"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
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….
WORK ACTUALLY TO BE OF SERVICE?
LOVE AND BE LOVED TO LEARN?
BE MORE LOVING TO SUPPORT OTHERS AND FEEL SUPPORTED?
WORK WITH FULL INTENTION AND COMMITMENT ONLY THROUGH THE WORK
OF OUR HEARTS AND SOULS CAN WE BE TRULY LIBERATED
And so, dear Yogi B, once again you teach me
your wisdom. There IS no Liberation without Labor.