Eight Human Talents: The Yoga Way to Restore the Balance and Serenity Within You

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In The Eight Human Talents, Gurmukh, an internationally renowned Kundalini Yoga teacher, explains ancient methods for creating true health of the body, mind, and spirit. She shares the remarkable stories of healing and recovery she has observed in almost thirty years of teaching Kundalini Yoga to everyone from school teachers and waiters to Hollywood celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Courtney Love, and Madonna. Her teaching has helped world-class athletes and paraplegics; she has also worked with infants and ...

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Overview

In The Eight Human Talents, Gurmukh, an internationally renowned Kundalini Yoga teacher, explains ancient methods for creating true health of the body, mind, and spirit. She shares the remarkable stories of healing and recovery she has observed in almost thirty years of teaching Kundalini Yoga to everyone from school teachers and waiters to Hollywood celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Courtney Love, and Madonna. Her teaching has helped world-class athletes and paraplegics; she has also worked with infants and seniors. Anyone can benefit from these simple yoga and meditation techniques, which can revolutionize your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

The yoga she practices invokes eight chakras, energy centers of our bodies that are the seat of the eight the human talents. These eight uniquely human talents include Acceptance, Creativity, Commitment, Compassion, Truth, Intuition, Boundlessness, and Radiance. Each human talent has a corresponding shadow emotion, namely, Resentment, Guilt, Anger, Fear, Denial, Depression, and Grief. When there is an imbalance in one of the chakras and an overabundance of its shadow side, we sometimes see the creation of illness.

If you have ever longed to increase your creativity, intuition, compassion, health, and prosperity, The Eight Human Talents is for you. If you ever wished that you could escape the fear or anger that cripples you, this book will give you simple, practical tools to change your life profoundly. All that is required is a belief in the possibility of change and a commitment of as little as three minutes a day. Gurmukh makes Eastern wisdom accessible to everyone. The Eight Human Talents will inspire you with stories from her own life and the lives of students who have used these teachings to transform their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Gurmukh's gentle, wise, and witty counsel has helped thousands of students to make a quantum leap toward happinss, and she can help you, too!

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Editorial Reviews

Phil Catalfo
A gentle and very accessible introduction to Kundalini Yoga and meditation organized around Gurmukh's discussion of eight universal human "talents": acceptance, creativity, commitment, compassion, truth, intuition, boundlessness, and radiance.
Yoga Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060195489
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/1900
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Gurmukh is a pioneer in yoga and the mind-body-spirit connection. Based in L.A., Gurmukh teaches Kundalini yoga, meditation, and pre- and post-natal care. In 1983, she founded the Kundalini Yoga Center, where she is a teacher, manager and course director. Among her clientele are Madonna, Courtney Love, Annette Bening, David Duchovny, Melissa Etheridge, and Rosanna Arquette. She has been featured in Vogue, W, and InStyle.

Cathryn Michon is an award-winning actress, writer, and stand up comic. She performs in comedy clubs throughout the country, and her stand-up show The Grrl Genius Club is seen monthly at the Hollywood Improv. She is also one of the rare Hollywood writers to succeed in half-hour comedy (Designing Women) and drama (China Beach, Sisters). As an actress, she has worked in the theater since she was a child and has done many guest-starring television roles. She is also a playwright and the coauthor of Jane Austen's Little Advice Book.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

One day someone asked me what I used to be like before I did Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. I stared a moment, not out of rudeness, but because I honestly cannot remember. I am a very different person now. I believe that in doing this work, following the way of yoga and meditation, I have healed and blossomed on a cellular level, and connected with the truth of my soul's journey. In so doing, I have also been of service to others. All this has happened in my life because of this incredibly profound healing technology called Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. I believe that part of my purpose here in this lifetime is to bring what I have learned to others.

I am so enthusiastic about the miracles I have seen happen with yoga and meditation. Learning to meditate will attract all that you are longing to understand.

It's not the life that you live, it's the courage that you bring to it.

When the challenges in life come, as they do to everyone, I have tools I use to begin healing myself.Some of them are very simple and take only a few minutes of my time.

Yoga is not about self-improvement, it's about self-acceptance.

More and more, people are becoming drawn to yoga and meditation, and this does not surprise me at all. It's important to understand doing yoga is not just another "self-improvement" craze. Yoga is not a practice of self-improvement at all. It is a practice of self-acceptance, which is a very different thing. You don't need to be "fixed"; you simply need to reconnect with how wonderful and perfect you already are. Yoga is about remembering who you truly are. That is why doing yoga, even on thesmallest level, can change the course of your life, just as it has mine. Your birthright is happiness. You are born as a spiritual being to have a human experience.

In Kundalini Yoga, the biggest challenge is usually not the exercise itself, it is getting myself just to do it! The fact that I teach yoga for a living doesn't mean that I always remember to use it when I most need it. Sometimes I know that I need to refocus and that it's worth taking three or five minutes to do something to make myself feel better, and yet my negative mind will still win the battle. Sometimes getting myself just to do it is harder than any super-advanced yoga handstand I could try.

Misery is a choice we can count on. Misery is not elusive, it's always there for us.

If we can make one step towards happiness, towards healing, towards change, miracles begin to happen. The Kundalini Yoga and Meditation in this book are a way of making those small steps towards happiness.

If you will try even one thing from this book -- one breathing exercise, one stretch, one meditation -- know that somewhere I am cheering right out loud for you, because I know making that first step is the hardest thing to do, and in just doing it, even once, you have achieved an enormous victory for yourself!

Mantras:How They Work

In Kundalini Yoga, we often accompany a movement or even a breath pattern with sounds we sing or meditate on silently, called "mantras."Mantras are repetitive sounds we make over and over to bring about a change in our consciousness.

Chanting may seem strange to you at first, but it is a powerful tool for healing. People often ask me what is the purpose of a certain chant in a certain meditation. The words are chosen not only for their meaning as words, but also for a scientific reason that goes far beyond pure definition. All mantras we use are based on the science of "Naad" -- the secrets hidden in sound.

The roof of our mouth has eighty-four meridian points, all along the upper palate. Mantras were given to us as special gifts. Long ago, highly evolved beings went into deeply meditative states. They began reciting certain sounds that made the tongue hit these meridian points in the mouth in certain combinations. It's kind of like playing the piano -- if certain notes are struck, a beautiful song is produced. With every word we speak, or in this case the mantras we recite, we hit certain "keys." If the right combination of keys is struck, then the hypothalamus, thalamus, and pituitary in the brain are all stimulated in such a way as to bring our minds into a meditative state, and even into ecstasy. And just think, if we can produce that state without drugs, what a world this would be.

