The Seat of Power Har Har Har

Tonight went to see “Edge of Tomorrow” 3D using my prosperity theater gift card. Doncha love my 3D glasses? Although I’m not modeling them as worn, doubled on top of my regular glasses. I hadn’t seen a 3D movie using these newer technologies; for somebody who’d been sort of “in” with the techies when 3D was first being advanced for CGI in the 80’s, I feel a bit “out of the loop.” Ah well. The last time I saw a 3D movie I think it was “Kiss Me Kate” 3D in the mid ’80’s with the cyan and red lenses in paper frames and ridiculous dancers jumping out of the screen at you. I guess the screening of “Chinatown” last night, introduced by Robert Towne, with commentary by Mulholland’s grand-daughter Christine, at the Egyptian Theater, was a bit more my speed, and a wonderful suggestion by the charming Friend who accompanied me.  The cars they were driving in the film didn’t seem that much older than the one I drive. Great to see it on a big screen, with the classic Jerry Goldsmith score, although all the banter about the horrible score that got discarded made me curious to hear it too.

Got home late, and really sorta wanted to just “check out” some more, but decided to stick to my yoga commitment and did “The Seat of Power” from Ravi Singh‘s “Kundalini Yoga for Strength, Success, and Spirit” manual.

This is arranged as 4 short kriyas that can be practiced independently or combined with short kriyas for other things; for instance, there’s another section for the heart center following this one. These four are not altogether different from the longer navel power set in another manual of his, although there are a couple exercises that’re not in that set. I’ve been feeling like I’m having trouble following through on things lately and getting easily sidetracked from my supposed “priorities,” so a navel center set seemed in order, although perhaps better planned earlier in the day. They say you’re not supposed to do breath of fire late at night because it wakes you up, but then they say insomnia can be caused by a weak or out-of-balance navel center too. What’s a person to do? I used to hate all these leg lifts, but tonight kind of welcomed them.

Tomorrow is day 40 of uninterrupted daily 11 minute “Har” meditations, so I didn’t want to skip that tonight, and did it after the navel set. The Master’s Touch 25th Pauri “Meditation to Change Poverty Into Prosperity” is up next too; I’ve done that meditation tons of times, but didn’t remember that you’re supposed to do Bhangra dancing afterwards. It’s a bit late for that tonight.

I’m realizing I’d really hoped to spend a good portion of this week doing some serious yoga on my own since I couldn’t get to Espanola for summer solstice or IKYTA conference or Peace Prayer Day, but there’ve been other good things happening this week instead. However I feel like I’ve been sloughing off on any serious yoga the last few days too. I’ve found it often seems more challenging when doing a 40 day kriya sadhana as you approach the 40th day. Often that’s when I want to quit most, although that wasn’t my experience today. I did cook up the onion soup; need to get some mung beans since I seem to have eaten the ones I had, and some watermelon too!

Sat Kriya + Har Har Har

Coupla days diverted by other pursuits, but forced myself to at least do 11 minutes of Sat Kriya and 11 minutes of the “Har” meditation each day. The first day, the Sat Kriya had a definite instant impact, and I felt it realigning and focusing my scattered energy. This morning I was having trouble staying focused and present with them, as I was running late and scrambling to get a bunch of things in order before I shot out the door, but somehow despite the distractions, it helped.

I’m also finding the “Healing the Wounds of Love” chant to be helpful throughout the day, and now really enjoy it.

I plan to find time for more energetic sets tomorrow. I’m wishing I was in Espanola at Summer Solstice, and have the ingredients for the solstice onion soup waiting to be cooked up in the kitchen.


Challenge the Ego in You, Essence of a Teacher Meditation, another Blessing Meditation, Upliftment Meditation with suggested music, Patanjali Sutras

Got home tonight, and was feeling a bit depressed, I guess; news of a friend’s father’s unsuccessful lung cancer surgery tapped into some grief of my own. I find myself sharing about my father’s death with friends who’re dealing with cancer that appears life threatening, then realizing they’re struggling for life with cancer and I’m responding with stories of death from it, which might not be the most helpful response. Also found myself irritated by another person’s report of his serious yoga practice, and his disinterest in my sharing of my own. I’m still trying to decipher why I find him so irritating, but I suspect there are facets of my own behavior that bother me in him.

