Monthly Archives: March 2012

It’s All About Switching Gears

My Project
I just finished the main portion of an advanced supplement to my training as a Kundalini Yoga teacher. This module focused on Vitality and Stress and is one of five voluntary courses we can take at the level two classification. What I call the main portion was the time spent in the company of our Sat Sanghat (community) and teachers: three weekends during the last month, which began at 7AM on Saturday and ended at 5PM on Sunday. We basically just went home to sleep on Saturday night. In that way, they were like meditation retreats. But also because, although there was a copious amount of information exchanged, the emphasis was on our experience. So, the days were transformative and intense, with our teachers taking us through the numerous Kriyas and meditations related to the topic of the course. Our continued work is to be done on our own, and consists of reading, journaling, follow-up meetings, an exam, and a 90 day sadhana (personal meditation) to be done every day for 31 minutes.

I have decided to make two of the journal entries public, by way of this blog. The first of these follows, below. It has to be done in a very specific way—we explore any situation from the perspective of what we call, in Kundalini Yoga, the negative mind, the positive mind and the neutral mind, followed by a short commentary arrived at from the state of shuniya—non-attachment. Because this module focused on Vitality and Stress, the situation should be one which was potentially stress-provoking. And it is supposed to be done in an unedited, free-flowing manner.

The perspectives I will present may or not be mine. They may be fabricated, or derivative of those reactions I have witnessed in others around me. Because this is public, I’ll preface the actual journal with an introduction, focusing on the role of the three minds.

Introduction: On The Three Minds
Life without conflict exists in a coffin. ~Yogi Bhajan

So, how do we get through our conflicts with grace? How do we come out clean? The problem comes into focus when you consider that for the majority of the population, the negative mind—which serves the legitimate purpose of alerting us to possible danger—serves as the go-to mode. They get paralyzed by an incessant flow of self-doubt, suspicion, anger, fear and hatred. And they live there. The worst is that in order to feel better, they drink, smoke, party, shop, gamble and take drugs. All of it is for the purpose of silencing the negative mind, of escaping. Our power lies in our ability to switch gears: to go from the negative mind to the positive mind, and finally to the ideal vantage point of the neutral mind, which, like a mirror, reflects reality as it is, without bias or preference.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a Sikh or a Moslem, or a Hindu or a rabbi or a Christian or Jew…if you are a millionaire or a pauper, or if you are beautiful or ugly.” None of it matters if you don’t know how to switch those three gears, says our teacher, Yogi Bhajan.

He says it would be like driving a car and getting stuck in fourth gear. An accident waiting to happen. But all the everyday meltdowns are due to exactly this—getting stuck, like that car. Getting stuck in the negative mind. Although the negative mind is of utmost importance, we don’t want to live there. But we do.

The Situation
My son tells me his ex-girlfriend is pregnant. He tells me she is set on having the baby. They do not intend to get married. He acknowledges it is his. Now his comments as of late make sense: “I think it would be cool to be a young Dad…I’d teach him/her how to play guitar and surf.” I ask all the usual questions, the whole routine that parents do, about what his responsibilities will entail and the changes that may arise in his relationship with his ex. But I am calm.

The Negative Mind
The poor child—growing up in the midst of likely turmoil and perpetual disagreement and disharmony. And this will derail my son from his goals. How will he afford child support at his age? I wouldn’t be able to take on full-time infant care at this point in my life! The disputes between them will inevitably cause her stress, which will create a toxic environment for the developing baby. They’re too young to hold it together for the sake of the child. They’re going to fall apart. How will they ever iron out a mutually satisfactory arrangement when they do? And how will they maintain a peaceful correspondence? 

The Positive Mind
The only thing that makes anything difficult is lack of motivation, and nothing motivates like becoming a parent! Nothing makes a man out of you faster than becoming a father. And I already see positive changes in him—he’s glad he didn’t buy a motorcycle. Hallelujah to that. And he’s talking again about finishing his tests in aviation. This was a timely kick-in-the-pants. Funny how the universe works! No body’s asking you to take on full-time infant care! I’m actually looking forward to holding a little child-spirit in my arms. A little mini-my-son! I’d love to take it around and teach him or her all I can. We’re going to completely spoil it. And I can water-paint while it sleeps. And push the stroller while I walk Marcel at the same time. I’ll be one enthusiastic, young-ish Grandma!

