Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: May 2015

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

He said . . . she heard

I'm thinking about a workshop I'm preparing for this weekend. It's about communication in relationships and it's said that if you want to master something, teach it. I could definitely use the help!

I feel like I'm so clear in my own communication; but my listening skills on the other hand are so loaded with my own agenda that I have to ask myself, How clear can I actually be when one side of the communication is so unclear? The only consolation if there is one is that I don't think I'm the only one in this particular boat. I think communication in long-term relationships often becomes loaded with things unspoken, or built up over time.

It began innocently enough. I offered to make coffee this morning, and as I was occupied, I heard my husband pouring his cereal. As I turned around, I noticed he had added the rest of the box to "my" cereal, that is, the container of cereal already opened. They were two different kinds of cereal....and I had already attached some meaning into the opened cereal by thinking of it as "mine," to the extent that when we went to the store last night, I asked him to get some cereal for himself. All of this naming and "owning" of things is completely unknown to him by the way. This is all just in my head.

Cut to this morning: I see he has combined the two cereals and I ask, "why did you do that?" And he replies with "it's just cereal." But what I mean is multi-layered: Why are you messing with "my" cereal? Why don't you know me well enough by now to know that I don't like my food mixed? And if you do know that about me why don't you love me enough to care? What I hear is also multi-layered: It's just cereal becomes, Quit being so attached to your food! It becomes a judgment about me and my relationship with food, which is fraught with years and years of underfeeding myself or overfeeding myself. Food and comfort and acceptance and love all being synonyms for one another in my body-mind self.

Now, the interesting thing is that my experience of what he said is true; it is my personal truth because it's a reflection of our past communications, my own special brand of neurosis and my sensitivity. His personal truth may be different: he may have simply meant, "it's just cereal." But he may have also been expressing a greater frustration at my attachment to food being a certain way, which is a pattern between us. The art of communication in relationship is to know your own truth and validate your own truth for yourself, but act from a shared truth. That is, act from the facts. He said, it's just cereal--and that's what I have to respond to--not all my "stuff" I've attached to that very simple act and very simple statement.

So I get to work within myself on all my "stuff" and I get to be neutral in my response to him. I get to forgive him, in advance, for not loving me enough to care about my food issues, because he probably does, he just doesn't relate to them. I get to accept that in some ways he's right,  it is just cereal and perhaps I should look more closely at the way I use food as comfort. And finally, I get to make a choice. "My" cereal no longer being available, I choose to go get a croissant at the corner cafe; my need for food as comfort having been met, I can now eat the "just cereal" just fine. Go figure!

Now, perhaps I shouldn't share the machinations of my mind so publicly, but honestly, I don't think many women will find it strange. Men on the other hand will run for the hills. But that's the joy of the polarity. And the work of communication in relationship is to own your own stuff, respond with love and forgive, again, yourself and the other.

Bhand Jammee-ai

When I teach about Guru Naanak and Sikh Dharma I like to point out that in many ways, Naanak was the first feminist. He not only broke with the tradition of the caste system, but he questioned why women were disparaged within the culture, when they were responsible for everything: cozy home life, children, gardens, yummy food, essentially communal life is centered around the woman so "why call her bad who gives birth to kings."
500 years later and we're still fighting this same battle. Equal pay for equal work; valuing social systems that support family life; understanding that what is good for women is good for everyone. Why? Because if don't value the feminine, then we won't protect the vulnerable, we won't honor our feelings, we won't have healthy families. The Divine Masculine has wonderful qualities, but the inherent power structure must bend to the feminine or it will lose the balance.
This is not to say that women aren't powerful, we are. More powerful than we know in fact. But the average man can still overpower the average woman. This is just a fact. Just as the average woman can crush the average man with one word. This too is a fact. These are the inherent differences that lie within the polarity: one is weaker in the physical form and the one is weaker in the ego form.
What does any of this have to do with a saint that wrote a poem more than 500 years ago? Well, a woman uses her word to destroy the man when she is insecure or in duality and conflict about her own identity. A man uses his strength to subjugate the woman when he has not trained his sensitivity to honor the Divine Feminine, oftentimes because of his own inner mother phobia. So we come to Bhand Jammee-ai, the shabad that heals these respective issues in women and in men.
The third of the three practices that Yogi Bhajan explicitly gave for women to master in order to become more truly themselves, Bhand Jammee-ai is a beautiful practice for both men and women to honor the Divine Feminine and heal the world while we're at it!

