7 Part Set for Addictions, Eating Disorders, and Compulsive Behavior

I came across this set  in a text that described the set but didn’t include instructions for people to do the exercises, so I collected previously published instructions for each exercise where possible, and added new photos and text where I couldn’t find the instructions.

Update, January 2015:
I received the following threat from the author of the book, so have removed it. I still have to run across anyone else who’s done the set. The book isn’t written as a manual, so that’s probably the real problem. My recollection was that it had more of a clinical orientation.

Mr. Arthur O. Kegerreis,
Today I noticed your link below and your post to your blog with my copyright-protected 7-part specific sequence using Kundalini yoga meditation (“Treating the Addictive, Impulse Control, and Eating Disorders). This is a strict violation of my copyrights, with the copyrights clearly stated in both of the W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. books where I have this published, and no doubt where you obtained the material. It does not matter if you use your own pictures and wording. You are still violating the copyright by republishing the sequence. I hope you are aware of that. I pursue all people with my attorney when my copyrights are violated. I am requesting that you take this down immediately. If you do not, I will pursue you legally for financial damages and the violation of my copyrights. 

Sincerely,
David Shannahoff-Khalsa

Update, May 2014: A couple of people have asked what the exact title of the book this came from is. I first found it at Golden Bridge Yoga, but didn’t see it today when I returned to get the details. Golden Bridge has scaled down their bookstore significantly since their relocation. After a bit of web sleuthing, I’m pretty sure I originally found the set in “Kundalini Yoga Meditation: Techniques Specific for Psychiatric Disorders, Couples Therapy, and Personal Growth” (Hardcover) by David Shannahoff-Khalsa.

The book didn’t include diagrams for the set, so I put the pdf download together myself, as most of the postures, mudras, and short kriyas that comprise it are available in other manuals. I tried to match the typography style of other similar manuals as well. I’ll have to update the title page to credit the authors of the book and manuals.

Plowing Through Slumps

Well, frankly, the last few days I’ve just been depressed. It’s seeming like one of those times when I come up with every rationale for why Kundalini Yoga is just a waste of time, a diversion from the things I really need to be doing (but am not doing either) and is not helping me make a living in any way. I did five days of Sadhana, and then the next day couldn’t bring myself to get up. I’ve been tired a lot, and stressed out.

Today I was feeling toxic; tired and lethargic and didn’t really want to do anything or deal with anybody. But Paul is visiting and invited himself over, then we didn’t go to the Lake Shrine because he didn’t want to deal with LA traffic. Generally I’ve found an energetic set will blast through that, once I can bring myself to sit down and do it. But often it can take the whole day to reach that point if I don’t do it in the morning – and I hadn’t. So it wasn’t until about 4PM that I got to it, and then procrastinated on one of the Facebook Kundalini Yoga groups a bit, posting some info for other folk. 5:30PM I started the “Exercise Set for Metabolic Change” from “Kundalini Yoga for Youth and Joy,” which it appears they’ve finally re-issued. It was listed on the Ancient Healing Ways site, anyway.

Gurmukh used to do this set frequently, although I don’t remember ever doing the whole duration of the exercises. You’re supposed to dance with your eyes closed for 20 minutes to Don Cooper’s “Twelve Months” which only seems to be available on cassette from Ancient Healing Ways, but I discovered it was somehow related to Bara Maha, and found an Indian version that seemed a lot like something you’d dance to at a Greek Restaurant. I even did the full bowing 31 minute version of Jaap Sahib at the end (“will build stamina and inexhaustible energy”). Then I collapsed and slept an hour and a half. All the usual delusions throughout; oh, this isn’t so bad – I’ve got this down! I can do this forever! Minutes later, I can’t do another single one! Then, deciding to stick with it since I got this far and want to see what it’s like to do the full duration.

So after I got up, I was a little less depressed, but it’s edging back in. And it’s 11PM already. The weekend has slipped away.

Dear Abbey: Everyone in my cult is healthier than everybody else I know.

So I made it to sadhana three days in a row. Didn’t get much else done the last two days, though.

Keval led today and Monday. Today we did a set for the immune system. Then once we did long “Eck Ong Kars” I did the “Adjust Your Flow” set while chanting.

