In our fast paced modern world, we collectively spend so much time and energy just trying to manage our days that we often lose sight of the real meaning of our daily lives.
In the summer in Minnesota, I am reminded daily, as I pick food from my garden and enjoy the warm weather that life’s simplicity is where our true currency lies.
With so many people connected to the internet, desks, cars, smartphones and social media, there is a strong push to make more, consume more, produce more and want more-but to what end? How many people do you know who are truly enjoying their life right now? How many people do you know who have a strong spiritual connection? How many people do you know who have a solid moral compass? In this push to seek beyond the present moment of our experience, we are missing our lives.
Recently, a friend of mine passed suddenly, which was a shock. He was my age and it made me take pause again-as death does-of what truly matters. Love Matters. Breath Matters. Hearts Matter. Water Matters. Soil Matters. The Sun Matters. Fire Matters. Plants Matter. Animals Matter. Health Matters. The Moon Matters. The Stars Matter. Families Matter. Friends Matter. Time Spent Connecting to All of These Matters. The endless amount of resources we waste seeking money or things, ultimately have very little intrinsic value. You will not be at the end of your life wishing you would have gotten that new thing. You will contemplate your Connections, your Dreams, and your Beloveds.
Everyday, I am practicing being a better person. It is a practice. And as I do, I shed more and more layers of distraction away from Life’s True Currency.
In January of 2001, I shaved my head bald (mundan) and traveled thousands of miles to India for the first time. A group of us went to the Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad and stayed and studied at the Kriya Yoga Institute. The Maha Kumbha Mela had over 70 million people in attendance over the two week celebration. It was so large you could see it from space. I had no idea what I had embarked upon or that it would send the trajectory of my life in a whole different direction. Before I left for India, I was in study mode reading Autobiography of a Yogi, I am Harmony; A Book About Babaji, and, of course, watching documentary footage of the Beatles first trip to India. In one fell swoop, I was taking Kriya Yoga classes, getting my head shaved again under the Banyan Tree where Babaji appeared to Sri Yukteswar and bathing in the marigold filled Sungum of the Great Mother Gange. And this was all before we made our way to a remote village in the north of India called Haidakhan.
In those days, to get to Haidakhan, you could go in through the riverbed with horses and mules or hike the road. We walked through the riverbed and arrived to a tiny village with a beautiful and simple ashram. And there I was quickly initiated into my new way of being-4am river baths, chandan, dhuni, Aarti, Karma Yoga, bathe, sing, sleep-wake up and do it all over again. I met amazing people from every part of the earth and my heart opened easily. A very sweet and talented musician named Turkantam sat me down and taught me all the chords to the Aarti. And one evening while struggling through the Aarti again, a clear disembodied voice said,”your name is Kalyani”. I looked at the translation to see it meant,”liberation”. Later, Shri Muniraji confirmed that name for me. And that voice was Babaji. Babaji has been my longtime friend, guide and companion ever since. He appears in dreams, gives me teachings, hints and redirections on the regular. I barely remember what life was like before I was conscious of his presence.
In 2004 I returned to Haidakhan for another washing. And in 2006, I bought the duplex I had been living in for 2 years. I immediately devoted it to Baba-not understanding the deep bowing that would be required to hold such a frequency in an urban neighborhood in Minneapolis, MN. I set up altars, dug a fire pit and did my best to sing, pray and bring people together. Overtime, we have had Numerous Kirtans, Aarti’s, House Concerts, Potlucks, Rituals, Ceremonies and Fires. 31 people have lived or stayed for an extended period of time at Baba’s House. And, like an ashram, I can tell now when there will be a changing of the guards…when it is someone else’s turn to live here.
Baba’s House has changed every aspect of my life. I see clients here daily and most of them don’t even ask about the photos of Babaji as we embark on their Akashic Reading or Rebirthing Breathwork Session. They just say that,”it feels so good here.” and “I feel so much better.” When I purchased Baba’s House, our neighborhood was experiencing a lot of crime and shootings. I remember many times asking for Baba’s protection as we had fire in the backyard with gunshots going off. And protection has come.
Going forward we are looking into solar power, rain barrels, expanding the gardens and a few renovations-including digging a separate dhuni for hawan. In the meantime, everyone who stays and lives here knows this is Baba’s House. It is a Blessing to Have a Lil Slice of Haidakhan in Minneapolis. We continue to travel to India and deepen the embodiment of all of these teachings and practices. P.S. We are all avid Breathers too who are committed to working with Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Bhole Baba Ki Jai!
Namaste! The deepest translation of this word means “the essence of me bows to the essence of you.” It is the common greeting in India, their version of “hello”. To me, this simple greeting is such a perfect reflection of the birthplace of Yoga. For those of you who know yoga to be exercise or stress relief, I would love to introduce you to the deeper, more foundational aspects of this ancient tradition. “Yoga” is a Sanskrit word that means “yoke” or “union”. The power of yoga is the 8 limbs that are meant to bring us into alignment with our deepest potential. Asana, better known as body postures, is only 1 of the 8 limbs of yoga. In the West, we tend to think of yoga as Asana. But there is so much more to be known about this ancient way of experiencing life. There is also yama: universal morality, niyama: personal observances, pranayama: breathing exercises and control of prana (life force), pratyahara: control of the senses, dharana: concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness, dhyana: devotion, meditation on the divine and Samadhi: union with the divine.
For now, we are going to focus on dhyana: devotion. Another Sanskrit term for this practice is Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga simply means devotion to the divine. It can take many forms; prayer, meditation, service, singing, etc… Kirtan is a form of Bhakti yoga. Kirtan is a folk music movement that was birthed out of India, where people repeat various names of the divine in order to praise, clear and elevate their consciousness. Sanskrit is the primary language used in Kirtan. Sanskrit is an ancient language, (over 4000 years old), and those tones and vibrations connect our hearts and brains to primal, soothing, organic sensations. In the west, the Kirtan movement has recently been burgeoning. Over the past 15-20 years performers like Krishna Das, Jai Uttal and Deva Premal have introduced a wave of yogis and fans to this deeply inspired music.
Originally, Paramahansa Yogananda, George Harrison and The Beatles brought this music from India to the Western cultures, weaving popular music together with sacred text. And now there are festivals, yoga retreats and community gatherings in numerous countries that surround this ancient practice. The real intent of this devotion is to lose your mental ramblings inside of music, music that happens to be repeatedly realigning your heart and mind to aspects of the divine. It is a powerful practice that can take shape in any style of music. There is rock and roll kirtan, reggae kirtan, folk kirtan-the list goes on. The common thread is the intent to collectively “lose our minds” in conscious musical vibrations, and to gain our hearts, joy and sanity in return. It is common for a bhajan, (song), to last anywhere from 15- 20 minutes a piece and the rhythm to pick up speed and intensity as the crowd sings along. Kirtan is quite ecstatic, yet, the arrival point is really in the meditation that occurs after each song. Everyone’s minds are clear, and the depth of collective internal and external silence is palpable.
For those of you who feel like you have never experienced kirtan, you have! It has been written into songs like Across the Universe, by The Beatles or My Sweet Lord, by George Harrison. And, recently, contemporary musicians like Trevor Hall are writing Kirtan into their choruses. This ancient practice is definitely gaining modern momentum. Perhaps because of it’s timeless ability to connect us with the divine. Find a Resonant Kirtan Community and enjoy this ancient communal practice of Bhakti yoga.