Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting Out of the Way

The Siri Singh Sahib (Yoga Bhajan) gave five "sutras" for the Aquarian Age. Living by these sutras was to help us make the shift from the Piscean Age (all about me and mine) to the Aquarian Age (all about Universal Consciousness). Read about them all here.

In a yoga class series I've been co-teaching, we decided to focus on each sutra: one per class, for five classes. (Actually, my original plan had been to do one per month... this got lost in translation though.)

Sutra #4 was the topic of this week: "Vibrate the Cosmos and Cosmos Shall Clear the Path." 

After we tuned-in, I began my pre-class ramble explaining that while we cannot control our reality forcefully, we can affect the force that is in control by setting our personal frequency with yoga, meditation and chanting. In the middle of my second or third sentence I was interrupted with a really great question: 

So what stops us from getting there?

In other words, why isn't the path just automatically clear? Why must we vibrating the cosmos at all?

Well, this was not what I had anticipated discussing, but now that we're on the topic, here goes...


WE ARE IN OUR OWN WAY

That's right. If you think it's your job, or your spouse, your parents, your economic bracket, or the giant ravine with spikes in the picture that keeps you in troubleshooting mode, think again. We are the only thing standing in the way of a crystal clear path.

I am reminded of this every time I do a challenging yoga set. Reading the description in my manual, I naively think to myself: "well, that doesn't look to hard... let's try it." So I do the kriya. Meanwhile, my husband, who knows what hard actually looks like, has gracefully declined my invitation to join him, and gets to watch me squeal and pant as I attempt to do something I thought would be easier than it was.

Is the kriya really that difficult? Well, not really.

If I weren't make things worse with my negative and positive minds—respectively darkening and then blowing my experience out of proportion from reality—the kriya could be done with much greater ease. 

In addition, if my body were completely free from the energetic blocks craeted from past lives/karma and poor decisions/karma, that same set might be a breeze.

When a yoga kriya feels impossible, I like to ask myself these questions:
Have I been thinking soul-promoting thoughts? 
Have I been eating a clean diet?
Have I been singing?
Have I been dancing? 
Have I been smiling?

(You can create your own barometer for what HEALTHY looks like to you, by the way.)

If the answers are "no", then chances are the next I try this kriya after a week of chanting, it won't be so painful. The trick is just to be at peace with whatever is going on: ranging from total bliss to total agony.  


IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE TO GET OUT OF OUR WAY?

My understanding is a resounding yes. 

My understanding is also that nothing lasts very long.  

Seem dour? Let me elaborate:

While it is definitely possible for us walk a clear path (hey, Yogi Bhajan said so!), there will always be obstacles appearing to be in our way. These "obstacles" are lessons that we haven't yet learned. If we choose in the moment to be grateful for the hurdle and learn our lesson, we transmute the challenge into a blessing. We move forward—or wherever we are going: up, left, right...

If we allow ourselves to get stuck, then we have another "I'm in my own way" moment.

So much is happening so fast right now that I don't believe anyone is accepting everything as a blessing in the moment every time it happens. Sometimes we need to go over the same thing a few times (read: several lifetimes). And that's OK. It's why we're here.

It will take us exactly how long it takes us to get through all the distractions ("challenges"). There is no rush and our paths will vary on our go back to the soul's HOME.

As Rev. Michael Beckwith says: "It's all GOOD because it's all GOD." 


Needless to say, I didn't go into this much detail when the woman asked me the question. That might have taken all class. And we still had a very challenging kriya to do. (*wink)


Blessings on your perfect path,
Sirgun

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Fear of Being Loved

I first heard this beautiful work of spiritual poetry when I started dating my (now) husband.

At the time, I had never before been in a reciprocal relationship—one where I felt as loved as I loved. This was the kind of relationship I had longed for my entire adult life. Here it was... and I was absolutely terrified.

In my pursuit of something to calm down my neurosis, open my heart, and allow me to accept the gift I deeply craved, but felt I didn't deserve, I happened upon "Mera Man Lochai."

I have always felt a strong connection to music. It seems to enter my life in perfect harmony with what I need to hear or sing. Sometimes it will enter through me—as a song I write. Sometimes it will enter outside of me—as something so friendly and familiar it seems I could have written it.

"Mera Man Lochai" is composed of four beautiful verses that I did not write. And yet when I heard Guru Arjan Dev's poetry, written in a language quite foreign to me, I felt as if it were the voice of my own soul.

The version that I grew to love and meditate to was Guru Raj Kaur and Nirinjan Kaur's version—released in perfect time with my fledgling relationship.

What this music did for me, my heart, and my sense of worth around love, cannot be described in words. To put it mildly: it transformed me.

If I had not had this tool, I am not sure I would have had the courage to pursue a loving relationship—let alone a loving marriage.

Words have such great power.

In my experience, when we trust them, and use them appropriately, they can lift us up above any challenge—even the most difficult ones, we know are "only in our head."

Recently, a friend of mine and I wrote a version of this hymn into music. I will share it here, and thank Livtar for helping to write this song.



Love,
Sirgun

Monday, August 27, 2012

Totally Drunk... and Sober as a Yogi

BACK IN FRANCE:

I grew up in vineyard land. Having a glass of wine was like enjoying the bounty of a local harvest. The amount of times I drank in order to get "drunk" can be counted on my right hand. Mostly, alcohol was wine. And wine was the obvious compliment to a lovely dinner.

So why did I give up drinking about 2 years ago?


OPENING MY MIND:

It all started with my first experience meditating. I was reading Autobiography of a Yogi and Many Masters, Many Lives (simultaneously I think). I sat down one night after dinner and had such an incredible experience. It felt like I had left my body. I think now that I just expanded beyond my body into the magnetic field around it. Either way, it was quite a trip.