 

I just do each of the four sections for 7 minutes – the length of each chant – but once again did 7 minutes of “Mental Exercises” during “Rakhe Rakanhaar” and then finished the last section for 7 minutes of “Wahe Guru, Wahe Jeo” and finished the last 14 minutes the way you’re supposed to. I suppose I’m a bit defiant, unwilling to be an obedient little yogi who does what he’s told. Yogi Bhajan says somewhere, “all your troubles in life come from not doing ‘Wahe Guru, Wahe Jeo’ in the proper pose for the proper length of time.” Oh well. Well, frankly, my lower back – or liver or kidney or something – ends up hurting when I do.

Yesterday I found myself feeling like I was trying to get attention by doing the mental exercises set, and wanting to show off what a perfect yogi I am so somebody would notice. That and also wishing somebody would notice how I can do Japji without reading it. Never mind that I couldn’t do that without a recitation to follow along with. So much for cutting through spiritual materialism. But it’s interesting how the whole purpose of sadhana is to cultivate a focus on God, and I’m still too restless and impatient to just sit and do that, needing something to focus on and distract my mind from the actual meaning of the chanting. If only I could bring that approach into my work life, doing my work to cultivate a connection with God, but letting the work distract me from it in the course of it, until I don’t need to distract myself from it anymore.

 

I had a weird dream last night. There was this yogic saint in this outside garden, sort of like the Japanese Garden by Balboa Lake. I didn’t want to encounter him directly, or speak with him, sort of like I never wanted to talk to Yogi Bhajan, but he’d answer the questions I had without asking him them, just sitting there in the group. So I’m avoiding the saint. Blair Breard was there too, we were walking around the garden. Then there was this buffet, and I get this flimsy paper plate, and I start loading it with meat in gravy, and cauliflower and chick peas in sauce, and rice and other stuff, and the plate is collapsing, and I look around to find a sturdier plate, and find a little cardboard carton that fits right under it to support it, and just as I do that, the woman who was serving the saint, whom I realized was Lahiri Mahasaya after I woke up, started apologizing to him for serving him meat. He walked over to her, and focused on her, looking into her eyes, and she walked away in a daze, aimlessly wandering around in a state of dumb bliss.

Then I woke up, feeling a lot more peaceful than I usually do, and not as knotted up. It sort of felt like a visitation, and left me wondering about reading the Self Realization Fellowship lessons that I haven’t made time for, but it was just time to go to sadhana, and in a minute, the alarm went off. I actually took a cold shower like you’re supposed to this morning too. But I had a lot of mucous in the back of my throat which kept making me cough.

This is just slightly more interesting than the presidential and vice presidential debates, I’m sure. So now the 10% of the day given to God is all up, and what the fuck do I do next?

Oatmeal isn’t too interesting without the Ume plum in it. I didn’t realize how much that added to the flavor of it until it was missing. I only had 3-1/2 hours of sleep… I wonder if I should nap, get the rest, or try to keep going throughout the day. There’s a rehearsal in Culver City tonight at 7:30PM. How will I keep going? I just made a very un-yogic pot of coffee too. So much for the PSN – Post Sadhana Nap.

Meanwhile, I contemplate that job opening listed at Sounds True in Boulder. I don’t really want to move. During sadhana I was wondering about all the things that have happened here in LA since I decided not to pursue the job in Espanola working with IKYTA. I feel a stronger calling to OneTaste – to at least find out if it’s all my mind has made it up to be. But then, the bay area? It leaves me thinking about the people who come to LA wanting to be actors and then don’t have the courage to go to auditions, and eventually realize they haven’t become actors.

I haven’t done any worthwhile musical endeavors while I’ve lived in this apartment, which has been 7 years now. That’s disheartening. There’s this dichotomy between spiritual calling, spiritual support for the rest of my life, and spirituality as avoidance of responsibility.

Dear Abbey:

Everyone in my cult is healthier than everybody else I know. Some of them even have jobs. My friends don’t understand why I’m in it. Should I leave it?

