Cosmic Flow Kundalini Yoga studio welcomes all to celebrate this year’s One Book One San Diego choice, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.
All over San Diego country, diverse communities are reading this book. People are participating in discussions of this book at public libraries, service organizations, and educational institutions throughout the county. One Book One San Diego is a literary program with the purpose of bringing our community together over the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book. I like to imagine the city as a stadium hosting a huge rock concert; on stage is this one book, resting on a night table. Everyone in the stadium bends their heads over their own personal copy of the book open and reading together. This might be a sort of creepy or comforting image, depending on where your consciousness takes you…
As a fresh way to celebrate oneness and the community spirit of Cosmic Flow, we thought it would be fun to host a free event in which we practice a breath meditation and then discuss The Great Believers over tea at this yoga studio.
The meditation we will practice will be lovingly chosen from thousands taught by Yogi Bhajan, a meditation that relates specifically to the challenges faced by the characters in the book.
Suppose Yale, Charlie, Fiona, or Richard — some characters in Makkai’s book — came to Cosmic Flow yoga and asked for a special breath meditation they might practice every day to help them face their struggles. Well, this is the meditation we will practice. Suppose our lives have similar themes as those in the novel; maybe this particular meditation can help us through, too.
While reading a piece of fiction, a yogi might ask, what practice might serve the characters in this book to help them engage, focus, cope, heal, relax, and excel through the problems they face in the book?
Offering breath meditations to fictional characters in books is just a quirky way this yogi goes about reading fiction. It’s not something that The Vedas or The Puranas talked about. It’s not something mentioned in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib; nor is this something taught by Yogi Bhajan. Nowhere has it been written to contemplate the characters from books coming to your yoga class and imagine what meditation you might teach them and encourage them to practice every day. This is a line of inquiry that so far only I know only I would think up, and maybe I am the only yogi who thinks this is an interesting and fun way to be in this world. So be it. I have to be me. And may those sacred teachers to whom I bow and feel infinite respect please forgive me if there is any offense here. Offense is not intended. The only thing I wish to enjoy forever is my birthright to have reverence but also explore the fullest spectrum of freedom of expression. This is not an easy road to travel; that’s why I practice.
But let’s look at it with any characters from any books. Suppose Tsukuru Tazaki came to your yoga class, wouldn’t he benefit from Kirtan Kriya? And what about the unnamed narrator in Killing Commendatore ? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would happen if he practiced forty days of Sitalee Pranayam? These are two examples from Haruki Murakami works because he is the novelist I happen to be reading a lot of lately. But this is a way of imaging works with any writer’s fiction. Imagine if Madame Bovary had bought a monthly unlimited class package at Cosmic Flow Yoga studio, surely her fate would have been totally different. Perhaps she would have experienced the Kriya for the Heart and Magnetic Field, and felt fresh tenderness and desire toward her boring husband. Perhaps not. She’s pretty categorically tragic… But I think it’s fun to wonder if the benefits of kundalini yoga would have helped Madame Bovary.
I swear: sitting around thinking about ways to improve the lives of fictional characters through yogic breathing and kriya is pure fun!
Perhaps in a typical book club discussion, people mention whether they liked or disliked the book and why. Sometimes the conversation goes deeper than that and people talk about the ways the book was crafted, whether the characters were believable or not, whether the ending seemed plausible. I’ve even been to a book club discussions in which women identified with the characters and then revealed their own personal stories of struggles. In these cases, the discussion led to therapeutic emotional release. Other times, readers have confessed that they fell so madly in love with the characters they could imagine marrying them and felt inspired to write their own fictional story based on that premise, and they proceeded to share that imagined story.
It is exciting to wonder what the discussion will be like for the Cosmic Book Club. But one thing is sure, we will begin the book club meeting with conscious breathing, a specific breath meditation that we can speculate may support the characters in the book as they face their challenges. This is a way to teach us to observe characters in a book in the way a yoga teacher might observe her students when they come to her wondering what meditation they should practice every day to help them get through life’s snags.
Without giving away too much of the story details, here is an example of how this approach looks reading The Great Believers:
Charlie experiences acute anxiety, paranoid that Yale will break his heart. He could practice a breath meditation to “Re-vitalize the Heart Area.” In this meditation, sit in easy pose, bring the palms together, and raise the arms up to a sixty-degree angle as far left as possible. Inhale powerfully through the nose and exhale powerfully through the mouth, using the navel point to press the air out. Do this for 8 minutes. Would this help relieve someone like Charlie who continually fears losing a loved one?
Fiona must find her daughter who has joined a cult and is in some kind of trouble. Fiona is continually remembering conflicts from the past during which her daughters way of coping was to run away. Fiona could benefit from a meditation called, “To Know and Experience the Unknown.” This meditation is more complex and involves pressing on the rib cage on the left side to breathe through the right nostril and pressing on the rib cage on the right side to trigger breath through the left nostril. I won’t go into more detail than that here, but the effect of the meditation is to help learn how to consciously switch which nostril you breathe from. When you are in a difficult mental state, if you consciously switch the breath to go through the opposite nostril, you will release yourself from that mucky mental state.