I’m also seeing how often people simply have no interest in Kundalini Yoga, and I try to bring it to the table in other religious or spiritual contexts where it isn’t welcome. Most of my non-yoga friends on Facebook probably have no interest in it; same with most Quakers, who are simply disinterested in my yogi chai tea, etc. – I’m planning to go to Pacific Yearly Meeting with them, instead of Summer Solstice with the Kundalini Yogis, where my interest would be shared and celebrated. I go to Quaker meeting because I treasure the silence and values, but I could be going to Gurdwara at the same time with the other Yogis. Some friends who’ve had deep interest in yoga think Yogi Bhajan was a shuckster; it seems there’s a lot of snobbery between the various Hatha forms. When I practice Kundalini exclusively, I sometimes feel like I’m not really learning YOGA – especially after taking Dharma Mitra’s class at Bhaktifest and realizing how little the Kundalini training had given me in terms of hatha practice. That’s all the chatter of my ego, and then I’ll do a KY set and feel my state of consciousness transformed by it, and it quiets down.

Well, I started the practice tonight with the Har meditation. I got the rather strange gift in the mail of a check from NYS Tax board – an unexpected refund check following the payments I’d been making on a long forgotten tax debt from 24 years ago. It seems they over-deducted the payments. That was truly unexpected.

Trying to choose a set from Harijot’s Self Knowledge manual, I considered the Power to Win Number 2 set, or a variety of others, but it was late, and a lot of them involved pounding on the floor, or flailing about like a frying fish, and I know from experience this has bothered previous neighbors downstairs. I considered the Conquering Depression set, but ruled it out for the reasons just mentioned as well.

I settled on “Challenge the Ego in You” which I’m not sure I’ve done before. I was feeling much better just a little ways into it. I often get leg cramps while sitting on my heels, and celebate pose is often pretty hard on my legs & knees as well. Then there are 108 frogs, which I might be feeling tomorrow. I listened to a  portion of a recording of “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: The Book of the Spiritual Man” (Charles Johnston version/Libravox/Maggie Russell) from YouTube. That was on the reading list for teacher training, although Golden Bridge sold the Isherwood version, and it was never even mentioned during the training, which seemed quite odd. I actually learned a bit about them from one of Wayne Dyer’s books & lectures, which got me interested in reading them again.

I followed the 19 minute relaxation with “Meditation to Experience the Essence of a Teacher” (Master’s Touch p. 241) and used a Guru Prem “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” from the White Tantric Yoga Vol. 2 collection – a wonderful assortment of 3HO recordings I bought at Summer Solstice in 2004. I don’t have  Gurdev Mata, so I just read the words in Master’s Touch. Combined with the Patanjali, these meditations got me thinking about self-purification and some of the objectives of yogic practice in the first place, which I often arrogantly disregard out of plain obstinance. Then I’ve been considering the aspects of my own life which I’d consider deal-breakers from potential relationship partners, and how I might change them in myself.

Next I did the next “Blessing” meditation, in 3 parts, from Master’s Touch, p. 247. It calls for “Reality, Prosperity, and Ecstasy” by Nirinjan Kaur, which I sounded familiar, but I didn’t think I had it. Then I Googled it and found out it’s really called “Prosperity Hymn” and Guru Prem is credited on it in the same White Tantric Yoga CD I just mentioned. The Nirinjan Kaur Humee Hum Brahm Hum was used several years in different White Tantric Yoga sessions; I have this memory of the eerie funky arrangement going on and on for hours. I didn’t have a recording of it though; however Sikhnet did.

I found it surprisingly challenging to maintain the first mudra for it.

Then I decided to try the “Meditation for Upliftment” again (p. 236) and found Matamandir Singh’s wonderful recording of the 20th Pauri, Bharia Hath, also on Sikhnet.

Last time I’d just listened to all of Japji since I didn’t have my separate MP3 files of the various pauris when I did the meditation. It was helpful to have the words of Japji too, since I didn’t recall them hearing them in Matamandir’s context, although I’d chanted them many times in Japji at Sadhana. My experience of the meditation was much better this time, and found it more… uplifting? And a couple of hours later, once again I find myself crashing from it – last time I suspected it might be blood sugar, but this time it might be simple tiredness.

