Holding the Space

I taught my first Kundalini yoga class one week ago today.  I taught my second class this evening.  From these two unique experiences I have come to understand the meaning of holding space.

As a student, my teachers preached about the importance of holding space.  “A good Kundalini teacher does not mediate with the class, he holds the space.”  “Hey man, you did a great job holding the space, you were solid like a rock today!”  “She can guide the class with her space.”  This space holding business was sure relevant in Kundalini yoga.  I figured one day I’d have to learn it, but all this talk was not giving me what I needed to know.

It was not until I taught my first two classes did I really understand what holding the space was.  The best way to describe it is by recounting my experiences from teaching class.

Besides being very nervous, anxious, and…well, just plain nervous, my first Kundalini yoga class could be describe as an abstract painting.  Not an abstract minimalist painting or even anything resembling any sort of organization.  My painting was a Jackson Pollock on steroids.  The energy of the class was all over the place.  Not only could I feel the energy of each individual straying from my intended path, but I could physically see the scattered energy in the bodies and faces of my students.  All I could think about was moving through the kriyas and finishing the class.  I was worried about my actions as a teacher in the form of instructing – not guiding, not holding the space.

It was not until after that I realized what I had done.  The space I held was not being held at all.  It was in fact abandoned.  I might as well been turned around facing the same direction as the students because I was neither leading nor teaching the class.  From this, I knew what not holding the space was.  Now, I needed to find out what it was to hold it.

Fast forward to tonight.  I came to class much more relaxed.  Having experienced the anxiety release of actually completing a public class and still being able to breath, walk and live happily, I was excited to teach again.  I had a lot to work on.

Every Kundalini yoga class begins with a chant.  The Adi mantra (Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo) is reverently chanted three times to honor the divine wisdom and creativity from within and to give praise to those who have taught before us, honoring their legacy.  This mantra sets the tone of the class.  The week prior, I had had a poor tuning in.  I had chanted nervously and from my throat.  The result was frantic and chaotic.  Tonight however – as I chanted from my navel – I noticed a difference.  I owned the space.  The class was focused and I guided them through the chant.  At the end of the chant I had the attention of the class on all levels.

As the class went on, I had the urge to study my upcoming instructions – as if to perfect my verbal communication of the postures.  As I did this I felt a strong urge to stop reading and to sit still.  I went with this force.  I sat.  In this space, I understood what I was holding.  I was ushering the energy of my students into an area where they could experience their higher self.  By sitting still and overseeing the playground of consciousness, I was clearing the path to their experience – whatever that may be.

It was effortless.  It involved a clear mind.  A thoughtless mind.  It required intention, love and care.  It was a product of surrender and humility.  I was not the path, nor the reason it was there.  I was merely a vessel.  A sign that gave direction.

In this experience, I understood what space was.  I experienced space and the importance of the teacher.  In this space, information came to me.  I was so afraid of not having anything to say in my first class.  I constantly found myself short of words and those that I did speak did not vibrate deeply.  However, tonight while holding the space of the class, words came to me.  One profoundly poetic phrase had me rethinking its origin, as it surely did not spring from my consciousness.

Part of the work of a teacher is to instruct: teaching yoga postures, lecturing a child, explaining math problems, running a sports practice.  The other part of teaching is to inspire.   A true teacher guides their pupils by providing an arena that will clear the path leading to their greater selves.  This arena is the space.  The classroom, the yoga studio, the football field, and home are all arenas.  These are all areas of space that must be held.  In doing so, we are providing a better future for the world by guiding her students into their highest being.

The Night I Left My Body

As an avid Kundalini Yoga practitioner and teacher in training, part of our preparation consists of long weekends dedicated to nothing else but yoga.  From 4am sadhana to closing meditations, we as students participate in communal spiritual education.  Along with this learning comes deep exploration.  And so it was that tonight I explored the depths of the universe and left my body.

The first sensation was that of a vacuum.  My entire existence was swiftly sucked out of my body.  A deep pressure was instantaneously released and I could feel the the soul-less cavity of my body, right under the sternum, give way to the deliverance of me.  Suddenly I found myself floating at unconceivable heights, an elevation indescribable by any modern system of mensuration. I had risen to the ethereal realm.

A few breathless moments passed before I realized there was no need to breathe.  I was able to choose whether I wanted to feel the sensation of breath or not.  I found it much more pleasant experiencing the existence up above.  I say up above because literally my vantage point came from great heights.  Although I could not visibly see my body, I understood where it was in relation to my existence.  I was simultaneously aware of both my body and myself.