Yale could benefit from a meditation that brings the entire nervous system and glandular system into balance. This meditation involves holding a particular mudra (hand position) in front of the heart as you inhale deeply, then calmly suspend the breath in for 15 seconds; then exhale and calmly suspend the breath out for 15 seconds.
As a devoted yogi, I have absolute faith that Yale could face his process with more presence, consciousness, and elevation if he practiced this meditation for 3 to 5 minutes every day.
These meditations don’t necessarily cure or make our problems go away, but they help us go through these difficulties with refined grace and awareness.
During our book club meeting at Cosmic Flow, we will practice one of these breath meditations and then the discussion of the book can launch in any direction from there.
We will also enjoy yogi tea. Here are the five ingredients used for making classic yogi tea:
The Cosmic Book Club is intended to be a fun way to hold space for two beautiful arts to enjoy fresh collaboration, the art of fiction and the art of conscious breathing. What unfolds when we bring our love for yoga together with our love for reading good literature? Let’s explore the possibilities! Sat Naam!
In ancient times, when Bhukhamumookha was queen of all of the Myapakka Valley, there lived a devoted yogi who practiced his sadhana in the forest that surrounded the great Lake Nagshala.
After twelve years intense sadhana, the yogi achieved certain siddhis. He gained the power to heal through his presence, the Maha Devi Siddhi.
Quickly, news spread about this yogi’s achievements. Many people, local and from far away, wanted to meet him. Over time, the sick and those in great need would travel to sit with this yogi. In return for his blessings and healings, visitors would bring the yogi gifts. Many benefited from being in his presence. Eventually, many people grew to love and fear this powerful yogi.
Near this yogi’s forest was a village where there lived a talented female weaver named Gunjika. She lived with her family and worked hard at weaving to ensure her family would have enough to eat. She wove scarves, robes, blankets, prayer rugs, baskets. You name it, Gunjika could weave it. The villagers adored this honest artisan.
One day, a stranger came traveling through the village seeking the help of the well-known forest yogi. The stranger had spent years trying to find a wife. Alas, his deformed face scared people. He’d hoped he would meet the yogi to receive help and guidance to ease his troubled heart.
Before meeting the yogi, the stranger wished to find the perfect gift to bring to this yoga master. A kind villager learned the stranger was looking for the perfect gift. So, the villager described Gunjika’s woven goods as the most magnificent of gifts the village had to offer. The villager guided the stranger to Gunjika’s stall. It so happened, this villager was also the caretaker of wayward orphans. The orphans loved nothing better than to sneak around playing tricks on people. While the villager led the stranger to Gunjika’s stall, the orphans followed quietly, suppressing their laughter at the stranger’s deformity. Without being seen, the orphans spied on the stranger while he looked over Gunjika’s blankets, robes, and baskets.
Gunjika smiled at the stranger as he wondered over which of her creations he should choose. He was mesmerized by all the beautiful choices. After much deliberation, he found the perfect robe to bring to the yogi. “Ah! This is perfect!” He chose a simple, honey-colored sevani robe. Gunjika said, “Great choice!”
While the stranger was digging into his pockets to produce the money to pay Gunjika, the orphans secretly sprinkled some stolen emodulanda powder into the folded robe. Then they ran off to find a place to hide so they could burst into laughter.
Now, emodulanda powder is nothing that exists in these modern times. In ancient times it was a kind of powder that was used to heal wounds from snake bites. However, if too much contacted your skin, you would turn emotional, mostly angry mixed with delusions of grandeur. It was the village orphans’ intention to play a prank on this foreigner with the ugly face. In their ignorance, they even thought the powder would help him fall in love with his deformity. They did not know the extent of damage their prank would cause.
The stranger made his visit to the yogi and waited his turn to have his private moment with the yogi. The yogi gave him his blessing and healing. Then the stranger presented the yogi with the robe. The stranger explained to the yogi that he had purchased the robe from Gunjika, the finest weaver in all the village. The yogi was humbled and grateful for the gift. He, too, admired the honey color and the perfect weave of this fine robe. After his meeting with the yogi, the stranger left the village and was never seen again. Perhaps we can assume he lived a happier life after visiting the Maha Devi Siddhi Yogi?
The next morning, after bathing in the lake, the yogi dressed in the fine robe the stranger had gifted him and proceeded to practice his bowing meditation. When the sun struck the yogi’s visual horizon at 35 degrees, the yogi felt an unfamiliar emotion rush over him — he grew very angry. While he sat in meditation, the yogi heard resentful voices fill his head, shouting about enemies chasing after him and the world coming to an end.
In a moment of clarity, the yogi sensed that something was wrong with the robe the deformed stranger had gifted him. Immediately he took off the robe and rushed to bathe in Lake Nagshala.
The yogi contemplated the matter for a few days then decided that Gunjika’s woven fabrics put the village in danger. Feeling righteous and courageous, he marched himself to the top of the steps of the Temple of the Goddess and proclamed: “Everyone, hear this!” The humble villagers listened with reverence. When he had everyone’s attention, the yogi continued: “The noble sages of high teachings have charged me to pronounce a curse on Gunjika the Weaver. The robe she wove contained foul enchantment. Come new moon time, Gunjika the Weaver shall turn into a fig!”
