A Heroine's Tale

I’m Deg Ajeet Kaur - sacred Princess/Lioness of God who overcomes every obstacle by embodying graciousness, hospitality and kindness in the world.  Sounds like an exciting adventure novel – a novel I would like to read.  Oh, it’s me?  I’m the heroine of this story? Um.  Can’t my novel be a Rom Com?


We can’t choose our story from the shelf – it’s handed to us – it’s assigned reading. The heroine theme guides me, though, as I turn the pages, using my daily practice for foundation.  My name, my sadhana and a healthy lifestyle give me strength.  While it’s not an easy read, it’s a challenge I can rise to through repetition and taking it slow.  The discipline is the adventure – an adventure that goes in, up and out.   

I’m learning to see, read and digest the words of my life as they are presented to me.  I used to only read the words that were easy to understand.  If I didn’t like a prose and found it too difficult or painful, I skimmed it or jumped to the next paragraph.  Conversely, if I read a paragraph before I was ready, my mind would take care of me by forgetting the content.  I used to think some of my chapters were punishment -- that I did something to deserve them. I found it hard to accept plot lines and pages from long ago.   But it’s getting easier.  The dark parts, the hard spots and the rough edges are themes in my novel.  A story.  And we all have one. 

With reflection a subplot is revealed.  Maybe it was forgotten – or perhaps never remembered – but its impact is the subtext of subsequent story-lines.  Like a book sitting on a shelf for years – it was always there. And then one day, seemingly randomly, it was noticed and pulled off the shelf.  Something about it piqued curiosity that particular day in that particular moment.  The book is opened with trepidation and bravery.  Curled up in the corner, the book is read until it’s completed and then a wondering of why it was never noticed on the shelf – even though it was there since long ago – it was always there.  It sat patiently, waiting to be picked up when the time was right to answer questions that hadn’t been asked yet.  Questions that couldn’t be asked until now.  We all have our bookshelf.  Some of the books have been read many times – the pages curled and stained from repeated review.  Some are unopened, standing tall with a stiff spine – waiting to be cracked open for the first time.

This year, my reading assignments were a slow, deliberate read.   The content was difficult but I was ready to take on the text.  It demanded to be read again and again until the lesson was digested.  I read the same words day after day, month after month and even when I knew in my mind that it was time to move to the next chapter, and it felt like the whole world knew it too and I could recite the passages from memory, my heart wasn’t ready and I found myself back at the introduction again with the same questions and the same confusion and the same need for understanding, review and reassurance.  The words almost became like a mantra that had to be repeated and processed, reverberated through my cells to fully embody its content.  The repetition felt maddeningly slow and I didn’t know how many times I would have to read it to be finished.  Or other times, I’d read a few sentences, feel very fatigued, put down the book and move onto an easier chapter, until I felt fortified for the tougher read.  And then one day, it all came together. The confusing plot lines connected in a way that was understood and clear.  The lesson landed firmly in my body.  I was ready to complete the reading, like a final review before the test.  The test of life. The test of action. To finally let it go. To release it and move forward for the next plot line. It’s a relief.  It took a long arduous time to process, accept, release and let go of the theme. 

That’s when I coach myself in the third person.  When I’m ready to embody the lesson and feel really close to getting there, I ask my wise, inner self to guide me.  To remind me, empower me, believe in me.  My inner voice helps me stand taller, reach higher, breathe deeper, trust more, and feel my sturdiness.  The wise voice breaks through my need to re-read the chapter – and assures me that I don’t need to read it anymore.  I am ready to not only understand the lesson, but to be the lesson.  The lesson is made physical in my footsteps, my voice, in my action and in my aura. The difficult passages add to a wondrous story – rich in character.  The narrative makes me humble, compassionate, knowing, seeing, forgiving and deeply loving.

