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Liberation and Labor

By Donna Amrita Davidge

"There is no Liberation without Labor". This is one of many Yogi Bhajanisms that I share with my students. What is Labor? Is it the work we do in our everyday lives to acquire money to pay our bills…or more than that, to acquire wealth?? But what then is wealth? And how do you measure your wealth?

Today is a picture perfect day where I am, writing this sitting on a large rock by a lake, which is perfectly still and serene. The summer sun beats down on me from a crystal clear sky with some beautiful billowy clouds evident miles away. There is not a sound, not even a lovely loon at this moment- a bug buzzing by now and then, a silent dragonfly with colorful wings. This, in my present moment, is my wealth.

It is my work that leads me to times like these. And in these precious moments I feel as if I might truly be experiencing Liberation, Liberation from the hassle and hustle bustle which constitutes most of our daily lives, the overwork and undersleep that some consider a status symbol.

In order to own these moments I feel I somehow earn them. One cannot always sit in solitude and stillness by a lake on a summer day. We must create balance. And enjoy the journey along the way.

Just this morning I was doing my work, which is my livelihood, teaching Kundalini Yoga. Yogi G says we are all born to a destiny and he gives us our spiritual names to aid us in following this destiny. Amrita. Nectar. Oftentimes to inspire others to the healing and greatness that lies within them I am led to heart work in my teaching, for the heart is where we discover our desires, our goodness and our cause. It is the entrance to the soul. So this morning after greeting the sun with my own sadhana practice, definitely part of the work, my staff and guest did a set for the heart center and psychoelectromagnetic field. That is work, as are most Kundalini Yoga sets!! The work we do on ourselves then carries out into the work or roles we play in society as householders, members of families, communities, the work place and the world.

No work we do in the outside world benefits us any more than that which we do within. Neale Donald Walsh, in one of his Conversations with God books, says " If we do not go within, we go without." Yoga gives us the great gift or deep inner focus and thus growth, in awareness, in consciousness and in relation to ourselves and others.

How else might we work to live? Or live to work? Seva is one of the greatest works. Our little acts and actions may have as much importance and impact as grander gestures…which brings me back to my work, actions…and small retreat, a labor of love and service to others, and to my family legacy.

For twelve years I had practiced and taught Kundalini Yoga when in 1997 I spontaneously, or perhaps better impulsively, bought my great grandfather's home. As a Kundalini Yoga teacher I had created two videos and was teaching full time in New York City. Yet somewhere in my inner yearnings was a desire to leave the city for the country life. Where would I go to do this?? How could I practically do this?? I had no clue. My thirties were a restless time, this restlessness soothed and calmed by my immersion in Kundalini Yoga and the gradual and often profound growth and experience that accompanies this practice. Always having been a seeker and searcher of life's meaning and truth, Kundalini Yoga had become a path of commitment for me.

What we are trained to be or family or society tells us to become does not always direct us to the work that is fulfilling for us or our destiny. I remember my father thinking how strange I was to rise early to do sadhana in our small summer Maine camp a few years back but as yoga became more mainstream, my calling became more acceptable to him. Even a loving and supportive family may have a different vision of our potential or what might create security for us. For me, becoming a Kundalini Yoga teacher was not a goal. It happened, with the encouragement of my teacher and with Yogi Bhajan's influence to create teachers, not disciples.

My personal internal question became how to combine my teaching work with this desire to be in an atmosphere totally counter to the city, where my students and classes were. My real goal was to be out of the city by the time I was forty, my realistic goal has been to be flexible and to find the opportunity in this chosen mission of carrying on my family history and at the same time meet my own goals. We do not always find the work that fits who we are. Sometimes it finds us or we simply fall into it! For me, it was taking a leap of faith to purchase the 1870 homestead rich with history, especially the well documented healing of Theodore Roosevelt from lifelong asthma under the care and with the friendship of my great grandfather , William Sewall, a friendship that lasted a lifetime and started long before Roosevelt's presidency. "If you go in to politics and live, you can be anything you want to be, from president on down" told my greatgrandfather to the young man he saw such potential in. He also told my great Aunt, his youngest, that this house was built on honor and maintaining this house and it's legacy has become my lifelong process.

To tell the story of what has happened in this past six years would take a longer discussion than an article. So fast forward to this summer…the things I have meditated on and asked for, the lessons I have learned about myself and others, from both staff and guests and our little community of Island Falls, Maine(population 800), the guests who have passed through these doors and experienced the healing and help that Kundalini Yoga , the surrounding nature, the ambiance and history of the house and the energy of the sevadar staff have created and contribute. The fears that filter through me as a human being, sometimes forgetting my spiritual experience and connection to God…bills to be paid, improvements to be made, choices and decisions for both the house and the retreat. Through it all is the LIVING and learning that we receive from our work. Following our bliss is how Joseph Campbell expressed it. Shouldn't that be, after all, our life's work?

When my negative mind goes to bills and bookings and questioning myself my positive mind interjects with gratitude for the beautiful staff I have this year, three of them kundalini yoga practitioners, and our impeccable professional chef, new to Yoga and willing to be a total sevadar sharing her years of experience and expertise, and TLC, to make our guests' food experience amazing, to the three honeymoon couples who chose us this season(our first!), the couple who got engaged while hiking on Mount Katahdin or the two women who came with insomnia and left without it (not a first!!)….And I look at the abundant stars and brilliant moon, listen to Peace Lagoon and think to myself….


And so, dear Yogi B, once again you teach me your wisdom. There IS no Liberation without Labor.

Amrita (Donna) has been teaching Kundalini Yoga in NY city since 1985 and in a retreat setting in northern Maine since 1997. She has produced video and audiocassettes and continues her practice with studying various forms of yoga besides Kundalini. She is certified by 3HO and Yoga Alliance. Amrita also teaches workshops on the East coast and has taught in Costa Rica and various spas. For more information: www.sewallhouse.com

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