Last night I had quasi hallucinogenic dreams in some weird place that had shades of adolescent rebellion, modernist condominium lofts, swabs under tongues that had us (I don’t quite remember who “us” was) flying around these caves that seemed to be at the Huntington Library Gardens, and there were police chasing somebody else, and lava flowing through the tunnels. Amidst all this I found myself thinking “Oh, this is what Ayahuasca is all about, but I haven’t vomited yet…” It didn’t seem like a nightmare when I woke up, much too early, but I wasn’t well rested either. So I hope that isn’t in store again tonight.

Overall, I find myself wondering if I’ve been devoting too much time to the yoga and meditations when I perhaps should be updating resumes, portfolios, and job hunting since freelance work has been less and less rewarding and profitable. Where do I draw the line between spiritual thirst, practice, and practical procrastination? I recall, years ago, trying to print the whole Siri Guru Granth at a full time job on their laser printer, draining the toner cartridge because I hadn’t noticed that it’s over 2500 pages long. It seemed from the start I was obsessively drawn to this Kundalini Yoga thing, even when it adversely affected relationships or jobs. Ah well.

Out on the street, the police are stopping a car with noisy instructions through their megaphone, and I should be headed to bed. Solstice is coming up next Saturday; since I’m not going to Espanola, the Wright Ranch in Malibu has often been a good backup plan, but I’ve agreed to go see this mime with my neighbor that night, and can’t do both. They do an American Indian Medicine Wheel ritual there; I’ve done my yoga practice at the center of the mandala beforehand in the past, yet another place where my yoga practice isn’t unwelcome, but isn’t welcomed or understood. Ah well. I don’t particularly feel their ritual to be life changing either, but the location is spectacular beyond belief, and that is life changing in itself.

Update for the last few days; Self Care, Power to Win 1, Chakra Opener meditations

In the afternoon I did my 11 minute “Har” meditation. That evening I heard someone mention that it was the anniversary of their father’s passing, and realized the date my dad had died was around this time of year. I checked my journal when I got home, and it was actually that night! So I spent the rest of the evening remembering that period of my life and wrote a blog post about it. It felt cathartic; good to observe that painful period of my life, honor it, honor dad, and process some of the remaining grief.
Blog post about dad’s passing

Met my friend Elizabeth for lunch at Lake Balboa as she passed through town. (It didn’t look quite as nice as this online pic this time) We found the one picnic table with some shade; it was sunny and hot out.

Traffic was horrific everywhere, so I figured I’d spend the afternoon in that part of town, but still ended up in a cul de sac Encino baseball park as I tried to cut across the valley. (I guess I was at the Encino Velodrome) Rather frustrated! Then realized I could just lay my mat there and do my yoga.

Hadn’t had a full night’s sleep the night before; it was also Friday the 13th, Mercury retrograde, and a full moon! A pretty challenging set of obstacles to be navigating the day with!

I chose the first set in the “Fountain of Youth” manual, Self-Care. This is preceded by 2 rounds of the Har Aerobic Kriya.

As I finished the exercises, I thought to myself, that was easy – definitely a women’s set. Then there was a ONE HOUR relaxation, and I thought, “no way I’m gonna be able to lie here for that long!” You’re supposed to listen to Rakhe Rakhanahaar for the whole time, and it said your heartbeat will synchronize with it. Well, I hadn’t had adequate rest, and really struggled to cut it short at 45 minutes because I had to get across the valley! Self care was definitely something I needed.

It was the miracle hour light-wise, shortly before sunset, and quite beautiful out. I videotaped myself doing the “Har” meditation for 11 minutes, but got home to find it was really too light to see well. I might run it through After Effects to adjust it sometime soon. Or maybe I should just re-shoot it.
Music: Cherdikala Jetta’s “Rakhe Rakankar”

I felt shaggy, and looked so dis-sheveled and tired in the last few posts, so finally got a haircut – whether it’s good sikh form or not. Saw some peculiar things around town…

Then I was finally doing my laundry, and didn’t have a strong inclination for any particular set, so I reached into my folder and pulled random Prosperity Paths newsletters until I found one with a full yoga set instead of a single meditation. I found Developing the Power to Win – Part 1 (also published in Self-Knowledge manual)
Music: Livtar Singh’s “I Am Thine”
(Here’s the music with Yogi Bhajan’s voice instructing another meditation)

Har Meditation

I’m trying to remember the name of the woman in the pics; I worked for her at the IKYTA conference or Japji course, and thought her really nice. Narayan? Nirbhair? Starts with an “N”.