I face my path without the crutches I used to rely on. Breathing life in, as it is – daring to see and feel what is happening – and not through a watered-down version to match what I think I can handle – takes discipline.  Reading each paragraph in front of me – and not skipping sentences -- is a disciplined practice. I can read slowly, with intention and take rests as needed.  I feel the emotions that the words evoke.  I cry, rest, dig in my garden, laugh with my friends, study, love my children and practice sadhana with my elderly cat, Nico, who is near the end of his life.  With practice, I can absorb life’s content real-time, detach and let it flow and spend less time looking back to do re reads.  I’m thinking that my next difficult reading assignment will be a little easier on me – because that’s part of my lesson.  To trust.

I can revisit each one of the most painful moments in my life and find the offering in the artifacts.  We all can – when the time is right.  I examine the words in those challenging chapters and pick up the crystal, the sea glass, the flower or the scent in each one.  I wear it on a string around my neck, I feel it in the palm of my hand, I plant it in my garden, dab some on my wrists and breathe in its exotic essence.  The essence of everything being as it should be. The aroma of relaxed power.

At a point in my life, I thought I knew the next chapter – and I had some idea of the ending too.  All the threads tied up together into a pretty multi colored ribbon, free of break ups, climate change, inequality and epic surprises. There are books on the shelf that will be opened at the perfect moment.  I’ll maintain the practice.  Be in nature.  Breathe with my heart.  Trust my knowing and dare to see and feel what is in front of me.

I’m the heroine. It’s my story.  It’s intended to be as it is. 


The theme for my June blog assignment from the 3HO blog (Association for Kundalini Yoga) is “Karma vs Dharma: Choose Your Path.”  

“Rather than see­ing karma as a punishment, one can view it as the gateway into the human experience through which we can shift into dharma. It is said that even the angels envy this opportunity for incarnation.”
-The Level 1 Aquarian Teacher Training Manual 

“When karmas remain, so do you. Karma has to become dharma. Dharma is where the account is cleared. It is where your discipline and commitments make you positive and graceful. Then you break out of your cocoon and become a leader, elevate all, and leave a legacy. That ability to turn negative into positive, to support all your actions with your facets and manners is the result of meditation. It comes with the refined mind. It is what develops through sadhana (pre dawn practice), aradhana (glorifying spirit); through jappa (meditative, repetitive mantra) and discipline.”
-Yogi Bhajan, The Level 1 Aquarian Teacher Training Manual 

“The Cosmos works for those who have discipline, who have longing, who have some goal to reach in their lives, and who make a constant, constant, constant effort to reach it. That is dharma. Dharma is in every day, in every action, on every side of the day.” 




Lessons from the Banyan Tree


Secure roots go deep
A strength and resilience passed on from ancestors.
Roots connected to tough skin and long branches – extending, reaching.
Stretching up for dreams.
Spreading out – holding knowledge, creativity.
Turning back to the earth – becoming roots.
Securely grounded – solid, calm, quiet.
Nourishment from the upper, lower and middle worlds – sun, air, water, soil.
Its energy emanates – do you feel it?
I bow to you wise tree.
I am humble to your greatness.
Tell me your stories. Show me your visions.  Let me breath in your wisdom.
I’ll receive it with eyes glistening.
I hold you sacred.
I feel your strength as I gently touch your bark.

Kundalini Yoga - Sadhana (Morning Practice)

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
I bow to the lessons of the day – from the world around me.

Extreme weather, political chaos, hate, an anxious child, lower energy at work, a mending heart, a friend having surgery, death of a loved one, relationships changing, a future unknown.

Morning sadhana - my time - for my self.
Almond oil, the shock of cold water.
Warmth in my bark, wrapped in cotton fabric, leaves knotted on top of my crown.
Summer mugginess in the air, alone on my porch.
A navy blue sky with star patterns and a moon looking down.
My straight trunk sends roots down – bringing in nourishment, releasing what is no longer needed – diffused into the earth.
My branches are up and out, releasing sadness, pain, hurt, fear and loneliness.
Breath of fire, ego eradicator, the vulnerable bow pose – that leads me to tears some of the time (used to be all the time).
Arching, pressing, twisting, bending.
Then stillness – a letting go.

And then I chant – which it turns out, is a beckoning for my cat Nico.
Who has loved me through it all – and finds his place in the curve of my lap.  I scratch that spot, on the neck, he leans in, with a purr.

