-engaging and therefore oh-so-doable. There are three ways to work with mantras in a Kundalini Yoga practice.
Bringing mantra in in these ways has an impact. Like everything in this blog series, they add to the mix a way of staying in the moment.
In addition to bringing us into presence, each mantra carries with it a specific benefit.
Sat Nam, which I will discuss more in depth in Part 5 of this blog series, brings us into alignment with our authentic self.
Gobinday Mukunday lists qualities of divine energy and works to cleanse the subconscious mind and break through deep-seated blocks.
Chattr Chakkr Vartee speaks of divine support and helps to release fear.
Pavan Guru reminds us of our life force and the nourishment of the breath. It is said to increase energy.
Sat Narayan is about the sustaining force in the Universe and it serves to protect the heart and allow us to go with the flow.
You can sample my favorite musical versions of each of the above mantras here. Enjoy them. Enjoy the beauty. Enjoy the effects. Enjoy that they are available to us, to make our Kundalini practice that much more meaningful, real, and high.
PART 3: TARGETED SEQUENCES
When we teach Kundalini Yoga, we teach from manuals and books. We don’t wing it or decide what posture we want to do when. We use prescribed sequences, called kriyas. Almost everything is delineated — how to breathe, how to arrange the body, the hands, the fingers, where to focus the eyes, and how long to do all of it.
Why do we do this? Because each kriya is a special alchemy. A kriya is a series of exercises that lead to a specific effect. My teacher, Hari Kaur Khalsa, called them “divine recipes.” Each of these recipes yields a defined result. The outcomes can be physical, energetic, mental, psychological, or spiritual. Some examples of Kriyas are:
Knowing the potential benefit of a kriya adds to my engagement with my practice. When I know what I’m working toward, I’m more committed. So, this is part of my case for Kundalini. It’s another piece of the puzzle, another motivation, another point of focus, another way to go within.
I don’t know how many kriyas have been recorded, but I do know that after more than 20 years of practice and 11 years of teaching, I still discover new ones.
Here’s an example of a short sequence, Kriya to Experience the Original You.
To experience the original you. This kriya, in particular, motivates me. To experience the original me is one of my priorities in life. Who am I? How can I discard the junk, the baggage, the conditioning that doesn’t fit? How can I be the most confident in my most authentic self?
I believe that this series of exercises would help me answer those questions. I believe it because I’ve experienced that these kriyas work, that Kundalini Yoga works. To get the full benefits of any kriya, it must be practiced every day for 40 days. It’s said that if you practice Kriya to Experience the Original You for 120 days, “you will gain great vitality, personal excellence and a new concept of who you are.”
It’s about pouring yourself in, your whole self into the kriya, and trusting that this particular sequence will bring the healing it promises. Let Kundalini Yoga kriyas be a vessel for your healing.
PART 4: ACTIVE MEDITATIONS
If all you know of meditation is the stereotype of “close your eyes and empty your mind,” it could feel impossible. The Kundalini approach to meditation is quite different, and in my opinion much less intimidating than other forms. Each Kundalini meditation (and there are many) has, like a kriya, a specific intention or outcome. In order to achieve the outcome, there is a combination of tools, which can include an eye focus, a breath pattern, a hand position, an arm movement, and/or a mantra. Having those tools what makes the meditations easier. The tools hold us every step of the way and keep us from straying into a torrent of thoughts.
This is so key for me. See, I didn’t go into this yoga in order to meditate. I wasn’t interested in meditation or convinced of the benefits of it. I wanted to move and feel good. But as I’ve experienced these meditations and trained, I’ve become more and more interested and more and more convinced -- to the point that Kundalini Meditations have become an imperative in my life and more than that, they’ve become a reminder of magic. But I can only get to the magic by doing and I’m only willing to do what feels doable and stuff only feels doable when I know I’ll feel engaged. (This is why reorganizing my bathroom cabinets hasn’t gotten done. Not so engaging for me.)
Here are some Kundalini Meditations to try that draw on tools to engage you.
Meditation to Conquer Self-Animosity
Draws on an eye focus, a breath pattern, and a hand position.
This meditation is particularly helpful in dealing with self-sabotage. Here how:
Meditation to Experience & Project the Original Self
Draws on an arm position and a mantra.
Practice this meditation in order to return to your True Self.
Meditation to Open the Heart
Draws on an eye focus, a mantra, and an arm movement.
This meditation is for those times when you feel your heart has closed and you need to re-initiate the flow of love.
Part 5: FOCUS ON YOUR TRUTH
In Kundalini Yoga, we often focus on the mantra Sat Nam (Truth is my identity). We silently repeat it to ourselves; we chant it aloud powerfully while pulsing the navel; we stretch the sound out as we close class. In my opinion, knowing one’s Sat Nam, one’s Truth is paramount in practice and in life — more important than any other benefit we gain from coming to the mat.