This is also why sometimes you'll walk into a room in which people have been gossiping, swearing a lot, or generally talking "low-vibrational" talk, and the whole room will feel depressed and heavy. Other times, you might walk into a room in which a lot of chanting or uplifting kinds of conversations have been occurring, and you'll feel a lightness and ease in the room. What you're experiencing has a lot to do with the science of Naad.

Each mantra was chosen by those ancient wise people because it encapsulated an uplifting vibration into a few choice little words. When we recite them, we stimulate certain parts of our brain that actually change the chemical balance of the brain. This changed chemical composition allows a more relaxed and expanded state of consciousness to overtake our minds.

"In the coming age, the mental insanity, which has started breeding now and which will multiply and multiply, will not be curable by any medicine. At that moment the practice of enhanting in Naad yoga will be most effective.

It will bring about a balanced state of mind."

--Yogi Bhajan

One of the most powerful mantras we use in Kundalini yoga is "Sat Nam," meaning "I am Truth." The beautiful pure vowel sounds are very similar to the Latin "Amen." We end each yoga class with a long, sung "Sat Nam."

We all use mantras all day long -- repetitive, out loud, or silently -- phrases such as "It's hard," or "I'm tired." "I don't know what I'm doing," "It will never happen ... .. I'm stressed," "There's not enough time," or "There's not enough money."

We don't even notice them becoming part of our reality by repetition. We act out on what we say, live on how we think. If your mantra is, "I am stressed," you will be stressed. Or if your mantra is, "It's never going to happen,"--it's never going to happen. In the beginning was the word, and the word was God. So powerful are our words to ourselves and to others.

Mudras: Magic Hand Positions

Along with the use of mantras, we sometimes use "mudras" in Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. These special hand positions are designed to bring energies into the body, and along with the use of mantras and eye focal points, they send certain messages to our brain. They aid in producing calming and meditative states within our being.

Chakras

The purpose of this book is to provide you with small ways to help you become aware of your own chakra centers, and enrich your life by tapping into the vast technology of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation.

"Men of great knowledge actually found out about all these chakras -- their workings, their petals, their sounds, their infinity, their co-relationship, their powers. They found out what the chakras were. And, they found out that the life of a human is totally based on these chakras. They developed it into a whole science. This total science gave birth to Kundalini Yoga. That is how Kundalini Yoga was born."
--Yogi Bhajan

Chakra is the Sanskrit word for "wheel." Think of your chakras as spinning vortexes, each radiating a particular energy that's important to your health, happiness, and well-being. These eight energy centers begin at the base of your spine and continue upward to the top of your head, as shown in the illustration at the end of this chapter.

"The energy of the universe is yours. It is your birthright. Just claim it."
--Yogi Bhajan

These centers are divided into the "lower triangle," which refers to the first three chakras, and the "upper triangle." They meet in the middle at the navel point. The eighth chakra, the aura, is like a bubble surrounding the entire physical structure, and is a culmination or reflection of the being as a whole.

Chakras are complex, radiating more than one quality or emotion. To help you begin to understand how they operate, I have distilled each chakra to one human talent and one shadow emotion in this book.

The Eight Human Talents are those gifts that make human beings different from every other animal on earth.

"Talent will take you everywhere. There is nothing which talent cannot create. There is nowhere that talent cannot reach. It will give you every spot. It will give you every place.Talent is the vehicle of Infinity, which is yours in which you use your consciousness and intuition."
--Yogi Bhajan

Each chakra is associated with a particular talent, gift, or skill we can gain to enhance our lives, when the chakra is open and vibrating at maximum intensity. Each is traditionally associated with a particular color.

Sometimes people will refer to a negative emotional state, a psychological difficulty, associated with a particular chakra. These are not necessarily "set in stone" associations, since emotions tend to overlap and intermix with each other. To simplify, I have linked the chakras to "shadow emotions," if you will, and have described yogic tools to help a person deal with the darker side of the human psyche.

"Don't solve your problems, dissolve your problems -- so they should not reoccur again."
--Yogi Bhajan

These wonderful chakras make humans different from every other animal on earth. When we begin to honor the power and develop the talents they offer, we will heal as individuals and as a species.

My teacher, Yogi Bhajan, taught me to think of chakras as gears of a car. Each is important and useful for getting where you want to go. We call Kundalini Yoga the "Yoga of Awareness," because it teaches you how to become aware of the energies you contain, and then teaches you how to "shift gears" smoothly when you need to.

"To be successful in life, you have to learn to change your gears to meet the circumstances around you. If you are not in control of your own transmission, life will be a disaster for you, no matter who you are. You have to learn how to control your own energy.That's what Kundalini Yoga actually is. It teaches you to bring your transmission and your gas and your gears under your control."
--Yogi Bhajan

The challenge is that most of us get stuck in one or two gears. We aren't able to shift the power. Think about trying to drive on a freeway in first gear only, or get up a hill in overdrive. Pretty hard, right? But that's what most of us do all the time.

When a chakra becomes unbalanced, when we block its energy from radiating and neglect its inherent talent, we can sometimes experience disease. In the three decades I have been teaching students, I've become very aware of how people inhabit their bodies, and how having emotional and spiritual "blocks" will manifest in their bodies. I can look at people and know whether they have a hard time being open-hearted to others, or whether it's difficult for them to speak up for themselves.

This book will help increase your awareness of your Eight Human Talents on a physical, mental, and spiritual level by using simple meditative and yogic techniques. And what's really amazing is that most of these little tools, meditations, and exercises take as little as three minutes a day!

The following chart provides you with a general overview of the chakra system:

FIRST CHAKRA:Area of the Body: Organs of Elimination
HUMAN TALENT:Acceptance
COLOR:Red
SHADOW EMOTION(S):Resentment, Rigidity
ELEMENT: Earth

SECOND CHAKRA: Area of the Body: The Sexual Organs
HUMAN TALENT: Creativity
COLOR: Orange
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Passionate manipulation, Guilt
ELEMENT: Water

THIRD CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Navel Center
HUMAN TALENT: Commitment
COLOR: Yellow Shadow
EMOTION(S): Anger, Greed
ELEMENT: Fire

FOURTH CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Heart Center
HUMAN TALENT: Compassion COLOR: Green Shadow
EMOTION(S): Fear, Attachment
ELEMENT: Air

FIFTH CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Throat
HUMAN TALENT: Truth
COLOR: Blue Shadow
EMOTION(S): Denial, Abruptness
ELEMENT: Ether

SIXTH CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Third Eye Point
HUMAN TALENT: Intuition
COLOR: Indigo
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Confusion, Depression
ELEMENT: None

SEVENTH CHAKRA Area of the Body: Crown of the Head
HUMAN TALENT: Boundlessness
COLOR: Violet
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Grief
ELEMENT: None

EIGHTH CHAKRAArea of the Body: The Electromagnetic Field (Aura)
HUMAN TALENT: Radiance
COLOR: White

SHADOW EMOTION(S): None
ELEMENT: None

You will notice that the first five chakras are each associated with an earthly element-- earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Most people recognize the first four elements, but are unfamiliar with the term "ether." Ether is a subtle, heavenly energy, beyond the earth. As we move up the ladder of chakras, into the higher mental and spiritual realms, there are no longer earthly elements associated with these chakras.

