As we withdraw from constant outward flowing motion; all the dealing with the world, the grasping at all the things of the world - we begin to gain clarity and rest in the expansiveness of pure awareness.
From that still vantage point, as we become established there, we start interacting with the world by attracting rather than chasing. We stop using all our focus and attention to hold together a construct of separateness and we begin see inherent unity in all.
The more we are able to come into pure now, without attraction or repulsion, as the Buddha teaches, the more wellbeing we feel - that can be such a relief!! The inner peace begins to permeate the outer reality and that is the light we speak of - like a warm radiance.
As we accept with equanimity what is, as it appears. We may choose to take action to change things, but acceptance of what is, as it is, comes first, because the world is the world, there is a vital flow to life that we are not always meant to fully understand, that’s where faith and trust come in - come what may, always remember “This Too Shall Pass”. Abide in the Now - touch into the eternal, timeless and changeless dimension within and let that peace, love and light permeate everything you do, everything you say, every choice you make.
Join us in our practice as we all support each other in the light.
I read the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle while on vacation in Las Vegas. That time spent in 'Sin City' remains one of my most revelatory experiences because of that diamond-mind book. And to know that so many others have read it around the world continues to give me hope and faith in our collective future.
Among so many explorations in The Power of Now, Eckart explains how thoughts trigger emotions and emotions introduce tension patterns in the body. Depending on the intensity and quality of the thoughts, this tension can solidify into blockages and pain in the body over time. I can see this in myself every day as my mind hungrily consumes endless information through excessive screen time, the blessing AND plague of our age. The mind often seems insatiable, and even though exhausted, it can't seem to settle down and stop consuming long enough to let go and rest.
Awake at 3:00 in the morning last night, I was able to get just enough space to watch my mind, emotions and body. My main fascination in this lifetime is endlessly researching natural health practices and cures. As I indulged to satisfy that craving, my thoughts stimulated emotions, emotions elicited tense holding patterns in the body, rinse and repeat in an addictive cycle.
As I listened to a video online about miraculous healings, (and of course grave illness is the other side of that same coin), my heart bled for each person's story of dis-ease, then a hit of exhilaration came as the person began to heal (or not). My mind and body, in an arc of intense emotion, internalized the person's healing journey with great curiosity. Nothing wrong with that, I'm learning a lot, but it is 3:00am in the damn morning and I have to work the next day!
By 4:00am, My body had reacted to the thought and emotion cycle again and again. The muscles and tendons of my belly were contracted in fear, joy and either exaltation or plummeting dejection, depending on the outcome of each story. After several hours of this, my body was in knots and I wondered if I would ever fall back asleep again before the alarm started to ring. I knew I should just stop, sit up tall and meditate, clear my mind and give myself a chance to sleep, but I couldn't seem to tear myself away. Meditation is good medication because it is a true antidote. But my churning mind, like a child up way past her bedtime, just wouldn't stop its endless addictive cycle and continued to fend off what the older, greater and wiser self knew was best.
'You ARE wearing blue blocker glassses' My mind says! 'And the next healing story you watch could be the knowledge you need to help someone', she says. The mind rationalized endlessly. while my deeper self recognized the addiction with compassion.
The mind is to be respected for all it does for us; without it, we couldn't be here. The mind comes with the computer-like brain that integrates with our soul's purpose and all the other elaborate components and facilities we come into this reality with - all brilliant and necessary parts of this experience on Earth. So disrespectfully calling my mind 'Monkey Mind' is not helpful either.
I was finally able to override the addictive and insistent cycle, sit up straight in my bed, play some spiritual music, and urge my mind to quiet down. Like a very stern parent, I knew that was just the way it had to be. My mind kept trying to move curiously from story to story, but I just kept drawing it back to the quietude again and again. 'Looking' at my restless mind as if it were a younger part of myself, even if just a psychological device, is always very helpful.
The restless, childlike mind was finally able to start letting go of its obsessions. Once the mind started to settle down, my whole being felt a blissful relief sweep over as I entered the formless field. Once my mind tasted the bliss, it wondered for the millionth time why it always fights so hard against it. As I slipped deeper and deeper into the expansive awareness, the tireless seeking and movement of the mind finally ceased.
'I' could finally look out through the eyes of my soul, 'I' was no longer drowned out by the endless thoughts. My whole unified being reveled in breathing the familiar and nurturing air of freedom; the atmosphere of my true home; beyond change and suffering, beyond thought and emotion, beyond even birth and death. The body also progressively let go of its contractive knots and after a long luxurious bath in the stillness, the sleep train finally came to carry me away.
I am delving deeply into my Chi Gung practice with renewed vigor these days, studying with the legendary Tai Chi and Chi Gung master Robert Chuckrow, who happens to be a member of Cate’s extended family. Cate called me one fine day, “You have to meet Robert!”. And it has been a cascade of blessings ever since.
