you are your own guru (mostly)

Scanning my junk folder last week, I noticed an email from a Kundalini Yoga organization that I’d followed a few years ago. It looked serious; something had happened that shook the community.

I learned that Yogi Bhajan, the man who brought a form of Kundalini Yoga to the west, had allegedly had a sexual relationship with one, maybe more, of his long-time students. (Though he had been accused of many things in the past, this – according to the community – was the first credible claim.)

Is this really a surprise? We hear about this all the time, and often in the spiritual/yoga community; (mostly) men taking advantage of their ‘power’.

The timing was interesting; in the couple days before, I’d thought about my strong connection with Kundalini Yoga and how I’d maybe like to resume my practice. I could’ve gone down the rabbit hole in reading other yogis’ reactions to the allegations (and I did, a little bit). But ultimately, I’m just so done with the same old, same old story.

Limitless – Sonja Picard

In many Kundalini Yoga classes, Yogi Bhajan is absolutely central. He’s quoted all the time, there are photos of him everywhere…he dominates. On some level, I have a hard time separating him from the teachings.

Kundalini Yoga is, largely, about eradicating the ego. It’s about humanity moving out of an age of darkness. It’s about unveiling the shadow and purifying consciousness. So, perhaps it’s quite fitting that this has happened.

I read Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth last year, in which she writes about her process of moving away from spiritual teachings and focusing on her inner truth and knowing. I related to this book in a big way. One message: You are your own guru, words often echoed in the spiritual/new age community.

I have mixed feelings about this sentiment. Yes, we often give too much power to authority – bosses, religious and spiritual teachers, parents. To the point where we lose ourselves, don’t feel in control, and become resentful.

I am learning to listen to and honour my own inner wisdom, which has come from life experience. But I also want and need the help of something higher, and you are your own guru means, for me, that I have a lifetime to cultivate my relationship with that something higher, learning in my own way. There’s a lot of muck that needs to be wiped away, and I need help with that. Humility, to some extent, grounds me.

For many years, I learned from others – mostly men – who I felt had more spiritual knowledge and wisdom than me. And this isn’t to say their particular intentions were bad or they were misusing power; it’s just the way things have been done for so long. We’ve all been playing certain roles, and they aren’t working for most of us.

And now I’m thinking about the divine feminine, something I used to write and think about a lot, but which has slipped away these past couple years. I was writing about it, but couldn’t truly feel her presence in my life.

I loved that Kundalini Yoga was about empowering women. I still believe that. And part of this empowerment, this awakening of the Divine Feminine, is dismantling the power structures that (paradoxically) don’t allow for it.

These structures are incorporated into so many aspects of humanity, it shouldn’t be a surprise where they surface. I trust that spiritual teachings can remain intact, and even more powerful, when we can discern the transmitters – the human beings with egos – from the essence of the teachings. We are stripping away all that’s not truth.

the sword of the feminine

A few years ago, during my first Ayahuasca journey, I was shown the image of a sword. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was a work of art, beautifully silver and encrusted with jewels and crystals. I understood that this was not a weapon of destruction; it was the sword of love, cutting through all illusion. The sword of the Feminine.

I think about this sword often. Sometimes I feel it as an etheric presence behind or above me. The image was/is so pristine and powerful, merely remembering it brings me comfort and relief. The sword itself is a remembrance of something I intuitively understand but can’t quite articulate.

It’s interesting to think about the sword now, because my perceptions of the Divine Feminine and Masculine are shifting. I’m realizing that I don’t actually know what the Divine Feminine and Masculine are. It’s kind of humorous and humbling to admit that, because I’ve written about these concepts numerous times on my blog.

shakti's garden by sonja picard

shakti’s garden by sonja picard

For several years, I took part in women’s circles and gatherings. And during my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I had many ideas for women’s workshops. But something happened earlier this summer. I went off most social media and entered major hermit mode. I had no desire to participate in or facilitate women’s gatherings. I actually felt hostile to the idea. I found myself going within to what seemed like a very frustrated, depressed place. Was this self-sabotage? Fear of change? Remnants of ancient patterns? Addiction to familiar emotions?

