Press Play Button Below, Synchronize Reading & Listening "Habits Podcast" *An Audio Blog*
My birth name is Jean-Marc and I was born and raised in the South of France.
Although I grew accustomed to the sound of my name, its uniqueness have always been one of its most endearing traits, especially in English speaking countries where I’ve spent more than half my life. People have a hard time pronouncing my name and it always validated, in some weird way, my desire to be different from others.
Jean-Marc never fit me, though. Quite possibly because this name that was bestowed upon me at birth was never in tune with my destiny.
Fast forward 5 full decades and now it seems so obvious.
Three and a half years ago, my life changed forever when I started practicing yoga classes every single day.
Before that, I was a regular yoga practitioner for over a decade, albeit once a week to complement my martial arts training.
I never envisioned the fact that a yoga practice could be anything but physical.
It seems to be a North American thing that yoga was all about sweating and raising the heart rate.
Let's be honest, the typical yoga class in this country doesn't have the time nor the affection for spiritual endeavors, besides a few OM chants at the beginning class and a short Shavasana (corpse pose) at the conclusion of it.
When I was looking for a new yoga studio after having worked the entire Summer in Denver, I came across Anahata Yoga in Scottsdale, Az.
They were having a grand reopening at a new and vastly improved location.
I attended 7 free classes that weekend and was forever hooked.
This felt like I really belonged, for a change.
I had finally found a piece of turf I could call home and where my mind chatter would gladly go on mute for a while.
Throughout my life I have always relied upon intuition.
Their old saying that, “When the student is ready to accept, the teacher will immediately appear and give the needful advice”.
How would you describe a man like Sevak Singh? For one thing, he is an institution in himself. Sevak has been teaching Kundalini Yoga for 44 years in his home base of Phoenix and in other parts of the world.
He is a Sikh and is quite an imposing figure, standing over 6 feet tall, impeccably dressed in white cotton apparel with a matching turban, and sporting a long salt & will appear as beard giving an aura of a very wise person. It took me just moments upon meeting him to realize that I was in the presence of a dignified man. Sevak’s words instantly resonated within me.
Within 2 months, I enrolled in a Level 1 Teacher Training Course in Kundalini Yoga. This 200 hours of coursework were set to start the 2nd week of January.
I was really taken to a level and state which was really meant to me
Although this concept seemed a little vague and unfounded at the time; fate, destiny, karma, or whatever you might want to call it, would make sure that I jumped on that wagon.
“Nothing in this world happens by accident.” Yogi Bhajan continued on to say “It’s all part of a master plan”.
It is a short 1½ hour drive from Scottsdale to Gisela, a small community south of Payson. I was flying in my car to my first 4-day retreat at Heart & Soul, without a care in the world. At the time I was working for an on-call agency in Phoenix earning minimum wage and sleeping in my Lexus.
My finances had been in limbo for quite some time and I had no idea how I was going to pay for this course. I thought becoming a yoga teacher would be a great opportunity to change that paradigm.
Fasten your seat belts ladies and gentlemen, we might encounter some turbulence along the way!
Heart & Soul is on a 2 ½ acre property that Sevak purchased 5 years ago in Gisela, a hamlet of 500 or so souls scattered around an irrigated valley. Gisela is framed by the Black mountains and Tonto Creek and surrounded by the Tonto National Forest.
I have driven that beautiful stretch of road from Fountain Hills to Payson many times, yet I had never seen a sign for Gisela until now. Over the next 6 months, our group of 10 uniquely gifted students would get to call this little piece of paradise home. As a bonus, our 4-day retreats each month coincided nicely with the full moon.
I didn't know much about souls and maybe even less about hearts, for that matter. My time at Heart & Soul taught me that I did indeed have a bright soul and even a bigger heart. I just was too oblivious to it, perhaps too blind, but definitely too hurt to be cognizant of it. I was just missing too many pieces of the puzzle to have a clear picture of its contents.
I always considered myself a happy go-lucky kind. In hindsight, I realize now that my life didn't have much shape. It lacked clarity, consistency and above all, purpose.
The truth is I had never been committed to anything that shook me to my core, something palpable that my heart would grasp and make it my own.