I actually met Robert at the Tai Chi Farm festival in upstate New York many years ago, where he autographed one of his earlier books for me. Robert is the author of ‘Tai Chi Walking: A Low-Impact Path to Better Health, The Tai Chi Book, Tai Chi Dynamics and his latest masterpiece, which he finished in March, ‘Tai Chi Concepts: Hidden Strength, Natural Movement, and Timing.’ His website https://chuckrowtaichi.com has a wealth of excellently written articles and intriguing videos on a variety of topics that we have been exploring with great interest. His recent talk on nutrition, as also detailed in his articles, was especially fascinating to me.
Along with offering valuable input and instruction whenever he can make it to our Friday MKY Chi Gung practice sessions, Robert has generously invited our members to his own classes, so please let us know if you are interested; we are all learning so much! Robert is a treasure trove of knowledge, skill and refined wisdom, having studied with the most accomplished Chi Gung and Tai Chi masters in the world, including those credited with first introducing and perpetuating the Asian martial arts for chi cultivation in the West.
As a long-time physics professor and writer, Robert succinctly explains and demonstrates the subtle nuances of these techniques and reveals important insights, some of which have never before been elucidated in English. Robert teaches with grounded commonsense, delightful humor and an intriguing touch of mysticism. He emblazons his own bold signature on the ancient Taoist arts, as many of the great masters have done, and this has served to take my own practice and understanding to a whole new level. He continues to develop and progress these arts by combining concepts from physics, body work and movement traditions, synthesized with his unique, highly tuned process of inquiry.
Robert brings the Taoist arts vividly alive for us by constantly emphasizing discovery and experimentation. His own tireless sense of wonder encourages us to explore new vistas of consciousness in every session. With characteristic enthusiasm, he models how to make the practice ever fresh, ever new, as we unlock the powerful flow of healing Chi in countless ways. Even if I live 300 years or more, I could never run out of new things to explore: That’s the secret Robert manages to impart. Each insight he shares goes far beyond the practice floor, and when applied comprehensively, leads to a strong life, well lived. As we endlessly explore and polish our practice, we polish our lives.
Please join us in this fascinating process of self-discovery. ----- Savitri
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.
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!
Yogi Bhajan taught that happiness is our birthright and our natural state of being. The problem is that sometimes life disrupts that natural state or our own minds run amok with stress and suffering. With Kundalini Yoga, we can reconnect to our innate joy. For me, my primary happiness equation is Kundalini + Dedication to Practice = Happiness.
I've now been practicing Kundalini Yoga for more than two decades. In that time, some difficult, unhappy things have happened. Nevertheless, I've been able to move through the challenges and reconnect to happiness, even in midst of sadness. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it is not.
Some things on this human path are hard, unfair, maddening, tragic, but when we have a practice in which we relate to our soul, our connection to Source, the hard stuff comes into perspective and come what may, we can live our birthright.
In this blog, I've highlighted 5 aspects of the practice that unlock joy: breath of fire, dynamic movement, meditation, connecting to the authentic self, and chanting. With each, I've offered a way for you to try it on your own. See how it all adds up to happiness. Enjoy!!!!!!! In joy!!!!!!! Return to joy!!!!!! You are joy!!!!
Happy Breath. Breath of fire is one of the foundational breath techniques of Kundalini Yoga. If you've practiced breath of fire, you know that it delivers a nice, buzzy feeling in the body. For me, it provides instant relief in the mind because its rhythm and sound take over and everything else recedes. The equation is simple: Buzzy Body + Relaxed Mind = Happiness.
TRY IT: Breath of fire is a quick, rhythmic breath through the nose with an equal inhale and exhale. On the inhale, the belly expands a bit. On the exhale, the belly contracts. Ideally, you'll breathe at a rate of 2-3 breaths per second. If you are just beginning to learn, you can start slow and begin to pick up the pace as the navel action becomes natural. So, sit tall in a chair or cross-legged on the floor and try for 1-3 minutes. Do it everyday. You'll be HAPPY you did. Note: if you are pregnant or menstruating, do not practice breath of fire. If you become light-headed, stop, take some long deep breaths and start again when you feel better, focusing on an even inhale and exhale.
Happy Energy. In Kundalini Yoga, there is often an emphasis on dynamic movement. We do this because we want to get the energy flowing, the blood circulating, the spinal fluid moving. When we feel this pulsing aliveness in our bodies, we feel good. So too, through dynamic movement matched with the breath, we can move through old patterns of tension, pockets of emotional blockage, and stagnation in the body. We are also focused on raising the Kundalini Energy. Kundalini is so much: it is vitality; it is soul energy; it is awareness; it is our potential. Most of the time for most of us the Kundalini energy lies dormant at the base of the spine. We move to awaken it; to clear the pathway for it. Here's the energy equation: Pulsing Aliveness - Blocks + Awakened Kundalini = Happiness.
TRY IT: Cat-Cow is a great movement for the spine. Begin on the hands and knees, hands shoulder-width apart and knees directly under the hips. Inhale and tilt the pelvis forward, arching the spine down and lifting the head. This is the cow position. Think udders hanging down. Exhale and push the mat away and curve the spine like a mad cat, allowing the head and neck to relax down. Continue this movement for 2 minutes, moving rapidly. Do this everyday. You'll be HAPPY you did.