It’s funny the whole idea of the Kundalini Yoga teacher who’s out to convert the whole world and get them to try it. I find that funny because I keep trying and people are never interested. I guess I’m not a born salesperson? But it struck me this morning how it’s probably a much better approach to try to find the people who ARE interested, and stick with them. Somebody was talking in a podcast about relationships how trying to change people to be the way you want them to be is “an act of aggression.” Interesting perspective, and food for thought on the nature of acceptance. But then, what about the people who might be interested in kundalini yoga but just haven’t discovered it yet, just because they haven’t been looking in the right places? Hmmm.

Sadhana and the “Mental Exercises” set

So, I haven’t posted here for a while. I guess it feels like my practice has been on a “Maintenance” basis; like when I can’t stand the pain anymore I dive back in. I recommitted to sadhana for about a week and a half a couple weeks back, and then one night I said, “to hell with it; I’m not going tomorrow.” Since then it’s been hard to get back in the groove.

 

But a funny thing happened one of those days. I remembered Gurushabd saying one day after Sadhana (years ago) that he was going on his morning walk, and I’d been recounting Julia Cameron’s admonition to take a daily walk to improve your life, and I thought I’d give it a try.

At sadhana that morning, the yoga leader was subbing for Gurushabd, so I figured he was out-of-town. I went up Beachwood Canyon to the ranch where the Hollywood sign trail starts, and found the gate hadn’t been opened yet. I hiked for about 45 minutes, and as I neared the parking lot again, I saw what appeared to be a turbaned man approaching. As he came into focus, sure enough, it was Gurushabd! There’s a 3HO song “Walking Up The Mountain” that comes to mind. I was so astonished at the coincidence that I didn’t mention he’d been a partial inspiration for the walk.

 

Last week I was feeling stuck, and stuff wasn’t getting done. I figured sadhana might be a way to jump-start the path to getting back on track. Gurushabd was leading that morning (it seemed he played Jap Sahib instead of Japji at sadhana… I was a bit late and only heard the end of it) Well, I headed home afterwards, and had one of the most productive days I’ve had in months.

Last night I couldn’t sleep and headed over for it, and Keval was leading. It was an interesting set that had a sequence that’s in one of the kidney sets included, but after long Eck Ong Kars I just went right to sleep. I hope I wasn’t snoring. It’s always funny when somebody snores through sadhana. There was this cricket merrily chanting along with all the chants. Wahe guru!

Kavel gave me a big “HI HIMAT!” as I was struggling to tie my shoes, but all my groggy head could muster was a grumbled “Sat nam…” I came home and slept prolifically.

—————————–

Mental Exercises Set (with my clearer layout than the original manual)

That mental exercises set, from the Fountain of Youth manual, always looked really goofy. You do the sequence of poses to “Rakhe Rakanhaar” for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I kept trying and could never find the un-interrupted time to get the whole time period completed. Finally, one night I said to myself, “I’m going to get through this tonight!” About half-way through, I began to squirm and my mind was looking for every excuse to quit. I’d then ask myself, “but then you’d have given up and will have to start over again. Is that REALLY what you want to do? It’s just one of your patterns of procrastination and avoidance rearing it’s head.” As the time went on, I began to see, clearly, each pattern of procrastination and feel their intense call to distract me from what I was doing.

At sadhana I often try 7 minutes of the set along with the chant, but I figure it’s not intended to be done that way. It does let me re-experience the awareness of those 135 minutes, however. The thing is that many recordings of Rakhe Rakankaar don’t repeat the last phrase properly, so you can’t do the last posture of the sequence.

Affirmation – A poem by Haripurkh Kaur Khalsa

Affirmation

If I need your approval to be great,

If your slander can tear me down,

If my dreams are subject to your opinion,

Then god bless me,

For I am lost.

If fear causes my surrender,

If doubt clouds my mind,

If my clarity is tarnished by my anger,

Then god bless me,

For I am lost.

If my aim in life lacks altitude,

If I am afraid to be great,

If the thought of failure holds me standing still,

Then god bless me,

For I am lost.

Everything I will ever need,

I have within my soul.

Everything I need to learn,

The universe will deliver.

Every truth that exists,

The infinity holds within.

Tap into that wisdom,

And let the rejoicing begin.