The yogi’s curse frightened the villagers. From then on, all avoided Gunjika, the Weaver. Only her daughter stood by her. Gunjika was confused by the curse and had no idea what the yogi was talking about. What foul enchantment could be in the robe she wove? This curse didn’t seem fair to Gunjika, but no one would listen to her when she asked for help to try to solve the mystery. She requested the yogi return the robe to her so she could see what was wrong, but the yogi claimed to have destroyed it in the fire ceremony for Boopoo Muni. And now to the simple villagers, Gunjika had become a pariah.
Just as the yogi had said, at the new moon, Gunjika turned into a fig.
Her daughter brought her mother-turned-fig far outside the village and buried her. For the rest of her life, Gunjika’s daughter mourned her mother’s passing by visiting the Temple of the Goddess every day and praying for mercy., until she grew old and died quietly and all alone.
Centuries have passed since this sad story took place. Lake Nagshala is all dried up. These days, a proud city has been built over the land where that lake once existed.
However, in the forest outside the city, there grows a rare type of ficus tree, called ficus maposyrupa. Monks use the wood from the tree’s thick branches to make fragrant prayer bead malas. Mothers pick the sweet figs to feed to their babes. The tree’s bark drips an unusual sap that cooks use to mix into special sweet sauces to pour over bread and rice. Songbirds nest in the tree’s branches. Bugs crawl through the tree’s bark. Worms, grubs, and slugs live deep in the soil curling up close to the roots of the tree to enjoy nourishment and protection. These centuries — long after the death of the yogi and the death of the weaver’s daughter — this one fig tree has provided sustenance, protection, beauty, and nourishment for countless beings from above and below. It welcomes all and judges none. One rare fig tree grew up from a fig planted by a grieving daughter who would never see the glory of this tree these hundreds of years later.
One day, a forest yogi, descended from the Maha Devi Siddhi Yogi, came to sit under the tree to meditate. There he achieved his enlightenment. After that, he went around blessing people and proclaiming his profound connection to the divine. Little did he know that there is no such thing as enlightenment. He mistook the tree’s nourishment — a little breath of fresh air — for enlightenment.
Nowadays, tree lovers are realizing this: we don’t need to follow the teachings of “enlightened” men. Simply praise trees! And like trees, be nourishment to all. No doubt tree wisdom surpasses that of the human . They live longer and give freely.
By now, everyone has forgotten the story of the time when a yogi turned Gunjika into a fig. No one ever tells the story about the daughter who buried that fig and spent the rest of her life in grief for her fallen mother. Only this one fig tree stands as silent witness to all the beautiful life force that moved back then, through the ages, and here and now. Trees do not tell stories in the conventional ways we are used to, but trees have so many stories to tell.
Infinite gratitude to Richard Powers and his novel The Overstory, which was the inspiration for this blog post. The Overstory
May I become quiet so as to let the trees sing. Through listening endeavors, may this mind grow green, lush, and fruitful! May the cycles of this human life flow toward growing thick with nourishment potential. May all humble beings come to know the curses that are blessings in disguise.
When I play piano, I imagine giving a performance. I wear a long, dark gown, and the piano is a Fazioli F228. The venue is a dark, friendly place called the Prohibition Lounge on 5th Avenue in San Diego. I play Bach’s Solfeggietto in C Minor. And throughout the duration of the song, my hair is in flames. Though I am on fire, I play the song to the end without a flaw. And when I rise from the piano bench after the performance, I face the only two members of the audience, my two daughters — I bow. When (and if) they express their approval of my performance, the flame in my hair blows out instantly and my hair returns to sitting piled atop my head in a tidy bun that remains undisturbed by the flame that had danced in my hair moments before.
But since performing classical piano in a Blues nightclub while my hair is on fire is not in the cards for me, not in my destiny — except in my imagination — I will need to do the next best thing.
I am collaborating with my friend Heather Mezey. She will play crystal singing bowls to support a special meditation experience that we will offer at Cosmic Flow Yoga on August 25, 2019. The workshop is called Absorption Into Crystal Being.
Here is my humble attempt at a promotional teaser for the event… Oh, well, I admit, this is far less a promotional teaser and more of an actual excersice for your auditory imagination that you can engage in any moment.
What if you took some time now to imagine hearing the echoes of crystal singing bowls in common everyday household sounds?
You hear the primal ring of crystal singing bowls in the bubbles rising out of your dirty-dish-filled kitchen sink.
You hear angelic weeping of crystal singing bowls when your daughter towel dries her fresh-washed hair.
You hear the slow-hum pillow talk of the crystal singing bowls when you fold laundry.
You hear the msytical laughter of the crystal singing bowls in your dog’s sniffing at the rosemary bush before he lifts his leg to pee.
You hear the soul song of the crystal singing bowls in your every inhale and exhale as you also hear the sweet longing of the singing bowls in your celestial heart beat.
For a while now, I have enjoyed exercising my auditory imagination in these five ways and countless more. Over time, hearing phantom crystal bowls ringing over all dimensions and situations in my life has filled me with this prayer:
May intimacy with the subtle layers — or celestial layers — of your being, your Crystal Geometric Consciousness, encourage you to see that whatever burden you carry is merely a denser form of your inner play of light and dark. And light and dark weigh nothing! All it takes to transform all that you thought of as your burden into all you can regard as your boon is to be Absorbed In the Crystal Being. It involves taking a care-free plunge into the Goddess’s fathomless Pool of Nectar.