My ex-wife shared with her family after our divorce that I didn't believe in God. My ego first disregarded that as total nonsense, but now I can clearly see that she had a case. I had always been in rebellion against the mere existence of God. That was the main reason why I was there, in the first place, not to find God or discover some esoteric formula that would reveal all the secrets of the universe, but to search and hopefully find myself, plain and simple, laying amongst a pile of long lost and forgotten items.
There we were, as if descending from the heavens on a zip-line and landing right in the middle of this land. On one side of the retreat there was a giant mulberry tree with a solitary swing hanging from one of his branches. Beyond that was a gate that led to the River road. We would pass this gate many times throughout our stay at Heart & Soul.
We took a leisurely 10-minute walk along a dirt road, flanked by prefabricated country homes, to “Shanti Om” 3 times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the powerful mantras to change our life is “Shanti Om”.
The food there was nothing short of celestial. The angels preparing these treats, Ram Hari and Siri Kirtan made sure of it.
On the west side of the property was our ashram, a cozy house with 3 bedrooms equipped with bunk beds, a kitchen, a living room and 2 bathrooms. Right across from our ashram was a renovated yoga studio covered with corrugated iron sheets. A heater and a swamp cooler helped to tame the elements. There is something magical about an immersion course that takes you across the winter, spring and summer seasons.
It seems that we evolved as spiritual beings having a human experience in total synchronicity with the change of seasons, the moon cycles, and the weather patterns. Heart & Soul would not have it any other way.
During his classes, Sevak is fond of saying that if there was a magic pill that would take you there, he would be all for it. The fastest way that he has found, the “Lear Jet” to merge with the divine and to experience that complete symbiosis of body, mind and soul, is through the practice and the application of the principles of Kundalini Yoga. It is the most complete form of yoga, the yoga of awareness.
Kundalini Yoga was brought to the US by Yogi Bahjan in 1969. YB was from a part of Pakistan that would later become India. Much has been written about the history of KY, including how it has been passed from master to disciple for thousands of years in secrecy and that teaching it would result in the death of the culprit within 1 year.
Well, YB passed on his teachings for 35 years until his death in 2004. He left an incredible legacy in this world. YB used to say that you have to be a lighthouse and spread your light onto others. He didn't want disciples, but rather, he wanted to train teachers to pass on the teachings to future generations.
KY has elements that make it so efficient, so powerful, so divine. It incorporates asanas, physical exercises called kriyas, pranayama or breath exercises, mudras with varied positions of your fingers within your hands, and mantras. The mantras are written in Gurmukhi, a language derived from Sanskrit that originated in the 16th century in Punjab. These mind projections that can be sung along or accompanied by kundalini yoga music transport you to another dimension. You will not find a more authentic or haunting music. It is said that everything in the universe originated from the sound.
I took my first KY class when I was living in Denver. It was love at first sight. That is the undeniable gem of KY. It is called the yoga of awareness for one specific reason: you become more in tune with the dance of the universe. Every single student finds his own treasure, at his own pace. No one is forcing you to feel or act a certain way based upon doctrines, dogmas or established behaviors.
KY is a technology and that alone appealed to my Cartesian mind. You make the effort to come to class (which is already a great accomplishment in itself), lay your mat on the floor, and the magic begins. If the magic doesn't happen, chances are you won't be back at the studio again. When the Kundalini rises through the conduit inside your spine, “the Sushumna”, it is an amazing thing to behold.
When Yogi Bhajan arrived in California in 1969, by way of Toronto, he landed right in the middle of the hippie culture of the West Coast. He quickly noticed that many of the young people were into experimenting with drugs and rebelling against the system. YB intuitively knew that drugs were always a short-term answer to a long-term problem. He also knew that the real solution to counteracting all the ills of this world was to be found in the teachings that he was bringing forth from his ancestors.
Soon after he founded the 3 HO foundation: Happy, Healthy & Holly.
They're laying the foundation of KY. To quote YB: "Happiness is your birthright.”
Our second weekend at Heart & Soul was a challenging one as we were to remain silent from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. I have never been the silent kind, so I thought it might be quite a difficult task. That is until, over the course of 2 days, we crafted our “I am statement”. We were all on this journey to re-invent ourselves, to find that spark of light that would ignite our entire beings, and to make amends for certain things.