Saturday, May 02, 2015


Sopurkh is a favorite practice of many women in our Dharma. It's one of the three practices Yogi Bhajan specifically mentions for women to perfect.
“There are three things which work for you: Sopurkh, Bhand Jamee-ai and the basic root in which woman becomes woman, which is Ekaa Maa-ee Jugat Viaa-ee [the 30th Pauree]. Those three things are your totalities and this is your reality.”
© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, June 29, 1988
I've written about my experience with this practice before, so I won't repeat it here but I will say that this version is inspired by my Godson, Akal Dhyan. As a woman you can hold in your intention three men in your life as you practice your Sopurkh Recitation each day. Akal Dhyan is one that I hold in my consciousness. It is our duty but also our privilege as women to hold the Divine Masculine in our projection and in our prayers. It is our job to create the environments that mold our young men into sacred keepers of truth and protectors of the Divine Feminine. It is the mother's prayer that allows a child to flourish and grow in the divine light of their own highest consciousness. And it is the woman's prayer that holds her man up to the light of that consciousness and reflects it with each act of kindness, each moment of tenderness, and each word of graciousness.
Offer your Sopurkhs without attachment and see that Infinite God flourish before your very eyes.

30th Pauree

As a woman we have the power to create our lives as we want them; yet we divest ourselves of that power every day. Each time we put ourselves down, each time we compare ourselves to other women, each time we complain, we lose power. The most challenging part of this 3HO way of life for women is accepting our power. I know that sounds strange, but to really accept that your life looks the way it looks because of the choices you've made; and that if you want to change, you have the power to change it? That's a lot of responsibility! And most of us shy away from that kind of power, that level of accountability. But within this simple step of acceptance lies the key to freedom.
Yogi Bhajan said the key to understanding a woman's power lay in the words of the 30th pauree; that if a woman meditated on these words, she would begin to understand the mystery and the mastery of being a woman.
“There are three things which work for you: Sopurkh, Bhand Jamee-ai and the basic root in which woman becomes woman, which is Ekaa Maa-ee Jugat Viaa-ee [the 30th Pauree]. Those three things are your totalities and this is your reality.”
© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, June 29, 1988
All three of these shabads are available on my forthcoming album, The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone. I'll write more about each in the coming days.
But for now, understand that as a woman you are the beginning of the beginning and your essence as the Divine Feminine is behind everything and watching over everything. We are the creators and the caretakers. We are the stewards of the good and the godly and the graceful.
This track has the recommended 11 recitations of this pauree along with a refrain of Adays Tisai Adays. Enjoy it and through it come to know your true nature as a woman.

The Shakti Mantra

Sometimes referred to as the DNA of Kundalini Yoga, we most often practice the Shakti Mantra in the 2 1/2 breath cycle form--aka Morning Call or Long Chant. But Yogi Bhajan also said you could simply sing it in a sweet voice and experience bliss.
I like to meditate on the yantra Adi Shakti when I chant this mantra. Yogi Bhajan spoke about it in different ways at different times. He spoke of it as a symbol that represents the first prayer, the woman on the hill, with her arms reaching to the heavens. The khanda her spine, the miri and piri her arms, and the chakra the circle of life that her prayer protects.
He also spoke about it as the symbol for union of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. The ultimate Shiva/Shakti dance. The khanda the lingam and the miri and piri the woman's embrace, the chakra, the Divine Seed.
Each image is potent in very different ways. One the creative potential of the Word, the power of Prayer; and the other, the creative fecundity of the universe embodied in the union of the polarities.
The mantra itself is a key to remembering who we are: One with the Creator, Truth is our Identity, and Great is the ecstasy found in the moment of insight, illumination and even, liberation.
Meditate on this symbol as you chant and then inhale deeply and allow the symbol to merge entire being. Becoming one with the Infinity it represents.
Or just drive around in your car! This is a great road trip track.

Down on Me with Iyaanrhee-ai Shabad

As a songwriter and singer, I never really got into doing covers. I wanted to write my own tunes, and if I'm honest, I've never really gotten that good on my instrument, so learning other tunes was beyond my skill set. But when I met Abhai Raj, he insisted I begin to learn covers. One--because he loved them; Two--because it really does increase your skill set to learn great songs; and Three--because he thought I needed to be more humble in my relationship to my music, and playing other people's tunes was a step in that direction!
Cut to The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone--Abhai Raj insisted that if I were dedicating the album to Janis Joplin then I had to include one of her tunes. Well, finding a song of hers that was elevating enough for a kirtan album was a bit of a challenge, as you can imagine. Genius, yes; Cherdi Kala, not so much! But we found an old Spiritual that she covered, Down on Me, that I liked and knew I could sing and then we paired it with the shabad that Yogi Bhajan referred to as the Victory Song for Women, I-yaanrhee-ai Man Rakha-ay Karay (sp?). When you read the translation as a Westerner you think, what? How is this a victory song? But the gurbani works on the subconscious patterns in our brains to rewrite them. So that the essential message of the shabad is what remains: Why are you looking outside of yourself for approval, woman? You already have all the wisdom within you. When paired with Down on Me, which tells the story of the disposessed, it makes a quixotic combination.
In a world where women's rights are still in question, even here in the United States, much less around the world, I hope this song will speak to the arcane rhetorical positions that keep women down even while it subliminally rewrites our subconscious to experience our own value and victory!

