We are living in an extraordinary time. There is a virus present that is passing person to person, sneeze by cough, palpably showing us all how connected we are, showing us that we are all one. The virus is one entity with the fear. We all have this virus-fear because it inundates us all energetically; it is all around us and unless we have numbed ourselves out, we each feel it moving through us.
This virus is said to have been birthed from a “wet market” in Wuhan China. If you don’t know what that is, just imagine an open air butchery where animals of all sorts are killed out in the open in front of the customers, with drainage pans everywhere, the pain and fear of all the animals hangs in the air with the smell of their blood that wets the ground in a froth of slime. This is an age-old custom, just as many countries still sacrifice animals at certain times of the year by the millions. And it's not just abroad that this happens, go to your local lobster restaurant where live creatures are selected then dropped into boiling water, cooked and eaten.
I went to the Bronx Hunts Point fish market once at 2:00 in the morning as part of a school assignment, and I will never, ever forget the stench of fresh blood everywhere, the way I hydroplaned in my flip flops over the wet slime that covered every inch of the floor and how my shameful feet smelled like fish guts for weeks. Live, wiggling fish were tortuously sliced open and deboned in front of me, their mouths still opening and closing, as every cell in my body screamed “This is wrong!” It was a horrifying experience I will never forget, yet it is the truth behind every neatly wrapped piece of flesh at the grocery store. I realize that some people need to eat meat to stay healthy, but I believe that if more people witnessed this underlying reality, such brutal practices would be replaced with much more humane ways and plants might even become our main food everywhere.
I had a friend who ran a dog rescue for many years and some of the stories she told me broke my heart, so I know the mistreatment of animals is rampant in most countries. Also, the more habitat that we take from the wild creatures who’ve made it their home for centuries, the more impoverished we become as compassionate beings. The birthplace of this virus tells us something very powerful about ourselves, a message that cannot be overlooked anymore.
While we can’t really blame people for age old practices like the wet market, horrible as it is, I can’t help but believe that this corona virus-fear is a potent wakeup call about the way we treat animals and about the way we treat each other. We are now forced to confront our own selfishness, the focus on me, me, me. We are urged to realize our oneness, our oneness with all creatures, our oneness with each human being as we watch this microbe passing from person to person across the globe. The Heart Math Institute discovered that all the people who were daily monitoring their heart coherence experienced a massive opening of the heart in coherent oneness with others days before 9/11, and this lasted for weeks after the trade centers fell. This massive heart coherence event was unprecedented in the Heart Math Institute's experience. I feel that this heart opening is happening right now, perhaps we have never been this connected and caring in centuries as a human species. It is a shame that something so dark has to shake us into this openness, this heart connectedness, this realization of our oneness, but unfortunately that’s sometimes what it takes.
As spiritual beings, as light beings, light workers – that’s me and that’s you, whoever is reading this, let’s come together at the heart – let us consider feeling this fear as it moves through us, remaining open, and continuing to remain open energetically. The great healer Judith Orloff has always spoken about how she lets the energies from others who she heals just pass through her field and go back out. And there is the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, in which we open our hearts to feel compassion for all those who are suffering by breathing in their pain, breathing in their fear, transforming it and breathing out purified light. Let's try to remain open and not closed.
Remember who you are and why you came to this world, remember your mission, remember why you decided to create this reality exactly the way you uniquely experience it, including all the people you’ve attracted into your life. Let us transmute this fear into light as it enters our field, just hold it deeply in love. We are making a big difference – know that!
We are Love. We are Love. We are Love.
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.
“My parents are at a Power of Eight gathering tonight.” My friend Meredith told me over oolong tea.
“What is the Power of Eight? I asked, looking curiously over the rim of my tea cup.
“It’s a powerful healing circle that yields amazing results that I’ve personally witnessed, which have been scientifically proven.” Meredith told me with shining eyes.
I knew right away this was something special! That night, I googled “Power of Eight” and found a book by that name by Lynne Taggart and I ordered it immediately. Lynne has been conducting Power of Eight circles for decades and presents her scientific evidence very convincingly. So, so many amazing testimonies of miraculous healings, including seedlings in a lab half way around the world that received focused healing intentions, and grew many times faster and stronger than those in the control group. Whether groups gathered in person or online with Skype, the stories and evidence Lynne presents are very strong and self-evident and this body of evidence grows as people all over the world gather together in these healing circles.
Of course there is a whole plethora of evidence from the Transcendental Meditation research and experiments with group meditations that show amazing healings, lowered disease and violent crime rates and other factors directly attributable to these collective intentions. Andy Teg Avtar can tell you all about this body of evidence in his meditation classes.
I have personally seen amazing results from the many prayer and healing circles I’ve organized, in which we select a certain time of day to collectively focus on a family member or close friend in need of great healing: For example my sister-in-law with advanced cancer suddenly got up from bed to go dancing on New Year’s Eve, something we all thought was impossible.