I realized that despite all the work, at my core I didn’t feel anything ‘Divine Feminine’ about myself.  How could I then encourage the divine in others, or see the divine in men? It’s not that I felt like a fraud…but ‘Divine Feminine’ and ‘Divine Masculine’ had become concepts I’d used and heard so many times that they no longer held meaning for me. I had thought that these spiritual principles, and others, transcended duality – but perhaps they just reinforced it.

I do believe in a Divine Feminine and Masculine essence within each one of us, which we project outward to co-create reality. But experiencing our essence is a deep and personal journey that goes beyond ‘spiritual’ or new age concepts (e.g., idealized depictions of gods and goddesses). And it takes time. Humanity has run on certain archetypes and beliefs for eons; some are loving and some are not. Can we create new archetypes, and are we ready to?

There is tremendous power in women’s circles, and I know these will re-emerge in my life, in some form, when the timing feels right. I know I don’t have to have all the answers, because I never will (and that’s so not the point). I also think more men’s groups and retreats would be very helpful. The men I know who’ve participated in such groups embody something that is truly…well, ‘divine’ is the word that comes to mind.

I believe the sword of the Feminine is guiding me to her truth and essence, which is in harmony with the Masculine. That harmony creates something new, beyond the labels and categories of duality.

We have seen so much of humanity’s darkness coming to the surface this year. I have my thoughts on the force of patriarchy, but I don’t want that to keep the ‘us against them’ dynamic alive in my psyche. I have observed the darkness within myself and, as uncomfortable as it’s been, it does feel like my process is creating more space within.

The challenge for me is to remain open and trusting in this space, not wanting to immediately fill it with anything, even ‘love’ or ‘light’ (which can be further conceptualizations of the mind). The space itself is highly intelligent, and from this place we can create relationships beyond what we’ve ever known.

the summer of my ancestors

Well, we all know we’re living in intense times. It has been said that 2016 is the year of purification, but it feels more like the decade of purification.

A couple of months ago, I began a 40-day practice of Kirtan Kriya, a Kundalini Yoga meditation designed to clear subconscious patterns buried deep within the psyche. About halfway through my 40 days, I went off Facebook and most social media. I rediscovered my love of fiction, reading books mostly about Indian women and their historical and current lives in India and in the west. I’m obsessed with learning more. It seems this has become the summer of discovering my ancestry.

IMG_1012

As the first generation of my family born in the west, and very much steeped in western culture (aka a ‘coconut’), I’ve vacillated between rejecting my heritage and embracing its more western-approved aspects (e.g., yoga). My Indian ancestors have felt very distant, even non-existent. I haven’t known much about my female ancestors in particular…maybe because I never asked. I viewed them as probably repressed and somewhat backwards. Silent, and living in a less evolved land.

Now I can’t stop thinking about them. Who were these women? What were their lives like? What dreams, desires, and talents did they harbour? What did they suppress in themselves, in order to stay alive? Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam…I think about conquests and conversions. How did they feel about God? About caste and karma? Were feelings even acknowledged in a world of immovable roles and responsibilities? What brought them joy?

I can feel that I hold memories of being restrained, constrained, burned. I see where I’ve felt like a burden, not wanting to ask for too much or take up more than my ‘fair share’ of space…somehow apologizing for my existence. I can feel the bitter resentment of unlived desires. I can also feel the patriarchy and misogyny embedded in my own psyche. In this female, brown-skinned body, I see where I’ve idolized the white male.

I’ve written on this blog about the Divine Feminine rising. Truly embracing Her means owning how deeply we’ve denigrated Her. I’ve uncovered a new layer of this within myself. All I can do is sit with it.

‘Purification’ used to mean cleansing myself of everything I thought made me inferior. But I now view it as the inner and outer distillation of all that is not resonant with highest truth: love. And that means witnessing and experiencing all that is not love within ourselves, and in the world around us.

This entire process requires trusting my intuition and feelings. I do question if I’m making it all up. I doubt my role, if any, in the healing of my lineage. I wonder if ‘purification’ and ‘divine feminine’ are just more new age concepts that distract. I catch myself in spiritual shadow (superiority/inferiority) all the time. I don’t know what a woman’s life is like in present-day India; I don’t want to speak on anyone else’s behalf.

