How to Suffer Well

How to Suffer Well

At the speed of thought, let us journey to Mount Kailash!

Mount Kailash is a yogi’s spiritual library. The mind is a gift, and we have it in our power to use the mind to make the path of divine consciousness simple — make the mind a Mount Kailash!

Keep up, and keep it simple.

Life often tries to push complicated challenges into the consciousness.

For instance, when we try to wrap our thoughts or emotions around it, who or what with human capabilities will be able to solve the critical puzzle that is the combative relations between the United States and Iran? For now, right here, such a puzzle presents itself on the breakfast table in the shape of a newspaper article. Perhaps one feels helpless, like all we can do about it is hang our heads and sigh and worry over what next? As crazy as it may sound, death is prescribed for us all at every moment anyway. A yogi just observes. Knowing Death is now, we are charged with the responsibility to turn worries into wonders. How? Smile and be everywhere: what of gloomy and doomy international affairs or personal setbacks when viewed from the top of Mount Kailash? Let us be everywhere now — you and I — with the peak of Mount Kailash! Let us, up there, continue to hear as we sing the Beloved’s name over and over. Come what may!

The Spiritual Marketplace

Then there is the spiritual marketplace. Oh yogi, forget today’s spiritual marketplace, the noisy community that continually offers to clutter spiritual life with trainings, yatras, workshops, classes, affirmations, self-help, a life coach, retreats, and opportunities to sit with gurus, masters, and lightworkers. All are overpriced and unnecessarily opulent. What a racket! { And there is no time and space in this blog to go into the racket that is the Writer’s Market! Oy! }

Never mind all that!

Mind Kailash!

With all this racket, Honey, let’s stay home! Practice yourself to be your Self.

This little yogi went to market!

This little Yogi Ma stays home.

I am totally content to be right here with a mountain of books. Stay fit, joyful, and playful. Who can afford to pay $5,000 a year to travel to far off, crumbling shrines?

God is right here where I bow my head … at home. And my home, as is your home, is a perfect “energy vortex.”

Or Simply Go to the Library

This blog post celebrates seven books (see below) for those who seek delight and keep their journey light, easy, affordable, and playful. Books offer the journey on a shoestring budget, and if you check them out from the beloved public library, the journey is free! Your next journey into consciousness is as close and affordable as your local public library.

First, let’s approach these books with a practice to strengthen the navel center:

Balance all seven books on your belly and breathe long and deep.

Here are the benefits of this exercise:

  • Big cosmic laughter.
  • A light heart.
  • Appreciation for your mischievous self (as this balancing act is not an ancient practice from any tradition. It’s just silly).
  • Increases what Music Together teachers call your S.Q. (Silly Quotient).
  • Entertains your children.
  • Keeps life playful and allows you to not take your or anyone else’s spiritual journey overly seriously all the time.

The way I see it, if we leave home and go out into the wilderness of spiritual seeking in today’s world, we get bombarded with modalities that seem to me to be out of touch with Life and Wonder. Sometimes spiritual teachers promise strange and fluffy stuff, like “access to ascension codes,” “Third-Eye activation,” “find your unique client-attraction code,” “drop your story and be liberated,” “go into no mind,” “star-being initiation” Frankly, to me, none of this rings true. Yogi Bhajan taught self-initiation. I am self initiated, and here is what that looks like to me:

For this moment, let’s agree that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Then, doesn’t it seem strange to claim spiritual experience involves ascending, activating or in need of special codes? As for dropping your story and going into no mind, well, that is nothing more than intimidating word-wizardry that spiritual teachers use to trick seekers into attending the next level workshop, training, retreat, or yatra. Beware of ways teachers try to keep students feeling in need of tutelage! Why would only a select few “ascended beings” have any more access to spiritual truths than you yourself in your own heart, in your own home? Being alive and breathing, don’t we already have the codes? Dear reader, you are The Code! Sing the Beloved’s name! That’s all. Be fully human and full of humor and full of humanity — full of humus close to the Earth, and Earth is divine enough. Stop ignoring Mother Earth’s divinity! And floating out there is even the twisted notion that Westerners do not have reverence; well, that’s not true. Plenty of Americans (not speaking here for All) have deep reverence for irreverence. And there are plenty of good reasons for this.

My own spiritual path has not taken to downloading blue prints from invisible “higher” realms or acquiring secret yogic transmissions. My spiritual path and inner teacher continue to encourage me to celebrate simple gifts. Two divine simple gifts I celebrate with every drop of my life’s blood are the breath of life and the written word. Breath of life and the written word, my dear Friend, everybody has access to those.

