It took a decade, but I got it done. My 40 day challenge: Cultivating a new attitude

You read that correctly –it took me a whole decade to get a 40 day –anything –completed. I have tried a variety of the following: quit smoking for 40 days, do yoga for 40 days, do one kriya for 40 days, do one single exercise for 40 days, don’t eat sugar for 40 days, wear black after my grandma died for 40 days…get the picture? Nothing worked. Until now. In this post I share some of my inspirations, ideas, and challenges that allowed me to move forward and finally complete this previously impossible thing.

In my Kundalini yoga teacher training we are tasked with completing kirtan kriya for 40 days. After all, according to the yogic understandings of the world, it takes 40 days straight to break a negative habit that blocks one from expansion, 90 to cultivate a new one, 120 to confirm the new habit, and 1000 days to master it.

The first time I tried to complete this kriya, I managed to make it to 36 days with significant difficulty. I did not have a set time to complete the meditation, I have always known I am a morning person yet I felt resistance to waking up and connecting to Spirit…

The first day I woke up enthused to re-start my sadhana. I felt a sense of accomplishment just wanting to start it. In class the previous day I had internalized the message that has been staring at me for years: through commitment we build self-discipline and through self-discipline we tap into our Selves and cultivate an attitude that aligns with who we ARE. This is, and has been for years, exactly what I need in my life to help me structure my spirituality. After all, there is no spiritual program that does not require a daily, consistent commitment. 

I feel like I now know this now, and not only intellectually. My body knows and it accepts this as Truth for me

There are countless kriays to chose from–in part what has kept me stagnated for years. This time, I picked this particular kriya because of my cosmic number suggested I strengthen my pranic body. Sure, let’s give it a go! To graduate and become kundalini yoga teachers, we have to master one kriya and a meditation and teach a full class. After consulting with my intuition and confirming it with my teacher, I picked surya kriya (as my moving meditation aka connection to Body) followed by kirtan kriya (as my meditation aka connection to Soul) to be the first kriya (set of movements and meditations) I practice for 40 days. 

Experience of the kriyas

Getting out of bed at 5:15 am has not been easy, and sometimes it left me feeling tired. While this feeling didn’t last last  long, I still faced incredible challenge waking up just half an hour earlier than usual, especially on days where I lacked motivation or had gone to bed later the night before.

Still, most days I got out of bed, changed into my clothes, and rolled out my mat. I did not follow a teacher for my kriya, but instead looked at the instructions in the book and followed them until I learned the sequence inside-out and could do it without instruction. The first step toward mastering a new habit. I played no music as I loved the sound of absolute silence. It allowed me to go to a deeper space within and just feel the kriya

One morning I woke up and caught myself thinking “Oh, only 37 more days to go!” at which point I interrupted this thought process by reminding myself I am in the process of cultivating an attitude that works for me, through daily discipline…not torturing myself (though some may surely disagree). With that thought, I proceeded to brush my teeth and get on my mat.

My hubby sleeps at this time and wakes up much after me, so I often had to keep my chanting at a low volume…which actually is a lot less powerful, and therefore enjoyable, than chanting from the navel point! Still, a lady’s gotta do what a lady’s gotta do.

The moving kriyas got easier with time. Sat Kriya especially was a challenging one for me. I have …disliked…this kriya since I started practicing kundalini yoga…a decade ago. With this 40 day practice, something shifted in me. By the very end, I loved this kriya, I finally understood what the fuss has been all about! Good thing, too, because we actually practiced it in group context for 31 minutes! That was incredibly powerful…I don’t recommend you do this at home!

One day, I noticed that the 6 minute sut kriya became a little easier and there was less cracking on my neck. I noticed that my arms got a bit more tired today than other days, though. At the end of the exercise, I felt a serpent-like energy pull me straighter and move up –only this time, it did not stop at my heart centre but continued right on to the top of my head! That was incredible. It isn’t as intense as I had imagined it would be, and it’s a force that pulls you toward it, determinedly and powerfully. I could get used to that! And, I don’t expect it. It’s always a surprise and a blessing. I am grateful.

The 26 frogs got easier and I can complete them faster. I can definitely feel the effects of this on my thighs! I feel stronger and more powerful. I feel straighter in my back. I feel more aligned.

I had a continuous trouble with the neck turning exercise. So simple, yet so much came up for me. I have stagnation there. What does this say about my throat chakra? My ability to make decisions in the here and now? My ability to speak my truth and accept it for what it is? My ability to connect my heart to my intuition and project my truth? These are the types of questions I wonder about when I notice the stagnation in that part of my body.

The final part of this suriya kriya is 6 minute silent meditation. I always loved this part! It was really powerful and yet so relaxing. I often visualized the sun energy located at the core of my core expanding outward and into my body, engulfing me with energizing energy and light. I felt warm and supported –something much needed when I look outside and there is yet another 15 centimeters of snow on the ground! (FIY, I love the snow!)

Some days, the meditation was particularly powerful. One day, I left my body. I went into a quiet, lovely place of darkness and vastness. I was part of it, but not in my human form…in my energetic form, so I was everywhere, I was everything.