Knowing our Truths is the only way we will live authentic lives and fulfill our purposes. I’m sure there are folks who had their Truths affirmed throughout their childhoods, and as they separated from their parents had the inner resources to stay with it. But I think what’s much more common is parents and society projecting onto their kids and then kids growing up not trusting their own senses of who they are. So we have Kundalini Yoga to come back to it.
We have Kundalini Yoga to train our minds to not be pulled off center by our thoughts…
We have Kundalini Yoga to open our hearts so that we can love who we are…
We have Kundalini Yoga to get our energy flowing so that we have the energy to fuel our Truth…
We have Kundalini Yoga to challenge ourselves physically and as we do, we shift; and as we shift the layers of untruth fall away…
We have Kundalini Yoga & Sat Nam to reorient to our Truths.
The focus on Truth is for me the most profound aspect of practicing and teaching Kundalini Yoga. It’s not just a workout. It’s not just stress relief. It’s not just increasing flexibility. It’s not just energizing. It’s the authentic trajectory of our lives. Sat Nam.
Right NOW -- this weekend -- is a great time to make a positive change. It will be the New Moon in Taurus. As we learn in the teachings of Kundalini Yoga, the New Moon is always a powerful time to set a new intention. With this New Moon, the energy of Taurus supports lasting change. You can think of yourself as the bull -- determined and grounded in strength and confidence.
Are you thinking of making a change? Do you want to eat better? Move more? Wake earlier? Drop a bad habit? Shed a self-limiting or hurtful thought? Then, let's start NOW. If you've been considering a positive lifestyle change, start NOW. Give yourself every advantage.
I've put together a list of 10 tips (which includes seizing the opportunity of the New Moon in Taurus) for giving yourself the advantage and anticipating and helping yourself through some of the challenges of change because change can be tricky. Before I get to the tips, let's look at why it isn't always easy to step into new good habits.
No matter how much we want to step into a positive future full of good habits, our old patterning may threaten to overpower our positive intentions. Old patterning gets in the way in the form of discomfort. For example, you can imagine that you may feel off if...
In addition to the old patterns, we also have the constant chatter in our minds that can knock us off course. At times, many of us are flooded with unhelpful and distracting thoughts. Our minds can throw us off track. For example...
Kundalini Yoga has a plethora of techniques for overcoming the tricks of the mind and the entrenchment in old patterns. I've put together a list of them below with a couple other things thrown in. Pick the tips that appeal to you; pick the ones that you feel will nourish you and carry you through. But, for goodness' sake, support yourself. Spoil yourself with support! You deserve it!
Don't know who Syd is? Well, he's this super chipper Buddha who believes in you, believes in your vision and your ability to change. You can tell that he's saying, "You've got this. I love you." At MKY, we have a special connection to Syd because his creator is our dear friend and student, Ellen Atkins, aka the Suburban Monk. We are a proud Suburban Monk affiliate. You can click here to see all 14 colors of Little Syd, meet Big Syd, find out a little bit of how he came to be, and purchase a Syd for yourself and for your change.
I hope these ideas serve you as you move closer and closer to a vision of your life that is the most expansive and joyful and aligned. Happy New Moon! Happy Change!
From Cate: This month marks our three year anniversary as Montclair Kundalini Yoga (MKY). If you know Savitri and me, you know how much we value this community and how much we love what we do. Our hearts swell with gratitude when we think about reaching this milestone. I wanted to share with you all the story of how MKY came to be, and Savitri shares her thoughts on this happy occasion below too.
We started with an ending. Savitri and I were teaching Kundalini Yoga at a studio called Aquarian Yoga and that studio closed. We discussed how important it was to each of us to keep teaching and keep serving our students. In fact, continuing to teach felt as imperative as eating. So we endeavored to piece that together any old way we could. We heard that we could rent space from Deb Williams who owned the Ashtanga Yoga studio just a few doors down, so we did. We figured we needed an online scheduler, so we signed up for Mindbody. We realized that we needed a bank account and an LLC, so we got them. Oh, and we needed a Website too, a Facebook page, an Instagram...
It evolved like that in the early days of MKY -- without a real intention to become a business. We didn't have a plan. We had a desire. We had/have a passion for teaching and the teachings of Kundalini Yoga. We wanted to dwell, as often as possible, in the joy of watching our students go within, release stress, and grow.
And here we are. The power of that passion worked and yielded a beautiful community. Every single day, I am grateful for the people who've shown up, for the kindesses, the healing, the seeking I am fortunate enough to witness at MKY.
Now, we are developing a plan and becoming, as we like to joke, more and more "legit." Hence, our logo. We hope you like it! It makes us feel happy and very official... "2 Legit 2 Quit" (Dating myself with this one.)