After I finished, when I pulled my laundry out of the dryer, I found a movie theater gift card in it! I checked if there was any value left on it, and it said there was $30 credit left! That’s the sort of thing that challenges any skepticism I’ve got about the prosperity meditations!

Sunday Morning:
Wanted to get the day off to a good start and had a very full day ahead, at the Quaker meetinghouse and Elderberries, where I was playing with Brad and Kevin. Since I’d had a good experience with the sets the night before, I figured I’d do them again. Unfortunately, I found my mind jumping around and considering all the events I had to show up for later in the day. My neighbor called asking if I wanted to take her to see a mime visiting from France next weekend. She has problems driving at night. So we’re on for next Saturday. Hmmm… more prosperity?

Developing the Power to Win – Part 1
Music: Livtar Singh’s “I Am Thine”
and Matamandir Singh’s “I Am Thine”
11 minute Har Meditation
As I moved into my day, I found I my neck and right shoulder was pretty uncomfortable, but I didn’t have a break at any time to try to work the kinks out.
I went to our meditation meeting at Vedanta Temple. Had a few minutes to read through the remaining Master’s Touch meditations and consider which were good candidates for a silent meditation period of 20 minutes and what mantras and music I’d need for the others. I’ve almost done all the meditations in the book! I realized most of the remaining ones incorporate chanted versions of sections of Japji, which I’ve got at home, so I’ll have to do them there.

I chose and did the first 2 parts of Five-Part Meditation Series to Keep the Chakras Open (p. 320). These are actually the last meditations in the book – I’d had to jump ahead because most are not silent, and the meditation period is a silent one. I did them, and as I moved into the second part, I realized my neck and shoulder pain had completely gone away. Interesting….! I was a bit frustrated that the instructions for part 2 didn’t tell you whether to continue with the eyes staring straight ahead, unblinking, or not. You close them for part 3, but haven’t gotten to that yet.

I had the impression you’re supposed to do all five parts in one sitting, but haven’t had a chance for that yet.

Can you take the Sikh religion out of Kundalini Yoga?

In the course of our Teachers Training sessions, I think one of the Sada Sats – either Kaur or Singh – mentioned that somebody had asked Yogi Bhajan if you could do Kundalini Yoga with other religions. My recollection is that he said yes, you could use any religion, but he’d used the Sikh religion because he thought it was the easiest fastest path to God.

I suspect he also chose it because it was what he’d known best. The research people have done suggests that he combined his Sikh meditation training with Maharaj Virsa Singh with his Yoga training with Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari. His Mahan Tantric training, legend tells us, came from Sant Hazara Singh. Trilochan Singh, while obviously confused about the substance of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings, claimed that the Sikh religion not only has no interest in any form of yoga, but Guru Nanaak actually said it wasn’t necessary, and discouraged it completely. I’ve frequently been told that Indian Sikhs are horrified at the idea of anyone practicing yoga in a Gurdwara, while it’s common among 3HO.

My experience has been that Indian Sikhs often seem less than interested in teaching Americans about their religion. They seem to look askance with bemused expressions when I tell them of my – to them elementary – interest, although sometimes they have said they appreciate how Yogi Bhajan has introduced their faith to westerners. The language barrier – and my difficulty sometimes even understanding their English accents – makes it hard to really know how much of what I’m practicing is authentic Sikh practice. Their morning banis are different from the Aquarian Sadhana mantras Yogi Bhajan prescribed.

While I’ve found solace and inspiration in my 3HO Sikh indoctrination, often feeling, believing, and experiencing that Sikh chants have a substantial positive impact upon my life, I’m also starkly aware that I have only a dim understanding of what I’m chanting. No matter how much of my life I spend deepening this knowledge, I doubt I will ever have a full experience of it.

A Google search for kundalini yoga combined with other religions reveals as much whackery as you could dream up; Christian fundamentalists who swear the bedevilment of those who practice any yoga, studios teaching Christian yoga, confusing tales of disruptive kundalini awakening, Iyengar’s dismissal of Kundalini yoga as unhealthy; the more links you read, the less clarity you end up with.

I remember talking with the Chaplain at Calvary Hospital while my dad was in hospice there. She was quite interested in my Sikh and Yoga morning sadhana practices, and wanted to know more about them. She made a remark about how she was often skeptical of religious practice in a language foreign to the practitioner, which I thought somewhat amusing coming from a Catholic, when so much of the liturgy there seems to be in Latin. But there’s a point of truth in the statement. The Sikh perspective I’ve heard is that by making the same sounds in Gurmukhi that Guru Nanaak made while chanting, we physically aspire to experience the same state of enlightenment he experienced while chanting Japji. I’m “on board” with that. For some reason I was drawn to Japji from the start.