Each year, I attend a week long silent meditation retreat, led by the great Advaita teacher Adyashanti at Omega institute – what a blessing! Adyashanti always talks about how the members of his non-profit organization bring their concerns into the group’s circle for discussion and listening, as they mine for the best solutions. He explained that if the members of the circle don’t try to divert the natural energy flow, if the ego mind stays out of this natural flow, “solutions bubble up to the surface like precious jewels. You can almost see them shining”. What a poet!
MKY has had several workshops, and is actually engaged in one right now, in which participants share and as each person is earnestly listened to by the others, deep emotional healings become apparent as each person feels seen, heard, understood and supported.
So last summer, Cate and I decided to start our own healing/prayer circles, as we continued to study the work of Lynne Taggart’s ‘Power of Eight’ and other similar works and experiments with directed intention, like that of Joe Dispenza. The Zen Heart Circle Sangha and other Sanghas of which I am a member also emphasize this kind of listening and sharing, often utilizing a talking stick in the middle of the circle.
Then, like the cherry on a mountain of ice cream, I was able to attend this year’s elder gathering at the beautiful Sunray Peace Village in Vermont. There, I met David Lonebear Sanipass, Native American Elder and Leader of Mi’kmaq nation, along with his beautiful wife. They regularly hold “teas” with nine to twelve people in attendance, to just listen as each person talks in turn, and everyone else just listens with one-pointed attention. Listeners, he explained, just listen! They do not think about what they want to say or about advice they want to give, they just listen, bringing all their attention to the one who is speaking. Lonebear mirrors the wisdom of so many sages and teachers who have urged us to do just that.
As Lonebear spoke, we were all sitting on the Mother Earth in a circle, about twelve of us, with a quietly crackling fire nearby. A very special feeling came over us that is hard to describe. Lonebear went on to tell us about the blue orbs that regularly appear in the middle of the room when he and his wife hold their ‘teas’, as the group members listen intently to each other. The appearance of these other-worldy blue orbs actually inspired Lonebear to call these listening type of gatherings and teachings ‘Blue Star Teachings’ and he encouraged us all to gather in circles of our own.
I excitedly told Lonebear about how my yoga partner and I had also formulated this idea, I told him about Lynne Taggart’s work, and related that we were about to start regular listening circles of our own.
So, we look forward to monthly gathering together -- the first Saturday of the month from 1:30-2:30pm -- with you to just listen to each other from the heart, allowing equal ‘air-time’ for each participant, as the rest of us just listen and bathe the one speaking in light and awareness as the speaker finds their own interpretations, understandings and solutions. And yes, we will be serving hot tea and cookies.
Miracles happen ALL THE TIME at MKY, so who knows what Divine presence might appear in our midst to assist at a soul level - the jewel of truth that bubbles up to the surface, as Adyashanti so poetically relates. We look forward to listening, seeing and understanding together.
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.
When the heart is so locked up that healing cannot penetrate, there is a way through. There is a mantra that can break down the walls -- the Miracle Mantra, Dhan Dhan Ram Das Guru.
Today, I spoke to MKY's spiritual sister Akal Bani Kaur (Sholeen) about her profound self-healing experience with this mantra.When Akal Bani (who is now a Kundalini Yoga teacher) first started practicing Kundalini Yoga, she would chant mantras in class and, at her teacher's suggestion, try 40 day practices with some. But she didn't keep up with any and never reached 40 days. Then one day in class, she heard Dhan Dhan Ram Das Guru playing in the background. Something about it caught her; she asked her teacher for the details and then began a 40 day experience that, among other things, surprised her.
As she chanted Dhan Dhan Ram Das Guru, she was overcome with tears. "I've always thought of myself as a happy person, an optimistic person." Akal Bani said. "I didn't know I had so many tears." She had committed to chanting 31 minutes a day but would often keep going for longer until the tears had moved through.
After weeks and weeks of tears, something else surprised her. Her heart opened. "I didn't even remember that after my first boyfriend broke my heart, I had like encased my heart in metal." As she chanted, the metaphorical metal around her heart melted.
After 40 days of daily chanting of Dhan Dhan Ram Das Guru, Akal Bani opted to continue beyond the 40 days to over six months. She stopped counting. The heart opening led to a new compassion, and she was able to turn that compassion to herself. She was able to finally really look at herself, really see herself and love herself. "The miracle of the mantra," she said, "is self-love."
Dhan Dhan Ram Das Guru is a longer mantra, also known as a shabd or Sikh prayer, that honors Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru in the lineage. Guru Ram Das represented miracles, humility, and service. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, we chant this mantra in the 11 days leading up to Guru Ram Das's birthday, which is celebrated on October 9.