Friend, what do you say we meet each other beyond the physical realm? What would you say if I asked you to appear at the Celestial Ball that is now taking place at the Heart Center of the Crystal Matrix? Would you reject me if I invited you to dance?
Sublime tenderness echoes throughout the expanse of the Heart Center of the Crystal Matrix. This is about brainwaves dancing with binaural beats. But beyond brainwaves, there are dream waves. Beyond dream waves, there are vibe waves. Beyond vibe waves, there are intergalactic waves. Beyond the intergalactic waves, there are zero waves. Beyond zero waves, there is One!
Yes, there are songs in your bowls! There are songs in my bowls. The bowls I am referring to here are not your food bowls. These bowls are within you. You have a song in your head bowl, your heart bowl, your eye bowls, your ear bowls. Hell, you even have a crystal song ringing in your butt bowl and your ass bowl. The sounds layer one upon the other creating glorious resonance that is your life.
This is the way I listen to you; this is the way I hear you, anyway. I keep a sharp ear out to listen to you with my supernatural hearing that can penetrate to hear the real You within you. I can hear the crystal bowls within you. Dear One, to me, your internal crystal song sounds so sublime.
And to that sound that is You within you, I offer infinite pranams. I bow to the divine sound within you.
This essay humbly pays homage to yoga teachers, Sadhguru and Yogi Bhajan, as well as writing mentors D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Larson.
My daily yoga practice is based on the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. Each day I wake early and practice Aquarian Sadhana. When I teach yoga, I teach what Yogi Bhajan taught. I adore this path. It is straightforward and effective — no smoke and mirrors, no new age hocus pocus, no bull shit. Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan gives a person grit and grace, a crystal clear consciousness, and infinite spiritual muscle. Even just one kriya or meditation taken up and practiced regularly with a sincere heart is enough to manifest practical, elevating life results. I am speaking from my own experience. But I have also observed many friends and students reap tons of benefits from this practice. Still, surprising to me and other practitioners, this practice is a hard sell to a vaster majority. Are people hung up on the white clothes, the head wraps, suspicions of the sound current (chanting mantras), or the strangeness of the exercises? Whatever it is, it’s still considered “weird yoga” to some. This is unfortunate. How can it be so much weirder than other programs?
This essay expresses how someone coming from a kundalini background gets cozy in a community practicing a hatha yoga practice. Today, to practice Yogi Bhajan’s form of kundalini yoga in a climate where many other forms of yoga are much more popular often feels the way D.H. Lawrence describes his feelings in his spiritual essay “The Spinner and the Monks.” In this essay, he describes a journey up a mountain to the Church of San Tommaso in Gargano, Italy but “a thick, fierce darkness of the senses” drives him out of the chapel. What unknown force creates this sense of the outsider? What mystical energy seems to be provoking his consciousness into otherworldly neutrality that erases his very existence? Outside the church, he observes the way a woman who is spinning wool makes him feel he “was not in existence.” For D.H. Lawrence’s observations, longings, and alienations lead him to ask, “Where in mankind is the ecstasy of light and dark together, the supreme transcendence of the afterglow, day hovering in the embrace of coming night like two angels embracing in the heavens..?” He wonders if there is a form of ecstasy that can unite sense perception with spirituality, rather than make them divided. Thomas Larson praises Lawrence’s essay for its ability to be both “lyrically intimate and numinously alert.” So I write here to play, to unite, to honor this wonder. I humbly practice that my writing may be “lyrically intimate and numinously alert” while contemplating being with kundalini and hatha yoga together.
So here’s my humble story: One day in November 2017, I was practicing tratakum meditation of Yogi Bhajan’s photo. It’s one of the tools we have in this practice, gazing at a photo of the realized kundalini master. The teachings say that during the meditation, the practitioner can ask a question internally and an answer will arise. I meditated on the photo of Yogi Bhajan and asked, “what do I need to know now to be more effective in service as a teacher, writer, and mother?”
No sooner had I asked the question than this one-word answer roared into my awareness: “Sadhguru.”
At that moment, I absorbed the answer; and in the next moments wondered over it. When I read from the Guru or chant Gurmukhi mantras, I encounter the words “sat guru” or “sach guru,” which means true guru. So, at the moment the word Sadhguru arose in my meditation, I wondered why it was a skewed form of the words Sat Guru that I had read from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Sadhguru: The word stuck with me, spelled that way, and uttered with such ferocity, a severe and determined roar within, accompanied by a word spelled out and blazing with orange light. These last couple of years, every internal message comes in the form of a fierce internal roar and flames. So much for yoga bringing inner peace. In this moment, I puzzled over why Sadhguru was spelled in that unusual way when I had always seen it as Sat Guru or Sach Guru.
That evening, many hours after my tratakum meditation, I was engaged in some online research for a writing project, when I came across a book called Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by Sadhguru.
Stop! Whoa! Eukera! There is that word as it was revealed to me in meditation! Wow! Wonder! Awe! Joy in my heart!
I ordered the book and read it right away.