Praise breath! Praise the blank page! Praise words! Prasie books! Praise the sunlight shining upon the page! Praise every breath taken by every creature! Praise every word ever written on the page or in the heart!

Intention

So here is the intention: Bow to every word that was put down in these books.

In the intro to his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer Brother David expressed a humble curiosity about whether or not anyone actually reads the introductions of books; who reads entire books at all? Even short ones? Don’t most people just skim? Dear Brother, yes, I can relate to this uncertainty. To Brother David, I humbly offer my small assurance that with a reader like me, he need not worry about that. I read slowly and relish every word.

Not only do I read every word, but I bow to every word.

I bow to every word set down by each of these seven writers in each of these seven books. That’s a lot of bowing. That is what this one yogi practices in her spiritual library: Infinite Pranams.

Meditation Practice

Thank God Yogi Bhajan gave the “Meditation for the Sunrise.” Practicing this kriya with theses books and the sun in mind fuels my devotion. Every bow is bowing to the efforts the writers made to put the words down to the page. I bow to every effort every writer has ever made putting words down on the page. I bow to the page. I bow to the sun shining on the page. Effort to write well, that is what I choose to relate to! Effort to write well, that is how I choose to suffer well. Effort to write well and pulling it off fills me with awe!

I know that when yogi’s say Mount Kailash is a tremendous spiritual library they do not mean it is a literal library with physical books. They are pointing to the etheric tomes of spiritual knowledge that have been deposited at the foot of that mountain since the beginning of Time. Meta-spiritual volumes of experiential wisdom have been absorbed into the stone, sky, and snow, absorbed into the heart of the mountain. So, I am fathoming this stack of seven books as a metaphor for Kailash.

I stacked these seven books one on top of the other on the table or on my belly or on my third eye. I imagine these seven books to be my own murti (symbolic icon) of Mount Kailash. May bowing to every word of these books extend to an expression of bowing to the library of teachings that is Mount Kailash.

Go to Mount Kailash Inside

Yogis in the past journeyed to Mount Kailash, often at the end of their lives, to deposit the teachings that they could not transmit to anyone because no student was willing or able to understand or internalize the beauty, profundity, ecstasy, austerity, and potential those yogis held inside them. It’s a human tragedy that repeats itself — humble beings continually resist the exuberance of fully-bloomed, conscious, authentic give-and-receive student-teacher relatedness.

Beloved Friend, how I can relate to this kind of problem! For years I have been patiently abiding close to folks who poo-poo all things yoga or yogis who just don’t understand the writer’s soul. Mostly there is a lot of why should I care? Words I say and messages I send repeatedly fall on deaf ears in the human realm. So I, too, long to visit Mount Kailash, to pay my undying respects and lay my burden down. My guru is a mountain. My guru is a spiritual library. I make myself a reflection of my guru. Someday, I shall approach my guru with volumes and volumes of secret books and funny stories in my heart. I shall go to my guru and release all this radiance and watch myself die, again!

Seven Books

Here, these seven books (listed below) have brought me joy and comfort while I have been braving the Sorrowful Mysteries.

Over these first eleven days of this new year, new decade, I have been practicing “Meditation for the Sunrise” as an expression of my gratitude toward these books and their authors and it is all symbolic of my relationship to Mount Kailash. Every reading experience is a gesture of internalizing the spiritual library.

Shakti Rising by Kavitha Chinnaiyan gives a seeker the Mahavidya Sadhana. This is a way to welcome the Goddess within to confront every inner conflict that arises on life’s path. Mahavidyas dance up and down my spine.

The Singing Guru by Kamla K. Kapur is a novel about Guru Nanak and his rababi, Mardana, the poets and composers of Japji Sahib, the song of the soul, a prayer poem that I chant every morning. This novel redeems the darkest negativity and changes it to pure light of the divine. Reading this book put malyanil into my skull. Malyanil is “the breeze that brings intimations of eternity.”

In the Shetler by Padraig O Tuama is a gift to the universe. This book helps us say hello to everything. Hello to the things we would never say. Hello to the wrong questions. Hello to shelter. This body is not a trap but a shelter, and a sense of sanctuary vibrates in the blood flow through my heart.

The Seven Story Moutnain by Thomas Merton offers great insight. Oh yogi, what joy to feel called to the Cloister. This book makes me hear that call, too. Now I am a yogi, and a now I am a Trappist monk! Reading this book is a Baptism; my central nervous system floods with sacred waters!

Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast is a rainbow that appears to surprise and to delight! I maintained a huge smile within every part of my body as I read this book!

Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins is hilarious. I love to laugh and can always count on Tom Robbins to keep me light hearted no matter what I am going through. This book reveals his gift to live simultaneously in the rational world and the world of the imagination. Behold the imagination!

Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga by Sadhguru gives me 1,008 reasons to continue on my path as a yogi, writer, and mother. This book gives me 1,008 more reasons to continue my relationship with Mount Kailash.

These seven are an eclectic mix of books to read, but we can be grateful that these days we need not overly identify with any one teacher, teaching, writer, or tradition so as to be limited. Intelligence can be soft like wax. The mind can be a mountain. No, this is not what some complain is spiritual window shopping; we are breathing, thinking, playing, dwelling, dancing spiritual libraries. Yes, be everywhere at home a spiritual library now!

Closing Prayer

Beloved world, may we realize we do not need weapons, stress, mind games, fierce competition, phoniness, enemies, misunderstandings, marketing schemes, or strict rules. Constantly remember the name of the nameless Beloved One … whatever name that may be. Remember, remember. May this mind be Mount Kailash. Come what may! May we realize the treasure of reading slowly and bowing slowly and breathing slowly. Praise the breath of the Sun! Praise the written and unwritten words throughout all time and space! Breathe with the Sun. Praise the breath of the Sun!

Sat Naam!

© Rebecca Jane, Yogi Ma

31 Minutes and 40 Seconds Under This Cold Moon

31 Minutes and 40 Seconds Under This Cold Moon

Elif Shafak’s novel 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World begins with The End.

Leila, the main character, is dead.

For 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her body is physically dead, Leila’s mind is still active. Shafak’s novel follows this mind activity. Though Leila was murdered in Istanbul, and her body is thrown in a dumpster, her mind’s activity guides a reader to witness a life injured by sexual abuse but redeemed by friendship; a reader reflects and feels awe what this life cut short by violent death can inspire in Leila’s friends, the sacrifices they make for her that benefit Leila beyond the grave.

What insights does Tequila Leila’s life and death offer a yogi?

Can reading this novel while practicing “Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels Of Ether” (see below) refine the chitta (witnessing awareness)? Can this practice under this decade’s last full moon bring increased receptivity and sensitivity in the yogi? Can it bring honor to the dead? Can the practice of being aware of my own being while reading this novel elevate this consciousness in this living process here and now?

No doubt this novel helps inspire a reader’s compassion for Leila. What does that compassion feel like in my body while I read? When do I cry for her? When do I laugh with her? And I assume that any reader, not just a yogi, will feel the burning flame of inner anger when Leila’s father lies to her and when her uncle sexually abuses her. What discomfort am I feeling in my own body when imagining her body brutally murdered and abandoned in the trash? My hip hurts. My neck hurts. The kundalini energy in my spine has gone back to sleep for now. How is the Adi Shakti within me ever going to rise again while I am reading and witnessing yet another incident of the world’s cruel treatment of a beautiful woman?

This blog post explores a way to give full expression to compassion toward Tequila Leila and her friends in this novel. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to dedicate a meditation to these characters and also write about my respect for their souls. Though these characters are fictional creations of the author, their struggles are true to many real life people in the world today. This post attempts to broadcast an intention: Extend immense compassion, honor, and respect to real life people with the same struggles as Tequila Leila and her friends. Perhaps this creates a shelter, of sorts, for “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live” (Irish blessing).

Shafak’s novel is a reflection on a life in the context of the body’s death process. This is intriguing to read as a yogi because yogic teachings on death encourage a yoga practitioner to live every moment in heightened awareness so as to bring heightened awareness to the moments of death.

Yogis mostly choose when to discard the body, and do so in awareness. This is not suicide or euthanasia, but Maha Samadhi. A yogi knows how to die sitting in meditation with a smile on her face. She chooses to do this when life force is running out but before the body gets so radically feeble that it would need drugs to avoid pain. She chooses her time before the mind grows so radically demented that it cannot function in meditation. A yogi knows when and how to exit gracefully. Discard the body like discarding clothing.