Lust, anger, greed, pride, and attachment are human qualities that result from the imbalance of the eight energy centers called chakras. When these imbalances settle in, we often experience mental or physical problems.

People often come to me with emotional blocks in a certain chakra that have manifested in the creation of a physical illness. The idea that certain emotions and talents live in certain areas of our bodies is not a new one, but I do think some people have taken this too far, and assume that if they get sick it is somehow their own fault. This is a negative way of looking at this phenomenon, and does more harm than good when it comes to healing our bodies and spirits. Your disease is not your fault. Illness is part of the whole learning experience of life, and everybody goes through it. That's what it means to be mortal.

You can take an active, positive role in healing your own mind, body, and spirit.

See your body as God's perfect gift to you, for it is in loving and appreciating our body that we begin the path to consciousness. The eight greatest talents of humankind are located in the eight chakras, the eight major power areas of the body. The Eight Human Talents are the gifts of God that make us different from all other creatures on earth. Happiness is your birthright. The use and cultivation of these eight talents are keys to the happiness that God wants for you.

Happiness is your birthright.

Our bodies are gifts from God. We need them to be here. For it is in loving and appreciating our bodies that we begin the path to consciousness. Happiness is your birthright. Opening, or balancing all your chakras is the key to that happiness.

"The very purpose of our life is happiness, the very motion of our life is towards happiness."
--The Dalai Lama

It's nearly impossible to balance these eight power centers perfectly to bring out their talents every day of your life. But don't worry, perfection isn't the goal. The goal is to become aware of the energy emanating from each chakra and to be able to call upon it when you need it. Let's say you're called on to make a presentation at a board meeting. You'll need to shift into the fifth chakra located at your throat to communicate your ideas clearly, and the third chakra to give your presentation the special emphasis and punch of commitment. If an angry coworker blows up over the smallest inconvenience, don't meet fire with fire. Try meeting her with your fourth chakra, using compassion to heal the fear and insecurity behind her outburst.

Our bodies are like complex worlds within worlds. We know where they begin and end, and yet they are vast and full of mysteries which we may never understand. No machine has ever been devised by a human that is as complex or artful as our own human body. The ancient system of chakras is a way to understand ourselves. There is an incredible amount of subtle interaction going on all the time.

I have chosen specific Kundalini Yoga exercise sequences and meditations to help you develop the human talent that lies hidden within each chakra. I suggest you choose one or two, and try them for three minutes at least. I always suggest that students begin trying any meditation for three minutes, and increase it to seven, then eleven, eventually working up to thirty-one minutes. You can see improvement by committing to doing the meditation for a longer period of time.

"The life of a yogi is to manifest a beautiful, bountiful and wonderfully blissful tomorrow. That's a yogi."
--Yogi Bhajan

The reason for these specific lengths of time has to do with the numerological significance of each number in the Kundalini Yoga tradition. The greater the amount of time, the greater the benefit. In Kundalini Yoga, we often do movements twenty-six times. Because we have twenty-six vertebrae, twenty-six is an important number to us. For a greater challenge, you can increase the number of repetitions of an exercise to fifty-four or even one hundred and eight if you really want to see faster progress!

It's not what you do, but the courage and commitment that you bring to what you do.

Meditation is not about perfecting or attaining anything. People think they need to go into a trance or be in an altered state to feel they're really meditating. That can and does happen, but meditation is actually the clearinghouse of the mind. Our minds release a thousand thoughts per wink of the eye. Just watch these thoughts as you might watch an ocean wave, not remembering or diagnosing them as they come and go. The real gift is to sit in the middle of all those thoughts, and react to not a one. Keep returning back to your breath, or maybe the sound you're making or the position of your body. Kundalini Meditations usually consist of breath or sound patterns and some specific positions, so you have plenty on which to concentrate.

"Each thought can become an emotion, and a feeling. And with each emotion and feeling, some of them become desires, and to be completed they take up all of your life energy. But if you use every thought and pass it through the intelligence and test it with your consciousness, you shall be successful, doesn't matter what. That's a simple secret of life."
--Yogi Bhajan

When there's an emergency -- for example, if someone is calling from a hospital -- we'll say, "Okay, take a deep breath, and slow down." When you don't allow yourself to breathe, you deny yourself the very gift of life. In yogic terms, we believe that the life force is the "prana," which comes to us through the breath. Allowing yourself to take in enough breath is usually the first thing you need, and it's usually the first thing to go. Breath is free for the taking, but we're often very miserly in the way we dole it out to ourselves. It's not logical, but we all do it.

Before I learned this particular technology for meditation, I experienced the frustration of being told to sit and "meditate," having no idea what that meant. I'm so glad that I now have specific tools and techniques that make meditation less mysterious and more practical.

If you want to make a real change and develop the talent in any chakra, I suggest you do a meditation for that power center for forty days, for whatever length of time feels comfortable. You can start with a shorter time and then increase the time during the forty-day period. If you just aren't up to it one day, you can go back to a three-minute period for that day so you don't have to break your forty-day commitment.

Forty days has historically been a significant time period in many world religions. In the Old Testament it rained for forty days and forty nights. In Christianity there are the forty days of Lent. Forty-day cycles are very important in the Sikh religion as well. Perhaps this is because your physical body renews all the cells in your bloodstream every forty days. For whatever reason, forty days has always been a mystical period of time.

So you see, there are many ways to use these tools. I don't want you ever to feel that the one you pick is not good enough. It doesn't matter if you do something for three minutes or for thirty-one minutes -- it's all good. In this work, it is not what you do, but the focus and depth you bring to it.

Of course, it is my deepest prayer that after you do this work even on the smallest level, you will see real improvement in your life, and you will be inspired to devote more time to using these life-changing tools. In a lifetime of teaching, I have seen the technology of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation create miracles of healing. If you want healing on any level of your life and you are willing to do the work, you will see miracles, too.

The Mystery Hidden Within Each Chakra

The first chakra, which contains the human talent of acceptance, encompasses our organs of elimination. Here we find foundation, security, and habit.

The second chakra, which contains our reproductive organs, is where we find the human talent of creativity.

In the third chakra, we come to the solar plexus area, the stomach, and many of the internal organs, such as the liver and the spleen. This area is the center for energy, for world power, for a sense of control and coordination. It is ruled by the element of fire.