I find my voice – joining voices from my phone – voices that lift me up from the community.  They slowly teach me to project.  They slowly teach me to feel lovely.  And they slowly help me find my quiet power.

The sky lightens. The air feels lavender.  The peepers fade to quiet and the birds start their own mantra.  The natural world’s disciplined practice. Go within, emanate out.  Breath up - Chant up.

– Every morning resets my intention -- to flow with positivity.  And to rise up and be the banyan tree. 

A daily Kundalini yoga practice is called a Sadhana. Sadhana is before the sun comes up, before the energy of the day. It starts off with almond oil on the skin and a cold shower, followed by a Kriya. A Kriya is a specific sequence and timing of breathing, postures, meditation and mantra as taught by Yoga Bhajan. Learn more. Join me for Kundalini Yoga each week at Ananda Yoga in Hadley - Thursdays from 6:45 -- 8:00 p.m. Find peace in a chaotic world. Learn more about the class on the Ananda Yoga Website. You are welcome as you are. Bring your self.

Falling to Earth

Camping by Lady Tree and Secret Beach

Camping by Lady Tree and Secret Beach

Lady tree - elegant and wise. photo courtesy of emily snyder :)

Lady tree - elegant and wise. photo courtesy of emily snyder :)

My sister calls these my "have a story to tell" shoes -

My sister calls these my "have a story to tell" shoes -


Jackie and me on solid sand - we never saw a candy house and no one tempted us with treats.

I keep it moving.  Get it done.   Onto the next thing.  In Kundalini yoga and meditation, I’m learning the power of stillness.  In stillness, the message finds us. The path is revealed.  It doesn’t feel natural to me.  I want to search for, run to and push through for the answers, for the path, for the next thing in my journey.  I’m impatient.  But lately, it isn’t working.  I push, I run, I take control of forward movement and I feel lost – I can’t find my way.  I give up. Sit down. Cry.  And when all my tears are cried out and there aren’t anymore.  I look up – tired and quiet.  I have to concede.  I have to relinquish control and let it be.  It’s counter intuitive to me – as a doer all my life – to wait, be still and let the next thing be revealed.  It feels lazy. It feels passive.  It feels unproductive.  

This summer, I camped out in my solo orange tent on an island in Maine, where my family has a cabin.  I love my tent.  I love creating quiet spaces for myself.  I chose the perfect spot and learned from others that it’s a favorite  spot of many – lady tree and secret beach.  Lady tree has intertwining branches and roots that twist like a serpent off of the earth and onto the sand.  She feels wise, solid and ancient.  She connects the magical forest to the sandy beach and water.  Some of her branches are dead and brittle but she is still very much alive and her roots hold her securely while she reaches up to the light.  She’s elegant – lady tree.  The site is protected and close to water sounds and views.

I woke up before my alarm sounded and decided to get up.  It was 3:30 am, my alarm sounds at 3:50 am for my 4:00 am daily sadhana – my kundalini yoga practice.  It was dark.  I changed into leggings, t-shirt and a hoody.  I slipped on my red “they have a story to tell” keen, rubber toe sneakers, zipped out of the tent, peed and turned on the light from my iPhone to get me about a mile away to a little cabin for my practice.   It’s cool in the mornings in August and often dewy on the earth – so the empty little cabin destination for yoga had been working well all week.  I headed towards a path that led through the woods, across a little bridge and to a field and up to the “Hilton” – the cabin.   

After about twenty paces, I realized that Jack, our toy poodle, was not by my side.  I called for him – nothing.  I retraced my steps all the way back to the tent and found him.  Why did I think Jack could navigate a trail in the darkness?  At first I tried to use my phone light to help both Jack and myself navigate but Jack was very slow, carefully picking his way.  I scooped him up in one arm and held the light with the other.  There was a narrow path to follow and off to the right, through trees was eventually rocky shore and ocean.  Further to the left was a larger path that a jeep could navigate. 