If you like, you can see the mantra and its translation below, as well as a link to a playlist of some of the most beautiful versions of it that I know.
Dhan dhan raam daas gur jin siri-aa tinai savaari-aa
Pooree hoee karaamaat aap sirajanhaarai dhaari-aa
Sikhee atai sangatee paarbrahm kar namasakaari-aa
Atal athaa-o atol too tayraa ant na paaraavaari-aa
Jinee too sayvi-aa bhaa-o kar say tudh paar utaari-aa
Lab lobh kaam krodh mo maar kadhay tudh saparvaari-aa
Dhan so tayraa thaan hai sach tayraa paisakaari-aa
Naanak too lehanaa toohai gur amar too veechaari-aa
Gur dithaa taa man saadhaari-aa
Blessed, blessed is Guru Ram Das; the One who created You has also exalted You.
Perfect is Your miracle; the Creator has installed You on a throne.
Sikhs as well as all Conscious people recognize You because you manifest the Creator.
You are unchanging, unfathomable and immeasurable; You have no end or limitation.
You are unchanging, unfathomable and immeasurable;
Those who serve You with love are carried across the sea of existence.
The five obstacles of lust, anger, greed, pride and attachment:
You have beaten them and driven them out.
Blessed is Your realm, and True is Your magnificent glory.
You are Nanak, You are Angad, and You are Amar Daas;
When I recognize You, my soul is comforted.
Playlist: Link to it here on iTunes.
I want to say a word about community today. I've said before that our yoga community is kindred spirits coming together to practice and dwell in sacred space, to prioritize ourselves, inner and outer peace, and authenticity. But I'm feeling now that the word "kindred" may feel exclusionary.
When I started my Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, I felt that I wasn't "kindred" enough to really be part of the group. Others were deeper. Others understood more. Others wore turbans and all-white. Others knew all the mantras by heart.
As I've spent more time in yogic communities, as we've grown Montclair Kundalini Yoga's community, as I've spent more time in meditative space within and less time in the judgmental mind, I've realized that we are all one.
We are all one, whatever choices we make. Some of us eat meat; some of us don't; some of us wear glitter eye shadow; some of us don't; some of us drink coffee; some of us avoid caffeine; some of us are immersed in the teachings of Kundalini Yoga; some of us just like to chant sometimes and don't really understand what we're chanting about. It's all okay. It's all kindred.
We all have that longing to go deep within ourselves, to understand the way forward and what's True. If Kundalini Yoga feels like your way in or that it may be your way in, that's what brings us together in community. Each of us is equal in this community and we each bring our own gifts to the table. Kindred.
If you're thinking about coming to class for the first time but worried that you're not going to be an instant part of the community, let me put your mind at ease: You will be.
If you've been coming to class but you still feel somehow separate, let me tell you that you are not.
Whatever you're wearing, believing, feeling, knowing and not knowing, you are kindred.
May the Truth in you guide you, Kindred Spirit!
Any amount of Kundalini Yoga and meditation that you do is beneficial. But I want you to gain everything you can from this amazingly rich tradition. I want you to experience all the promised benefits. I want it to infect your whole life so that you reach the full potential of your vitality and creativity.
Good news. There is a way. There is a way to accelerate your Kundalini Yoga practice, to receive more benefits: begin a 40-day Daily Practice or Sadhana.
What is a 40-Day Sadhana? It is the consistent practice of the same kriya (sequence) or meditation for 40 days in a row without missing a day. If you miss a day, you have to go back to day one.
It is said that in order to get the full benefits of any given practice, you must do it every day for 40 days. According to yogic wisdom, it takes 40 days to the remove any of the bad habits and blocks that might prevent the outcomes from fully emerging. It takes 40 days to retrain the mind.
Forty days is significant, and not just according to Kundalini Yoga. In the world of religion, this number represents a threshold for fasting and prayer. In psychology, researchers have shown that one's personality could be changed through handwriting exercises done over a 40 day period.
In this world, in these times, there are so many distractions, so many options, so many reasons not to roll out the mat and stay with the same process over time. So when we do, we conquer all that. We conquer our egos. When we commit and build up our discipline muscle, we see that we can do anything, and we see that this yoga works like magic.
It does. It works like magic. I've experienced myself -- such specific and deep change within. Magical! I've seen it in my students and private clients. Magical!
During meditation, we may have interfering thoughts: a memory, negative self-talk, mundane planning, fear, hope for a future event. That isn't bad. In fact, it can be good. It can be important. It can be that these thoughts are presenting themselves in order to be dealt with or released. That is part of the "work" of meditation, and I am grateful for that work, as it heals me and will continue to heal me.
But there is another way to meditate that is a joyful expression, a way that leaves little room for interference. It's called Celestial Communication, and it is a stress-relieving meditation method that is accessible to all.