The Neutral Mind
In Indian spirituality, they didn’t choose to have this baby; the baby chose them. It is beautiful. Because it’s life. It’s natural. Everyday, babies are born in as many diverse situations as your imagination allows. No one is ever ready to have a baby. And when you scratch beneath the surface, even the ones who meet society’s expectations and appearances are a mess. Appearance is never a guarantee of anything. The most important thing is a mother’s loving arms and she has shown herself to be equal to the task. I was just like her when I had my son. I was her. And nearly the same age. And equally determined. Fiercely protective from the first moment. It grounded me and brought such joy into my life. The things I thought mattered didn’t matter at all. It was just the two of us for over two years and those years were so cozy and sweet. I would just stare at my baby’s beautiful face. I shall tell her this. Life will present us with one challenge and seeming crisis, one after another, for ever. That’s what we’re here for. The only question is, how will we present ourselves?. With love and acceptance? Or with fear and insecurity? From expansiveness? Or limitation? After all, we can either accept it now, or accept it later. My task is to show up as a source of upliftment, positive energy, love and support. I can do that. Their challenge is to rise to the occasion. I get to watch my son grow up now. I choose to reside in faith. We don’t really get to control much, anyway.

Final Comment
As my teacher Gurudhan said, “our task is to open ourselves up to what is in front of us.” God…the universe…infinity…life…will put situations in front of us. Are you receptive? It’s all about change, he explained. “And how we face that change is part of the adventure of going into different realms of consciousness.”

When you are not bound by the negative force or the positive force…Then YOU are the force. ~Yogi Bhajan

~

PS. Stay tuned for the second journal entry!

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The Long, Swollen Pause

The idea that pauses in conversation are bad has been indelibly etched into our belief system. We even have an expression for this unwanted interval: The awkward silence. Because in our minds, conversation should be a lively flowing exchange. The good conversationalist, we are told, should know how to keep the dialogue moving.

But even in the context of what we would call “small talk,” a well-timed pause is of great benefit; it not only allows for a moment of reflection, but gives a greater sense of intention to what will eventually be said.

In a potentially heated conversation, a befitting pause is not only beneficial, but vital. A deliberate pause can totally prevent fall out. In Kundalini Yoga, we talk a lot about the neutral mind. The simple act of waiting before speaking—for as long as you need to—can bring us there. Yet, as simple as it is, we forget to do it.

The neutral mind is the mind of the sage. It is the mind that stays cool, come what may. So called because it neutralizes our reactive tendency. Staying neutral is easier said than done. Yet we all know someone who is just naturally that way—unaffected by the things that throw most people into melt-down mode. The neutral mind allows you to step back rather than getting sucked into the drama.

This reservoir of calm, called the neutral mind, opens us up to our own intuition—that deep-rooted confidence and conviction that is quite outside of the senses. When our intuition is working, it is like a good radio antenna, which makes us more attuned to information that we don’t pick up through the noise of sense data.

The long, swollen pause is like Lao Tzu’s empty cup—it is that space which the universe can fill. The neutral mind is nonjudgmental. It listens without classifying or condemning. It has to, so that it can receive, rather than impose. And when it does, it’s like a trouble maker getting out of the way. That’s when a connection is made. That’s when the station is tuned in. That’s the state of no separation. That’s when we see through, to the other side of the words—the words that are so baffling: How could he say that??? That’s where we see the cry for help, attention, or  understanding—the true intention behind what is actually uttered (because, remember, people don’t always know how to say what they really want to say).

Finally, it is the neutral mind that is the bridge to reality itself, unfiltered by our triggers and reflexes, and all the story lines that give rise to them. It is pure and unspoiled by our criticism and preferences, and free of all the static that gets in the way of effective response and judgment. In short, it debars the reactive tendency.

As one of my teachers puts it, it is the neutral mind that allows us to see it and then un-see it. The pause is the way. But it takes courage because it means busting through what others expect of us, as well as our own old habits. But the rewards are well worth it because it is the key to effective communication.