Sunday, February 26, 2012

Are We What We Eat?

{This was first published on Spirit Voyage Blog}

A few years ago I really truly believed the statement “you are what you eat.” As long as it was uncooked, vegan, organic, and preferably local, it might stand a chance of making it onto my plate or into my Vitamix blender.
Otherwise, it was not “pure” enough to enter into the temple of my body.
I conceived of my relationship to food as a relationship to my Highest Self. Eating the freshest, tastiest, most colorful fare was my birthright and I was so thankful for Mother Nature’s abundant bounty.
I had a wake-up call when I entered the Kundalini Yoga world. On my first trip to Summer Solstice I was a little dismayed to discover that the “cleansing diet” consisted of cooked grains and legumes, and boiled vegetables—a far cry from my ideal fare. And yet, I recognized that these yogis had a brightness to them that (I thought) could only be the result of a pristine diet. But it wasn’t...
It took me a little while, but eventually I had a break through: a strict diet was apt to perform certain miracles, but there were some things better food just couldn’t do.
I learned a healthier diet CAN promise:
1. A Deeper Connection: Most accounts of raw foodists aren’t simply amazing stories of victory over physical ailments. Many tell of how they felt a much deeper connection to God as a result of their new diet. Eating a “sattvic” diet is actually a very old yogic principle. It’s one of the reasons why yogis are encouraged to abstain from foods that are difficult to digest and eliminate (i.e. meat products), as well as intoxicants. Eating a simpler and cleaner diet will definitely make it easier to wake up early and meditate.
2. Diet Changes Into Life Changes: For many people, including me, eating a diet that is richer in nutrients, and poorer in fillers, can bring enormous mental clarity. It was this clarity that, I believe, created a space for the Universe to enter... and then I discoveredyoga! In other words, diet change is a good start to a shift in consciousness.
3. Discipline: Eating an all living food diet was the most difficult thing I’ve ever put myself through. I didn’t want to eat out at restaurants with my family or non-raw friends. I spent hours of my day making elaborate meals so I didn’t get bored of salads. I had to plan my entire day around food: after all, I might get hungry and end up stranded with no viable food options. It was a neurotic sadhana for sure, but it certainly prepared me for wearing a turban and meditating every day. My lifestyle now seems like a piece of cake (that I can actually eat now!)!
I learned a healthier diet CANNOT promise:
1. Self-love: The way you look does not determine the way you feel about yourself. The way you feel about your self determines the way you feel you look. When I was eating only raw food and I looked in the mirror, I still saw my flaws first. Even though my skin was shinier, my waist was thinner, and my eyes were clearer, I didn’t appreciate it. The “could be better” disease still exists when we are eating perfectly. From my experience, if you don’t love yourself the way you are now, you won’t love yourself on a stricter diet either. Thankfully, yoga can help us connect to our soul and create a loving relationship.
2. Freedom from Fear: Many people come to a healthier diet from a deep-seeded fear of death and disease. This might seem reasonable when there are so many lifestyle diseases that could be avoided through a healthier diet. However, when we choose our food from a place of fear (i.e. adding cilantro to everything because it removes heavy metals from the body), the anxiety we experience isn’t much healthier than the toxins we are trying to avoid. Joyfully, yoga can help us release our fears and enjoy our food more.
3. To Cure Everything: I learned through my adventures in raw foodism, which lasted over 2 years, that diet cannot cure everything. I thought if I ate a perfect diet I would eventually be so tapped into Universal Consciousness that I wouldn’t have to deal with worldly issues. The truth is, there are things we have to go through. We are here on Earth to learn and grow. We cannot do that without experiencing life and all its unexpected curves. Sometimes experiencing life involves being at a friend’s house and eating the pizza they ordered. And let’s hope it never involves feeling sorry about that.

Dasvandh: The Tithing Key to Prosperity

{This was first published on Spirit Voyage Blog}

If you grew up going to church, I’m sure you are familiar with “tithing.” Many of us remember the basket being passed around the congregation, and feeling drawn to contribute (whether out of love or guilt). Dasvandh is the Sikh version of tithing. Literally, it means “tenth part”, because it is a special kind of tithing. Dasvandh asks that you give 10% of your earnings back to the Universe.

But why would anyone give away 10% of their earnings in this crazy economy?

1. Trust: Dasvandh develops a trusting relationship with the Universe. There’s this expression that I grew up with that goes: “no favor goes unpunished.” When I believed this, it was true. I thought the more I gave the more life would step on me. Now I realize that giving is a prosperity technology. If you trust in the Universal flow, giving gives back to you. The Universe works mysteriously, but it also works graciously. Learning to trust that you will be taken care of is a huge part of why Dasvandh works to create more prosperity.

2. Fun: Setting aside a set portion of your income as “to be given away” is actually really fun. Getting thank you notes from charities—especially when you know the people running them—absolutely lights up my day. There is nothing quite like giving to put a smile on my face.

3. Because It’s the New Normal: Every year we do this thing where we count up our income and pay the government a huge portion of our earnings for the year. That’s normal, right? What if you had the same idea about giving to good causes? It would certainly be a lot easier to give. If giving 10% of your earnings away is the new normal, you don’t even consider that 10% to be yours in the first place. Plus, you get to go on a charity shopping spree. (Wait, should that be under the “Fun” heading?)