Most importantly, we were there to forgive ourselves as well as others. Starting with a few loose parts, we were to build the prototype that would lead us best to our destinies. We had a second chance to create something tangible from a blank canvas. It was up to us to mix the colors and to master the strokes of our paint brushes. The “I am statement” could be a couple of words or a whole paragraph. There were no rules.
It dawned on me that the reason why Sevak calls this a self-mastery course is because you learn to master your own self. You are in the middle of a collective group, with the usual dynamics and interactions between students and teacher, but you have the freedom to use these teachings as you please.
The philosophy of KY is to allow the individual to feel and own his personal experience in a non-patronizing or forced way. I found this approach refreshing and quite unlike our typical education modus operandi. The long beards and turbans, together with the students dressed in all white attires may cause you to think KY is a religion or a sect, but it is far from that.
I believe the “I am statement” is a trademark of Sevak Singh. It is something that he crafted over the decades with his experience and his boundless knowledge of the human condition and beyond.
I was pretty happy with my statement. It is a story of who I was and who I aspire to be, in perfect tune with the calling of my destiny. To this day, I repeat my statement 11 times a day.
This ritual takes about 25 minutes and has become my treasure map. Although I have given up on a lot of things in my life, I don't ever plan on giving up on this. YB said that it takes more than 120 consecutive days for it to be imprinted in your psyche and a Thousand days to master a new habit of consciousness that leads to mastery.
My spiritual name, Taj Simrit Singh, was given to me by the 3HO organization and is based upon and my full name and date of birth. It means: The fearless lion who is the embodiment of the splendor and radiance that flow perfectly from meditating on the name of God, with every breath. I thought the name was quite lyrical, yet laden with a fair amount of pressure and expectations. It didn't faze me a bit.
I was very familiar with the Law of Attraction and The Secret, but they were not tangible things that I could comprehend with my mind and carry on with my heart. My experience was similar to that of a kid in the inner city who lives on the wrong side of the tracks and dreams of riches at night, but still wakes up every morning in abject poverty.
Kundalini Yoga gave me the road map to be whatever I aspired to be, as long as it was ultimately in sync with seeking the betterment of others. They call this “Seva”. The best way to get out the shadow of your ego and shine like a beacon of light is to be of service to others and to show love, empathy and compassion. Otherwise, your life just does not have the purpose that aligns with your soul.
I recall the first time I heard Sevak say, early in his course, that “You're not your mind”. This was sort of an epiphany, for as long as I could remember I had been operating solely with my mind. I always thought that I was uniquely my mind, that strong and stubborn mind of mine, the very one that got me in and out of trouble throughout my life.
I learned we have 10 bodies and amongst them 3 minds: the negative mind, the positive mind, and the neutral mind. It finally dawned on me that the path to prosperity lies in the neutral mind. This is the sacred place one can only access when not preoccupied with the sole act of conquering or the reflex of surviving, but rather with the accepting of what comes to you without all the permutations and the over-reactions of the emotional mind.
This is called surrendering and therein lies the real secret. It is not a secret in the sense that it is hidden or hard to find, it just requires a certain level of awareness and a steady practice. Awareness in itself won't get you there unless you are willing to do the heavy work.
If you are like most common mortals, emotional yo-yos in constant pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, you are in for a long and lonely battle against the elements. After all, isn’t the bamboo stronger against heavy winds than the mighty oak?
Sevak often talked about having a fixed frequency. At first, this sounded like a foreign language to me. With a better awareness, I see it now with the reverence that it deserves. I have encountered people who had a fixed frequency. They seemed to be rolling along without too much fuss or bickering. They had a certain presence and I was drawn to them for the very reason that they had a calming effect on my racing mind. A fixed frequency does not cohabit with stress, drama or pettiness. It has its own vibration that flows with the vibrations of the universe
Looking at my life up to now, I could clearly see periods where I was on a fixed frequency, intertwined with craziness and chaos. How could I ever attract what I wanted if my gun muzzle was rocking like a ship in a bad sea? Aren't I bound to miss my target every single time? I was all over the place and my circumstances didn't match my expectations? Seriously?
