WARNING: Non-Music Post

Where Your Warrior Meets Your Saint

Sat Nam Festival West 
April 7-10th, 2016 @ Joshua Tree

This wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill spring cleaning, although I did participate in that ritual as well. But pictures of the piles of junk I removed from my house pale significantly to the junk I removed from my psyche at the Sat Nam West Festival* in Joshua Tree, California. 

I went to the desert in search of healing and clearing of a deeply personal cycle that was thrust in my face after a recent traumatic event. What I left with was the foundations to building a warrior that is able to meet challenges with clear intentions and self-awareness. And a huge Kundalini* buzz.

My days in the desert were full of classes, workshops, and concerts geared towards… well basically self-enlightenment. To remove all the junk that the mind creates that prevents the authentic “me” from showing up. Of course, that’s a very watered down version of what happened, but it’s easier to digest that way and I am not a subject matter expert on Kundalini.

It rained the first night, which was also a new moon in Aries,
the first sign of the zodiac calendar year and hence considered a new beginning. At 3:15am, three of us awoke to make our way to the big tent for Sadhana*, which would go until 6am. New to Sat Nam, I was not sure what to expect, but was willing the find out. Essentially there is about a half hour of prayer, then 45 minutes of guided Kundalini yoga movement, followed by an hour of chanting. Again, a watered-down version, but I don’t want to get loss in the language and terms used in the ceremony. It started to rain hard as we sat on our mats in a big tent in the middle of the desert. It felt so cleansing and added to the effects of the experience.

I had an idea, a plan, as to where I wanted this all to go, what I wanted to get out of weekend. I wanted to direct this experience to fix a particular problem in my life. Done. But that’s not how it works – that’s not how any of this works. As the rain came down and emotions came up I quickly realized this, but still tried not to surrender. I had a damn plan.

By 6am, I still had not surrendered. On my path to magical healing, I steadfastly planned out my day: yoga, self-help workshop, karate. Surely, by the end of the day I’d be that much closer to my goal. But the plan shifted. As the events of the day unfolded, the message I received was not one of healing, but one of strengthening. Apparently the universe believed I was done “healing,” I had spent the ENTIRE winter on that project; now it was spring, and time for me to emerge from the darkness as my warrior self.

Seriously, this is what the universe spoke to me. Every class I attended with the intention of receiving some sort of healing presented me with the message of becoming a warrior. For real’s. My first class of the day, not including my 3am chanting, was what I thought to be a celebratory Kundalini yoga class. But Krishna Kaur* had a different agenda. She challenged me to go far beyond my physical comfort zone, while delightfully laughing at my struggles. “Hold this space with courage and grace,” she encouraged as I tried not to swear at the well respected yogi (although I’m pretty sure I did, wahe guru*). The last kriya* she presented had to do with the mudras* where Saturn meets Jupiter, “Where your Warrior meets your Saint". This is where you find balance.” Here, warrior got engrained in my head. Warrior.

What if I had been to “saintly,” therefore pushing my warrior back? Metaphorically of course. But what if I was not standing up for myself as much as I should be in my relationships, all my relationships? What if I was not showing up for myself as much as I should be in life? Who was my warrior if not I? Warrior it was to be then. 

At this point, I surrendered. This was surprisingly easy for an OCD task master like me. But I liked where this all was going. Truthfully, I was quite sick of myself moping around; I really wanted to break free and just move on already, although I know you can’t rush the process. But c’mon! Warrior! 

This changed my whole input receptivity. Tommy Rosen* gave a lovely workshop on how to manage addictive patterns in the mind, after which he led us through a pretty intense 41 minute meditation geared towards letting go of frustrations, which did not feel as long as 41 minutes should. However, the message that stood out for me was his words on inputs: Kriya are actions towards liberation, where as Karma are actions towards addictions. You can manage your actions; you can manage your mind. But you have to manage.

Sitting in the residual effects of a 41 minute deep meditation, I decided to stay for the next class – GuruJodha Singh: Using Kundalini Yoga to Develop Your Spiritual Warrior.  I basically had to due to its title. There was that word again, warrior. I was getting it loud and clear. This class was amazing. Not only was GuruJodha Singh* a Kundalini master, but he was a martial arts master as well. The message he dropped had to do with reacting to a situation. All the planning in the world is not going to help you when a crisis arises, because you never know how someone else is going to act. You have to be present in the moment and strong in your knowledge of your own capabilities. You have to be fluid and flexible, and one more “F” I can’t recall. Like a warrior.