Story Time: The Guru Gayatri

"The woman who sings the Guru Gayatri, gains both Worldly and Heavenly joy. All earthly wealth and magical powers come to her, and through Raj Yoga she merges with God!" --Yogi Bhajan, from Furmaan Khalsa
When I went to India on my first, and as of yet only, yatra, I knew I wanted to get a Kara while I was there. I asked a few people in the community what mantra I should have inscribed into the steel bracelet and more than one person said, the Guru Gayatri mantra, Gobinday Mukanday etc., because it protects the women and increases her radiance. I will confess I didn't know much about all the various mantras and their effects yet. But I decided that sounded good.
When the vendor came to our hotel to show us the selection of karas and kirpans he had available, my eye fell to one in particular. I asked what mantra it was and he said, Gobinday Mukanday. The steel was still warm because it had just been cast that day. It was an amazing feeling to hold it in my hands and slide it over my left wrist. I knew it was mine the moment he spoke.
Later, I found this quote from Yogi Bhajan, the Siri Singh Sahib, about the gifts of the Gayatri Mantra and I knew it belonged on this collection of songs dedicated to the Divine Feminine. Yes, there are lots of versions of this mantra available, and yes, there was no need for another one; but I felt it belonged with these other sacred songs as a complete story of the woman and the sounds that elevate her identity and reality. So I've included it--an 11-minute meditation of this amazing mantra by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Master. 

The Mother's Shabads

Last year was a poignant one for many reasons. As a woman who married late in life, it was always going to be a long shot to have a child. But when a soul came into my arcline, we decided to give it a try. We sang Jammee-a Poot Bhagat every evening and prayed for a soul to join us. And we experienced the gift of understanding that we could offer that prayer to the world, not just for ourselves. We could pray for a saint, a giver or a teacher to come into the world--and so we did! Then we spent another 40 days singing Poota maata Kee Asees. And so much pain around my own mother and the duality around the idea of being a mother healed through this shabad. I don't really have words. This shabad is the only one in the entire Siri Guru Granth Sahib that is believed to be written by a woman and is commonly known as The Mother's Blessing and what a blessing it has been to come into relationship to this particular prayer. I'm never going to be a mother--at least in this lifetime--but so much healed by practicing with these sacred sounds.
I'm grateful to offer these two sacred songs on my next album, The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone. Come into relationship to the sound current and heal parts of yourself you didn't even realize needed healed. That's been my story anyway.

The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone

The origin of this album's title is two-fold: it's dedicated to Janis Joplin, the amazing, full-throated, soulful but also broken singer from my home state, Texas. I grew up enamored of her power, how she just put it all out there. Her nickname was Pearl and she was a gem. But she was also damaged, as many of us are as women, in our culture and in cultures around the globe. So to the second story behind the title: when I was in my Level One Teacher Training with Guru Raj Kaur in Vancouver, BC, I was concerned that I would always feel broken, that I wouldn't be able to be as radiant as others who hadn't lived as I had, frankly, who I perceived as more pure than me. Guru Raj looked at me and said, Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh! Your purity belongs to God and your victory belongs to God. It's none of your business if you think you are pure or not--it's God's. And because it's God's it can never be broken or tarnished or damaged; it's antar and it is unchanging; which in turn reminded me of the childhood bible story of the pearl of great price. I never understood or related to it. Why would someone exchange everything for a single pearl? But then I began to experience my own inner purity and I recognized myself as that pearl--the Pearl of Great Price. And I understand that I had been selling myself short my entire life. I'd been exchanging everything for nothing. And that's when the Teachings of Yogi Bhajan really began to work on my inner psyche and I began to truly change. This album is a reflection of the teachings, the mantras and shabads that helped me to rewrite my story and become the woman I am. I hope it serves you in finding your own true worth: the Pearl within.

Track One--Durga Mantra--from The Pearl: Maiden, Mother, Crone

Since my very early days of Kundalini Yoga, my friend and fellow teacher nicknamed me Kali Kaur. Later on in my journey, as I was editing the I AM A WOMAN collection, a student who had been close to Yogi Bhajan mentioned that he always kept an image of Durga (Pritham Bhagavauti) wherever he spent a lot of time, such as his office or his bedroom. He even wrote a poem to the 8-armed Goddess which we included in the collection. So you can imagine my excitement when a friend and scholar, Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa, found this Durga Mantra in Paintees Akhree. From early days as a Naad and Hatha Yogi, I chanted the names of the Goddess. So to find this included in our banis was a joy. . . . it's followed by my own version of the Namah: names of the Goddess from many different traditions, both ancient and contemporary. This is the opening track of the album because it serves as the invocation. For women, it invites you into an experience with the Goddess within. For men, it invites you in to an experience of devotion, which is so vital to generating a healthy balance in the psyche of both men and women. Devotion to the Ma serves everyone, because "what's good for women is good for everyone."