It all starts from the navel, that spot roughly 2 1/2 finger widths below your belly button. Some people call it the solar plexus, but that is not entirely accurate. This is where your spark of life originates. During your 9 months in utero, you were attached to your mother by an umbilical cord and that is where you got your nutrients and your oxygen. Once the cord was cut, you became your own entity, separate from your mother. The Japanese call it Ki, the Chinese Chi, and the Korean Dan Tiem. If you have ever watched martial artists or Buddhist monks in action you will see that a tremendous amount of energy can be produced from the navel.
The navel is associated with the third chakra, the realm of action, will power, and execution. In our society, too many people have a weak third chakra. This leads to inaction, procrastination, addictions, and ultimately depression. When you have a strong center, a strong core in yogic terms, you can accomplish anything you desire. You will not get tired at 4pm and go in search of stimulants like alcohol or drugs or sit in front of the TV screen with your feet up and your mind on hiatus.
This is the most basic and elemental concept that I learned during this course of self-mastery. Your navel is your blank canvas and it is up to you to fill it in with colors, shapes, and forms. If you so desire to create your masterpiece, you will need to start there.
We have 72,000 Nadi points, or meridians, originating from the navel. All the ills of this world such as negativity, pettiness, criticism, apathy, scorn, and hate don't have a chance against a strong navel. They get squashed like bugs on a windshield. Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend my Buddhist friends!
When you take this Level 1 Course, your teacher prescribes some kriyas and meditations that you will need to do for 40 consecutive days. Forty days is how long it takes to recognize and adopt a single habit. Although these prescriptions are based on each individual, the constant here is “Nabhi Krya”.
At full length, it takes about 55 minutes and, according to my own count and rhythm, it consists of about 650 various leg lifts while lying on your back with your head level with the floor. The key is to start at your own pace and in your own comfort zone. Certain types of yoga require you, at the risk of getting injured, to become a bit of a contortionist. In KY, you push yourself mentally and jolt your entire nervous system, but always respect the limitations of your body. Exertion is the necessary part of yoga, but to each his own. Sometimes when your body can no longer do the repeated movements so common in the different kryas, you can imagine doing them perfectly in your mind. If it becomes a battle of mind over matter, the mind always comes ahead. In defeat or victory, the mind is like the director in a movie.
For me, the real magic of KY lies in the mantras. Most of the mantras in KY were written by Guru Nanak, a Sikh Guru and a traveling musician. There are multitudes of artists who have put these mantras to music. I remember falling in love with this KY music during my first class in Denver. It bears no description except that it is the devotional music of the highest octane. Singing mantras as part of a krya meditation or singing along to a recording became my most effective outlet. Most of us are oblivious to the power of our own singing voice. Maybe that is because we were told to be quiet or that we had a bad voice when we were kids. Or maybe because here in the West it is a cultural heritage that has been long lost. There is something ethereal that happens to you when you let go of your fears and inhibitions in class and sing along. You start tapping into what they call the sound current, the “Shabad Guru”.
Everything originates from sound. Scientists discovered in the 1960's that the surface of the sun is made entirely of sound waves. In microbiology, everything single thing can be traced back to a sound frequency. The sun has up to 10,000 frequencies, rippling along its surface, while at its core, plasma creates heat up to 15 million degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine that!
It is no wonder that by tapping to this sound current, you cross the gate that takes you to the infinite. You can call it whatever you want. At its most awesome primal force, you can call it God. In KY, true to beliefs in Sikhism, there is one God and it is not to be found on the outside, but is rather inherent in each one of us.
Are you intent on ignoring that supreme life force that literally lies inside of your gut, as it was my case, or will you become cognizant of that beacon of light that beams from your navel and has the potential to illuminate your entire world?
What about KY seen as a sect or a religious entity? For one thing, Sikhs do not spread propaganda about their beliefs. This is your own individual journey. You are free to make your own conclusions, based solely on your experience. Nobody is going to take you by the hand and transport you there. Sorry to disappoint you. Your destiny lies in opening your heart to experience the magic of life as it unfolds. In that inner journey of the self, coupled with the awareness of having such a transcending experience, the Kundalini energy rises like a Phoenix from the ashes of your own oblivion.
During my first weekend at Heart & Soul I found God. Not in a born-again sense. I didn't need to die or be re-born for that. It turned out to be more subtle or you could say more organic. Little did I know that
God (the Generating, Organizing, and Delivering or Destroying Force) was the spark of life and glory that inhabited every organism in the Universe.