I lost the path very quickly.  Sometimes I would retrace my steps and try again but mostly I would just forge ahead, ignoring that I had lost the path.  I knew the general direction and had the ocean to my right and the destination straight ahead – how bad could it be?  I became entangled in sharp pine branches, moss, rocks and no path in site.  It got too thick and I was forced to back up and try again.  Sometimes I would see a buoy, like a cairn, to let me know I was on the trail but then I would lose it again.  I started sweating.  My glasses fogged up and my arm was tired from holding Jack.  I stepped over rocks, scooched under sharp branches and barreled forward with my unabashed motivation to reach my destination.  My frustration mounted “Are you Serious!” I put Jack down and cried a few tears of utter frustration.  I looked at the clock.  It was 4:30 am – I had been wandering for almost an hour.  Getting nowhere, going in circles.  I completely lost my sense of direction.  I decided to head to the rocks on the shoreline which I could follow around and lead to the bridge – I heard a lobster boat and headed towards the sound.   I made it to the big granite shore but it was too hard to navigate.  The rocks were cliff-like and with the tide as high as it was, couldn’t be passed.  It was very dark and I might hurt myself.  Sometimes I put myself in unsafe situations so I knew enough to retreat. So back into the trees I went – beep beep beep – back it up.  But I was stuck.  Where to go.  Tired, frustrated and sweating, I took off my foggy glasses and put them on the ground.  I put Jack down, took off my sweatshirt, sat on the mossy rock and cried again.  I felt like Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods – like in a fairy tale.  I wasn’t scared.  I was frustrated. I wanted to get out – to find the path.  But I couldn’t. 

My routine strategy of sheer force did not work this time.  I gave up and decided to do my yoga right there – right where I was.  I put on my phone recording of the Magnetic Field and Heart Center Kriya.  I was on about day ten of a 40 day commitment – for nervous system repair and balance of the psycho-electromagnetic field.  I tuned in with the Adi Mantra, started with the Heart Center Opener with the breath of fire and went from there.  The set takes about 55 minutes.  After I finished the set, I always do the navel adjustment kriya – only four asana of one minute each – stretch pose to bow pose to wheel pose to fish pose.  Then I set myself up for chanting the seven mantras of the Aquarian sadhana for 62 minutes.  Rooted in the earth, spine straight, hands in gyan mudra, eyes closed – at peace.  In the middle of the mantra, my phone died.  I continued on my own, estimating the proper timing for each.  It was nice hearing my sole voice in the quiet woods – it helped me focus on the sounds with no musical accompaniment.  It felt good that the only voice was my voice.  I ended with the “Long time Sun” – inhale, exhale and done.  Calm.  The sky was lighter.  I could see the green moss, the brown trees, the branches, sky.  I stood up to get back on the path and started thinking about a cup of coffee - but where were my glasses?  I had taken them off – sweaty and then for yoga.  Where did I put them in the darkness?  I looked and felt the ground for the familiar plastic frames.  I was feeling the earth--  searching the ground with touch.  No luck.  I took off my sweaty t-shirt and put it on the ground, like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs – so I could come look for it later.  I put on my hoody over my nakedness, slipped into my “story to tell” red sneakers and started off again, with our fuzzy view metaphor still in place.    “My yoga studio” that morning turned out to be right by the path itself. I was where I intended to be.   I was literally where I was trying to be.  I just didn't know it. I headed to the main cabin to make coffee.  My sister already had the kettle on.  I told her what had happened.

Couldn’t find my way

Couldn’t see the path.

Pushed through the darkness.

Was tired and frustrated and going in circles.



Dropped to the earth.

Slow down.  Wait.  Breathe.  The path will be revealed. 

I needed the literal experience to get it. 

Pine needles in my hair, dirt in my leggings and fuzzy view.  I spent my time rolling around,  stretching, chanting and singing --  grounded in Maine dirt., trees, moss and pine needles.  

For the rest of the week, I kayaked from the tent to the  field – more light on the water – still a little touch and go (!) but an adventure.  Never found my bread-crumb-of-a-t-shirt and never found my glasses.  I decided the spirit animals in the magic forest by lady tree are playing dress-up with them.  Maybe they were giggling at me –  watching me trying to find my way and finally, falling to earth.