Yet I’m left wondering if there’s a way to combine the Kundalini Yoga Yogi Bhajan taught with Christianity, Judiasm, Tibetan Buddhist, or Islamic doctrine or practice. Could the scriptures from each be incorporated into the yoga sets and meditations? How would you choose which to use or replace? Would this undertaking require the deep religious experience of a saint within that religion in order to make the right choices? If the more open-minded perspective that we’re all worshiping the same God using different practices is true, then it must be possible. But how would you go about it?

Body Adjustment to Elevate the Spirit and Bring on Depression + Meditation for Upliftment

Yesterday I did the “Har” meditation, made a small get well card for someone from the Quaker meeting who’s just had open heart surgery, and headed over to Pasadena to help clean out the Quaker Meetinghouse Cellar. While looking for a mailbox for the card, saw a mailman delivering mail, and handed the stamped envelope to him, which simplified the delivery a bit for me. Saw a dance performance downtown at Central Library that a friend was playing for, and by the time I got home and cooked some dinner, I really didn’t feel like doing any more yoga. I also felt like I HAD done some, and my conclusion was that the cellar cleaning amounted to Karma Yoga.

Today I chanted the 25th pauri of Japji while driving across town, but it did little to alleviate my impatience with crazy LA drivers (not that I expected it to). Then I did the 11 min. “Har” meditation while sitting waiting for an appt. in my car, and later on headed to Plummer Park. I felt like I needed more of a workout with my yoga today, so I dug through the “Fountain of Youth” manual, which is from Women’s Camp.

Although they’re women’s sets, I’d venture to say most men I know might find them difficult or even couldn’t do some of them. There are a few that I judge impossible. I’ve actually loved this manual since I got it, although I can’t really judge if they’re truly helping my ovaries and menstrual cycles in the cases where that’s promised.

I chose the “Body Adjustment to Elevate the Spirit” set; it looked like it would work out my whole body, with a lot of leg lifts, downward dog/cobra combos, etc. Nearly every exercise is done 108 or 52 times.
Part 1:

As soon as I started the 108 leg lifts, my phone rang, and the long call was good, because it gave me time to digest the tortilla soup with mung beans and rice I’d eaten 20 minutes or so earlier. Once I started again, I noticed butterflies fluttering around the sculpture next to me. I couldn’t capture them in the pictures though. But it felt magical.

Then I continued through the set, and a bunch of Russian kids began running around the sculpture, and then running all around me.

When I got to the cat/cows, I looked up, and this kid was a couple of feet from my mat, staring right at me.

So I continued, and his friends were all running around me. Then they started waddling up and down the concrete water drain, and I snapped some pics of them, which intrigued them.

Once I got the section of the set where you stretch your arms alternately over your head, I had some new pals.

Their parents came by and scooped them up and whisked them away. I finished the set; for most of the exercise part I listened to Guru Singh’s “Ap Sahee” and “Hummee Hum” for some of it. The final rest is supposed to be 10 minutes; I played Guru Singh’s “I Am” which is 8 minutes long, and then moved on to the Master’s Touch meditation.

Meditation for Upliftment” is on page 236. I’m frankly, getting pretty annoyed at all these meditations in the book that specify mantras that aren’t available, or are excerpts from other recordings that are tough to find. It said it used a setting of the 20th pauri of Japji for 7 minutes, then you’re supposed to hold hands in a group and sing along with it. Since I was doing it alone, and although I’ve made each pauri of Japji into a separate mp3 that I can loop, I didn’t have pauri 20 with me, so I just played all of japji for 11 minutes, held the mudra, chanted along with it, and imagined myself holding hands for the last 4. The meditation ran until the beginning of Pauri 25, which I’d chanted earlier.

Then it was close to dark, and I finished up. So far so good, right?

Well, around 9:30 I swung by the Piano Bar to see if Natasha’s band was playing there; I thought she’d said they play there on Wednesdays and Fridays – and I didn’t see them around, so I headed home. Suddenly I was walloped! I crashed into a nasty physical depression. I thought it might’ve been a blood sugar drop, and ate a bit when I got home, which helped a bit, and made some golden milk and a pot of fresh yogi tea. I stabilized after a while, but I still wonder what the hell happened. Yuck.