Of these chakras -- the first, second, and third, which make up what we call the lower triangle -- the third is the most subtle. It is the driving force to act and to complete the conceptual ization, the visualization that we have in our lives. It is where we find the human talent of commitment.

In the heart center, the fourth chakra, we find compassion.

The throat area, the fifth chakra, is the part of the body in which we literally "find our voice." This chakra houses the human talent of truth.

The sixth chakra is classically located at the point between the eyebrows, which yogis refer to as the "third eye point," and contains intuition. This is where we find our sense of physical vision, and our extrasensory talent of vision as well.

The seventh chakra is located at the top of the head. The exact area is where the tiny endocrine organ, known as the pineal gland, is found near the crown of the head, where the soft spot on a newborn baby's head is located. This chakra contains the human talent of boundlessness. It is the spiritual center of our physical body.

This experience of boundlessness has many names in many world religions. I chose the word "boundlessness" to describe this spiritual connection, without the specific association of any particular religion.

The last chakra encompasses what is referred to in yogic science as the electromagnetic field. It is our aura, a field of energy surrounding our physical body that makes up the eighth chakra. Western science has proved the existence of this field as a physical phenomenon. The human talent that lives in this chakra is that of radiance.

As you can see, each energy center has a profound impact on our lives. At any given time, we may lose touch with one or another of them, become imbalanced and feel "off." The purpose of this book is to find ways to connect, strengthen, and balance each of these centers on a daily basis. This process is sometimes referred to as "balancing the chakras." It is the very purpose of our lives; it is a constant and worthwhile process.

"If you ever want to be right in your life, bring yourself into balance. The joy of life, the happiness of life, is in balance."
--Yogi Bhajan

When we are unbalanced in our chakras or energy centers, we use those expressions like, "I'm having an off day," "I'm having a bad hair day," "Nothing seemed to go right today." If the chakras are balanced, you'll hear expressions like, "It was such a great day," "It was such a miraculous day. Things went so smoothly today!" And that comes when everything is lined up and the energy is flowing throughout your whole body.

Yoga is the science of breath and angles. It is an ancient science, put together by our wise elders, who were in tune with the energy field of the universe and how it manifests through our physical bodies. When we study yoga, we learn to place our arms, hands, and fingers, and the body itself into very specific postures, creating certain angles. Combined with powerful breathing techniques, these postures can produce amazing changes in our psyche!

"Before us the sages have laid the path. We are taking our first step."
--Yogi Bhajan

Yoga is similar to what keeps most animals fit. One only has to watch the stretching exercises that a cat does, and then see her magnificent body in action as she chases a bird, to understand that the systematic stretching and relaxation of our muscles can keep us fit for life.

In our uniquely human capacity to connect movement with breath and spiritual meaning, yoga is born. The translation of the word "yoga" is " union." This union of breath and movement has as its ultimate goal the harmonious merging of body, mind, and soul into the universal energy surrounding us. We refer to it as the "practice of yoga," and that is what we do in the Kundalini Yoga classes. But the real yoga is how you take what you've learned in class and live it out in the world.

People who are new to yoga ask me, "Is it hard? Do I have to be some kind of athlete?" Oftentimes, they give up on the very idea of yoga before they've even tried it, because they assume that it is something that dancers and acrobats do. I have students who are world-class athletes, and students who are amputees, or paraplegics, or cardiac rehab patients. Absolutely anyone can do this yoga, and everyone will be challenged by it, too. And everyone I have ever seen attempt It, even on the smallest level, has been changed. But please, if you have a medical condition, consult your doctor or chiropractor if you are unsure if your body is ready for a new challenge. Yogic technology is not necessarily a substitute for medical advice or attention; one needs to be sensitive when dealing with the complexities of the body. Once you are aware of your limitations, then be sensitive and get going!

As to "Is it hard?" -- yes, it is. In various ways. Sometimes it's physically hard, sometimes it just annoys a part of your mind, what we sometimes call the "Monkey Mind." The Monkey Mind is the part of your mind that doesn't want to consider the higher questions of life. While the monkey might be asking, "Where is my next banana?" the human is asking, "Where's the next doughnut, cigarette, or mocha latte?" And the Monkey Mind will lie to you, to make sure you keep the bananas or the mocha lattes coming its way. It will tell you that this yoga you are doing is tedious, pointless, silly. Your Monkey Mind can make the yoga seem harder than it is, because it doesn't want to change.

So our Monkey Mind will tell us to turn away from things like yoga, things that portend change and seem "hard." I think we are at a point in history at which we want things to come easily. We have come to value easiness. We want a pill that will fix everything. We just want it taken care of, we want to be fixed, and we want it now. We want our lives to be painfree, and the lives of our children to be pain-free. But what are we really looking for when we try a new diet or a new drug or a new religion? We get discouraged when things aren't easy and perfect. Kundalini Yoga can be challenging, but unlike a painkiller, it's purpose isn't to mask our pain. It heals our pain.

"There is no freedom which is free."
--Yogi Bhajan

I know, because I have been that person seeking. I spent a great deal of my life searching for the easy, pain-free fix. In my early twenties, as a flower child in the Haight, I became addicted to diet pills, because that seemed like the pain-free path to freedom. Of course, it was not.

Pain is part of the deal.

When I think back to that time, I was so sure someone must have the answer. I wanted someone to tell me how to make my life pain-free. Looking back, I can't imagine who I thought got through their entire lives and managed to avoid the pain. Now I realize there is not now nor has there ever been a single person on this planet who has successfully avoided the pain of being human. Pain is part of the deal.

In fact, the enlightened beings who have graced this planet dealt with the pain of humanness, and it is usually the main point of their story. This is true with Jesus, with Buddha, with Moses, with Gandhi. How did I think I could get around it?

Now since I accept pain as part of the human bargain, I am also free to accept the serenity I believe is my natural state of being. God wants each of us to live in a state of serenity. Serenity, which encompasses happiness and joy, also allows for pain and sorrow, because serenity is a state of being that accepts all of our states without judgment. Serenity is the state of being that exists when we are in balance, when we know our place in the universe, when we are truly able to accept God's will for us. It was the study of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation that taught me about balance and serenity, taught me how to quiet my chattering Monkey Mind, taught me how to focus on and be grateful for each breath I take.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation have helped me to re-pattern my body and my mind.

As I began to learn this yoga, I began to escape the illusion I could or even wanted to avoid pain. I did begin to see pain, discomfort, and even simple annoyance, as the learning opportunities and blessings that they are. I still don't always see the traffic jam as "a growth opportunity." At first, unconsciously, I may mistake it for a complaining opportunity. And then sometimes the traffic jam, or the grocery line, or any other daily test sends me directly into impatience. I start thinking about whose fault it is that I'm stuck in traffic, or how I shouldn't have to be dealing with this. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation have helped me to re-pattern my body and my mind, so that I don't stay in the illusion of "why me" quite as long, and even when I'm in it, I remember that "this too shall pass."

