I tried a new kundalini yoga class tonight since my favorite kundalini yoga studio recently closed. We meditated on healing and Sat Nam was our mantra for the night. This was a very fitting mantra for me today because it means Truth is My Identity, or also True Name.
I had an interesting exchange on another blog post this morning about using your true name in posts and comments online instead of being “Anonymous” to hide your blatant racism. I’m also intrigued by the idea of Anonymous (the hacktivist collective) and immensely appreciative of their efforts to expose injustice in America but I take a bit of a different approach from being anonymous.
I also interpret Sat Nam as meaning “Be Yourself” ~ a concept I’ve followed throughout my life. I figured out at a young age growing up as a red-headed flower child who was “not from around here” in the deep south that I was never going to fit in to the cultural norms of my surroundings. I even briefly tried and failed miserably. I was raised to be fiercely independent and always honest, even if it got me in trouble, because the truth will set you free. And I can’t think of a single time that lying did me any favors. Speaking my mind got me into many heated debates, especially with my uber-conservative Southern Baptist teachers, but it never really got me into trouble, or at least no lasting trouble. And I like to think it might have done somebody somewhere a bit of good.
The most conservative teacher I ever had was 6th grade and we were always getting into debates about women’s rights, animal rights, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, politics, and pretty much anything controversial you could think of that you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company, (much less with your public school teacher). Oddly enough, she used to tell me:
“I may not agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
~ commonly attributed to Voltaire but believed to actually be an interpretation or summary of Voltaire’s beliefs on censorship, so let’s just attribute this quote to Anonymous for now. Seems appropriate. This quote has stuck with me my whole life.
Turns out yoga works much like hooping and EMDR for me (EMDR is a therapy treatment used for people with PTSD). They all quiet my mind so I can think freely. As thoughts were passing in and out of my mind during my practice tonight, something stuck. Something about the class reminded me of my recent experience at Sacred Circularities hoop retreat in Bali. Something about every kundalini class reminds me of Bali to be honest, probably because the first time I went to a yoga class I actually enjoyed was kundalini after I got back from Bali. I think it’s because breath is so important in kundalini, and two of my most memorable moments in Bali had nothing at all to do with hooping, and everything to do with breathing:
- I had a healing session with Alia and a traditional Balinese healer named Wayan (I’ve since come to learn virtually all Balinese healers are named Wayan ~ it’s like the John of Bali). We focused on deep breathing, because after two lung surgeries in my twenties I never quite breathed right and this always really bothered me. I felt like I needed to learn how to breathe all over again, and Alia and Wayan showed me how (something my western lung surgeons never did). I am forever grateful to them both.
Alia also recommended I attend the Breathe Open breath workshop with Christabel Zamor the next day to practice my deep breathing technique a bit more. A breath workshop sounded a little cheesy and new-agey to me so I was skeptical, but i’ll try anything twice. And I’ll be honest, when my friends and I were trying to decide which week of Sacred Circularities to go to my vote was not on the first week, mainly because I thought Christabel had this bubbly, raver Valley “get in touch with your sexy hoop girl” thing going on, and I kinda figured I was already totally in touch with my divine-feminine-sexy-hoop-goddess and the LA-fabulous style isn’t really my thing, so maybe I’d get more out of the second week. Turns out I was completely wrong and Christabel is immensely awesome and if you’re already in touch with your inner sexy hoop girl then being in a workshop where that is embraced and celebrated with other people like you completely fucking rocks! (nevermind that I’m actually a Southern by way of Southern California native Valley Girl myself anyways). I’m the first to admit when I’m wrong and on this topic I definitely was. The breath workshop was really intense and emotional and I don’t even know how to describe it except it was a rare moment at which I felt completely at peace with all of myself, all of the emotions inside me, even the ones I often try to ignore because they are too sad. Truth is My Identity. Sat Nam! Turns out her hoop workshop was really awesome too.
- OK 3 favorite things about Bali ~ Hoop Kirtan the next night was intense but in a different way from the breath circle. I got there late (I get everywhere late, including yoga tonight – yeah I’m one of those “late to yoga” people) and I had already been forewarned by our fearless leader Jaguar Mary that kirtan wasn’t your typical hoop jam. Kirtan, as Jaguar Mary described it, is a bit of a cross between a drum circle and church, with a lot of singing and chanting. I told her drum circles were my favorite place to hoop so it sounded perfect for me and I’d be sure to come check it out. When I finally showed up to the wantilan for Hoop Kirtan, they were deep in the middle of some serious drumming and chanting and nobody was hooping at all. In fact a couple people were on their way out because they were in a hooping mood and felt awkward getting up with no one else hooping. I told them JM said hooping was welcome if the spirit moves you, and the spirit always moves me, so come on, who cares if no one else is doing it, let’s go hoop! They had just started singing Ganesha Sharanam when I arrived, and it was the most intense and beautiful hooping experiences of my entire life. It was like the weight of everything I had been carrying up this mountain with me was completely gone in the moment of spinning in circles. And sure enough, when I looked up I was no longer the only person hooping. I’ve since searched, and never been able to find, a recording of Ganesha Sharanam that comes close to being as magical as that moment in the wantilan in Bali. There was a moment during meditation in my kundalini class tonight where I thought “This song is really great. I wish I was hooping right now.” Hooping is my meditation, and this is what Hoop Kirtan is all about.
- OK everything about Bali was a memorable moment. I could go on forever…
At the end of the week, in our parting circle, we were asked to share a word or two about what the week meant to us. For me it was these words from one of my favorite Donovan songs:
Then there is no mountain,
Then there is.
To me, this means at many points in our lives we may feel as if we are climbing a mountain; but when you get to the top there is no mountain; and as you are coming down, the mountain no longer matters. There just IS. Be where you are.
Every moment I spent in Bali I felt safe and at peace. Sometimes being wherever you are is tough for me, being in Memphis, where just driving around town can trigger a mountain of bad memories for me. But this is part of the truth of what makes me who I am.
True name = Chloe. Sat Nam. Truth is My Identity.