During my 40 days of Kirtan Kriya, I experienced some very dark and hopeless states. But I see now that the meditation did exactly what it was designed to do – bring to the surface what longed to be healed. Though it hasn’t been comfortable, it feels like what I’m here to do, and that brings me peace. I am very grateful for my opportunities to choose and to heal.

If we are in times of purification, then darkness and chaos will continually rise to the surface until every last corner is exposed. I don’t know what will become of humanity, but I know that right now, I must listen to the long lineage of voices rising from within. I’m trusting my feminine instincts on that.

understand through compassion

Image courtesy of Vaughn Lewis (with my modifications)

Image courtesy of Vaughn Lewis (with my modifications)

I was very happy when Elysha asked me if I’d be interested in answering some questions on Kundalini Yoga for her blog at at Mind Body Soul Stylist. Upon completing my yoga teacher training program back in May, I entered a major blogging slump…so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss my love for these sacred yogic teachings!

It’s been said that 2016 is the year of purification, and I am really feeling this. I’ve found it difficult to write about all that’s happening within (and without) – so much intensity! I have many things I’d like to share, but until the words flow again, here’s our interview. Thank you, Elysha!

http://elyshalenkin.com/styling-from-the-inside-secrets-from-a-kundalini-yoga-teacher/.

And Happy Canada Day, too. ❤ I’m grateful that this beautiful country accepted my parents, and many other Muslims, as refugees back in the 70s. Time will tell how humans choose to live out the drama unfolding on the world stage. I’m constantly reminding myself of the fourth sutra of the Aquarian Age: Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.

Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.

from karma to dharma

Through completing the final session of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program last weekend, it’s become clear that my views on karma have significantly changed these last few months. Karma used to have very negative connotations (mostly surrounding punishment), and my chronic thoughts about it hung over me like a heavy cloud.

In my very first training session last October, I was hesitant to wrap my hair in a white cloth. I knew many Kundalini Yogis wore turbans, and in all my years of practice, I never saw myself doing that. But after a few days, I began to question why I was so resistant. And, near the end of our five-day session, I wrapped my hair on the top of my head.

My beautiful training group. I'm on the right.

My beautiful training group. I’m on the right.

It was very emotional for me. As a child, I was desperate to hide the fact that I was Indian. I wanted nothing more than to be white. I did everything I could to blend in, which, being brown-skinned, never really worked.

My intense feelings of powerlessness and separation – of feeling inherently inferior in my brownness – had become, in my mind, my karma. I didn’t belong anywhere on this planet, and there was nothing I could do about it.

These past few months have taken me on a journey of discovering the jewels of my ancestry, and what it means to be a woman – an Indian woman – in this day and age. It has been one intense, beautiful roller coaster ride as I unearth emotions buried deep within me, and in my ancestral line. Planet Earth is reawakening to the Divine Feminine – we know this. What truths can I now speak, that my ancestors could not?

Wrapping my hair was symbolic; it marked a return to myself.

A new path is emerging, one my childhood self couldn’t see. I have renewed hope of living from the oneness of which I am a part. I understand that I can’t be separate, because there is no separation – no matter how convincing the illusion, the maya, appears. Of course, my ego has a hard time with this. It wants to stay separate…to believe I’m inferior or superior, but never the same.

Karma used to feel like a curse, a burden – but I now see it as a gift, in that I’m totally responsible for all my thoughts, actions, and reactions in this here-and-now. I can do my best to live from my highest truth and consciousness, and correct anything I feel needs correcting. That doesn’t mean I’m always successful or that I live in ‘love light bliss’ all the time. It means I do my best.

And instead of obsessing about karma, I can choose to live my dharma.

My dharma is my purpose. It is the guiding factor in my life. It remained elusive for many years, but I’m starting to see it now. It’s what I’ve been doing all along. My dharma is not a job or a business or a project or a baby or any ‘thing’ out there. It is within. It is transforming all those things I once hated about myself into sources of strength, beauty, and love – in service to all.

Words cannot express my gratitude for my teachers, friends, and the sacred Kundalini Yoga teachings. I bow in deep reverence. Sat Nam.

when does karma become an excuse?