I LOVE the Inner Engineering book. Sadhguru is a hatha yoga teacher, AND he is a great writer! And this combination — a mystic who can write well –makes my own heart sing. His writing is articulate, funny, and overflowing with life-affirming intelligence. Sadhguru teaches practices that are different from those taught by Yogi Bhajan, so at first I approach seeking ways the two teachers’ messages harmonize within me. While Yogi Bhajan wanted to create teachers and sages for the Aquarian Age, Sadhguru wants to create a world full of blissful beings. He envisions a world where 7.2 billion people practice some form of yoga that makes them internally flowing with “seamless loves and untold ecstasies.”
My humble prayer is that I may effortlessly absorb and embody both Yogi Bhajan and Sadhguru’s teachings to support me to radiate infinite grace to uplift myself and those I love and serve. So, I visualize my expanded heart’s vast embrace, including both the practical mysticism of Sadhguru with the kundalini mastery of Yogi Bhajan. Like this, I am free to engage this Inner Engineering hatha program with all chakras fully charged with aliveness and receptivity.
After binging on Sadhguru youtube clips and reading more of his books, I vowed to be willing to create a unifying force for these various teachers and teachings within my being. Yogi Bhajan’s “Kriya for an Open Heart” is a good practice to support this.
Because I also embrace the discipline of writing spirituality as it is described in Thomas Larson’s Spirituality and the Writer, creating this unifying force most likely involves psychological or spiritual wrestling and word play. Larson describes how the successful spiritual writer reveals more about how she wrestles with growing and shifting. Readers of spiritual writing prefer more story and entanglement and fewer platitudes. Can I write about my experience of Inner Engineering as a kundalini yogi in such a way that I hold the attention of a reader in the ways Thomas Larson’s book describes? Can this practice build my confidence so I can overcome a sense of failure that I am a bad writer. Years of rejection is taking its toll. Still, I keep writing. But I have to admit that I do most of my wrestling in Sadhana, not necessarily through writing. If I wrestle out in Sadhana and clear the subconscious mind, writing becomes sacred and celebrative. Well, sacred and celebrative in the literary scene — like kundalini yoga — is weird or doesn’t sell.
Months after reading the book, I showed up to the Inner Engineering completion course. Sadhguru came to teach 2,000 people at a convention center in Long Beach. Among the crowd, I was the only other person, besides Sadhguru, wearing a head wrap. Someone among the attendees asked me why I cover my head. I explained the benefits of keeping the cranial bones cozily hugged together as a way to organize the energies generated during meditation. He seemed pleased and interested in my explanation.
Though I felt a little out of place and out of my usual element, when Sadhguru came out onto the stage, he came out dancing joyfully. He was motioning to the crowd to join him in the dance and to meet him at his level of joy. So all 2,000 of us danced with him. He faced one side of the room then another and gestured with his hands to express whether he felt satisfied with the levels of joy coming from that part of the room. So far, he was shaking his head, “no” and throwing his hands out to communicate that the left side of the room was not dancing joyfully enough. I was way in the back of the room to his right side. When he faced our group, right away he showed a thumbs up sign and nodded his head. He expressed satisfaction with the level of joy coming from our side of the room. And internally, secretly, I took his satisfaction to heart in a big way. In fact, his thumbs up, yes nod, and beaming grin brought me a lot of inner healing.
While dancing, I had projected — no, I exuded — all my joy. I had longed for my smile, anonymous amidst the sea of faces, to reach him. I let myself imagine that from this distance, Sadhguru received my unique expression of joy through my dance. Sure he was nodding to everyone, but I personally felt connected to him from that distance and in that vast crowd.
What I personally felt as Sadhguru’s receptivity to my joy was so healing for me. Without getting too bogged down in details, just know that at that time in my life, I had been feeling that people I was working with and people whom I was living with were not receiving my energy and messages; it felt to me as though people in my day to day life seemed numb to my presence, numb to any ability to share in what gives me joy. In Sadhguru, I had found someone who assured me that my presence works. He can feel and respond to my joy, even in this crowd, even at this distance. Wow!
Thus, to this day, that brief instant of true connection keeps me listening and observing and remaining receptive to all that Sadhguru has to teach. After all, it was meditation on Yogi Bhajan’s photo that guided me to Sadhguru.
But Sadhguru’s method, approach, vibe, and frequency feels different. There is a different fragrance. This atmosphere feels different from a kundalini gathering. It is less of a pressure cooker and more of a slow climb up a mountain. Within me this feels as refreshing as it feels disruptive. But there is an ease in connecting to the quality of stillness (shuniya) that is absolutely the same in both methods. And even if it seems that the thousands of people who have showed up to this two-day program are not the white-clad yoga family that I usually practice with, they sit in Gyan Mudra and we chant as One Voice. Should there be a struggle to internally continue to recalibrate to remind myself that it is okay to bow to Adiyogi and to bow to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib? It is my own personal choice to feel at ease to marry these two ways inside myself. Why should I feel conflicted at all? And will not feeling conflicted about this make me less than qualified to write about my experience in a literary way? Will not feeling conflicted about this somehow reduce me in the eyes of those with more one-pointed devotion to one or the other? Should merging the two within me offend anyone?
Once, I was told my writing would be banned in India. Very well, I live in the States, and so far no one has banned my writing. Hell, my writing is not even officially published and read by few! I am whispering underground, not causing a ripple. Nothing is going viral on this blog. It would be exciting to know this writing had any impact at all.