Ok, so you want to give? Here are some tips:

1. Think Local: I don’t trust huge philanthropic organizations, so I only donate to organizations I have a personal relationship with. That way, I know exactly where the money is going. For example, when I donate to Y.O.G.A. for Youth, I know that my money is paying for classes because I’ve taught for them!

2. Subscribe: Many organizations have a subscription option. This makes giving a total no brainer. You set it up to automatically withdraw money from your account. It doesn’t have to be a lot and it’s so easy. Come on, $5 a month is about 17 cents a day.

3. Kickstarter: Many of us (myself included) have benefited from a website called Kickstarter to fund our music projects. The website acts as an intermediary to connect artists with patrons. Even a $1 donation can help get someone realize their dream. You can browse through thousands of projects and pick the ones that speak to you.

4. Start Your Own Charitable Fund: Know a struggling musician who could use a new instrument, a child who needs new shoes, or a school that needs a new auditorium? You can start your own fundraising project by creating a separate bank account for your Dasvandh and giving it away when you’ve reached your goal. My personal fund is to pay for someone’s yoga teacher training.

Yoga and Mantras for Prosperity

Make a donation to Rosie's Soup Kitchen!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Affirmative Prayer and Kundalini Yoga

(This blog was first published on Spirit Voyage Blog)

A few years ago I took a “Prayer Class” at a spiritual center in Los Angeles called Agape. Seriously. A prayer class. Why would someone need to learn how to pray, you might ask. Well, have you ever found yourself saying the following things to the Divine Spirit that lives in all things, including you?

“God, if you exist, please...”


“God? I’m probably talking to myself, but please...”


“If you could just do this one thing for me, I’ll be a better person. I promise.”


“Why is this happening to me?”


“Please please, please!”

According to those who practice “Affirmative Prayer”, this is a seriously inefficient use of your praying muscles. Not only are you expressing distrust in the Universal One, you are bartering, begging, and complaining to boot.

Affirmative Prayer states that we should be praying for what we want, not what we don’t want. Furthermore, we use the prayer to recognize the good that already is, transforming our awareness into that of receptivity and gratitude, which then attracts more of the same.

This is a great technology to have in your toolkit. You can use it to pray alone, for another person, or in any size group.

There are Five Steps, (which appeals to the kriya-loving Kundalini Yogi inside me), which are typically done with hands pressed together, either standing or sitting:

1. Recognition: Take a deep breath. In this step you affirm that there is only one life, one presenece, one God. You can use any term for God that feels comfortable: Universe, Cosmos, Spirit, Wahe Guru, Allah, Jehovah, ...

Examples: “I am experiencing the presence of God in this moment as the breath that flows through my body.”  “I know that there is only one source of life, which I call God.”

Kundalini Parallel:  Chanting the names of God affirms the presence of the Divine, as on Snatam Kaur's "To Heaven and Beyond".

2. Unification: Now that you’ve established that there is only one God, it’s time to connect our human experience to that Infinity. You are one with that One! Even if you are praying for someone else, you would first assert your unification, then theirs.

Example: “I know that I am one with God.” If you were praying for someone else you could say: “I know that I am one with God, and so too is ____” (insert the person’s name you are praying for).

Kundalini Parallel: “Ek Ong Kaar” covers both recognition and unification. God is “Ong” (Creator) and we are all “Kaar” (Creation), which are one in the same: “Ek.”

3. Realization: Get creative! What about you is divinely true? Well, anything that is true about God is true about you. Remember how we already established this in parts 1 & 2? So, what aspects of God would you like to embrace in your life right now? God is Joy, Abundance, Creative, Divinity, Harmony, Plenty, Peace, Power, Grace, and so much more!

Examples: “As a unique manifestation of Divine Light, I know that I am beauty, tranquility, and patience. I embrace these qualities and choose to recognize them in my daily life.” “I know that I am all that God is. I say ‘yes’ to my divinity, my grace, and my courage.”

Kundalini Parallel: “Sat Nam” is a realization. When we use it to greet people or end a yoga class we are affirming as spiritual beings, that Truth (Sat) is our identity (Naam). Truth then expands into a slue of derivative qualities, of which any of the above (peace, power, etc.) can be included. For a longer list of what God is, there is also Jaap Sahib.

4. Thanksgiving: Remember all that amazing stuff you said? Well, now you accept it, and express your gratitude for it.

Examples: “I am so grateful to speak and embrace this Truth in my life.” “How grateful I am to know that these words are true.”

Kundalini Parallel: “Sat Gur Prasad” is an example of Thanksgiving. Prasad means offering or gift. When we say “Ek Ong Kar Sat Gur Prasad” we are expressing immense gratitude for the gift (“prasad”) of Oneness. It is no wonder that this is called the magic mantra!

5. Release: Let it go! This technology works because we put our faith in it. If we hold onto our prayers and never let God take care of them, what is the point? I once asked Bibji, Yogi Bhajan’s late wife, what she thought was the most powerful prayer or mantra. She answered something like this: “Anything you put your faith into will work.” So release it, and know that it has been heard.

Example: “I release this prayer knowing that it is done.”

Kundalini Parallel: The mantra “Ardas Bhaee” ends with the release statement—“Ram Das Guru, Ram Das Guru, Ram Das Guru, Suchee Sahee.” Guru Ram Das assures that this prayer is granted.


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