Preparing for a conscious death involves being totally aware in every moment in life. So, how shall we be in awareness when reading about Tequila Leila’s life and death? Being in awareness as a reader of a novel means being aware of the frequencies the story is resonating into the layers of the subconscious mind. If a reader slowly witnesses the impact this story is having upon her own psyche, she can consciously work with these energies to transform the inner “trauma into dharma.” The way to witness this process is meditation. When a story flows through a yogi’s psyche, she can consciously summon the frequencies of compassion and healing to meet the story as its impact echoes throughout the universe within her. So regardless of how my kundalini is reacting to this story, I know I can get Her to RISE again!

When She rises, she is bringing Leila with her! Oh, yogi! Meditate!

Photo by Burak Karaduman on Pexels.com

According to yogic wisdom, after death, the mind does continue its activity. Thoughts that are projected from any living person continue to ripple out in the subtle realm for at least three-day’s time.  For Elif Shafak’s purposes  with this particular novel, the 10 minute and 38 seconds time frame comes from scientific observations that have been able to record actual physical brain activity after a person is pronounced clinically dead. Scientists have observed that the brain can remain active for up to 10 minutes and 38 seconds after the body dies.

Yogis say the death process for the body takes up to twenty two minutes for ALL the pulses in the physical body and then subtle body to slow down and stop. The last pulse to stop in the subtle body — always whispering more quietly than the pulse of the physical heartbeat — is the pulse at the center of the shushmani channel, the pulse within the center of the Sukhmani Nadi. But who really knows, maybe the time it takes for any one being to stop pulsing is actually quite different for everyone and every situation. But for our purposes here and now, let’s say that if during her lifetime a yogi cultivates awareness and even a loving relationship between her consciousness and the pulse at the center of her spine, she is likely to be loving and aware at the time of her death. She will be aware of how to launch her soul’s energy up into the Sukhmani Nadi and straight through the Brahmarandara at the time of death. If that’s so important…

Let’s wonder for a moment: if you know you have a choice, would you choose to discard your body while you are still able to be aware of the extremely subtle activity within the shushmana? Or, would you live on through months or years of pain, suffering, and illness just to stay alive in this world one more day, month, or year? But these questions are beyond the scope of this blog post … it’s okay to drift beyond scope, but let’s try to return to Leila.

Well the only point in understanding here that for a yogi, discarding the body in a seated position helps create the link between the consciousness, the spine, and the heavens. Then go! Wahe Guru! This is the frame of reference from which I am reading this novel and meditating on behalf of its characters.

Of course, we know discarding the body while seated in meditation is not a choice that Tequila Leila has in the novel; that missed opportunity for Leila makes her story that much sadder for my own yogi reader’s awareness.

Leila was brutally murdered. What about the situation of murder, yogi?

So what kind of impact does witnessing her situation have upon this yogi’s psyche? What can a yogi do to extend some compassionate energy into the real-life Tequila Leilas out there?

Suppose a yogi practices a particular meditation that is helpful for the afterlife and dedicates such a practice to the characters in this novel; can such a seemingly insignificant gesture help anyone cope, bring healing, and restore balance to the universe?

Can such a practice help the collective psyche to bring more awareness to the death process? How can the devotion of Leila’s friends bring more awareness to the grieving process? Is it possible for the events in a novel to increase a reader’s compassion for the afterlife process for all people, whether they be our dearly beloved, friends, acquaintance, celebrities, singers, strangers, and even those judged as companionless outcasts?  

Let’s begin to lovingly approach these questions with something concrete: time.

10 minutes and 38 seconds is a limit. Of course the novel explores beyond these minutes. As expansive beings, we cannot help but exceed the limits. That’s good news.

In yogic meditation, we often sit for a set amount of time. Minutes of meditation have different significance. The amount of time spent sitting in meditation effects the body in different ways. 3 minutes impacts the blood and circulation. 11 minutes has an impact on the pituitary gland and the nerves. Meditating for 22 minutes brings the positive mind, negative mind, and neutral mind into balance. 31 minutes resets the whole mind and brings 31 elements and aura into balance. 62 minutes integrates the “shadow mind” and the positive projection. 2 ½ hours completes a cycle of prana (inward flow of life force energy) and apana (outward flow of life force energy); clear states reached here will stick throughout the cycle of the day and make a lasting imprint on the level of the subconscious mind.

So a novel exploring the mind, body, and soul in the minutes after death appeals to this yogi. A dead being’s subtle energy is still making an imprint in the living realm; meanwhile it’s dimensions are defused and also passing to the Hereafter, moving beyond.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com

Here is a meditation that was taught by Yogi Bhajan that I practiced during and after reading Elif Shafak’s novel. I dedicated this practice to Tequila Leila and her friends in this novel and to the real-life versions of these characters.