Two aspects of embracing the Inner Engineering program provoke me into inner wrestling: 1. the actual physical yoga practice is very beautiful, very elegant, yet it feels too “easy,” or too gentle, as though my physical body has already been stretched, squeezed, and kicked beyond the lessons of this Inner Engineering completion practice — The Shambhavi Mahamudra. Be this as it may, I still engage Shambhavi Mahamudra practice with sincerity and alertness to my koshas. The day we learn the preparatory exercises, my partner that I am working with — a stranger named Asmita whom I have just met here — corrects the way I am doing Cat / Cow. What? Such a basic practice I’ve done for years; she corrects me? Here is an inward pang of wounded pride… Ok. Ok. So, I listen. Bummed. I adjust according to her remarks. I force myself to be grateful to be here, but now I have to admit that a big part of me privately grumbles and wishes this random stranger who is correcting me could see, feel, know and appreciate my last five years of daily Sadhana. 2. No one else is dressed in white or wearing a head wrap. Clearly I am the only openly apparent Yogi Bhajan fan here, which pokes and provokes my consciousness in the realm of my sense of belonging.
So I observe how all of this plays out internally on every level — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual: Where do I need patience and tolerance? Where do I need to release my sense of knowing and just be a beginner again? What does it mean to me to feel intuitively linked to Sadhguru because I fell in love with his written work? Whereas, when I read Yogi Bhajan’s Master’s Touch, I am still uneasy with a constant voice in me that cries out, this book needs major editing! I am a word lover, a lover of literature, and so the character of my struggle involves relating to words; this is how my path unfolds. It’s in the fabric of my being, and as a yogi, word-loving gets me into as much trouble as it does elevate me. Ok. So Yogi Bhajan was no literary genius (too many platitudes?), but his yoga kriyas are perfect masterpieces.
I practice Cat / Cow, and I wonder. How do I bring more energy into being receptive to both teachers instead of getting entangled in feelings of partiality toward one or the other? I internally vow not to be partial but to be expansive, not to feel divided but to unify. Now, I can embrace that there is not either one way or another. There is all. And I am as much an Isha as I am an Aquarian Teacher. What does this look like in my being? What is the sum total of the two put together? Sadhguru’s Isha plus Yogi Bhajan’s Happy, Healthy, Holy equals the Source of Creative Energy smiling upon the committed Aquarian Teacher and then some…? What sum? There can never be a measure of Infinity!
Now, does this mean that I am a spiritual window shopper who turns wishy washy in her commitment to a path? Also, how shall I refine my sense of belonging? Can I be with grace and at ease with all that I sense and see as a kundalini yogi in a hatha program? What does this sense that I expand to listen to Sadhguru’s wisdom mean for my sensitivities regarding commitment, divinity, and grace? What happens within me when the Yogi Bhajan teachings and Sadhguru teachings seem to contradict?
This essay is not an attempt to answer these questions but to ask them. I am writing my way into an ecstatic dance between the contemplative seeker and the mysterious unknown.
From what I sense inside, I know this one thing I learned from Yogi Bhajan gives me the strength and curiosity to explore the Inner Engineering Hatha approach: kundalini yoga nurtures my fearless love affair with Infinity. I will need to be committed to smiling and expanding beyond any energy that wants to insist that I am somehow deficient or conflicted just because I can embrace both paths. I know that the teachings of Yogi Bhajan and Sadhguru can work within my inner life in perfect harmony.
If forces outside of me compel my mind to get ruffled over conclusions that different teachings are somehow at odds with one another or somehow not congruent or some kind of shortcoming, then I will slow down to observe what it is in the universe that would create such a shortcoming of perception?
In the Master’s Touch Yogi Bhajan says, “don’t learn by questioning; learn by blessing.” Yet, when I read Thomas Larson, he discusses the ways the best spiritual writers have earned the readers’ trust through the ways and means of coping with real-life struggle that involves a lot of wrestling with fears, doubts, and critical questions. Blessing and questioning — Beloved Yogi Ji, as a contemplative writer I will have to practice both blessing AND questioning.
Besides, what I like about Sadhguru is that he is a good writer. He is extraordinary in his eloquence. When he communicates, every word makes sense. There is no expression that is wasted on nonsense or psycho-spiritual babble, no barbed negativity to make the listener / student feel disdained. Sadhguru speaks from a crystal clear consciousness to a crystal clear consciousness and does not play psychological games. He makes me more alert to when a teacher is playing games. Challenges to the spirit are one thing, psychological manipulation is another; and it is an important level of discernment needed to strengthen a spiritual seeker to know the difference.
But beyond any need to explain, I can deeply enjoy the ways that my inner life reconciles all kinds of teachers and teachings in nuanced ways that reveal the how and why, “all roads lead to the one.” Be it a blessing or a curse, it is the word-lover’s wont to put more words and stories to it than that; thus, I feel compelled to add my unique expression to “all roads lead to the one.” Writing here simply reveals one unique being’s unfolding. As Sadhguru says, “There is oneness in existence and uniqueness in all beings. The essence of spirituality is to recognize and enjoy this.”