Happy Meditations. The mind isn't always our friend. We can make ourselves unhappy and suffer if we allow the stream of thoughts to overtake our experience. That's where meditation comes in. The meditations in Kundalini Yoga have specific intentions. We have a meditation to release anger, to calm the heart, to increase cognitive function, to relieve stress, to reclaim happiness, and many, many others. Regardless of the intention though, meditating daily and addressing the mental storms through meditation, will help you be happier. Meditation helps you cultivate a different relationship to your thoughts, so your thoughts don't own you, don't define you. When your thoughts don't own you, you realize you don't have to suffer with them. When you suffer less, you are happier. The meditation equation (maybe the most important one) is: One Meditation Per Day = Happiness .
TRY IT: There is a beautiful practice called Meditation to Reclaim Your Happiness. Don't you love that? We are reclaiming, rather than building, happiness because happiness is our natural state. If you'd like to give this practice a try, you can go to this video with Sirgun Kaur, Kundalini Yoga teacher and devotional artist. Try this meditation everyday and do this same meditation everyday for 40 days. You'll get the full benefits that way and RECLAIM YOUR HAPPINESS.
Happy Authenticity. One of our primary focuses in Kundalini Yoga is on the authentic self. Through the practice, we shed the baggage, peel back the layers of falsehoods in order to connect to our truth. How do we do that? One way we approach it is through the repetition of the mantra sat nam, which means Truth is my identity. Repeating sat nam to ourselves creates a focus on and a resonance with Truth. We thread this mantra throughout our practice and it becomes a ritual reminder to drop the masks, forget the expectations of others, and be our truest selves. In my mind, that is the path of happiness. If we are trying to live anything but our true purpose, what is aligned with our soul, we create inner turmoil. If we align, we lift that turmoil and bring ease and joy. Here's the equation: Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam = Happiness
TRY IT: Repeat Sat Nam. You can do this anywhere any time. Inhale and silently repeat the sound sat (rhymes with hut); exhale repeat the sound nam (rhymes with mom). Continue as long as you like and when you're done, say to yourself, "I am in my Truth." Do this every day, several times a day. You'll be HAPPY you did.
Happy Mantras. Mantras and beautiful music remind us of the magic of the universe. Each and every mantra in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is a reinforcement of the fact that we are part of something larger than our finite selves, that the Universe supports us. Here are just a few examples:
In chanting mantras, we embody their messages. When we chant in the sacred language of Gurmukhi (not our first language), we bypass the intellect and inscribe the sound and meaning in our hearts. Besides, just the beauty of it is uplifting. This is the simplest equation of all:
Chanting = Happiness.
TRY IT: Chant. Here's a link to a sample playlist of songs with the above mentioned mantras. You can also search for each mantra on Youtube and find wonderful versions. Listen. Learn them and, most importantly, chant along.
I want to share one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received: Lower your standards.
Not everyone agrees with this advice because it sounds, on its surface, like a road to mediocrity, but I believe that it's a road to steadiness.
The advice comes from poet William E. Stafford (1914-1993) who famously woke up everyday at 4am and wrote a poem. One poem every day before his family woke up.
How was that possible? The poet e.e. cummings said that a writer could spend 25 years on one line of one poem, and we know that writers agonize over their words and can be reluctant to call anything complete.
When Stafford was asked how in the world he writes a full poem every day in the space of a couple of hours, he replied, "It's easy. I lower my standards."
What I took this to mean is not that he didn't go back and revise ever but that he wouldn't let perfectionism stop him. He wrote a poem to an end in the allotted time every day.
The advice -- lower your standards -- applies to so many things in life (my favorite application is house cleaning), but I think it applies especially well to meditation. From one day to the next, we don't know how our meditation is going to be. One day it could be full of distracting thoughts. The next day, it could be very peaceful. We could feel a darkness pervading one day and showered with light another. In all scenarios, we are meditating and more importantly developing the habit of meditating. In all scenarios, we are showing up for the deep work of connecting to our inner wisdom and however messy it is in the mind, I believe our souls take notice.
So please don't let perfectionism stop you. Please drop your expectations of how meditation should be. You closed your eyes; you went within; you sat for the allotted time... you meditated.
It's not about having a perfect experience or blissing out, it's about showing up and moving through it. If we can liberate ourselves from perfectionism and keep showing up, we can be steady in our practice. And steadiness is the most important thing, providing the container for the wisdom to pour through, the insight to burst forth, the peace to rise to the surface day after day. That's what Stafford did with his writing practice.
Lower your standards and let the soul respond. If Stafford's body of work is any indication, it will. You can read one of my favorite of his poems below.
I know that some people avoid meditation because they think they can't do it or they won't get it right. If that describes you, I pray you will lower your standards because the rewards of doing so are many.
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!
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.