I had always been in tune to my senses and in awe of the wonders of this world, but I was missing that supreme intuition, that which needed to be severed from my egoistic self, the very one that lay dormant in my gut. Out of pure rebellion, or possibly out of frustration and pain, I was fighting the existence of God.
Throughout this self-mastery course, I realized that I was the one that created my own limitations. We spend our entire lives inside a little bubble populated by the things that hurt us and cause us pain. We end up, against our conscious mind, recreating the very same stories and scenarios that take us to where we were hiding from in the first place. No wonder we are lost in a conundrum of self-victimization and self-sabotage.
Mind you, I always had an escape plan etched in the fabric of my mind. My fertile imagination and my affinity for escapism have always been my most loyal friends and allies. When it came to God, I just didn't believe in that Garden of Eden and all those mystical stories in the Bible. They sounded too hollow, too convenient, too self-serving.
What I found one particular morning, in the wet fields outside of the yoga studio at Heart & Soul, was not to be comprehended, dissected nor analyzed by my mind like I was so used and conditioned to do.
Did you know that we have 3 brains? The mind, brain, the heart, brain and the gut brain?
“You are not your mind”. Sevak’s voice still echoes in my being like the wind hurling through a canyon's walls.
On that particular morning, during our second week-end at Heart & Soul, we had just finished listening to Japji (Sikh prayers), doing yoga exercises, and chanting mantras during 2 ½ hours of “Sadhana”.
I was in a trance while I was undergoing the sessions in the yoga retreat atmosphere in the early morning of the days I attended.
It had been raining all night long, the fields were so wet that it felt like walking on a carpet of clouds. The sun had not yet risen and the light of the full moon had dressed the pale dawn with yellow and orange hues. Blankets of fog wrapped the countryside and I intuited that I had been transported inside the pages of a fairy tales book.
When I made eye contact with that lost wandering soul in the far corner of the field, I didn't flinch at all, for I recognized it as my own. It had come back home at last. In a flash, I woke up from the inertia that had possessed my physical body and I felt ever so light, God pulsating in every one of my thirty trillion cells. I had been walking painstakingly, like a blind man laboring with his long cane, and then suddenly I was able to clearly see. My gaze took me effortlessly for a jolly ride along the river, over the hills and into the infinity of the universe.
I had been a monochromatic cocoon before turning into a colorful butterfly. All the nectar of this world was mine, all within reach of my proboscis. I felt so rich and so free.
According to Yogi Bhajan Gratitude is the highest form of Yoga. I felt for the first time of this incarnation on earth, the Great and Full. I had always had the presence of God permeating inside my being and all around me. I just had lacked the intuition in my gut brain and the love and compassion in my heart brain acknowledge it and dwell in it.
The monkey in my mind, brain could now finally go and find himself another host, for I had grown tired of his pompous act.
My Statement of Intent:
I finally arrived to fulfill my destiny and I am ready after 5 decades of operating solely with my monkey mind, to reveal my sacred gift.
I came here to personify the profound splendor and radiance that flow from perfectly meditating on the name of God, just like my name implies.
I have a fixed frequency and I am a magnet of prosperity.
I was put on this planet to be of service and to make a difference in people’s lives, one step and one person at a time.
I am an inspired teacher, with tons of experience, empathy and insight.
The jewel box that lies within my heart used to be locked and empty.
It now shines as wondrously as the cavern of Ali Baba, full of gold, emeralds and rubies.
I fancy sharing these treasures with the world.
I thrive to be content and at peace.
I easily and effortlessly attract the woman I am physically, mentally and spiritually compatible with.
I am in tune with my emotions and gentle with my heart.
Before, I was scattered all around like ashes thrown into the wind.
At the present time, I stand tall and straight, akin to a giant Kapok tree with its roots reaching deep into the earth and its branches kissing the infinite sky.
Kundalini Yoga is my holy grail.
The last few months, thanks to the golden chain of masters and teachers, I started envisioning a brighter future for myself.
I became consciously conscious of all the changes I would need to make, for the sake of experiencing a complete paradigm shift and sub-consequently, a more blessed and happier life.
It is limitless.
I hereby stand before you. I am very fortunate to be the one and only Taj Simrit Singh.
I am fully committed and grateful beyond words.
A glance at Nanak can set me free.