It was raining again and the main tent was soaking wet. Saturated and cold, I decided to skip the 3am Sadhana the next morning so that I could be ready for my 8am course on how to heal others. Yes, taking it to the streets y’all, to my peeps. How can my warrior-self help YOU? Getting out of my head and into yours. Mahankirn* taught a session on what’s called Sat Nam Rasayan Healing*. When you suffer trauma, it is not the event, but an aspect of the event that the nervous system cannot digest which holds the shock in your system. Through meditation, you can transcend the problem that is blocking the system, therefore removing the issue that is making the system intolerant. 

Wow. It was really simple and quite powerful, but again, I am not a subject matter expert, so will not go into the details. As Mahankirn went on, she explained how the system manifests the experience creates a box by which one defines themselves. “You are already you, but you are distracted,” as stated by Yogi Bhajan* according to Mahankirn. The goal is to restructure the box and then within this new framework, have no box, no differentiation. Every kriya in this class I wanted to take home, and before the class ended I was in tears. Just a broken down, box-less warrior.  

This was the beginning of my second full day and I was at my edge. Completely at every possible edge. My body ached from all the yoga, my heart ached from all the opening, and my mind ached from all the thinking. I groaned when I moved, blinked back tears when I made eye contact, and literally could not form full sentences. My senses were whelmed, but not quite overly yet. Plus, I pretty much had been on a miso soup and chai tea diet since Thursday night being that I barely made time to eat between classes. It was getting real.

Alas, I had more to do in spite of everything. The challenge was still on. I am a warrior, not a whiner! I made the conscious choice to just take all the classes offered in the big tent so that I didn’t have to move or think much, which was apparently what the universe wanted for me. Serenaded by the raw angelic vocals of Jai-Jagdeesh*, I briefly napped in the big tent, quickly running to grab soup prior the next class starting.

Looking all the part of a rock star, Guru Singh* commanded attention as he began to play guitar. Thinking another concert was going to take place, I was awakened to the fact that much more was going to transpire as Guru Singh’s first assignment was to put your left hand on your heart, your right hand up, and meander around the room, making hand and eye contact with strangers during the longest song ever. Tears flooded to my eyes, as did they to others. People I just met, now good friends, stopped to give me big hugs as we passed. The song was an eternity and I loved it! The connection was raw. Smiles and tears, courage and fears.  

Guru Singh began his lecture soon after and I rushed to feverishly scribble notes. He told us to focus on three words: equality, identity, and infinity. Grabbing a big board with notes he went on to explain how we have two axis on our vertebrate – our yes and no. From ages 2-12 we decide what we are NOT (no); and from 13 on we decide what we ARE (yes). It is the INFINITE IDENTITY which is EQUALITY. I scribbled so many notes, hanging on his every word as he spoke, as if he was answering every question I ever had on life. “See the value in our presence; the solution is in our presence.” “See others as you. That exists in me…” “Every life has the same deck of cards; you just may choose not to play THAT one.” “When you are equal to your enemy, your enemy becomes your friend.” “You got to disappear in the way you THINK you are, in order to appear in who you ARE.” You need to know your identity; you need to be strong in who you are: I am who I am. He broke out into another song as we posed in a squat-like tiger pose and chanted “I am (pause) who I am!” Tears again. Why? Why is the warrior crying again? There is no crying in warrior-ing. (Guru Singh said it was alright to make up words.)

I was now overwhelmed. I stayed for another concert with the lovely Simrit* to decompress (nap), before sitting down to my first actual full meal – which was delightful. Then I was done. I decided once again to forego the Sadhana as well as the late night gong bath for a good night’s sleep and an 8am dance class with Wah*. Bless my friends who attended the last Sadhana. I choose to close out my weekend by doing some Kundalini dance and doing it solo so I could get funky!

The sun did not come up on the last day. Soon after dance concluded, I was quickly changed, packed, and ready to go. I had a long way back to reality and I needed to give myself time to adjust. But I did make time for a huge hot slice of cheese pizza before making the trek back home. It was necessary for the re-integration into society… Besides, that’s what warriors eat, right?   

*Goggle it.