I will never be average.

I will fail 1,000 times at greatness,

Before I settle for good.

I will go out on the limb,

While the branch is breaking,

If I’m not falling down,

Then I’m not aiming high enough.

Fear is not a factor,

I can always get back up.

If something triggers my fear,

I will fight it until I have it conquered,

Or until I die…

Which ever comes first.

— Haripurkh Kaur Khalsa

(Guru Singh’s daughter)

This poem is published in a book of poems and illustrations by Miri Piri Academy students, available from Guru Singh’s wife, and I believe, through his website.

3HO – Cult or Spiritual Environment?

Despite the remarkable help I’ve experienced from my Kundalini Yoga practice, I often wonder if I’m stuck in a cult. I was out with some friends having dinner, and one guy remarked that his ex had been a dedicated Kundalini Yoga practitioner. He made an off-hand comment about it being a cult. Is it?

Just where do you draw the line? Even if it IS a cult, can it still be beneficial? There are a number of embittered “ex-3HO” discussion groups, and Rick Ross maintains a group of articles about 3HO claiming the horrible abuses it inflicts. But the stories he relates are indicting for the individuals involved more than the community as a whole.

A woman I know says she did spiritual counseling for women (plural in her story) whom Yogi Bhajan instructed to be celibate within the 3HO community, but he “made them have sex with him.” Apparently they were scarred for life. The questions that immediately came to mind were; was it an ego trip for them? For him? Was their self-esteem so damaged they needed that interaction? Does his wife know? Is there any possible way it could have been beneficial to the women? Or did Yogi Bhajan just blatantly abuse his powers without regard for their good? Is there some spiritual level at which it’s all inconsequential? Do our moral laws and judgements so thoroughly color our perception of the encounter that it obscures the power and esteem issues involved? Such questions immediately draw into mind the “defense of the cult by those blinded by their involvement in it” issue as well. I don’t have any clear answers. Of course any women will be insulted by open-minded examination of the issue, and most 3HO people will probably be defensive.

I heard so many horrible stories of the Hare Krishnas abducting people during the 70’s and not letting them leave after they had their free meal and were worked to the bone. Moonie stories abound as well. Both organizations have done wonderful things for various communities; Culver City’s Hare Krishna community seems wonderful, and boasts one of the best vegetarian restaraunts around. A friend of mine travelled to spiritual temples all around the world with a program sponsored by the moonies, and another worked for the computer animation lab they ran. Is a cult a black and white issue? Recent articles have condemned the Kabballah Center in Los Angeles for cult-like practices. Many people I know have met their “soul-mates” there or at least praise their spiritual growth and how much it’s helped them. A friend left the Scientology community and had people pursuing him through visits to his home and family. Others claim it’s helped them immensely, although some have lost family inheritances through shyster investment advisors that preyed on the community. Who am I to say? That one hasn’t held any attraction to me.

Steven Hassan has a website called the Freedom of Mind Center. In it, he’s examined some of the issues involved. Forthwith:

Questions to Help the Assessment Process

from Spiritual Responsibility: Avoiding Abuses and Pitfalls Along the Path

1. Who is the leader?

What are his/her background and qualifications?

Have you relied solely on trust that all of the information you were given is true or have you done independent investigation?

Do you feel pressure to accept and not question at all?

Is it possible that there are misrepresentations or falsehoods?

Is there external corroboration for extraordinary claims of accomplishment or are they simply his/her say-so?

If “miracles” have been performed, can they be replicated under open observation or even under scientific conditions?

Are there other explanations for the “miracles,” such as magic tricks, hypnosis, etc.?

If there is a former leader or member, have you sought him or her out to hear for yourself critical information? If not, are you afraid to trust your ability to discern the truthfulness of what you learn?

If you find yourself saying that you don’t care if there are major deceptions, ask yourself if you knew this information before you became involved, would you have even bothered to make a commitment of time and money?

2. Are there exclusive claims made to wisdom, knowledge, love, and truth? If so, the burden of proof is on the leader to demonstrate his or her superiority, not on members to disprove it. A truly “developed” spiritual being exudes love, compassion, and humility. Any person who claims to be “superior” but does not practice what they preach is of questionable character. There is never incongruency between words and deeds. A person who uses fear and phobia indoctrination to control followers demonstrates insecurity and lack of spiritual maturity.

3. Is total submission and obedience required? Any relationship that demands giving up one’s personal integrity and conscience is dangerous and leads to totalitarianism. Be wary of those who advocate “the ends justify the means,” especially when it clearly serves their own self-interest. Also, make sure that your desire “to believe” doesn’t simply activate the common psychological defense mechanisms: denial, rationalization, justification, and wishful thinking. If a doctrine is true or a person is truly spiritually advanced, they will stand up to the scrutiny of objective evaluation. If they do not prove themselves, they are probably not worthy of your commitment and devotion.

4.    Does he/ she have a criminal record, a legacy of allegations against him/her or a history of misconduct? If there are allegations of misconduct against the leader, the responsible follower must seek out the negative information and the sources of that information to evaluate the truth. If a leader claims to be celibate and allegations are made that the leader engaged in inappropriate sex, this is an extreme violation of integrity. It must be investigated vigorously. It is never appropriate for teachers, therapists, or spiritual masters to take advantage of a power differential over followers. This is especially true in the area of sexuality. It is grossly unethical to engage in sexual relations with someone who has placed their trust in as a teacher/advisor/master. Many followers are incredibly vulnerable to this and unable to resist sexual intimacy. Anyone should be able to say “no.”

Is he or she a “trust bandit,” stealing hearts, souls, minds, bodies, and pocketbooks for his or her own ends?

5. Does the leader demonstrate psychological problems and awareness of their existence?

Does the leader have addictions to power, drugs, alcohol, sex, even television or shopping?

Does the leader have emotional outbursts?

Does the leader physically abuse followers?

Does the leader drive expensive cars and wear expensive clothes while extolling the virtues of renunciation?

Does the leader financially exploit followers by expecting them to live in poverty while he or she indulges in luxury?

Is the group or leader’s driveway habitually filled with luxury cars while ordinary people find him or her inaccessible and unreachable?

Does the leader ever encourage deception or use deception as a “technique” to trick followers into so-called correct thinking and understanding?

Codependent behavior by a spiritual teacher should be a warning sign of danger. Codependency includes: obsessively trying to control others; allowing people to hurt and use them; lack of clear boundaries; being reactive, not proactive; tunnel visioned; obsessive worrying and denial; expectations of perfection and suppression of human needs. (Beattie, Beyond Codependency, Harper/Hazelden, 1989)

6. Are questions and doubts permitted within the organization?

A healthy spiritual environment must engage individual followers at their level of experience and should encourage them to feel and think and therefore question their beliefs and exercise good decision-making. In this way, the follower can investigate, discriminate, and test the dogma and the environment they are being asked to accept, between what his or her personal issues are and what might be an unhealthy environment. If intense pressure is used to dissuade people who wish to talk with former members or critics, it is a clear sign of information control. Controlling information is one of the most essential components of mind control.

7. Is the organization open or closed?

Are there organizational secrets?

Are there “in” groups and “out” groups?

Are there restricted teachings for initiates only?

Are there secret texts and publications “for your eyes only”?

Is there real financial accountability?

If a group says that you can look at its accounting records, does it actually provide access?

The only way to know is to ask to see the records. If you are afraid to ask, what does this say about the atmosphere of the group?

8. What structural checks and balances exist within the organization to prevent abuse of power?

Are there divisive sectarian biases, even in the name of interdenominational ecumenicism and universality?

Is there an independent “ethics”committee to challenge and change policies of the group?

If there are abuses or injustices, what structure exists to correct them?

Can anyone legitimately question the actions of the leader without threat of emotional withdraw or fear of expulsion to “hell”?

Do the rich and powerful get preferential treatment?

Are “indulgences” (spiritual pardons) sold?

Is there a “code of silence” against unethical behavior of leaders?

DailyOM: Harmonizing with the Universe; The Benefits of Singing

March 28, 2008

Harmonizing with the Universe

The Benefits of Singing

Singing is an act of vibration. It takes music from the realm of the unformed– whether that is in your mind or from that magical space of inspiration–and moves it from within to without. From the first breath singing moves the energy in a circular way inside your body. As the breath fills your lungs, it brushes against the second and third chakras—the centers of creation and honoring self and others. Instead of merely exhaling, pushing the air past the fourth and fifth chakras where heart charka and the center of will and intention reside, singing engages both the heart and mind. Sound vibrations from vocal chords resonate in the sinus cavities, filling the head with motion and sound while the brain lights up with the processing of the mathematics of music. This marriage of activities brings the third eye into play and opens the door for inspiration from the crown chakra before sending the sound out into the world.

Once the vibration begins, it is sustained with each note, moving throughout your body and the space around you. This can help you to harmonize your frequency with the world and with the divine. The use of the voice can bring about catharsis, a cleansing from the expression of emotion, which is why we feel better after singing certain types of songs. All of this occurs even if we are not conscious of what we are singing, but when we really connect with an intention, the power of the voice and music together are powerful tools in creation.

Even if you are not a singer by nature or talent, you are not left out. If you have a voice, it is your birthright to celebrate life with song. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel you have a nice voice. Chanting or humming, singing solo or with others, your voice is yours to enjoy. Whether you sing along to the radio or use vocalization as part of your meditation time, singing and harmonizing are healing activities that bring your body’s vibrations into alignment with the universe.

Contemplating Navels. Is that really Pilates? Shiva Rea Gets the Core

So I just finished Shiva Rea’s Creative Core Abs DVD workout.

Core work is usually hard for most people, and of any of the yogic sets in Kundalini yoga, I find myself resisting or procrastinating doing navel sets the most. They say if your navel center is strong, you’ll never be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gurushabd went as far as to say that the people in the World Trade Center obviously didn’t have strong navel centers or they wouldn’t have been there on 9/11. A wave of irritation flowed through the class after that pronouncement. Despite yogic arrogance, there’s truth to the benefits of a strong navel center. It keeps you on track, gives you the ability to follow-through on your ideas and commitments, and supports your confidence. Navel fire is the spark of commitment, the spiritual corollary to the “fire-in-the-belly” they talk about in the film “Wall Street.” Over-developed, a person can become domineering, over-bearing, and unreasonable.

A strong navel center needs to be supported by a balanced first chakra, sense of self, groundedness. It needs an open heart center to allow the truth to be expressed and heard, and to allow the self to connect the animalistic survival functions with the spiritual dimensions.

The Shiva Rea DVD isn’t a Pilates method, and never claims to be, but I recognized a lot of the exercises as familiar from Pilates. Of course, the Pilates method integrates a variety of yogic exercises along with other techniques, so Shiva Rea very well may have gone directly to the source, and I just found the exercises familiar because I know them from the later Pilates techniques.

Pilates is all about building a strong core or navel center. At least that’s what the trainers always spend their time discussing. In reality the system stretches and opens up all the limbs while building long lean exceptionally strong muscles. But after several years of Pilates, after doing the teacher training for it, I still hated the Pilates mat workout, whether beginner, intermediate, or advanced. The only one I thought was interesting was the mat reformer series, which presents the exercises you do on the reformer on the mat; many exercises are the same, but the sequence is different. The reformer is a modified bed with springs, developed for rehabilitation of hospital patients who couldn’t get out of bed. If you ever see a Pilates “apparatus” you’ll probably see a reformer first, although there are modified chairs and the “cadillac” – another immobile bed with pipes and springs above it. I love the Pilates equipment and the sets on them, but the mat work is dreary, hard, and boring.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to think Pilates is just for women. Any athlete whose performance relies upon strength and flexibility will see huge benefits from the practice, including football players. Joe Pilates himself was a boxer. Dancers and gymnasts love Pilates because it gives them flexibility and strength, focus and control. The surge in interest in it has been tied more to wealth and vanity than a real understanding of what it offers. Unfortunately, it has been so absurdly modified from studio to studio that you hardly know what you’ll get anymore. That is just what the NYC school was trying to trademark and prevent, and many teachers were angry about that – probably because what they were teaching bears little resemblance to Pilates.

For instance, the Menezes book on the technique bears little if any relation to the system taught by Roman Kryzanoska, Joe Pilates’ protégé.

 

(A better Pilates Method Book by Romana and Sean)

Sean Gallagher and Romana Kryzanowska

I met someone last weekend that had a herniated disc, a spinal injury that I’ve seen Pilates used to heal frequently, and the person said her Pilates work hadn’t helped it at all. I think there’s also a big difference between rehabilitative Pilates, and general exercise Pilates, and the thoroughly trained teachers can do both. Many people get certification for it without enough supportive work to learn the rehabilitative aspects of it.

I saw a magazine article that said Pilates doesn’t give you an aerobic workout and won’t help you lose weight. That was about as informed as the NY Times obituary that said that Yogi Bhajan’s White Tantric Yoga was a sexual practice. Unfortunately, the way some people teach Pilates, it IS slow and meditative, and doesn’t elevate your heart rate. That wasn’t the way it was intended. I saw a woman who lost 35 pounds in less than 10 sessions (typically 2-3 per week). Core work gets you slim. That fat may be the psychological “protection” we think we need, or ballast that keeps us sinking underwater. I think there’s probably a lot of psychic baggage trapped in it, so it’s hard to shed it.

But back to the DVD: Shiva Rea’s dance background seems to shine through in it, because it incorporates a lot of Pilates mat movements and a whole assortment of other abs routines in a constantly moving, never boring workout. I still associate the word “workout” with ending up tight and sore, but this set centers you and opens you up. I don’t think it was very long either; maybe half an hour. I think I’m going to come back to this DVD, hopefully frequently, because it made doing that core work fun, not dreary or boring. It’s not often I can say that.

Shakti Pad: The Stage of the Practitioner

From The Five Stages On The Path of Wisdom

in the older, now defunct, Teacher Training Notebook

The third stage of the practitioner is the most crucial, transitional, and challenging of all the stages. The choices made in this stage and the transformation of the student’s capacities that occurs determines whether the practitioner will progress toward mastery, stay at apprentice levels or quit the study altogether. It is a stage at which either a transformation or a discontinuity occurs. In the spiritual disciplines, shakti pad is known as the test of ego or the test of power.

At this stage the student has accumulated a lot of experience. He has tested the rules, stored up conscious and unconscious abilities and habits, and is overwhelmed by possibilities. What is required of the practitioner is the ability to choose a goal, fix on a motivation, and consciously commit to a set of values. The practitioner must also develop the ability to establish a hierarchy of choices. The practitioner must have a faculty to prioritize complex sets of tasks and decisions and to notice what is significant to the goal and what is not.

Imagine the driver who has learned the basic skill of guiding the car as a novice. He learned the art of driving and explored many different routes and types of vehicles as an apprentice. Now as a practitioner a new level of skill is demanded.

How do you choose between the many possibilities you are tactically qulified to execute? As a practitioner, you must choose a strategy. You must assume responsibility to choose between all the trails that take you along your journey. The driver may have 50 ways to drive into Boston. Putting all those choices in mind without a method to restrict and direct a decision would be confusing, overwhelming, and time consuming. The practitioner instead chooses the way into Boston based on a particular goal or value for the trip.

Each route satisfies a different value. Route 1 is the “quickest” and “saves time.” Route 2 is the “most beautiful.” Route 3 is the most “social” since it goes by friends’ houses. Route 4 is the most “historical” as it goes by monuments. Route 5 is the most “challenging” due to the varied landscapes and driving conditions.

The choice of value and of route must occur before leaving for the trip. If you start on the route of beauty, you can not change and still accomplish the least time.

As an apprentice each journey was assigned by the mentor. As a practitioner, the choice is now yours. You learned as an apprentice that there are many rules for different situations. As a practitioner you must now formulate rules about which set of rules to apply. The rules for beauty, speed, challenge, and newness are different.

This stage is similar to the developmental stage of adolescence. The novice is like the newborn. The apprentice is like the young child. The practitioner is like the adolescent who is ready to challenge the rules, to risk new combinations, and to act in patterns that are unlike the past. It is a creative and dangerous stage. Just as an adolescent wants the power of choice without the dangers of responsibility, the practitioner wants to make a choice without commitment. The practitioner that learns to command commitment, to overcome doubt and to discern the proper values, conquers this stage of learning.

The adolescent driver may decide that “speed” is the most important value. The driver then tailgates, risks high speed turns and darts between other car in traffic. If the practitioner becomes attached to that value, he will be insensitive to situations that do not fit it. He may spend time in court, kill himself or endanger other drivers.

If the practioner enjoyed sped and was willing to be a novice about that value, he might enroll in a speed driving course for cars in race tracks and begin professional training.

This is the test of power in shakti pad. The practitioner looks at the whole situation, at the panorama of facts and choices. He must then consciously act from the whole or from a part of the whole. This is a critical ability. The cognitive ability needed at this time is the capacity to perceieve the implications of the whole collection of choices and information. To act unconsciously or incorrectly from a small piece of the whole is a fatal error. A practitioner fails if he chooses the value or goal which he enjoys or which he finds most interesting or stimulating rather than the value that continues to serve the larger project, task or study that he entered training to attain.

The experience of this type of decision making is often unpleasant and frightful. It is beset with uncertainty and often fills the practitioner with doubt. It is a perilous and existential moment. It is as agonizing as the decision of a Hamlet – a question of identity and commitment. It is as grave as the decision of an Oedipus. The decision is made through deliberate effort to reach the correct perspective of the whole and to discern the true significance of the decision.

The ego or attachment of the student becomes the biggest block at this stage. Imagine the driver who so loves the feeling of the car as it moves that he refuses to study maps or make plans. The sensations of driving are so enthralling that the next capacity can not develop. This happens in games. I recall a video game player who couldn’t get above a certain score. I told him I knew how to do it, but he had to let the shooting of certain video demons become automatic. He said he knew that, but he enjoyed the feeling of confrontation too much to simply let it become automatic. His attachment to that sensation blocked him from moving to the highest level of performance. The love of confrontation was stronger than the commitment to increase speed. So the original goal, to win the greatest number of points, was not achieved. Neither was the experience of mastery which required him to surrender his own attachment to the requirements of the game.

At that point my friend redefined the game and found what he had done before to be false. This is equivalent to denying th guidance of the mentor who tells you to keep going and not to stop if you want to reach the end. A practitioner who does not pass the test of shakti pad denies the teacher or mentor. He is filled with doubt about the value of what he did before and he doubts the wisdom of the teacher.

The real test at this stage is the test to overcome doubt. To create an action where all the parts of your mind are behind the original path you chose. This sage requires commitment. It requires involvement in the sense that you are focally responsible for the choice. The results of the choice, for better or worse, are your responsibility. Success and failure become portentous and filled with consequence. It is similar to adolescence, when the smallest rejection or acceptance by others is met with enormous reactions of grief or ecstasy. Each action, since it is truly yours, is encased in amplified impacts and effects.

This choice of values cannot be done non-personally. It is always a personal choice that we make. It is not possible at this stage to take a cosmic perspective of detachment. The choice cannot be avoided without halting learning and growth. This is because the choice must be made first, before moving ahead.

In spiritual disciplines, this is the leap of faith. This is the moment where you choose to follow your own desires and limited perspective or you choose the higher values established by the path or teaching that you began to study. Up to this point the student is detached from the choice. As a novice you just follow the rules. As an apprentice you are busy learning new perceptions. As a practitioner you are competent to do most tasks related to the skills you are learning. You must choose where to use those skills and to what end.

On the path of yoga, many students leave the path at this point because they feel some part of themselves has been neglected or rejected by their own earlier efforts. Others gain spiritual ego and fancy themselves complete even though the teacher and teachings warn them against such a position. Others fade away slowly because they decide they are the exception to the rules and they need not follow the original disciplines any more.

Those students who can act with faith and wholeness do well at this stage. Students who can search for differences from the main goal and correct their direction pass through this stage the most easily. It is easy to forget yourself at this stage and become hypnotized by the satisfaction and power of the skills you have gained so far. If you surrender to the path and goal you began your study to fulfill, you will emerge with strength and empowered with an unshakable direction.