On the road to becoming legit, we've been supported by angels. All of you who come to the studio and trust us to deliver these sacred teachings are our angels. There are many angels who deserve individual recognition and gratitude, and we will make sure to acknowledge them at our -- now sold-out -- celebration class (4/12/19). But no one deserves more appreciation than our teacher team member, and musketeer, Andy Steinfeld (Teg Avtar). He is infinitely generous with his time and energy. It is a rare, rare, rare, rare thing to have the level of heartfelt, unwavering support that he offers us and the MKY community, and we know it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Andy.
And, I am so grateful for Savitri who has become a spiritual sister to me. Having the opportunity to create a community around spiritual practice with Savitri is, for sure, one of the greatest gifts of my life. Below are her thoughts on the occasion of our anniversary. She wrote to us during a week of silent retreat with her spiritual teacher, Adyashanti.
From Savitri: I woke up today to a symphony of congratulations online for the three year anniversary of Montclair Kundalini Yoga. I’m not supposed to be looking at my mobile device during this week of silent meditation at Garrison Institute, but that’s pretty hard in today’s world and to see our anniversary celebration get started made my heart sing.
Here, we overlook the Hudson River at its narrrowest point, with a rollicking waterfall on the opposite bank and all the early spring flowers in bloom. A row of the greenest bamboo sways, as if winter never happened. Like every morning here, I practice Tai Chi besides the bamboo thicket, hoping to erase the chaos and dis-ease from my body, mind and spirit as if it never happened.
Then off to early morning meditation. It’s Wednesday and we’re half way through this silent retreat with the wonderful spiritual teacher Adyashanti. His wife Mukti also teaches Chi Gung every afternoon, which makes it even more special. For four days now, we’ve been fully immersed in the quiet places within, the natural state of pure awareness that extends out as the net of Indra, the interconnectedness that we call our world.
Adya has skillfully guided us, with immeasurable compassion, on a journey of beauty, awe and tenderness for every part of ourselves and for each other. We’ve traversed the sacred path, through the facets of our uniqueness, that are at the same time Unified Oneness. Adya has led us through territories of spiritual insight and epiphany, combined with potent transmissions of light and wisdom that resonate those same qualities within us. Now as I write this, we all glow within this Buddha field we’ve created that contains us so luminously.
The first few days I felt completely expanded in a transcendent state, free of my conditioned mind and life. Then Adya guided us back to the ground of our being to redeem parts of ourselves trapped in fear and vulnerability. - He encouraged us to make peace with ourselves, to stop rejecting parts of our totality, to relax all internal conflict with our own minds as well as the external conflicts we hold on to - this is redemption. Only with acceptance for ourselves and acceptance of the viewpoints of others can true solutions and wonderful creations emerge like diamonds.
The definition of Redemption is - to heal, to make whole. “Let the healing begin” is our MKY motto and I think of my yoga partner Cate, Arvind Dev, and our three year anniversary today and give thanks for her in my life and for all our many diamonds... The latest diamond, our new logo, was so fun to collaborate on and emerged like shining jewel. But the most precious jewels are all the beloved people who come to practice with us.
After meditation and a Dharma talk with Adya, lunch was served in silence. So nice to just receive, no cooking, no ordering, everything taken care of so nicely for us. Today for lunch, we had a nourishing black-eyed pea salad, chunky beet and green leaf salad and warm whipped yams, fragrant with coconut milk, lemongrass and saffron.
A sense of abundance swept over me as I filled my plate. I’d skipped breakfast, and my senses were heightened from all the quietude, so my whole being opened to and delighted in the feast before me. I carried my plate out to the bamboo grove and nestled in the grass in the sun next to some daffodils. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the beauty of nature, for the miracle of such a spiritually supportive experience, for the community we share with all our MKY members, for all the beings in my life, great and small. And I was grateful for the miracle of the meal laid before me with such love. Every moment here has connected me with what is right and pure, what is beautiful, what is true... may every moment be such and, with Arvind Dev, may we continue to facilitate this kind of spiritual support for our community, which we are so blessed to be part of.
Under the gentle sun, as I scooped up greens and warm yams with my fork and raised them to my mouth: I invited all the scared, neglected, harshly handled parts of myself to come forward and enjoy. Peace within, peace without. I invited all our friends and everyone I love and will ever love to partake in this feast with me, to enjoy the bounty, to eat to satisfaction, no winners, no losers, only gentleness.
Let the healing begin.
If you sleep well and arise refreshed, then you don't need this routine or this blog. If you struggle with falling asleep, getting quality sleep, staying asleep, or feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, then try it. It works! You really can access deep restorative sleep.