And need I mention: I had never taken any hallucinogens, so this was a UNIQUE experience, to say the least. Any here's what struck me most: this was so much better than drinking!


CLEANSING MY BODY:

At the same time I was reading these two mind-bending books,  I had also decided to become raw vegan. (Note: I am no longer raw, though I have eaten a plant-based diet since then.)

Raw vegan food provided an inadequate "padding" for alcohol. Even just a few sips made me tipsy after eating even the heavier raw food options. I also found that my new diet made wine taste and smell rather unappealing: like rubbing alcohol. Ewww!


OLD HABITS DIE HARD:

And still, wine-drinking had become a sort of habit that I couldn't shake. I continued to have a glass every now and again, even though it never lived up the memory I had of it.

The bottom line was: I liked the relaxed feeling I got from yoga far more than the relaxed feeling I got from drinking. To me, drinking began to feel like taking a strange pill whose effects I couldn't control. A breathing exercise, a powerful yoga practice, or an evening of chant could send me into total ecstasy. A glass of wine not only seemed really lame in comparison; but it was something I had to pay for the next day.

See, the less I drank, the more if effected me. I could get a hangover from the most embarrassingly small amount of alcohol.


THAT'S WHEN I STARTED KUNDALINI YOGA:

About a year after I began practicing Kundalini Yoga, I decided to take teacher training in New Mexico. Unlike the a different teacher training I had taken a few years prior, this was a course about living a yogic lifestyle—not just teaching "yoga". 

While no one was forced to give up their meat, eggs, or glass of brandy, the course did teach us that these were not part of the yogic lifestyle for a reason: they negatively effect meditation

It was pretty simple. No scary diagrams of what beef does to your colon, or what a toxic liver looks like. Just a recommendation for deepening our meditation; and thus deepening our relationship to our soul.

I finally gave myself permission to just quit. 


NUMBING THE PROBLEMS:

It wasn't until I completely gave up alcohol that I was able to see what it did to me in a truthful way. 

Alcohol is a numbing agent. 

There were various times when I would have a glass of wine with dinner (or even after dinner) because of an emotional pain I didn't want to deal with: a hurtful comment, a bad break-up, or simply just a bad day.  

Numbness doesn't make pain go anywhere. It just helps us to forget the pain for a little while until it comes back.

Most of the time, it wasn't pain, but the desire to take a vacation from my thoughts that led me to filling up my glass. In essence, I just wanted to be numb to be numb. 

The irony is (at least I think it's irony—English majors, correct me if I'm wrong) that the only thing I've found that can actually dissolve pain or take me beyond my thoughts is meditation. And alcohol impeded meditation.

In the end it just seems pretty self-defeating to drink in order to feel better, which made it harder to meditate, which was the only thing that made me actually feel better long-term.


OH WHAT A JOURNEY: 

Well, that's my story. If you are struggling with shaking an old habit, here are 2 meditations that work wonders: 

2. Liberation Kriya (a.k.a. my first 40-day sadhana ever!)


To our mental, physical, and emotional health,
Sirgun

Monday, August 6, 2012

Opening Bhakti Fest

I found out a few weeks ago that I would be "opening" Bhakti Fest.

I'll be the first kirtan set on the mainstage on Thursday, September 6 @ 9:30pm. So get there early, or you'll miss it! =) MY SLOT HAS BEEN CHANGED TO Sunday, September 9 @ 11am. You don't have to show up early anymore!

I've been involved in Bhakti Fest since it began. I've spent many many many hours working for the festival's producers, creating newsletters, managing the work exchange program, answering emails, creating the yoga sign-ups, and anything else that needed to be done. There's very little I haven't done, in fact.

Last year, I was asked to lead kirtan, which was both delightful and surprising because I'd never expressed interest in being on the "TALENT" side of things.

After Bhakti 2010, one of the artists came over to the producer's home and we started sharing chants and jamming. Everyone was just sitting around chanting, chatting, eating... And then the co-producer announced that "we would like to give Sirgun her own slot next year."

I was really floored in the moment. Later, I was even more excited when the offer was actually remembered.

This is my second year leading kirtan, but it's the first time I've done it on the Main Stage. (I've been on the Main Stage various times doing response vocals though.)

Participating in this festival has shaped the past four years of my life. I am so grateful for this community. Each festival feels like a big great yoga party. It's my kind of party because everyone is drunk on chai and buzzing from the music.

If you haven't ever been, I HIGHLY encourage you to check it out this year. Whether you come for the kirtan, the yoga, the workshops, or all of the above, you are sure to have an amazing time!

And if you want a little discount, you can use "Sirgun" to get $25 off your ticket.

Hope to see you there EARLY!

Blessings,
Sirgun




Thursday, August 2, 2012

It Never Goes Away


I was contemplating difficult people this morning as I cleaned our home. I find it's very therapeutic to work through my issues with people while I vacuum dog hair up with in a zealous fury. It's a good time to do some mental clean-up as well.

I suddenly thought to myself: What if all the people that made me feel uncomfortable just vanished? 

After a momentary scenario of utter relief played in my head, I realized the answer was actually: NOTHING.

Nothing special would happen because it's not OTHER PEOPLE that are ever the problem. Nor is it OTHER THINGS, or OTHER SITUATIONS. It's always me.

Whenever discomfort strikes, something is coming up to give me the merciful opportunity to heal myself. If I wish it away, I'm not only missing the point, I'm missing a HUGE opportunity for clarity.

A more useful question than my initial one might be:

How can I handle this more effectively than I have in the past?


What quality in me can am I being asked to call upon to ameliorate this situation?


And so we grow...

Love,
Sirgun

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