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.
Laying Burdens Down
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!
One Student Finds Her Way Out
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
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!
The Story of MKY by Cate & Savitri
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.