Karma’s been on my mind a lot lately. Through my yoga training these past few months, I’m opening to the idea of my dharma transforming my (perceptions of) karma. Given that it’s a full moon weekend, and the tail end of Mercury Retrograde, I thought I’d share this post from early in my blogging days. Though I can still relate to these words, I also see where so much has shifted. Here’s to transformation that serves our highest potential!

Sat Nam

alohaleya

The concept of karma has long played a central role in my life.  It imprinted on my psyche at a young age and has since shaped my identity.  My theories about what ‘my karma’ is have defined who I am and what I see myself as capable or deserving of in this lifetime.

Life experiences, mundane and significant, are often filtered through the lens of how they might relate to my karma. Maybe I have ‘unfinished business’ with so-and-so.  Maybe I did this to someone in a past life, so they’re doing it to me now.  Future plans and decisions are made with a cautionary inner voice: Maybe it’s not in your karma to do/have this.

Gold Parvati. Artst: Sonja Picard (www.sonjapicard.com) Gold Parvati. Artst: Sonja Picard (www.sonjapicard.com)

Where did this obsession with my karma originate? Ancestors, religion, society…an innocuous comment someone once made, which caused a fundamental rewire in my brain?

Does it…

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milestone: teaching my first yoga class

My Kundalini Yoga practicum – teaching a ‘real’ class at our studio – took place last week. All trainees in my program taught over a 3-day Yoga-thon, me being placed in what I considered the least desirable spot – late Sunday afternoon. As someone who likes to get things over with, it was somewhat agonizing to wait around all weekend for my class to begin!

On one level, I wasn’t at all nervous about teaching. There was nothing to fear; I’d done all I could to prepare and I knew I’d be in a supportive environment. I didn’t have to be perfect. I’d never done this before!

But on another level, there was everything to fear. I could sense my ego kicking into overdrive, anticipating all that could go wrong. I knew the havoc this could wreak, so I took advantage of my extra time that Sunday morning and let myself fully feel all my nerves and anxiety. As if I had an internal dial, I turned all the uncomfortable sensations up to ‘Intense’.

Yup, I look pretty happy up there!

Yup, I look pretty happy up there!

The usual suspects turned up. Humiliation. What if I panicked on the spot, forgetting everything I’d memorized, and getting my notes all mixed up? Pride. I was afraid of losing face. I feared the pity of others – or their secret satisfaction – if I failed. (That’s a fun one to admit!) Shame. I feared being exposed as a fraud, an imposter. The list goes on. Ultimately, I feared failing God.

I knew this wasn’t just about the yoga class. These fears are deeply embedded in the human psyche. In such states we can’t access the knowing that we are eternal and infinite, fundamentally unaffected by whatever ego construes as danger. I prayed for humility, trust, self-compassion…and to have fun!

In true Mercury Retrograde fashion, there was an element of ‘expect the unexpected’. The trainee scheduled before me had become ill, and I was asked to teach her class as well. Two classes in a row?! I did not see that coming. I swear I could hear Yogi Bhajan chuckling in the ethers. Surrender.

And – things went well. It was a wee bit distracting to have my lead trainer evaluating me in the back of the room, taking copious notes throughout both classes…but the time flew by and I was provided wonderful feedback that bolstered my confidence and helped me see where I can improve. To be honest, once I got up there, things felt quite un-dramatic! I don’t recall my heart pounding as furiously as it had during my practice sessions. Yes, there were nerves – but it mostly felt comfortable and natural.

That’s not say it wasn’t a big deal. I’d accomplished a goal I’d dreamed about for years. This was a huge step!

Some passions are so obvious that we’re certain of them from a young age. Others, like my yoga journey, are more subtle and reveal themselves over time. Those dreams often take years of cultivation before they germinate. Even if feels like ‘nothing’s happening’, on some level, we know exactly what we’re doing. The dream itself wants to ensure we’re ready to receive and take good care of it. It deserves the best ‘us’ we can bring to it. And so, we have to prepare.

I’m not quite finished my training – I still have a final exam and another training session to complete – but regardless of what my Kundalini future brings, in my book, I’ve already succeeded.

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On another note, I LOVE that this is my 108th post! 108 is a sacred number in yogic tradition, and this seems like a fitting opportunity to thank everyone who reads, follows, and comments on this blog. It is such a blessing to connect with, and learn from, you all. Thank you!

Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.