Kundalini Conundrums At Sat Nam Fest
By Julie Fustanio Kling
“The soul sometimes needs to cry to be happy and give wings to your heart so it can fly.” Nina George, “The Little Paris Bookshop”
I am truth; truth is my identity. This is what Sat Nam means. But as I think about my life, I realize I’m a liar and a fake, filled with irrational fears, self doubt, and an overwhelming desire to escape. We all feel that way sometimes, that is the oneness of being. At Sat Nam Fest, I was challenged to face those fears and rise above. I was motivated to turn my body into an “instrument of love” as Jai Dev Singh says.
“You have to feel the pain and let it catalyze you to help yourself; to embrace pain as much as pleasure,” he said. He explained the four stages of Kundalini as:
1. You feel amazing.
2. You feel crappy but others see you glitter.
3. You feel the flow of life, the glitter and things start happening around you.
4. It penetrates your mind and soul, creating a radiant body that glorifies you.
For me, being at Sat Nam Fest was like joining a cult (a cult that I love) for three days. I embraced what I first saw as contradictions and was willing to see where they took me. Everyone was wearing turbans, chanting with their eyes closed and quoting Yogi Bhajan. Knowing the chants from my yoga practice, I sang along and went deep inside. I felt the burn of the kriyas, yoga poses that I held for 3 to 31 minutes. And I unleashed myself in Wah Khalsa’s Kundalini dance class.
“Everything you want to become you already are,” Wah said. I was encouraged.
At lunch when I mistook Wah her for the Kirtan musician Wah! (with an exclaimation point) I was embarrassed. I wasn’t the only one. It confused and annoyed me that everyone I met had the same names and that there were no women Gurus. Then I learned it is a Sikh tradition to give people titles. Men are often Singh or lion and women are Kaur or princess. This is to eliminate discrimination based on family names. And it was a part of a women’s liberation to be included.
I was enthralled with Guru Singh’s call to action that we need to become “radical disruptors.”
“Now is not the time for great leaders. Now is the time for great communities,” he said. “We are not going to follow somebody. We are going to be someone.”
I couldn’t agree more in this concept in this post-Trump’s election. But How? By learning to forgive, especially forgiving yourself. “Forgiving is giving forward," Singh said. Another challenge we face, he said, is not being able to receive. These lessons seemed to resonate deeply with the community, which as I looked around, was mostly women.
“If you give without receiving, you are stealing from yourself to buy favors,” Singh said.
As we sat together at meals and connected around these messages, I met men and families as well as women from all over the world and felt the ripple effect beginning here. I wondered how to take the message into daily life.
In the words of Krishna Kaur, another inspiring voice, we need to be able to find grace under fire. “Life is a glorious mess,” she said. “It’s absurd. It is art. Who can judge art?” Kaur has lived the Kundalini lifestyle for more than 40 years and has dedicated her life to sharing it with the black communities and troubled inner city youth (Y.O.G.A. for Youth, www.yogaforyouth.org). But it was the kriya and meditation she gave us, not the words she used, that really brought it home to me.
She asked us to clasp our hands and turn them inside out like children do when they play a game with their hands and say “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” We pushed our two middle fingers into each other as if they were a 25-pound weight and laid our right pinky and pointer fingers on top of each other. And we chanted “Om Kaur” over and over again.
By the end of Krishna’s 31-minute meditation - which she called a gift (ha!), my breath stank and my throat was so dry that it felt like a rat was going to crawl out of my mouth. The pain that I usually experience in my lower left abdomen had shifted to my right side. And my nose was running, or was it bleeding? I felt absurd, and wanted to burst into tears or laughter.
“Patience is bitter,” Kaur said. “But its fruit is sweet.” Turns out the nose drip was sweet and salty, not bloody.
I went back to the main tent, chanted and danced some more. As I looked around the festival at all of the children, it occurred to me that forgiving, receiving, acknowledging pain and moving through it to find great joy are uniquely childlike qualities.
To learn more about Sat Nam Fest visit www.satnamfest.com.