Kundalini, Kayaking and Karma
Kundalini, Kayaking and Karma
Sports, athletics and body movement has always been a part of life since a young girl. Biking, soccer, volleyball, weight lifting, tennis, mountain hiking…mostly power sports. I have dabbled in yoga on and off for many years, always judging myself for ‘not being flexible enough' to do yoga. And then I stumbled across Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini yoga, known as the “mother of all yogas”, the yoga of “awareness”, “householder’s yoga” is intended to be available and accessible to all people, all walks of life, all shapes and sizes. It combines postures, breath work, relaxation and meditation. I do some form of Kundalini yoga each day. I am not perfect at the poses, nor uber-flexible, nor religious with an exact practice daily. And I am ok with that. Doing something helps with doing something in the moment, to be present and aware of each fibre in my body, each emotion that arises, each choice I make and each decision I need to make.
I loved Kundalini yoga from the first class I experienced. It was even more amazing because of the teacher. She oozed a certain aura, sense of calm and ease, yet challenged us to 'keep up'. Experiencing Kundalini yoga brought a new found sense of inner peace, energy, and a way to cut through negative or judgemental thought patterns, especially those that are ‘not enough’. The power of the mantras and meditations after an exhilarating kriya brought me new found clarity, inner power, strength, beauty and light. Immersing myself in yoga teacher training, helped me deepen my practice and integrate it into daily life. My morning sadhana varies depending on where I am, what is calling me, and what I feel a need for. Sometimes I practice a complete yoga set, and sometimes I simply tune-in, do a few postures and meditate with mantra. My most recent morning sadhana includes the ever-so-challenging archer pose, increasing my time on each side each week. Kundalini yoga practice has given me another tool in my toolkit to help cut through situations that linger longer than necessary for serving my soul. Cultivating a meditative mind takes practice and dedication. A simple mantra can change the mindset from ‘not enough’ or ‘I’m scared’ or I’m stressed’ to a mindset of ‘you’ve got this’ or ‘you are enough’ or ‘you are brave’. Possibilities open up and visions come alive
I recently enjoyed a kayaking trip with my daughter. We had planned this trip for months and were determined to execute our plan with an overnight stay on a nearby small, desolate island off the coast of Salt Spring Island, BC. We prepared our gear, planned our meals, designed a loose itinerary and assumed the weather would be the same as it had been for the past couple of months: warm, calm waters, blue skies and minimal wind. The day before we planned to leave, the weather forecast started shifting from blue skies to dark clouds; from calm air to thunder and lightening strikes; from calm waters to Force 5 waves. As the day unfolded prior to our departure, we re-evaluated our plans and decided we were no match for Mother Nature. Instead of an overnight trip, we would do a day trip and see where the paddle took us. As beginner kayakers, we figured we should learn a bit about kayaking, marine weather forecasts and how to assess wind and water. Akin to our nature of cramming before exams, our morning coffee hour before our departure gave us plenty of time to cram. If there was an exam, I am sure we would have passed with straight A’s. We were in tune to every branch swaying, every wave breaking, every cloud forming.
After a hearty breakfast, we packed our day trip gear into our dry sacks, loaded up our kayaks, lathered on the sunscreen and headed out on our journey. The water was calm, and the day was bright. And off we paddled. Easy, steady, rhythmic meditative. Pure bliss. About 10 minutes into the journey, my right foot cable snapped, rendering my rudder useless. Paddling became quite a chore and my mind began to spiral downwards ‘oooh, this will be so difficult, I won’t be able to keep up, this is going to be a shitty day”. Aware of this moment, karmic law kicked in and I made a choice to alter my mindset through mantra. The past couple of weeks, I had been chanting Sat Narayan Mantra using the version by Ajeet Kaur. The full mantra is:
Sat Narayan, Wahe Guru, Hari Narayan, Sat Nam.
Translation: True Sustainer, Indescribable Wisdom, Creative Source, This is my True Identity.
Narayan is the aspect of Infinity that relates to water. Sat Narayan connects you to the water element and helps to go with the flow of life. Apropos for my kayaking mishap.