The meditation is called

“Meditation to Go Through Death into the Higher Levels of Ether.”

Sit with a tall spine, in a chair with feet on the floor or sit on the floor with the legs crossed. Place hands in “Prayer Mudra” (both palms pressed together). Place the mudra at the heart center and turn the fingers so they point forward straight out from the heart. The thumbs will be pointing straight up to the sky; now, separate the thumbs — they are like the horns of a ram — point slightly outwards. The elbows are tucked into the sides. Eyes are closed but slightly open with the eyeballs focused at the tip on the nose.

Deeply inhale. While the breath is going out, chant aloud this mantra:

Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Har.

( Pronounced Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hud ).

Deeply inhale again. Again, chant the mantra while the breath is exhaled.  Continue this pattern for 31 minutes.

Yogi Bhajan said that this meditation is a technical, subtle, and powerful way to build your circumvent field.  He said, “It’s a circumvent meditation that takes care of your problems in the hereafter.” The circumvent field is the electromagnetic field that surrounds the body. It’s important to note that yogis feel into realms of mind, body, soul (also the titles of the three parts of Shafak’s novel) but also emotion, and most importantly ENERGY. There is a subtle energy body that journeys with us through the death process, too. Meditation in every moment in life helps.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the novel, when Tequila Leila is buried in the Cemetery of the Companionless, her five closest friends agree that this is an injustice, so they take unexpected actions to right this wrong. Their collective effort is humorous, bold, and frightening; and while their actions give hope, they also provide a fresh vision for how we might “rethink everything we do and the way we are doing it” when it comes to taking care of our dead. This book helps us to feel called upon to rethink the way we do death and grieving and burial ceremonies. And if we can “go through death into the higher levels of ether,” how can our entrance into the higher levels of ether benefit those we leave behind in the living realm?  

It is no coincidence that yogis talk about the realm of Blue Ethers and Leila merges with a Blue Betta Fish in the hereafter. The color blue is consistent with both versions of the hereafter experience.   

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

So over the days that I was reading 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, I was also practicing “Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels of Ethers” for 31 minutes. This novel and meditation go well together! Add to that, the 40 seconds of silence when the meditation ends. Those 40 seconds are most important of all. The silence — empowered by meditative creative intention — are the 40 seconds of regeneration of the yogi’s inner cosmos. That’s why the title of this blog post is 31 minutes and 40 seconds under this cold moon.

And the Cold Moon is this last full moon of this decade. My full moon ritual is writing about this book.

The cold moon gifts us the energy of Long Nights. Additionally, the most active meteor shower, the Geminids Meteor Shower occurs during this last full moon of 2019. The moon is full at precisely 12:12 AM EST on 12/12. Some say this full moon brings emotional insight and hope. Well, then, Let’s huddle in close and cry for Leila and hope we learn and improve from having known her!

The full moon is a time to feel complete. This year is complete. I am complete. This project is complete. The full moon is also always a good time to release what no longer serves.

Collectively, may the cruel world release the following bad habits that do not serve: murder, gun violence, sexual abuse, social rejection, families disowning their blood relations, lies, fraud, cynicism, superficiality, superiority complexes, cowardice, greed, ignorance, and all outdated and tired traditions that hurt people rather than elevate people.

The Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels of Ether at this moment in time is intended to serve any psyche that wishes to let go of forces that create unfair pain and suffering in every life; but my particular practice of it here and now is especially intended to offer space for healing in any lives similar to that of Tequila Leila from the book 10 minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World.

May those who endure childhood sexual abuse find deep inner healing. May those who work in the sex industry realize their truths and gifts and feel liberated from the indignities, cruelty, violence, and judgements continually thrust upon them. May people who think they are men and women of God, and often regard themselves as somehow spiritually superior to everyone else, come to new understandings about the ways of Grace and blessings. May the ways of Grace and blessings never deem any being, not even the smallest worm, “unworthy.” May those who haven’t the courage to speak the truth that dwells in their hearts find courage to sing their heart’s true song before it is “too late.”

Infinite gratitude to Elif Shafak for her work as a writer of profound insight, imagination, and compassion. May she continue to create literary masterpieces that fill us with hope and inspiration.

Sat Naam!

Cosmic Book Club

Cosmic Book Club

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…

Anyway…

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:

black pepper

cinnamon

cardamom

clove

ginger

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!