So what Celestial Communication and how is it done?
A Celestial Communication, or moving, mantra meditation, begins with a beautiful piece of mantra music. Then, we add arm choreography to the sounds. Essentially, we sing and move our arms. As we stay present with the mantra and the movement patterns, we reduce the possibility of interference.
Yogi Bhajan (Master of Kundalini Yoga), who brought us this practice explained why Celestial Communication is so effective. "The tension in the neural patterns is relieved into a relaxed pattern of its own originality. It is a very fantastic release. Physical relaxation is not as important as the systematic relaxation of nerves and self are. That's why the Celestial Communication system will work wonders with all people, from all religions and places. It is a methodology which gives you a tremendous amount of relief in your inner being."
The best way to understand is to do one, experience one. Watch this: chant and move along with some of the heavy weights of Kundalini music -- Snatam Kaur, Mirabai Ceiba, and Jai Jagdeesh -- singing Guru Ram Das and leading a beautiful Celestial Communication. (Watch up to the 4 minute mark, beyond that they move into another meditation.)
Here's some more of what Yogi Bhajan said about this practice which he believed was so important for stress-out folks in these times: "Celestial Communication is the greatest wonder food for healing the body, mental intelligence, and creativity, and to uplift the soul and increase the inflow of spirit.. it creates the mental equivalent of timelessness and brings that into full play. In that way, your automatic intuition wakes up."
I don't think there's anything within Kundalini Yoga that I LOVE as much as I LOVE Celestial Communication. I LOVE it all, but this is a beneficial practice for which I don't have to "go through" anything. I can just enjoy the beautiful music and moving. Bliss! There's also the joy and creativity of creating my own Celestial Communications. Everything else within the practice is prescribed and specific (for good reason, because that's what works), but with moving, mantra meditations, I can make them my own.
I love the description in my Stress & Vitality manual, "Celestial Communication is the body, mind, and spirit authentically telling a sacred story, a story of soul, a story of victory and a story of love."
When we move with a mantra, we embody its meaning and the "sacred story" of the soul becomes part of us.
I was bred to be a book lover. When I was a kid, my parents were voracious readers. When we went on vacation as a family, they b-lined to loungers with their paperbacks and tore through stacks. When I reached Judy Blume age, I started to understand their obsession. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret was the beginning of my LOVE of reading and of books themselves.
I've heard some people recommend keeping books out of your bedroom, because the bedroom should be simple and only about sleep. This sounds HORRIBLE to me. A bedroom without books is like a bed without a comforter. My nightstand pile is a reflection of me in this moment in time.
These days there are always at least a few trusty Kundalini Yoga books. Books I've read and referred to again and again. They are my pals. I need them by my side.
I wanted to share with you the Kundalini Yoga books that have helped me the most and inspired me the most. I also wanted to encourage you to buy a book or two. I love books on tape for the car, and I love the instant gratification of Kindle, but there is something about holding a book.
For overviews of the practice....
Aquarian Sadhana is a practice which was given to us by the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan in 1992. He believed that we needed this practice in order to keep up with these times -- fast-paced, confusing, stress-filled times -- and live our lives as victories.
In short, it is a specific two and a half hour practice during what's called the amrit vela, or the ambrosial hours 3:30-7am. (At MKY, we make it a little more doable by starting at 5 or 5:30am.) Here's how the practice breaks down:
Yogi Bhajan said, "The greatest reward of doing sadhana is that the person becomes incapable of being defeated. Sadhana is a self-victory, and it is a victory of time and space. Getting up is a victory over time, and doing it is a victory over space."
If you are learning about Aquarian Sadhana for the first time, you may find some of its aspects extreme or strange. I know how you feel. I felt the same when I first learned of it and started practicing it.
I was first introduced to this practice in Teacher Training, and it was a requirement. Truth be told, I didn't have a great attitude about this requirement. I had all kinds of internal complaints about it.
If you want to learn more about Aquarian Sadhana, I recommend the book Original Light: the Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga by beloved devotional artist and Kundalini Yoga teacher Snatam Kaur. She goes into depth and unpacks each aspect of the practice based on her lifetime of experience, growing up in a Kundalini Yoga community and studying directly with Yogi Bhajan. There are so many beautiful nuggets to take from this book, but here is one of my favorites: "It is through a daily spiritual practice that is consistent, like the heartbeat, that we change the psyche to know -- on an elemental, psychic, physical, chemical, and spiritual level -- that we are in fact putting the soul first."
I encourage you to read this book or any other about this beautiful gift from Yogi Bhajan, Aquarian Sadhana. But more so, I encourage you to experience it. Join us or find a sadhana near you. Sat Nam.
Co-owner and Instructor of Montclair Kundalini Yoga, Cate Baily (Arvind Dev Kaur) is ever grateful to share these teachings. Full bio here.