I began melodically chanting this mantra, paddling, pushing, pulling, wobbling, smiling, laughing and strategizing how to fix my broken pedal. I managed to paddle calmly, and peacefully, with gratitude to our first beach stop. Taking a look at the damage, I McGyvered the cable and ‘tied’ it to the rudder. Cultivating a meditative mind through mantra helped create possibilities and action to forge onwards. My rudder and I were back in kayaking business.
Our second beach stop was uneventful on a quiet little cove where we had our snack and felt very proud of ourselves. We were making good time and being at one with the sea life was glorious. A seal kept poking her head up as if she was part of our crew. Even the seagulls flying by at eye level gave us a new found appreciation for life at sea.
Given that the weather could shift at some point in the day, we decided to make our third stop on a small little island that required us to leave the shoreline and cross the ‘open water’. Drawing upon our newfound knowledge, we discerned the waves at a Force 2. This level of waves would be manageable for beginner kayakers. We reached this beautiful little island that we had all to ourselves. We secured our kayaks high on shore, lugged our dry sacks of food, clothing and water up to a warm rock and settled in for an island escape. Our seal buddy bobbed up a few times and kept her eyes on us while we dined on gourmet peanut butter sandwiches. We explored the island and found another shady spot to have our coffee before heading back home. After a delicious cup of coffee and coconut macaroon, we packed up our things and began our journey home. And a journey it was…
As we launched our kayaks from shore, there wasn’t the same ease as the morning launch. The waves seemed fierce and unforgiving making our departure from shore a real chore. We assessed our waves at Force 5-6 and felt urgency in the weather to get ourselves across the ‘open water’ to a safe distance close to the shore. The deceiving thing about being on the water reminds me of side mirrors on cars. ‘Objects appear close than they really are.” What initially looked like a short paddle away, in reality was about ten times that distance. Nonetheless, we had to paddle ourselves through the gale force winds to calmer waters. Another mantra.
Mangala Charan mantra. This mantra clears the clouds of doubt and opens us up for guidance and protection.
Aad Guray Nameh,
Jugad Guray Nameh,
Sat Guray Nameh,
Siri Guru Devay Nameh.
I bow to the primal wisdom.
I bow to the wisdom through the ages.
I bow to the true wisdom.
I bow to the great unseen wisdom.
The rhythmic chant and focus on the mantra helped me stay rhythmic and focused on my paddle stroke. And there was our seal, not far from us, making us feel safer and protected somehow. I also realized why splash guards are needed and not sure why we opted out of bringing them. We were a tad wet from our Force 5-6 winds. Finally, after what seemed like hours, we made it to a safe distance from a shoreline. Eagerly, our immediate goal was to find a private beach to rest our weary arms and minds. We paddled a bit further to find a sandy, private cove flooded with blackberries. It was a well-deserved sweet treat after managing our fear and anxiety in a healthy way.
After our little break, we launched our kayaks for the final home stretch. The winds had calmed a bit, but we were still paddling against the wind, demanding more effort from each stroke. We were like horses running home to the barn. We just wanted to get back and snuggle in to a warm blanket, cozy dry clothes and hot tea. “just keep paddling, just keep paddling’ was one mantra that went through my mind, taking a line from “Finding Dory”.
And then another mantra for the home stretch. Sat Nam,
Translation: my truth, my identity
This mantra offers a way of being that induces strength, courage and peace of mind when faced with adversity. It also is a rhythmic mantra, making each stroke coincide with each sound of the mantra, keeping me focused, calm and meditative to enjoy the last leg of this journey. Before long, we were pulling our kayaks up on the shore of our house, unpacking and sinking into a well-earned rest. While I was tired and weary, I also had a sense of calm, inner peace and gratitude for the day, my daughter and our time together.
The practice of Kundalini yoga has given me a new found sense of calm, inner peace and focused decision making, especially in times of uncertainty, angst and struggle. The mantras, the active meditations, the postures, the breath work all help keep a focused and alert mind bringing more consciousness and learning to my life and soul.
After all, it’s all about the learning.
“A Shade More…” signature retreats at enso integrate some aspect of Kundalini yoga. Join us, learn with us, grow with us to cultivate a ‘path inward to a truer you’.