Sahib Parnaam near Balboa Lake, Har Har Har

Headed up to CalArts today to take care of some library research and renewals; as usual found myself interested in way too many books in the library, especially those relating to my Integrated Media MFA, which I don’t often find my interests stimulated by elsewhere around LA. It was a beautiful day out, and I’d forgotten how terribly hot it gets up there in the summer. One of my priorities was attempting to avoid rush hour traffic, and I did OK with that.

Looking down on the lawn in the central area of the campus, I remembered how I had once found myself feeling run-down and sluggish and unable to think straight during a class and had slipped outside during the break to do some Kundalini Yoga on the lawn, and re-entered the class feeling a lot more clear-headed and comfortable. If only I’d had a regular practice at that point. I hadn’t even discovered the Kundalini Yoga studios in LA yet, and had to learn and practice everything from the manuals I had – Ravi Singh’s books.

The library uses my old student ID card as a library card, and it’s been falling apart for ages; it was issued in 1996! Every time I’d asked security, the librarians, and others about getting a replacement, I was told it was “impossible.” Today I went to the alumni office, they sent me to the registrar and she printed an alumni card out on the spot. Hmmm. Prosperity meditations? Well, the job board certainly didn’t support that hypothesis:

I felt a lot more “present” and outgoing today than my usually somewhat observant and sometimes introverted self, in any case.

I went to Balboa Lake Park and had some time to kill afterwards, and realized the 2 cups of coffee might’ve been to blame for me feeling a bit over-talkative on the phone, feeling a bit wound-up, and over-energized. Maybe yoga would bring things back into control? So I did the “Har” meditation for 11 mins. in the car, and then laid out my mat on the grass near the kids soccer game just south of the beautiful Japanese Garden and DWP water processing plant (both just beyond the walls in the picture). It looked like there was a big fire someplace down near the north side of the Hollywood Hills, and clouds of smoke, or perhaps smog, were drifting west over Tarzana.

I wasn’t sure what yoga set to do, and since Sahib Parnaam. is simple and easy to remember (though pretty challenging!) I jumped in and made my way through it.

Sixteen minutes of push-ups in downward dog, bringing my head to the ground in rhythm with Jap Sahib, revortexed my energy, followed by 14 minutes of tree pose and a couple minutes of Ajai Alai meditation while sitting. I was still pretty wound up tonight, but felt like my day was taking a more focused direction.

Later it sounded like I may be getting a full scholarship to Pacific Yearly Quaker Meeting in Marin County next month. I guess it’s time to quit scoffing about the prosperity resulting from the energetic shifts of my practice. Or perhaps I should refer to it as “grace” and, in either case, practice gratitude.

Forgetting the combination for the 7th Gate Set’s lock; Meditation for Maturity and Wisdom isn’t working, who’ll change my diapers?

Full and busy day today. Couldn’t quite make the Quaker history presentation before meeting in Pasadena this morning after blogging too late last night. I had to show up to follow up on business and ride planning for the yearly meeting in Marin County next month. Got there for most of meeting and potluck, but had to skip business meeting to meet Brad and Kevin at Elderberries, where we played all afternoon. I thought playing went pretty well, except for some weird buzzing noise my bass or amp was making, and territorial tension betwixt Kev & Brad. I hope that resolves itself. Disappointed Frank didn’t join us on percussion. I thought I saw Lea Michele walk by on the sidewalk while we were playing, but probably just another Hollywood delusional mirage. I also found myself thinking we should offer cross-promotions to BeSpun across the street. The cafe wasn’t as full as it was last week, unfortunately. I think the gay pride parade nearby may have impacted the customer turn-out, and it was a beautiful day out, so people may have been up in the hills or at the beach.

My elderly neighbor Maria asked for some help and didn’t answer when I stopped by the other day as scheduled; she’s a bit overcome with self-loathing over it, which I haven’t had a chance to iron out because we’ve been rehearsing and playing. Yes, Mercury IS retrograde!