This yoga can be challenging, but it can also bring such ecstasy. Once you get past the pain or the discomfort or even the simple annoyance, there can be such bliss and joy in the breath and the movement.

Someone sent me a story on the Internet that so perfectly summed up this paradox of how challenging experiences make us stronger.

One day a small opening appeared on a cocoon, and a man sat and watched for the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening was God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.



Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We could never fly.

I asked for Strength ...
And God gave me Challenges to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom ...
And God gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity ...
And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work.
I asked for Courage ...
And God gave me Danger to overcome.
I asked for Love ...
And God gave me Troubled people to help.
I asked for Favors ...
And God gave me Opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed.

I just love that story, because I asked God for a way to avoid pain, and God gave me Kundalini Yoga. As you begin to read, know that each of these eight energy centers already lives within you, each of the chakras is like that butterfly trying to be born out of its cocoon. The whole process of learning is really the process of uncovering and rediscovering what we already know. That is the process we will undergo together.

I know by the end of this journey we will see our eight glorious human talents begin to thrive. We humans are magnificent creatures. This is the perfect time for us to celebrate and nurture our Eight Human Talents together.

Our bodies are the means by which we come to know and understand our spiritual connection to the Infinite. John O'Donohue, gifted poet of the spirit, sums up this relationship beautifully in the Celtic poem from his book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

A Blessing For The Senses
May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful and
beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful and recognize
that your senses are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is mindful, gazing,
feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to celebrate the universe
and the mystery and possibilities in your presence here.
May the Eros of the Earth bless you.
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First Chapter

Introduction

One day someone asked me what I used to be like before I did Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. I stared a moment, not out of rudeness, but because I honestly cannot remember. I am a very different person now. I believe that in doing this work, following the way of yoga and meditation, I have healed and blossomed on a cellular level, and connected with the truth of my soul's journey. In so doing, I have also been of service to others. All this has happened in my life because of this incredibly profound healing technology called Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. I believe that part of my purpose here in this lifetime is to bring what I have learned to others.

I am so enthusiastic about the miracles I have seen happen with yoga and meditation. Learning to meditate will attract all that you are longing to understand.

It's not the life that you live, it's the courage that you bring to it.

When the challenges in life come, as they do to everyone, I have tools I use to begin healing myself. Some of them are very simple and take only a few minutes of my time.

Yoga is not about self-improvement, it's about self-acceptance.

More and more, people are becoming drawn to yoga and meditation, and this does not surprise me at all. It's important to understand doing yoga is not just another "self-improvement" craze. Yoga is not a practice of self-improvement at all. It is a practice of self-acceptance, which is a very different thing. You don't need to be "fixed"; you simply need to reconnect with how wonderful and perfect you already are. Yoga is about remembering who you truly are. That is why doing yoga, even onthe smallest level, can change the course of your life, just as it has mine. Your birthright is happiness. You are born as a spiritual being to have a human experience.

In Kundalini Yoga, the biggest challenge is usually not the exercise itself, it is getting myself just to do it! The fact that I teach yoga for a living doesn't mean that I always remember to use it when I most need it. Sometimes I know that I need to refocus and that it's worth taking three or five minutes to do something to make myself feel better, and yet my negative mind will still win the battle. Sometimes getting myself just to do it is harder than any super-advanced yoga handstand I could try.

Misery is a choice we can count on. Misery is not elusive, it's always there for us.

If we can make one step towards happiness, towards healing, towards change, miracles begin to happen. The Kundalini Yoga and Meditation in this book are a way of making those small steps towards happiness.

If you will try even one thing from this book -- one breathing exercise, one stretch, one meditation -- know that somewhere I am cheering right out loud for you, because I know making that first step is the hardest thing to do, and in just doing it, even once, you have achieved an enormous victory for yourself!

Mantras: How They Work

In Kundalini Yoga, we often accompany a movement or even a breath pattern with sounds we sing or meditate on silently, called "mantras." Mantras are repetitive sounds we make over and over to bring about a change in our consciousness.

Chanting may seem strange to you at first, but it is a powerful tool for healing. People often ask me what is the purpose of a certain chant in a certain meditation. The words are chosen not only for their meaning as words, but also for a scientific reason that goes far beyond pure definition. All mantras we use are based on the science of "Naad" -- the secrets hidden in sound.

The roof of our mouth has eighty-four meridian points, all along the upper palate. Mantras were given to us as special gifts. Long ago, highly evolved beings went into deeply meditative states. They began reciting certain sounds that made the tongue hit these meridian points in the mouth in certain combinations. It's kind of like playing the piano -- if certain notes are struck, a beautiful song is produced. With every word we speak, or in this case the mantras we recite, we hit certain "keys." If the right combination of keys is struck, then the hypothalamus, thalamus, and pituitary in the brain are all stimulated in such a way as to bring our minds into a meditative state, and even into ecstasy. And just think, if we can produce that state without drugs, what a world this would be.

This is also why sometimes you'll walk into a room in which people have been gossiping, swearing a lot, or generally talking "low-vibrational" talk, and the whole room will feel depressed and heavy. Other times, you might walk into a room in which a lot of chanting or uplifting kinds of conversations have been occurring, and you'll feel a lightness and ease in the room. What you're experiencing has a lot to do with the science of Naad.

Each mantra was chosen by those ancient wise people because it encapsulated an uplifting vibration into a few choice little words. When we recite them, we stimulate certain parts of our brain that actually change the chemical balance of the brain. This changed chemical composition allows a more relaxed and expanded state of consciousness to overtake our minds.

"In the coming age, the mental insanity, which has started breeding now and which will multiply and multiply, will not be curable by any medicine. At that moment the practice of enhanting in Naad yoga will be most effective.

It will bring about a balanced state of mind."

--Yogi Bhajan

One of the most powerful mantras we use in Kundalini yoga is "Sat Nam," meaning "I am Truth." The beautiful pure vowel sounds are very similar to the Latin "Amen." We end each yoga class with a long, sung "Sat Nam."

We all use mantras all day long -- repetitive, out loud, or silently -- phrases such as "It's hard," or "I'm tired." "I don't know what I'm doing," "It will never happen ... .. I'm stressed," "There's not enough time," or "There's not enough money."

We don't even notice them becoming part of our reality by repetition. We act out on what we say, live on how we think. If your mantra is, "I am stressed," you will be stressed. Or if your mantra is, "It's never going to happen," -- it's never going to happen. In the beginning was the word, and the word was God. So powerful are our words to ourselves and to others.

Mudras: Magic Hand Positions

Along with the use of mantras, we sometimes use "mudras" in Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. These special hand positions are designed to bring energies into the body, and along with the use of mantras and eye focal points, they send certain messages to our brain. They aid in producing calming and meditative states within our being.