The routine consists of a 15 minute meditation, a quick body scan, and a trick for beginning to fall asleep.
If I lost you at "15 minute meditation" because you don't like to "be with your thoughts," please know that in this meditation you are NOT with your thoughts. You are with mantra and a breath pattern. You don't give your thoughts the microphone. You give mantra the mic and the thoughts recede like muzak at the grocery store.
Will you give this a try? If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will respond as soon as possible. I'd also LOVE to have you come back and leave a comment when you're experiencing the results... because you will.
The other day, I sat down to do Reiki on my dog, Star. I began the invocation to call on divine assistance to let the Reiki energy flow through me to my anxious pup, to heal the trauma she experienced before she was rescued. Star was turning around, trying to squeeze her wet nose under my arms, "Pet me, pet me, pet me." And my mind was turning around too, trying to take me out of the moment. My mind didn't want to stay on track. I noticed that and took a deep breath and started again. I felt my hands. "The pulsing is real," I said to myself. "The energy is real." "May I be a conduit for healing energy," and I placed my hands on Squirmywormy-Wigglesworth aka Star, and we both settled.
As we proceeded, I kept needing to recalibrate. I focused on my breath and tuned back into the energy, and a mantra came to me: Aad Such Jugad Such Hai Bhai Such Nanak Hosee Bhai Such. This is the mantra for dissolving blocks. It was curious that this is the one that came to me because it's not one of my go-to mantras. But I repeated it internally because I believe that the mantras that rise to the surface are significant. I may not always know the significance of why one mantra rises to the surface over another, but I believe there is a reason. Maybe Star has blocks to feeling safe and relaxed; maybe I have blocks to letting the energy come through. Or another reason not obvious to me. Nevertheless, mantra kept me present. I relied on the mantra.
I've found that the internal process of delivering Reiki is much the same as the internal process when playing the gong: Tune in and STAY tuned in. When I sit down to play the gong, I must first repeat three mantras to invoke protection and inner guidance. Then as I begin to strike the gong, I try to focus and "unfocus" at the same time. I liken it to the way you look at an optical illusion, unfocusing your eyes so you can see the hidden image. This is concentrating, but it's concentrating on being clear, emptying. More often than not, I rely on mantra to do that, to keep me tuned in. I let a mantra come and repeat it to myself as I play. I rely on mantra.
And, of course, it's the same process as doing yoga. We tune in with Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, and we endeavor to stay tuned in as we practice, inhaling Sat and exhaling Nam. Let me tell you if you think you're the only one whose mind goes in a bunch of different directions all the time even when you're on the mat, you're wrong. It's a constant recalibration, a constant clearing, as it is delivering hands on healing, as it is playing the gong. We rely on Sat Nam.
I believe that mantra is our best recalibration tool, and I am so grateful that I found mantra. In fact, it's a bonafide miracle that I found it because I was NOT looking. When I first stumbled into a Kundalini Yoga class years ago, I did not know what I was getting into. When I heard the mantras, I was completely "weirded out." I fancied myself way too "normal" for mantras. (Little did I know!) Nevertheless, I somehow stayed with it. I stayed with it, but with a "bad" attitude. I told myself that I was only "visiting" the weirdo Kundalini world. It wasn't my world. I wasn't a chanter. The mantras weren't for me. Yet somehow, over time, the mantras melted me and, over time, they came to be my favorite part of the practice. Somehow now, mantras rise to the surface when I need them. Wahe Guru!
The word somehow in my usage above (and maybe always) is synonymous with "By Grace" or "Through Destiny's Momentum." I am here, and sharing the teachings of Kundalini Yoga, particularly the gift of mantra, is my life's work. Wahe Guru!
Today in class, a student said to me that she wished she'd had a practice when she first became a mother. I agreed. When my son was born 18 years ago, I had found Kundalini Yoga, but I wasn't all in. I was still in the "bad" attitude phase. I can get pulled into regret on the years I wasted on resistance. Yes, years. Ten years to be exact that I practiced as a tourist in the spiritual realm.
Then, I wonder if I needed to go through the years of resistance. In those years of half-hearted practice was a lesson. Perhaps I went through all those years, so that I could urge you not to...
Don't waste time thinking you don't belong in a spiritual practice. Don't waste time thinking the mantras aren't for you. They are for you. They are available, accessible, and useful to all of us. They are not religion. They are not weird. They are ancient guidance that resonate on a soul level, guiding us to be present, guiding us to be clear, guiding us to our purpose.
And if you do waste time as I did, know that if you continue with the mantras (with any attitude) they'll eventually penetrate. Inevitably, they will dissolve the walls.
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be a Kundalini Yoga teacher who belted out mantras and started a blog talking about giving Reiki to a dog, I wouldn't have believed it. Yet, somehow, here I am.
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. 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.
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.