Yogi Bhajan and Sadhguru are one. In their being, they are unique. I am blessed to be able to recognize this and deeply enjoy here. The True Guru within me has given me this treasure. Wahe Guru! This kind of expression is inspired by reading and bowing to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
Infinite pranams to Sadhguru. Infinite pranams to Yogi Bhajan. Infinite pranams to you, Dear Reader, who is always Welcome into the home of my internal world where these teachers from different times and spaces enjoy perfect union. Welcome to the Home of Sat Chit Ananda that is within me and inextricably linked to my love for infinite varieties of the expressions of the Word.
In kundalini yoga practices, we first tune in with a mantra Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, an expression of bowing to the divine teacher within the Self and within all things. Still, writing here feels like going out on a limb; bringing these two teachers together to celebrate Guru Purnima July 16, 2019 is likely my own unique experience. This is what I celebrate. Let’s continue to come together, reach out to one another, roar together, and keep in touch.
There is no conflict here. Life is rich. Teachings are vast. Cosmic consciousness creates the path.
Sat Nam! Namaskaram! Sat Nam! Namaskaram! Sat Nam! Namaskaram!
I embark on a journey off the map, off the yoga mat, out of time, and out of orbit. Against Father’s wishes (naturally!). I find myself sitting in a dense forest of consciousness. Human consciousness. Light consciousness. Flower consciousness. Tree consciousness. Stone consciousness. Insect consciousness. God consciousness.
Before all grows dark here, there is opportunity to read Spirituality and the Writer by Thomas Larson.
No need to move the body. Let the eyes move across the page. Let the mind process the meaning of words, but that is not all the consciousness experiences now. There is also the awareness of primal stillness, a silence so heavy with presence that we could wear it as a warm garment in the cold Himalayas. Let the presence of primal stillness be the robe you wear! And look at the spaces between these words! Sense the borderless, the unfathomable, limitless uncertainty, the heartbeat of Ardhanareeshwara and Saint Augustine. Sense the synaptic activity within the brain of both Kabir and Leo Tolstoy. Indulge the solitary visions of Dattatreya and Julian of Norwich. Is it possible to open up and allow the tears of Rumi and Margery Kempe to burn these reading eyes? Is it possible to listen so deeply and with such longing that by reading these words, these ears hear a fierce roar that is a collective cry from the depths of all these beings’ collective consciousness…? Is it possible to open this heart even more to allow every word such pulmonary impact as to oxygenate the blood flowing through these veins now?
Thomas Larson’s personal inquiry into the history of spiritual writing ignites fire within me. Poised aflame in this way, I embark upon a literary pilgrimage, a word yatra… There are no temple walls, no paths, no teachers, no teachings. There is only willingness to be sucked into this black hole that is the unambivalent, exuberant absorption into the subject of Larson’s inquiry: contemplate the extent and the ways of “the writer’s ability to bring his spirituality into syntactic being.”
If only I could shout out and make echo my cry through the tunnels of time: “Beloved ones, all your words have a passionate Lover… Yogi Ma!
I deeply appreciate the reverent way Laron writes about Peter Mattheissen’s Snow Leopard. His respect for Mattheissen’s process presents the layers and beauty of the inner journey that inspire me to be alert to every eternity within this moment. Zen with infinite Zero within one single breath that is with me and one with the Pavan Guru.
So, I add Thomas Larson to my ever-growing list of men for whom I chant So Purkh. I cannot say that I am chanting for any particular reason or means to any end. I have lost faith and am not religious. I simply love the feeling of this Shabad on my tongue and the way it dances on the upper palate of my mouth. Delicious! I roar. Delicious! It’s pure and simple infinite sensual pleasure. Roaring the So Purkh Shabad makes my heart grow large enough to fit everything into its embrace. Roaring the So Purkh Shabad gives me strength to fall madly in love with myself and the universe. Thomas Larson and many of these other men will never know that I roar So Purkh on their behalf (such is the ignorance of men!). Oh why is it that sometimes I still like to squirm and wonder and wrestle over a maddening contemplation: what difference does it make to chant So Purkh for men and total strangers? And when this line of inquiry makes me mad, I roar that Shabad some more. Beloved Guru Ram Das, can you hear me?
Thank you, Spirituality and the Writer for being here with me. As I go, I hang this book upon the Pole Star. I watch the book float weightless at midnight. I ride this book on the heaving surf of the Primordial Ocean. And when the pages are wet with sea water, I use them to wash my body clean. I am happy. My interior horizons quiver and quake with In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. The beings in this beginning realm never intended books as sources of knowledge. Maybe books are beings that cradle the Word / God and bend time and space and illuminate the inner life with deeper wonder and awe. Books are the tantric shelter. Books are bridges.
I cannot contain the expressive storm much longer. Silence between these two heart beats grows louder than thunder. I have already begged the Primal Being make me Her / His / or Its humble scribe. I have already roared and screamed and sang out crazy wisdom to no one. No one reads a joyful writer. Why is it that writers must always give best expression to the tortured soul to win praises from cool guys like Thomas Larson? Oh, great, have I written myself into a corner where I can finally mope and brood? Ugh! Help!
I am empty.
So, now I shall wait.
Yogi Bhajan said the highest art is to sit and wait and let it come. Am I supposed to believe that when I had embraced with my heart the highest art is literature…? Oh, well. I have no more faith in any of it at all anymore, not art, not yoga. So now is the best moment to sit and wait and let it come. Imagine reading an endless book called The History of Waiting. Let’s hang that one on the Pole Star!