Chakras

The purpose of this book is to provide you with small ways to help you become aware of your own chakra centers, and enrich your life by tapping into the vast technology of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation.

"Men of great knowledge actually found out about all these chakras -- their workings, their petals, their sounds, their infinity, their co-relationship, their powers. They found out what the chakras were. And, they found out that the life of a human is totally based on these chakras. They developed it into a whole science. This total science gave birth to Kundalini Yoga. That is how Kundalini Yoga was born."
--Yogi Bhajan

Chakra is the Sanskrit word for "wheel." Think of your chakras as spinning vortexes, each radiating a particular energy that's important to your health, happiness, and well-being. These eight energy centers begin at the base of your spine and continue upward to the top of your head, as shown in the illustration at the end of this chapter.

"The energy of the universe is yours. It is your birthright. Just claim it."
--Yogi Bhajan

These centers are divided into the "lower triangle," which refers to the first three chakras, and the "upper triangle." They meet in the middle at the navel point. The eighth chakra, the aura, is like a bubble surrounding the entire physical structure, and is a culmination or reflection of the being as a whole.

Chakras are complex, radiating more than one quality or emotion. To help you begin to understand how they operate, I have distilled each chakra to one human talent and one shadow emotion in this book.

The Eight Human Talents are those gifts that make human beings different from every other animal on earth.

"Talent will take you everywhere. There is nothing which talent cannot create. There is nowhere that talent cannot reach. It will give you every spot. It will give you every place.Talent is the vehicle of Infinity, which is yours in which you use your consciousness and intuition."
--Yogi Bhajan

Each chakra is associated with a particular talent, gift, or skill we can gain to enhance our lives, when the chakra is open and vibrating at maximum intensity. Each is traditionally associated with a particular color.

Sometimes people will refer to a negative emotional state, a psychological difficulty, associated with a particular chakra. These are not necessarily "set in stone" associations, since emotions tend to overlap and intermix with each other. To simplify, I have linked the chakras to "shadow emotions," if you will, and have described yogic tools to help a person deal with the darker side of the human psyche.

"Don't solve your problems, dissolve your problems -- so they should not reoccur again."
--Yogi Bhajan

These wonderful chakras make humans different from every other animal on earth. When we begin to honor the power and develop the talents they offer, we will heal as individuals and as a species.

My teacher, Yogi Bhajan, taught me to think of chakras as gears of a car. Each is important and useful for getting where you want to go. We call Kundalini Yoga the "Yoga of Awareness," because it teaches you how to become aware of the energies you contain, and then teaches you how to "shift gears" smoothly when you need to.

"To be successful in life, you have to learn to change your gears to meet the circumstances around you. If you are not in control of your own transmission, life will be a disaster for you, no matter who you are. You have to learn how to control your own energy.That's what Kundalini Yoga actually is. It teaches you to bring your transmission and your gas and your gears under your control."
--Yogi Bhajan

The challenge is that most of us get stuck in one or two gears. We aren't able to shift the power. Think about trying to drive on a freeway in first gear only, or get up a hill in overdrive. Pretty hard, right? But that's what most of us do all the time.

When a chakra becomes unbalanced, when we block its energy from radiating and neglect its inherent talent, we can sometimes experience disease. In the three decades I have been teaching students, I've become very aware of how people inhabit their bodies, and how having emotional and spiritual "blocks" will manifest in their bodies. I can look at people and know whether they have a hard time being open-hearted to others, or whether it's difficult for them to speak up for themselves.

This book will help increase your awareness of your Eight Human Talents on a physical, mental, and spiritual level by using simple meditative and yogic techniques. And what's really amazing is that most of these little tools, meditations, and exercises take as little as three minutes a day!

The following chart provides you with a general overview of the chakra system:

FIRST CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Organs of Elimination
HUMAN TALENT: Acceptance
COLOR: Red
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Resentment, Rigidity
ELEMENT: Earth

SECOND CHAKRA: Area of the Body: The Sexual Organs
HUMAN TALENT: Creativity
COLOR: Orange
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Passionate manipulation, Guilt
ELEMENT: Water

THIRD CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Navel Center
HUMAN TALENT: Commitment
COLOR: Yellow Shadow
EMOTION(S): Anger, Greed
ELEMENT: Fire

FOURTH CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Heart Center
HUMAN TALENT: Compassion COLOR: Green Shadow
EMOTION(S): Fear, Attachment
ELEMENT: Air

FIFTH CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Throat
HUMAN TALENT: Truth
COLOR: Blue Shadow
EMOTION(S): Denial, Abruptness
ELEMENT: Ether

SIXTH CHAKRA: Area of the Body: Third Eye Point
HUMAN TALENT: Intuition
COLOR: Indigo
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Confusion, Depression
ELEMENT: None

SEVENTH CHAKRA Area of the Body: Crown of the Head
HUMAN TALENT: Boundlessness
COLOR: Violet
SHADOW EMOTION(S): Grief
ELEMENT: None

EIGHTH CHAKRA Area of the Body: The Electromagnetic Field (Aura)
HUMAN TALENT: Radiance
COLOR: White

SHADOW EMOTION(S): None
ELEMENT: None

You will notice that the first five chakras are each associated with an earthly element -- earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Most people recognize the first four elements, but are unfamiliar with the term "ether." Ether is a subtle, heavenly energy, beyond the earth. As we move up the ladder of chakras, into the higher mental and spiritual realms, there are no longer earthly elements associated with these chakras.

Lust, anger, greed, pride, and attachment are human qualities that result from the imbalance of the eight energy centers called chakras. When these imbalances settle in, we often experience mental or physical problems.

People often come to me with emotional blocks in a certain chakra that have manifested in the creation of a physical illness. The idea that certain emotions and talents live in certain areas of our bodies is not a new one, but I do think some people have taken this too far, and assume that if they get sick it is somehow their own fault. This is a negative way of looking at this phenomenon, and does more harm than good when it comes to healing our bodies and spirits. Your disease is not your fault. Illness is part of the whole learning experience of life, and everybody goes through it. That's what it means to be mortal.

You can take an active, positive role in healing your own mind, body, and spirit.

See your body as God's perfect gift to you, for it is in loving and appreciating our body that we begin the path to consciousness. The eight greatest talents of humankind are located in the eight chakras, the eight major power areas of the body. The Eight Human Talents are the gifts of God that make us different from all other creatures on earth. Happiness is your birthright. The use and cultivation of these eight talents are keys to the happiness that God wants for you.

Happiness is your birthright.

Our bodies are gifts from God. We need them to be here. For it is in loving and appreciating our bodies that we begin the path to consciousness. Happiness is your birthright. Opening, or balancing all your chakras is the key to that happiness.

