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June 10, 2011

First Step Toward Happiness – A Yogi’s Path

This guest post is written by Kia Miller, one of the amazing teachers at this year’s Hanuman. For more of her wisdom, follow her yoga heart on Twitter and Facebook:

I have been practicing Kundalini Yoga for 13 years and teaching it for 5.

I did not take to it right away.  I was looking for a work-out, to sweat and feel like I had ‘done’ something like I found in my ashtanga practice.  Instead, I was doing new, unusual poses and did not feel close to breaking a sweat.  For homework Guru Singh gave me Archer pose – “ to strengthen your commitment,” he said. Now commitment was not something I was too excited about at that time.  I was in my mid 20’s, travelling the world as a fashion model, for all intents and purposes I was living a gypsy life.  Not surprisingly, I did not have enough commitment to do the prescribed ‘homework.’

A few years later I went to a Kundalini class and did a certain Kriya (specific set of exercises) with deep core work and had what you might call an ‘experience’.  I felt empowered and uplifted like I had tapped into a strength beyond the physical that I did not previously know existed in me.  I was hooked from that moment. Shortly afterwards my husband and I went to a Kundalini Yoga gathering known as Summer Solstice.  We did a long-term meditation lasting almost 9 hours each day for three days.  This was the first time I had voluntarily sat still for that long except for being on a jet plane to some exotic location.   This was not exotic.

The whole experience was so confronting that it brought me to tears by the end of day one and caused the biggest row my husband and I had ever experienced in our relationship.  In Yoga, we learn to hold the pose.  Through our commitment to working through whatever comes up, we got through it and came out the other side more connected and aware of each other than ever.  We have now gone to this gathering for 6 years in a row, and have experienced some of the greatest highs imaginable!

Commitment has been a regular theme in my life ever since.  We live in a world where there are as many different yoga styles as there are coffee drinks on a Starbucks menu.  There is a tendency to be a like a spiritual tourist traveling from one type to another pulling what we consider the best out of them all.  While the gypsy in me understands the attraction to this, I have found that commitment to a path and intensive study along that path is where the biggest results come from. Rather than changing up your daily routine every day, there is a blessing that comes from consistency over time.  This is the stuff of real breakthroughs.

There are several thousand documented Kriyas, and meditations which Yogi Bhajan taught.  Most of them are published in some form or another.  As a new teacher it can be overwhelming at first.  In time I settled on favorite sets and I taught these a lot.  At some point as my own capacity as a teacher grew, as my sensitivity to energy grew, more and more Kriyas became accessible.  I am excited every time I set out to teach, it is like working with magic. Seeing people ‘light up’ and get turned on to a deeper connection to themselves.  As one student stated after class “It’s like being led out of the wilderness”.

This is a vast science whose lineage goes back thousands of years, yet like many mystical traditions and pathways to the Divine it is rooted in the freedom that is found through consistency and commitment.   Yogi Bhajan outlined what he called the seven steps to Happiness, which begin with… you might have guessed commitment!

Seven Steps to Happiness
1st Step is Commitment
The first step is commitment. In every life you are meant to commit. That is why the word is commit-meant. Commitment gives you CHARACTER.
2nd Step is Character
Character is when all your characteristics-all facets, flaws, and facts-are under your control. Yin and yang meet there, totally balanced. Character gives you DIGNITY.
3rd Step is Dignity
People start trusting you, liking you, respecting you. Dignity will give you DIVINITY.
4th Step is Divinity
What is Divinity? Divinity is when people have no duality about you. They trust you right away. They have no fear about you. Divinity gives you GRACE.
5th Step is Grace
Where there is grace, there is no interference, no gap between two people, no hidden agenda. Grace gives you the power to SACRIFICE.
6th Step is Power to Sacrifice
You can stand any pain for that person. That sacrifice gives you HAPPINESS.
7th Step is Happiness – Yogi Bhajan

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