Hanuman Festival Asks, What Are You Waiting For?
Western women rise up calling their sisters into circles and service.
By Julie Fustanio Kling
If we want to live up to the Dalai Lama’s vision at the 2009 World Peace Summit that “the world will be saved by western women,” we’d better get going. That was the message I took away from Hanuman Festival in Boulder, CO this year, like an older sister who shakes you by the shoulders and calls you into action, knowing full well that you have what it takes to be the change.
Three women in particular resonated with me. While their practices are different, their messages of service and radical acceptance are the same. It is in the asking of difficult questions and observation of the quiet spaces in between where the real work begins for me. Taking yoga off the mat and into the world, as Seane Corn says, is a lifelong practice. It starts with surrendering to our own inherent racism, working from the inside out to reveal shadows and radiating positivity.
I did not fully understand the meaning of rasa, literally translated from Sanskrit as “juice, essence or taste” inspired by art that cannot be described, until I went to Sianna Sherman’s class.
Watching her teach us how to dance from rapturous pose (flipping your downward dog) on the left side to rapturous pose on the right helped me define the radiant body and feel the power that her mandala-like practice radiates out into the world.
Sherman, who calls her practice “Rasa Yoga,” weaves together asana, mantra, mudra, pranayama, meditation and chanting, along with tantra, shadow work, ritual, and a deep reverence for nature to “transform poison into nectar.” The fabric of these practices is what makes Hanuman Festival so transformative.
On Father’s Day, Sherman taught a priestess class with her co-teacher Ashley Turner and Kirtan singer Donna De Lory that created a sacred circle of women. “I was initiated as a Priestess of Celtic tradition 25 years ago and I serve as a Priestess in everything I do,” she said. “This is one of my main passions in life and I am fully devoted to helping humanity through the priestess path.”
In the ceremony, Sherman honored women dating back to the first women’s circles where wiccans and Celtic Christians came together in the 5th and 6th centuries, she asked us to listen to each other and to speak our truths. We cleared the space in the Boulder High School gymnasium, called out our mothers’ and grandmothers’ names, turned to the south, the east, the north and the west for strength and serenity, and we held each other’s gaze, a potent exercise, especially for those like myself who are uncomfortable with female intimacy. Bhakti tears flowed freely as De Lory sang a song about deciding to let go for her father who passed away.
The quotidian setting of the festival was elevated when one women mentioned the power our chanting may have on the children who play in the Boulder High School gym and the fear of school shootings that they have to live with on a daily basis.
“Stand deeply in the presence of your own mystery, turn resistance into understanding and fear into faith,” said Seane Corn in that same space the day before.
Seane, who has helped raise $4 million for Seva Challenge Humanitarian Tours, will tackle racism in the US with a project looking at white supremacy and oppression in the Deep South. Click here to learn more about her October workshop in Alabama.
A yoga activist who started the organization Off the Mat, Into the World, Corn has worked all over the world creating aneco birthing center in Uganda, a halfway house and an eco bakery in South Africa, working to eradicate sex trafficking in India and get out the yoga votes so that the 20 million people in the billion dollar yoga industry have a voice in America.
“It wasn't until I found ways to deal with my own anger and grief that I became a more effective activist, communicator and leader in my community,” she wrote in a blog for Oprah Magazine. “Healing ourselves, developing compassion and empathy and learning how to breathe and stay present in conflict are the necessary weapons to start a conscious revolution.”
The world caught a glimpse of the power western women wield in June when President Trump changed his tune within 24 hours of the only four living former first ladies speaking out against the practice of separating families calling it “immoral,” “disgraceful” and a “humanitarian crisis.” (Not to mention the women in his family who denounced the separation of immigrant families) This was a small victory in a much longer battle for immigration reform in the US. Which battle do you want to fight and what are you waiting for?
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
In other words, “What are you afraid of?” This was the question that the founder of Golden Bridge Yoga, prodigy of Yogi Bhajan and kundalini teacher asked to no response. Anger bubbled to the surface as I held my aching arms up and surrendered to the power of the Hanuman Festival in her class. When Gurmukh told the story of her not wanting to visit China at first because of the pollution and overpopulation, she humbly connected with the class making us realize we all have prejudices. This year will be her second year teaching in China, opening up to a different world view and sharing hers.
“Do not wait to love yourself so much that you can give back, start today,” said Khalsa. “Simply smiling, simply being there for a friend and saying I hear you. To be a yogi without service is boring”
To learn more about Hanuman Festival visit HanumanFestival.com.
The 2019 Hanuman Devotion pass is on sale for just $249 through July 31, 2018! Get your discounted ticket HERE.