Sometimes you feel like you’re having a normal, uneventful experience of the kriya, and then, some visualizations join you. This time, it was reminiscing about what eventful year 2018 has been. A powerful image that came to me was of my experience with my ill grandmother, in her bed, with all us women of her family gathered around her, chatting. I knew physically I was laying down on the bed next to hers, however in my visualization I was floating above everyone, looking at the group as a spirit. In that moment, we were all laughing, we were all loving our time together. I remembered, too, that we didn’t only laugh that day…we also cried, and witnessed my Nona crying, because she knew it was her time, and perhaps, she didn’t want to leave us. I now know that she did not. I know her to be around, protecting us and sending us healing energy wherever she can. My sister is having a baby, unpredictably conceived right around the time that Nona passed…when her husband passed 20 some-odd years ago, my mother saw her grandfather in her dream who told her not to worry, we have another Soul entering the world. My mom was on the pill, and yet, my baby brother was born. The way some things work will forever remain beautiful mysteries…

Finally, the kirtan kriya meditation that followed was also usually powerful, because it followed these types of experiences. So, the times I was more in tune and aligned, I was able to engulf myself in the experience of the meditation and my focus didn’t stray much. I saw the visualization, I chanted from my navel, I focused on the experience on the body. I allowed the truth of the answer I had received before to settle into my body for exactly what it is –my Truth at this moment.

One time, I visualized the light coming out from my third eye as healing light that then dribbled all over my body, the pain, the aches, especially on the right hand side. Momentarily, they disappeared. They became integrated with the rest of my body, and I felt a temporary release from my chronic pain…not bad for just starting out the day!

Not always beautiful. Empowering nonetheless.

It was not always easy to complete the kriyas, and that’s what makes this fascinating. I had to complete it during the holidays! Yes, I was “busy” and sometimes not home. Yes, I was around people who if they heard me may think I’m strange (pretty sure they all do anyways!). And yes, some days I had distractions around (nieces, anyone?!) that did not allow me to stay fully immersed in my experience. Still, I kept at it. Other days I went to a morning Aquarian sadhana at Prana Shanti, followed by an hour and a half Kundalini class…and I still had to complete my own personal sadhana! Those days my body and Soul were particularly happy …despite waking up at 4:00 am!

Some days, I was still uber sleepy. But this was the case most workdays anyways. So, I thought to myself, yes, I’m sleepy, and I’ve already done my workout and my meditation for the day! Normally I’d feel sleepy (because let’s face it, 20 minutes of rolling around in bed doesn’t exactly do so much pertaining to sleepiness, does it!?) and my only goal is getting to work. Today, the first thing I did after I opened my eyes is move my body and connect with my Self, however briefly.

Importantly, I am cultivating a new attitude for myself, and to get there, first I have to face the challenges of my brain (conditioning…ego…).

…telling me to sleep more; postpone it; the afternoon after work is fine; who needs this anyways; who came up with this morning thing; why would you want to bother; stay in bed; don’t move; check your messages; it’s too cold out; it’s too early; you need more sleep; you’ll wake up hubby; if you can’t chant properly then don’t chant at all; you can skip part of this meditation; you’re too sleepy to do this; you need to help hubby pack lunch; you’re gonna be late for work; you haven’t even packed your stuff; where is your book …

As you can see, my brain comes up with whatever it can to prevent me from doing what I know in my depths that I need, and absolutely choose, to do. By connecting to my Self first thing in the morning, and doing so by choice, has allowed me to finally complete a practice I have been trying to do for years. The difference now is, I know, with every fiber in my body, that the way I live my life is my choice.

One day, I woke up late and felt rushed. Instead of giving in the to that feeling, I took my time. I lit the fire and used it as a tool to remind myself of the purpose of this meditation–not only to harness the energy of the sun and sustain heat in the body (baby, it’s cold outside!) but also to discipline the mind and help with transformation. Nothing like fire to transform!

My Ultimate Truth is the one of my Experience

Kundalini yoga is one powerful tool of many that I am now using to become increasingly more internally referenced (the only place where we all live!).

I have repeated the mantra of Sat Nam thousands of times. I have felt it’s vibration, and I intellectualized it to bits. But I had not fully internalized it, lived it, allowed it to vibrate my entire being. Now, I am finally beginning to live it. By repeating it daily in a spiritual practice, I have internalized what it means to me to live in Truth, as it unfolds, moment by moment… especially when things, like the sat kriya, get challenging. Sat Nam, Truth is my Name, Truth is my Identity…this is the reason I am out of bed at 5:15 in the morning.

From where I stand, I don’t need someone else’s God to show me the truth (whether that God is Christian, Hindu, or our most recent God, Western Science). I don’t need dogma to tell me how to be a “good” person. I don’t need to embrace all the cultural conditioning of the past, regardless of who it came from. I don’t need to feel guilty if I find out something I held to be true until now no longer serves me as truth. I don’t need to hang on to rage when I cannot control the chaos of the external world. I don’t need to worry because I lovingly let go.

What I do need is to keep going deeper within myself to find the answers to all of my life’s hard questions. I know that all the answers are stored within me, this body, this mind, this very life-force. I know my own Truth better than anyone else out there ever could. My good fortune is that I have now found and internalized this truth about myself, and am continuously embracing it. I am living it rather than just thinking it. It is Truth in every fiber of my being, not just an intellectual idea that I would like to identify with but do not embody. I have recently learned the distinction between these two things, and it’s been an incredibly empowering lesson for me.

Now, on to the next kriya for another 40 days… and another 40 after that… and onward it goes… Perhaps the real goal is the mastery of Self –1000 day meditation!

  • Art by ME! Inspired by this experience.  

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