"The very purpose of our life is happiness, the very motion of our life is towards happiness."
--The Dalai Lama

It's nearly impossible to balance these eight power centers perfectly to bring out their talents every day of your life. But don't worry, perfection isn't the goal. The goal is to become aware of the energy emanating from each chakra and to be able to call upon it when you need it. Let's say you're called on to make a presentation at a board meeting. You'll need to shift into the fifth chakra located at your throat to communicate your ideas clearly, and the third chakra to give your presentation the special emphasis and punch of commitment. If an angry coworker blows up over the smallest inconvenience, don't meet fire with fire. Try meeting her with your fourth chakra, using compassion to heal the fear and insecurity behind her outburst.

Our bodies are like complex worlds within worlds. We know where they begin and end, and yet they are vast and full of mysteries which we may never understand. No machine has ever been devised by a human that is as complex or artful as our own human body. The ancient system of chakras is a way to understand ourselves. There is an incredible amount of subtle interaction going on all the time.

I have chosen specific Kundalini Yoga exercise sequences and meditations to help you develop the human talent that lies hidden within each chakra. I suggest you choose one or two, and try them for three minutes at least. I always suggest that students begin trying any meditation for three minutes, and increase it to seven, then eleven, eventually working up to thirty-one minutes. You can see improvement by committing to doing the meditation for a longer period of time.

"The life of a yogi is to manifest a beautiful, bountiful and wonderfully blissful tomorrow. That's a yogi."
--Yogi Bhajan

The reason for these specific lengths of time has to do with the numerological significance of each number in the Kundalini Yoga tradition. The greater the amount of time, the greater the benefit. In Kundalini Yoga, we often do movements twenty-six times. Because we have twenty-six vertebrae, twenty-six is an important number to us. For a greater challenge, you can increase the number of repetitions of an exercise to fifty-four or even one hundred and eight if you really want to see faster progress!

It's not what you do, but the courage and commitment that you bring to what you do.

Meditation is not about perfecting or attaining anything. People think they need to go into a trance or be in an altered state to feel they're really meditating. That can and does happen, but meditation is actually the clearinghouse of the mind. Our minds release a thousand thoughts per wink of the eye. Just watch these thoughts as you might watch an ocean wave, not remembering or diagnosing them as they come and go. The real gift is to sit in the middle of all those thoughts, and react to not a one. Keep returning back to your breath, or maybe the sound you're making or the position of your body. Kundalini Meditations usually consist of breath or sound patterns and some specific positions, so you have plenty on which to concentrate.

"Each thought can become an emotion, and a feeling. And with each emotion and feeling, some of them become desires, and to be completed they take up all of your life energy. But if you use every thought and pass it through the intelligence and test it with your consciousness, you shall be successful, doesn't matter what. That's a simple secret of life."
--Yogi Bhajan

When there's an emergency -- for example, if someone is calling from a hospital -- we'll say, "Okay, take a deep breath, and slow down." When you don't allow yourself to breathe, you deny yourself the very gift of life. In yogic terms, we believe that the life force is the "prana," which comes to us through the breath. Allowing yourself to take in enough breath is usually the first thing you need, and it's usually the first thing to go. Breath is free for the taking, but we're often very miserly in the way we dole it out to ourselves. It's not logical, but we all do it.

Before I learned this particular technology for meditation, I experienced the frustration of being told to sit and "meditate," having no idea what that meant. I'm so glad that I now have specific tools and techniques that make meditation less mysterious and more practical.

If you want to make a real change and develop the talent in any chakra, I suggest you do a meditation for that power center for forty days, for whatever length of time feels comfortable. You can start with a shorter time and then increase the time during the forty-day period. If you just aren't up to it one day, you can go back to a three-minute period for that day so you don't have to break your forty-day commitment.

Forty days has historically been a significant time period in many world religions. In the Old Testament it rained for forty days and forty nights. In Christianity there are the forty days of Lent. Forty-day cycles are very important in the Sikh religion as well. Perhaps this is because your physical body renews all the cells in your bloodstream every forty days. For whatever reason, forty days has always been a mystical period of time.

So you see, there are many ways to use these tools. I don't want you ever to feel that the one you pick is not good enough. It doesn't matter if you do something for three minutes or for thirty-one minutes -- it's all good. In this work, it is not what you do, but the focus and depth you bring to it.

Of course, it is my deepest prayer that after you do this work even on the smallest level, you will see real improvement in your life, and you will be inspired to devote more time to using these life-changing tools. In a lifetime of teaching, I have seen the technology of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation create miracles of healing. If you want healing on any level of your life and you are willing to do the work, you will see miracles, too.

The Mystery Hidden Within Each Chakra

The first chakra, which contains the human talent of acceptance, encompasses our organs of elimination. Here we find foundation, security, and habit.

The second chakra, which contains our reproductive organs, is where we find the human talent of creativity.

In the third chakra, we come to the solar plexus area, the stomach, and many of the internal organs, such as the liver and the spleen. This area is the center for energy, for world power, for a sense of control and coordination. It is ruled by the element of fire.

Of these chakras -- the first, second, and third, which make up what we call the lower triangle -- the third is the most subtle. It is the driving force to act and to complete the conceptual ization, the visualization that we have in our lives. It is where we find the human talent of commitment.

In the heart center, the fourth chakra, we find compassion.

The throat area, the fifth chakra, is the part of the body in which we literally "find our voice." This chakra houses the human talent of truth.

The sixth chakra is classically located at the point between the eyebrows, which yogis refer to as the "third eye point," and contains intuition. This is where we find our sense of physical vision, and our extrasensory talent of vision as well.

The seventh chakra is located at the top of the head. The exact area is where the tiny endocrine organ, known as the pineal gland, is found near the crown of the head, where the soft spot on a newborn baby's head is located. This chakra contains the human talent of boundlessness. It is the spiritual center of our physical body.

This experience of boundlessness has many names in many world religions. I chose the word "boundlessness" to describe this spiritual connection, without the specific association of any particular religion.

The last chakra encompasses what is referred to in yogic science as the electromagnetic field. It is our aura, a field of energy surrounding our physical body that makes up the eighth chakra. Western science has proved the existence of this field as a physical phenomenon. The human talent that lives in this chakra is that of radiance.

As you can see, each energy center has a profound impact on our lives. At any given time, we may lose touch with one or another of them, become imbalanced and feel "off." The purpose of this book is to find ways to connect, strengthen, and balance each of these centers on a daily basis. This process is sometimes referred to as "balancing the chakras." It is the very purpose of our lives; it is a constant and worthwhile process.