Come, thunder! Come, lightning! Come, all dark intensity!
In Fall 2013, I began my journey into devotion. I set out to practice and study kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. I set out with sincerity, on a path with heart.
When I observed that people who practice the teachings of Yogi Bhajan feel inclined to embrace spiritual names, I grew curious.
I wondered what my spiritual name might be.
So, I followed the current process of acquiring a spiritual name. In the days when Yogi Bhajan walked upon this Earth in a physical body, he gave his students spiritual names. Yogi Bhajan no longer dwells in his physical body, so to acquire a spiritual name, I needed to visit the 3HO website to fill out an online form to request a spiritual name. I happily offered a donation for this service.
I must admit this online process did not feel warm or ceremonious. In my heart I had hoped for something quiet and sacred, imagining an austere GuruDevi speaking my destiny name off her tongue and into my heart; I imagined an organic process with fire, water, and fragrance that would crystalize my destiny into the cosmic consciousness. I must admit I longed for something more intimate and ceremonious than this online routine that felt no different from filling out paperwork at the DMV.
I clicked “submit,” and a few days later, I received an e mail. My spiritual name arrived to me in a formulated missive that said “Sat Nam dear sister in divine. You have been blessed to live as Surjot Kaur…”. The message continued, graciously, to explain what the name means. There was no explanation as to how someone arrived at this name, nor who that someone wat. I read the message on my cell phone while I was pumping gas. When the tank was full, I closed my eyes for a moment and held in my breath. Inwardly I repeated the name several times. I tried to feel that this name belonged to me. Surjot Kaur. Surjot Kaur. Surjot Kaur? Hmmmm.
At the moment I shrugged and thought to myself, Oh, I still like Rebecca better.
When I shared my name with my teacher, Krishna Kaur, she said, “We should be calling you by that name.” When she said this, she was so true and pure in her projection of love and endurance that I had to surrender to her guidance. As someone who “goes with the flow,” I embraced the name Surjot Kaur and have been using it ever since.
But recently, I suffered a broken heart. It’s not a broken heart of a lost romantic love. No. This break goes deeper than that, and there are not sufficient words for this pain. I have suffered injury in my Spiritual Heart. The yogis say there is an etheric place behind the heart where there burns a flame of infinite one heart consciousness. For Surjot Kaur, some strange intruder had moved in upon that flame and compromised its Akashic Prana. A cold and careless force had tricked that flame and sucked out its mystical essence. The flame lost its dance. Weird energy betrayed the radiance of that flame. Ever since this Spiritual Heart was injured, Surjot Kaur endured severe physical, mental, and energetic pain. She had a difficult time focusing, and she really did not want to live any longer.
Alas, she has given up the ghost. Surjot Kaur is dead.
In some spiritual dimension, this afront to the spiritual heart killed Surjot Kaur. Gratefully, she took her last breath while watching Jimmy Fallon’s “Ew!” with her two daughters. Such a silly show! What a weird death! But Surjot was laughing with her daughters. There is no greater joy in the universe. That Mama laughter turned hard and primal and expanded to laughter at All of Life and laughter at Death and Great Cosmic Laughter. In that moment, Surjot Kaur’s heart stopped beating. Right there, she died. She felt released forever from living with a heart that had gotten tossed out in the cold and was abandoned. Surjot Kaur discarded this body.
Surjot Kaur died laughing.
If it sounds unbelievable, just relax into feeling this is just a story. It’s very true in some aspects but may seem embellished and strange, depending on the reader’s states of consciousness. It doesn’t matter; sit back, relax, and enjoy. But get this — after Surjot died, an unknown yogi who had been searching for a new body took up residency in Surjot Kaur’s body. Contrary to what Surjot had always assumed, it is actually surprisingly easy to discard the body, and surprisingly easy for transference of consciousness to occur. And now the flame in the Spiritual Heart of this physical body dances again, and it dances with Breath of God and the Breath of Life and Lord Shiva and Allah, Jehova, Rama, Jesus Christ, Sat Nam, Mother Nature, and Hallelujah!
Now, I continue on my path as Yogi Ma. This is a name that arose from within me. This is a name Surjot Kaur died into and the name that shall give rebirth to this Spiritual Heart. Yogi Ma is easy for everyone to say, and it suits me.
Yogi Ma shall live a destiny that Kabir advises: “We come into this world crying, and everyone around us is laughing. We must live in such a way that when we leave this world, we leave laughing while everyone else around us is crying.”
I have a dear friend and fellow yoga practitioner, Mariel, who has also recently witnessed a death to her being. So, together we went to the beach, burned some herbs, sticks, flowers, grains, and money. We rubbed the hot ashes on our foreheads. We carried more hot ashes to the ocean. We tossed the remains to the vastness as we spoke some gentle parting words to say goodbye to Surjot Kaur and to Mariel. This was intimate. This was a ceremony. This felt sacred.
She and I sat for a long while in silence. We rose from our meditation, reborn.
I bless myself to live as Yogi Ma. I am destined to live as Yogi Ma, whose flame shall dance on, a dance with true friends, the stars, the cosmos, the heavens, and Mother Earth.