Before Vedanta Meditation Meeting, I did the 7th Gate Set that Gurushabd taught us during teacher training. I transcribed this from a cassette recording of him teaching it, and now wish I had the ($108!) teacher’s training manual that was published the year after we graduated, as this set is apparently in it. There are a couple of exercises I’m not 100% sure I’m doing correctly. Gurushabd mentioned that many of these exercises work on the glands and need to be done for 4-5 mins or more to activate them, but that makes the set nearly 70 mins. long, and I only had 35 mins. to spare, so I shortened everything to 2 minutes each, and did the set under a nice tree next to Vedanta’s temple. I blessed the ants that kept exploring my hands and they eventually left me alone. Tee hee.

Then during the silent meditation period, I tried to do the “Meditation for Maturity and Wisdom” p. 214 Master’s Touch – silently. Ever try to pump your navel silently? The bench I was sitting on kept creaking, and I did my best to keep my breath quiet, but couldn’t really “cut loose.” Ah well.

To do this meditation, you sit cross-legged with your palms up, pointed ahead of you by your shoulders, and pump your navel. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find pumping the navel at all to be challenging; in the instructions there are a bunch of different adjectives to describe how you’re supposed to pump it; vigorously, powerfully, very hard, very fast. For 31 minutes; the meeting’s meditation period was for 20 minutes, so that seemed to be enough for tonight. A lot of the remaining meditations in Master’s Touch seem to be group ones, or also have many parts to them. I think it’s going to be harder to do one a day.

Now the interesting thing about the 7th gate set is that I almost find a lot of fun syncronicities and personal connections happen afterwards. I was feeling a bit guarded or closed-down at the meeting though, and ran into my friend Christian walking home down the street, he asked for and I gave him a ride. We’ve been friends for ages, so it was nice to connect. I wanted to see my friend Steve play at the Baked Potato afterwards (and avoid the James Taylor Bowl traffic near home) but decided I needed to take care of business and administrative stuff at home instead, undoubtedly due to pumping my navel so much. It had been a really full day already too. Maybe coming home was the mature and wise thing to do?

Still have to do the 11 min. “Har” today; one minute left before my carriage turns into a pumpkin…. but today DID feel quite prosperous, even amidst the retrogradian challenges and nincompoops who kept tail-gating me everywhere I drove.

The ideal yoga manual

In my last post I complained a bit about the binding of the Sadhana Guidelines manual:

The more I practice, the more I realize I want things that most manuals just don’t offer.

Durability is one of the first issues that comes to mind; the Sadhana Guidelines manual isn’t the only one that falls apart quickly. You need to be able to leave your manual lying open while you follow it, and the plastic bindings also tend to fall apart, or the pages tear.

Set length: One of the first things I want to know is how long the set takes, and there’s never a total time duration given in any manuals I’ve seen. I’m sort of baffled that no one has addressed this.

Maybe it’s my virgo moon, but I really want to sort my sets by the things they’re supposed to target. That’s really hard to do in a manual that includes lots of different types of sets. Once I get a pile of manuals, it’s hard to remember which one had a certain set I liked. I deal with this by xeroxing the table of contents from all of them, and then I can look through those pages to find things more easily.

A lot of 3HO newsletters included sets in them, but it’s even more difficult to find sets among them, and you can’t really pull the set out of the newsletter. You could xerox each one and keep them in a folder, which I sometimes do, but that’s not terribly efficient either.

Music: Time and time again, a set will refer to a piece of music that was used when the set was taught. A lot of them are impossible to find, or collecting them is prohibitively expensive. I really wish the manuals would give you the option of buying a CD with the music used in the sets in the manual! Now, of course, this is where teachers really get to apply their creativity; frequently the music they choose instead is much more interesting, but I’d still like to know what the original selection was.

Shorthand for teaching: Once you learn a set, you don’t need to read all the instructions each time; you really just need a name for the pose if there is one, or an illustration, and a duration. The older teachers frequently used shorthand notation, like BOF or LDB (breath of fire, long deep breathing) for their personal notes, which makes a lot of sense.

Physical limitations or alternatives: some teachers have added alternative exercises for people with injuries, and this is a great practice.

What else do YOU think an ideal manual could offer?

Onion Peeling and facing resistance

Well, today got off to a groggy start, as I had to meet some people early in the morning, and my body was feeling out-of-alignment and crummy, and there wasn’t time to do any yoga to fix that. I tried to do a small bit of bound lotus sitting in a chair in a group setting without being too exhibitionistic, but it didn’t help much. Finally I went outside and did a couple sun salutations, and surprisingly that helped significantly. There wasn’t time at that point to do much else. Quite a bunch of changes going on in my life; mercury went retrograde today, and I’m actually asking for help from some people in some life changes I’m trying to undertake, which isn’t my usual practice. So I guess I’m “peeling the onion” of my life.

