The Student’s Path
Many of you have noticed my decision to wear bana, which is the spiritual attire of a Sikh. And I'm sure you have questions as to why I have chosen this path. Why the turban and the beard? Why Sikhism? Why Kundalini Yoga? Questions I totally understand and will be happy to answer!
The past year has been an incredible year of awakening for me. The years before that, although sprinkled with joy and conscious awareness, were filled with pain and sorrow. Most of this pain came from years of my inability to find balance between my life as a Hatha Yogi and my life as a beer guzzling night monster.
I read recently that Yogi Bhajan spent four years washing the floors of the Harmandir Sahib, also called the Golden Temple. A job he did as service (seva) after working all day at his day job. This required great stamina and dedication, and through this process of purification, by the grace of the guru, allowed him to see himself as the great teacher the world came to know and love. That greatness comes from within and is not unique to any one person, we are all capable of it. It is our Oneness with God, our Sat Nam (true self). And through devotion and discipline we can live in this state constantly and consistently. I have experienced this personally and it has been as a result of the techniques, mantras, and prayers that I have learned from Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma.
I see the years before the opening of our beloved Dharma Temple, as our time scrubbing the temple floor. A challenging time of washing away ego, where SJ (Kalyan Priya Kaur) and I have had to prove that we are committed to service. And we have felt the great blessings of the guru as a result of this commitment. It hasn't been an easy time yet it has been the most incredible experience of spiritual awakening.
*for me Guru means the internal guiding force that connects us to our destiny. It has existed in many great masters throughout the years, but is not exclusive to one person. It is personified through the mystics and sages who open their hearts, and move beyond ego, so the light of God can shine through.
During these challenging times I experienced a ‘dark night of the soul' moment, an awakening that my old lifestyle was no longer fulfilling or bringing joy into my life. It was harmful to my loved ones and was limiting me from stepping into my true potential. I want to be clear that my decision to become a Sikh of the Guru (which means student of the Guru) is not one of following rules, or joining a religion, but rather is a once in a lifetime opportunity that has gifted to me, by the grace of the Guru. And that gift is a life where I am truly happy. Where I truly love myself and want to share that same love with the world! What a major upgrade! It's like going from a brick cellphone to an Iphone! From dial up to Hi Speed Connection!
SJ began practicing Kundalini Yoga when she was pregnant with our daughter. And it took me a while to see how incredibly effective these techniques are for health and most of all for healing. I began to practice. And felt the benefits right away. The practice led me to an incredible yogi and teacher who opened my eyes to my true nature and what I'm here to accomplish. The practice has given me the strength and courage to quit drinking! And in doing so, I have seen many students face their addictions and find healing. This has been an incredible gift, one that I haven't experienced in this capacity from any of the techniques I've done over the years. Kundalini Yoga and meditation has given me so much clarity, so that I can be a better partner, father, business person, and teacher. I am forever grateful for this great gift.
I began to rise up every morning to practice during the twilight hours between 4-7 am, a time known as Amrit Vela, when the earth is quiet and the sun is in the perfect position for meditation. Patterns and habits that have clung to me for years began to subside. I started to feel a beautiful clarity in my mind and a deep loving devotion in my heart for God, feelings that I haven't felt in this way since I was a child.
During this time period I received a spiritual name, as a yogi I have received a name before but it didn't stick, I was hesitant to receive another (haha I truly have been a man of many names). I received this spiritual name and it was described to me that the name was in alignment with my life's purpose (dharma). It was explained to me that everytime I hear the name it will be like a healing mantra, reminding me of who I truly am. The name Tiaga means one who leaves behind the material life for a spiritual life (which very clearly illustrates my 10 year struggle between Yogi and Bar-star!) Prem means Love (forgive yourself, that's not you (the bar star that is), you are the grace of God) and Singh (means royal and/or lion, a reminder to keep up and stand in that nobility). What a name! I constantly need this reminder and what better way than to hear it everytime someone says my name!
At the same moment I received my new name, I also began to practice Japji (meditation of the soul), a beautiful prayer delivered to the world through a bright light called Guru Nanak, that has become the traditional morning prayer of the Sikh's. I have been meditating for years and for most of that time meditation was a nuissance. Sitting still and trying to think about nothing (sound like fun?) has been incredibly challenging. This prayer though is like a magic eraser. I wake up in the morning and have all kinds of thoughts, worries, and concerns, then as I begin to chant Japji everything becomes still and quiet. My mind becomes clear and I feel a deep sense of ease, of knowing that everything will be alright. A feeling of love and devotion. It is this feeling that has given me a thirst for more of that. The world needs more love and more light, and so far I have not experienced a practice that is this effective.
This new clarity, this new love for life that I have experienced through Kundalini Yoga and Meditation has been such a great gift. As I mentioned before it has been a major upgrade for me, and so I began to explore other aspects of the Sikh tradition (Of course one does not have to be a Sikh to practice Kundalini Yoga, and is encouraged to practice in a way that makes sense to them).
I began to cover my head when I did morning sadhana. It felt great! It increased the sensation of clarity! And so I began to wrap my head in a turban all day, which has given me the strength to stand in my integrity as a teacher. It has given me a voice to share these teachings of bliss and transformation with others outside of the yoga center walls. Wearing a turban has become a part of me and is a major contributor to the healing I have experienced from my addictions.
I have also chosen to keep my hair (kesh) allowing it to grow naturally as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation. Which is also a beautiful practice. Years ago when my hair was long I cut it for egotistical reasons and it sent me into a long tail spin of self destruction. Now I see keeping my hair as a symbol, a reminder to remain humble and to keep on the spiritual path. I also wear a kara (steel bracelet) which has also been a great help. Everytime I use my hands I see the bracelet and it reminds me that I am a student of the Guru, and that I will only use these hands to bring love and light into this world.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am so grateful to have a practice in my life that has given me the structure and the discipline I needed to step into my true potential. It may not make sense when you look at my outer appearance but I pray this post will help you to see the heart of this practice and the reason I do what I do. I am so grateful for the life changing power of Kundalini Yoga and and the grace of the guru that I have experienced through Sikh Dharma. I pray that you will have the same experience in class at The Dharma Temple, whether it is in a Kundalini class, or in any of the inspiring classes we have here at the center.
Lastly, I hope that this post will remind you that when you see a Sikh of the Guru, that you are in the company of a bright soul who is committed to a life of service and to cultivating more love and light on this planet.
Tiaga Prem Singh