"If you ever want to be right in your life, bring yourself into balance. The joy of life, the happiness of life, is in balance."
--Yogi Bhajan

When we are unbalanced in our chakras or energy centers, we use those expressions like, "I'm having an off day," "I'm having a bad hair day," "Nothing seemed to go right today." If the chakras are balanced, you'll hear expressions like, "It was such a great day," "It was such a miraculous day. Things went so smoothly today!" And that comes when everything is lined up and the energy is flowing throughout your whole body.

Yoga is the science of breath and angles. It is an ancient science, put together by our wise elders, who were in tune with the energy field of the universe and how it manifests through our physical bodies. When we study yoga, we learn to place our arms, hands, and fingers, and the body itself into very specific postures, creating certain angles. Combined with powerful breathing techniques, these postures can produce amazing changes in our psyche!

"Before us the sages have laid the path. We are taking our first step."
--Yogi Bhajan

Yoga is similar to what keeps most animals fit. One only has to watch the stretching exercises that a cat does, and then see her magnificent body in action as she chases a bird, to understand that the systematic stretching and relaxation of our muscles can keep us fit for life.

In our uniquely human capacity to connect movement with breath and spiritual meaning, yoga is born. The translation of the word "yoga" is " union." This union of breath and movement has as its ultimate goal the harmonious merging of body, mind, and soul into the universal energy surrounding us. We refer to it as the "practice of yoga," and that is what we do in the Kundalini Yoga classes. But the real yoga is how you take what you've learned in class and live it out in the world.

People who are new to yoga ask me, "Is it hard? Do I have to be some kind of athlete?" Oftentimes, they give up on the very idea of yoga before they've even tried it, because they assume that it is something that dancers and acrobats do. I have students who are world-class athletes, and students who are amputees, or paraplegics, or cardiac rehab patients. Absolutely anyone can do this yoga, and everyone will be challenged by it, too. And everyone I have ever seen attempt It, even on the smallest level, has been changed. But please, if you have a medical condition, consult your doctor or chiropractor if you are unsure if your body is ready for a new challenge. Yogic technology is not necessarily a substitute for medical advice or attention; one needs to be sensitive when dealing with the complexities of the body. Once you are aware of your limitations, then be sensitive and get going!

As to "Is it hard?" -- yes, it is. In various ways. Sometimes it's physically hard, sometimes it just annoys a part of your mind, what we sometimes call the "Monkey Mind." The Monkey Mind is the part of your mind that doesn't want to consider the higher questions of life. While the monkey might be asking, "Where is my next banana?" the human is asking, "Where's the next doughnut, cigarette, or mocha latte?" And the Monkey Mind will lie to you, to make sure you keep the bananas or the mocha lattes coming its way. It will tell you that this yoga you are doing is tedious, pointless, silly. Your Monkey Mind can make the yoga seem harder than it is, because it doesn't want to change.

So our Monkey Mind will tell us to turn away from things like yoga, things that portend change and seem "hard." I think we are at a point in history at which we want things to come easily. We have come to value easiness. We want a pill that will fix everything. We just want it taken care of, we want to be fixed, and we want it now. We want our lives to be painfree, and the lives of our children to be pain-free. But what are we really looking for when we try a new diet or a new drug or a new religion? We get discouraged when things aren't easy and perfect. Kundalini Yoga can be challenging, but unlike a painkiller, it's purpose isn't to mask our pain. It heals our pain.

"There is no freedom which is free."
--Yogi Bhajan

I know, because I have been that person seeking. I spent a great deal of my life searching for the easy, pain-free fix. In my early twenties, as a flower child in the Haight, I became addicted to diet pills, because that seemed like the pain-free path to freedom. Of course, it was not.

Pain is part of the deal.

When I think back to that time, I was so sure someone must have the answer. I wanted someone to tell me how to make my life pain-free. Looking back, I can't imagine who I thought got through their entire lives and managed to avoid the pain. Now I realize there is not now nor has there ever been a single person on this planet who has successfully avoided the pain of being human. Pain is part of the deal.

In fact, the enlightened beings who have graced this planet dealt with the pain of humanness, and it is usually the main point of their story. This is true with Jesus, with Buddha, with Moses, with Gandhi. How did I think I could get around it?

Now since I accept pain as part of the human bargain, I am also free to accept the serenity I believe is my natural state of being. God wants each of us to live in a state of serenity. Serenity, which encompasses happiness and joy, also allows for pain and sorrow, because serenity is a state of being that accepts all of our states without judgment. Serenity is the state of being that exists when we are in balance, when we know our place in the universe, when we are truly able to accept God's will for us. It was the study of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation that taught me about balance and serenity, taught me how to quiet my chattering Monkey Mind, taught me how to focus on and be grateful for each breath I take.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation have helped me to re-pattern my body and my mind.

As I began to learn this yoga, I began to escape the illusion I could or even wanted to avoid pain. I did begin to see pain, discomfort, and even simple annoyance, as the learning opportunities and blessings that they are. I still don't always see the traffic jam as "a growth opportunity." At first, unconsciously, I may mistake it for a complaining opportunity. And then sometimes the traffic jam, or the grocery line, or any other daily test sends me directly into impatience. I start thinking about whose fault it is that I'm stuck in traffic, or how I shouldn't have to be dealing with this. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation have helped me to re-pattern my body and my mind, so that I don't stay in the illusion of "why me" quite as long, and even when I'm in it, I remember that "this too shall pass."

This yoga can be challenging, but it can also bring such ecstasy. Once you get past the pain or the discomfort or even the simple annoyance, there can be such bliss and joy in the breath and the movement.

Someone sent me a story on the Internet that so perfectly summed up this paradox of how challenging experiences make us stronger.

One day a small opening appeared on a cocoon, and a man sat and watched for the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening was God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.



Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We could never fly.

I asked for Strength ...
And God gave me Challenges to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom ...
And God gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity ...
And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work.
I asked for Courage ...
And God gave me Danger to overcome.
I asked for Love ...
And God gave me Troubled people to help.
I asked for Favors ...
And God gave me Opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed.

I just love that story, because I asked God for a way to avoid pain, and God gave me Kundalini Yoga. As you begin to read, know that each of these eight energy centers already lives within you, each of the chakras is like that butterfly trying to be born out of its cocoon. The whole process of learning is really the process of uncovering and rediscovering what we already know. That is the process we will undergo together.

I know by the end of this journey we will see our eight glorious human talents begin to thrive. We humans are magnificent creatures. This is the perfect time for us to celebrate and nurture our Eight Human Talents together.

Our bodies are the means by which we come to know and understand our spiritual connection to the Infinite. John O'Donohue, gifted poet of the spirit, sums up this relationship beautifully in the Celtic poem from his book Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

A Blessing For The Senses
May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful and
beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful and recognize
that your senses are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is mindful, gazing,
feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to celebrate the universe
and the mystery and possibilities in your presence here.
May the Eros of the Earth bless you.
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