After a meal with friends I had a nice afternoon rehearsal with Brad Byrd, whom I’m playing with tomorrow at Elderberries along with Kevin. Had to do some spur of the moment apt. cleaning to make that happen, and the place feels much better as a result. After he left, I didn’t really have any inclination to do yoga, but my mental commitment and lingering desire to do yesterday’s chosen sets got me started.

I did quite a lot tonight!

I never have been that fond of the “Kundalini Yoga Guidelines for Sadhana (Daily Practice)” manual. Gurushabd gave it to me when we were beginning a new manual, and I suppose part of the problem is that I feel a psychic debt for dropping that project. But the manual itself is poorly bound; I’ve barely used it and it’s falling apart. A lot of the sets in the Teacher’s Training manual were xeroxed from it. I’m not excited about the illustrations in it. But the content is good, so I was attempting to get past those superficial issues when I chose a set from it.

First I did “Kriya for Nerve, Navel, and Lower Spine Strength” (p. 61) After I was underway I remembered one set that Sada Sat Singh had taught once that had a lot of these platform and ramp poses in it, and it left my legs so sore I could barely walk at work the next day. I was hoping it wasn’t this set – or at least that I don’t have a similar reaction. It didn’t seem as strenuous as it claimed it was, but it’s not a snap either.

When I was doing exercise 7, I remembered how I was at an event sitting next to “Skinny Bitch” vegan author Rory Freeman, and the chairs were full, so we were at the side of the room on a stage, and I suddenly had the urge to do nearly the exact same pose, from another set, actually, which you do in celebate pose, between your heels, rather than sitting atop them. She immediately moved to the other side of the room. Don’t blame her, actually… sorta funny to remember; maybe I smelled like dairy. Yes, I’m a crazy yogi.

I listened to Cherdikala Jetta’s “Gobinday Mukunday” for the whole set; nearly all the exercises were 3 minutes long. Anyway, after the set I did my 11 min. “Har” meditation, and then decided to complete the Master’s Touch “Blessings” meditations that I’d only done the first two of.

This is the pose for Part III:

You chant “Har” in this posture for 3-1/2 minutes. Got a little old after 11 minutes of the other “Har” meditation, and James Taylor is across the street at the Hollywood Bowl tonight, so there was a lot of traffic and fire engine noise for some reason, although I didn’t find myself distracted by it. I think the navel exercises helped with focus.

Then the next two parts are supposed to be done with a partner, but I don’t really know anybody who’d be interested in doing them, or “up to the task” – or maybe I’m just committed to solo practice – so I had to follow the suggestion to imagine a partner if doing it alone. First you do another minute of chanting “Har” while looking into the partner’s eyes, and then you close your eyes and do a deep meditation, breathing long and deep for 27-1/2 minutes. I imagined a few people I knew who need support and healing as my partners, and also some people with pretty intense energy who’ve been through some tough challenges lately – for some reason Gurutej came to mind; she lost her daughter last year. Some other friends facing health challenges were my imaginary yogis too, but I won’t name them. I played “Healing the Wounds of Love” again because it was long enough to support the meditation and I don’t have the specified ones in the book.

So I finished the meditation and it had been pretty long with the yoga sets too, so I closed with Long Time Sun, and then realized there were two more pages!! There are eight parts to this meditation! So I resumed and finished things out; the next section used the Ardas Bhaee mantra again which I recently discussed the lack of recordings of. I made something up that sounded a bit silly and like some classical aria. When I’d sung “Long Time Sun” I was a bit disappointed that I felt like I’d lost my melodic sense from so much yoga and meditation or was feeling tired. Ardas Bhaee was only 3 minutes, fortunately.

Then the next section called for a mantra that’s actually in the “Healing the Wounds of Love” mantra I’d just been listening to, so I used it again; the “Aad Such, Jugad Such, Haibay Such, Nanaka Hosay Bhay Such.” (3-1/2 mins)

The final section you’re supposed to join hands with the class, and listen to the “Aquarian March” (which I actually have a recording of), thinking about how you can see healing happen when you hold someone’s hands. The march is incredibly hokey and has these old instrumental samples that sound more like a calliope than anything else, but I liked the message printed in the manual with it: