Cajoling the Inner Critic

There you are, poised on the brink of accomplishing something, and it begins, that voice that tells you you’re no good, you’ll never accomplish anything, and you should just quit now.

Your inner critic (aka The Gremlin) is alive and well.

The inner critic specializes in sabotaging creative endeavors, but can show up anytime you’re in the midst of making an important change in your life.

In spiritual practice, the inner critic falls under the heading of negative mind. The negative mind, one of the Ten Bodies in Kundalini Yoga, seeks to protect us from problematic situations by pointing out hazards or pitfalls.

But if the negative mind is over-developed it can become an immobilizing influence. Thus it’s important the negative mind be balanced by the positive mind, which sees all the potential good in any endeavor. And it’s equally important that we be governed by the neutral mind, which is a manifestation of our higher self and rises above an ego perspective.

There are different ways to cope with the inner critic. Some might suggest doing away with the Gremlin altogether, though this is much easier said than done. Trying to squelch the inner critic isn’t necessarily the most effective approach, as it sets up a win/lose adversarial-type situation, an inner war of sorts.

I’ve found that an effective approach is to listen with the recognition that this is a misguided attempt at protection, and to silent express appreciation for the protective instinct – after all, this is an attempt at self-preservation – and then gently (but firmly) move forward with your endeavor.

Recommended reading: Taming Your Gremlin, by Rick Carson

Healing the Wounds of Love

In our world today, relationships end. Even marriages end. All too often. And then, even though we might not have initially thought it possible, we enter into a new relationship after a period of healing and renewal. In Kundalini Yoga there is a meditation for Healing the Wounds of Love that utilizes the Shabd Hazaray from the Sikh holy book, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. A sadhana for this meditation would be 11 recitations per day for 40 days.

If we don’t take the time to heal, we take the wounds of the past into our future relationships. Those hopes, fears, and projections can be a hindrance in a new relationship. They can cause us to over-react to the issues that will inevitably arise in any relationship. They can cause us to mis-understand things another person says – and in the worst cases they prevent us from really hearing that person altogether.

If we can begin a new relationship with a clean slate we give it the best chance of succeeding. It takes time to heal old wounds, and a focused intention to unravel the complexities of past experiences in order to avoid the trap of seeing people as merely good or bad – or of viewing our relationship experiences in terms of polarities.

By developing a process orientation, we can view our relationships in terms of the lessons we have learned and the ways in which we have grown. Beyond that, by developing skills for conflict resolution that go beyond win-lose or compromise, we can use our creative abilities to cooperatively birth new and better solutions to conflicts without polarizing differing perspectives on issues of importance.

Healing Relationships with So Purkh

There is a special mantra in the Kundalini Yoga tradition called the So Purkh which Yogi Bhajan specifically recommended be used by women. The mantra’s purpose is to elevate a man. Many women in the tradition use the So Purkh to “manifest the divine” in the men in their lives. A So Purkh sadhana is 11 recitations of the mantra every day for 40 days.

It’s important to realize that a mantra, or a sadhana of this sort, is in no way a guarantee to manifest a specific outcome. Rather, this type of sadhana is a way of putting energy behind an intention. And the So Purkh is an interesting and unique practice because it’s intended to benefit someone else, whereas a majority of the other meditations within the tradition are intended for the person practicing.

A good friend of mine once reminded me at a difficult time that we don’t do spiritual practice to manifest specific outcomes in our lives. In other words, it isn’t penance. It’s not as if, once we’ve meditated enough, we’ll get the right job or spouse or something like that – we’re not earning our success.

Spiritual practice is a commitment to a specific way of being in the world. It’s not a results-oriented practice in the way we often think of being goal-oriented in this culture. If there is a goal in spiritual practice, it’s to remain graceful in the most challenging circumstances, to remain peaceful in the midst of chaos, and to be a radiant light in places of shadow and darkness.

So Purkh is a beautiful and powerful mantra. To discover it for yourself, listen to the SoPurkh on YouTube. I also recommend “Ask the Yogini: So Purkh” by Ramdesh Kaur.

The Summer Solstice Experience

Every summer Kundalini Yogis from around the world gather at Ram Das Puri in the Jemez Mountains near Espanola, New Mexico for a variety of intensive workshops and 3 days of White Tantric Yoga. They call this experience Summer Solstice.It is a transformative immersion opportunity. I have had the Summer Solstice experience twice since I began practicing Kundalini Yoga. Both times I described it afterward as one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Because Ram Das Puri is in the high desert, the weather covers some surprising extremes. It can be as warm as 90 degrees during the mid-day, and as cold as 40 degrees at night. Add to that the altitude of nearly 7,000 feet, the desert sun, the dust, the wind, and occasional torrential rains, and you have quite a climate experience! (Oh, and you will be camping, so don’t forget to bring your tent!)

A day at Summer Solstice begins at 3:45 with group sadhana (spiritual practice), followed by breakfast. Throughout the day, participants have a variety of yoga workshops to choose from. Meals are included in the registration fee and follow a special cleansing diet prescribed by Yogi Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga.

One of the most remarkable features of the Solstice experience is the intentional community. Everyone who attends participates by providing some special service as part of community-building. Being part of a group of up to 2000 like-minded people coming together to pursue a common intention is incredibly powerful. Add to that the sacred history of Ram Das Puri in the Native American tradition, and Summer Solstice is an incredible opportunity to deepen one’s spiritual practice and commitment.

I think that many times if we look back and are completely honest with ourselves, the times at which we were learning the most, and having the greatest chance of moving forward, of becoming most fully ourselves, are challenging times. Letting go of who we used to be can be difficult and painful. The degree to which we will experience pain and difficulty in that process depends upon the extent to which we cling to old ideas and beliefs which no longer serve the person we are becoming.

The dates for this year’s Summer Solstice are June 14-23, 2012. Service scholarships and financial aid are available.

Photos of Summer Solstice courtesy of Amarjot Singh.

The 40-day Sadhana Challenge

“The highest sadhana is that your presence should remind people of God. What bigger and more powerful miracle than that can there be, that by your very presence you can invoke Godhood in people?” – Yogi Bhajan

Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini Yoga to the United States in the 1960s, recommended that all practitioners do sadhana, or daily spiritual practice, as a way of connecting with the infinite on a regular basis. Since Kundalini Yoga meditations have impact in as little as 3 minutes, sadhana need not be long in order to be effective.

The key is consistency. Yogi Bhajan said it takes 40 days to change or break a habit. So then 40 consecutive days is the minimum time period for any sadhana. Sadhana requires a basic level of discipline, while building a higher level of commitment in the practitioner.

A lot of people think that they need to study with a famous teacher or attend a retreat in a far-off exotic location to grow their spiritual practice. This is simply not the case. Real growth comes from an individual’s daily commitment to engaging in the practice. The most popular teacher, the most amazing retreat, will not be useful without that firm and grounded commitment to the practice day after day, whether sick or well, busy or bored.

Doing sadhana means maintaining that spark of the divine within you. It will change how you feel, how you see yourself, and how others see you. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. And if you need to see the evidence, check out How God Changes Your Brain, by Andrew Newberg, MD.

Photo of Yogi Bhajan © 2004 Gurumustuk Khalsa –

The White Tantric Yoga Experience

In the Kundalini Yoga tradition there is a special all-day meditation experience called “White Tantric Yoga.” (WTY)  It’s a partner meditation where hundreds of pairs sit facing each other in rows. The day consists of a series of meditations of varying lengths, generally 62 minutes or less, with breaks in between. WTY is designed to release blocks in the subconscious. The meditations typically include hand/body positions (mudra), eye focus, and sacred sound (mantra). In between the meditations, video clips of Yoga Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga, are shown in which he discusses the purpose and benefits of each meditation in that day’s program.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that WTY is not a sexual practice. The word tantra has become almost synonymous with sex, but it’s important to realize there are different types of tantra, not all of them sexual. While the meditation is done with a partner, it need not be someone you are romantically involved with, or even someone you know. Many people just show up at WTY and see who else shows up that they’d like to partner with for the day.

In my first WTY experience, the element that struck me most was the eye gazing. Many of the meditations were performed with the eyes open, looking directly into the partner’s eyes for 30-60 minutes at a stretch. It was a completely new experience for me. I’d never sustained that kind of eye contact before, even in my long-term romantic relationships – and my partner for the day was a complete stranger I’d met when I arrived at the workshop! At first, I found it uncomfortable, then I started to notice changes. I found I could see aspects of myself reflected in the other person, and I found that, in time, I was looking through that person, rather than at her.

So far in my Kundalini practice, I’ve completed 10 days of WTY. Every experience is different. Sometimes the day is intensely physical; sometimes it’s intensely emotional. Sometimes I wished it wouldn’t end, and other times I was ready to run out the door 2 minutes after we started (but I didn’t). That often depends on whatever I’m working through at the time, and whatever is triggered by the meditations in that day’s program.

WTY is a fantastic opportunity to move through blocks in your life. It’s offered in major cities in the United States and around the world. Chicago’s WTY is Saturday, April 21, 2012.