There was no fear.  Only a great sensation of liberation and freedom.  I was soaring through endless space, yet I was also the space being soared through.  With this freedom came not one instant of apprehension of not coming back, not making the return flight home.  I felt an undeniable chord-like connection joining me to my body.  It was obvious that I was not leaving my body for the last time.

I was a kite effortlessly exploring the airs of the ethers.  And I was not alone.  The penetrating vibrations of the meditational gong – being played by one of our teachers – synchronically danced across the infinite horizon.  Cascading tiles of gold curved around me in endless helixes as they formed in accordance to the birthing sound currents.  The sound of the gong changed from exterior to inclusive.  There was no distinction between the gong and myself.  We were merged into completion and existed as one, yet were experiencing each other in a very tangible way.  As I watched the forming ripples physically manifest the sounds of the gong, I was also watching myself.

Unlike a drug-induced high, this feeling was solid.  It could not be ruined in any way.   There were moments of fleeting mental chatter that in any other transcendent situation – drug induced or otherwise – would have completely grounded my ascension.  Yet during this experience, the expressions of the ego were accepted and surpassed, as if carelessly blown in and out by the wind.  It was only after the disappearance of the deep vibrations of the gong that I felt the return to my body.

Slowly and without struggle, I came back to my body.  I entered somewhere between the heart center and the crown of my head.  I am still unsure of the details.  Frankly, I was too consumed by the experience of divinity.  I was not the least bit concerned with the details of returning to earth.

Once completely in my body, a previous intuitional feeling was concretely confirmed: something had changed.  Still the details escape me, but it was beyond any measure of doubt that during my vacuum-like extraction to the ethers, something aside from myself had left my body.   Inside my chest an immense feeling of weightlessness was observed.  My breath was much fuller and cleaner.  The clarity of this space was very apparent and is still even now.  Something else was extracted, something heavy and dense.  Something I am glad to be rid of.

When I finally came back to an existence resembling full consciousness, I was unsure of a lot.  My legs seemed to lag behind my intentions.  I had trouble collecting my belongings.  After I took a few frightful steps, I was in utter confusion as to where I was stepping.  Any attempt at conversation was baffled and I am positive the look on my face was priceless.  Picture space cadet meets modern day ’69 hippie.  It took me a glass of cold water, a walk around the block and a good 45 minutes to feel grounded enough to drive home.

Once I got my earth legs back and driving, I was in an awesome state of satisfaction.  Whatever happened to me felt amazing and left me with a lasting and exceptional calmness.  I am very excited for I still have much to experience.  I am hardly halfway through my teacher’s training and only at the beginning of my lifelong spiritual journey.   I am very thankful that tonight I could experience such profundity and bliss and I am very glad to write that tonight was the first night I left my body.

New Mexico and Enlightenment?

Food and love.  Two intensely simple words I discovered within myself during an intense meditation at a yoga retreat in Espanola, New Mexico.  After intention, practice, and a lot of listening, I understood what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Food and love.  This epiphany wasn’t accompanied by bright lights or sounding trumpets, but rather a very familiar and strong voice: my inner voice.  This is the voice that resides inside all of us.  The voice that is usually in an endless chatter, constantly making absolutely useless contributions to any sort of progress.

I was astonished.  Astonished not because I received an answer, but rather that I had accepted the answer I had already known.  I realized at that moment – and even now as I am typing this entry – that the answers to our lives’ largest questions have already been given, already been recorded. In many cases we are already achieving the answers without even the slightest inkling of their comprehension.  It had been I who was blocking myself from understanding what I wanted to do with my life.

This experience in New Mexico taught me that I already know everything there is to know.  I have access to every question I want answered.  Call it the collective consciousness, the unified field, heaven, bliss, enlightenment, the soul, Jesus, Mary, or Joseph.  Call it whatever you like.  Millions of names and references all address the same thing.  This thing resides inside everyone human being and everyone can access it.  It is not whether one knows something, but rather what one can realize.

If I have access to everything there is to know, why don’t I know everything?  My answer to this has come through meditations.  Repeated meditations that is.  The more I meditate, the more my mind can perceive.  I become more intuitive, more in sync with my surroundings.  I am calm and flowing.  Think of if this way, the balance in my life is always existent whether I am balanced or not, meditation just allows me to rediscover how to find it.  There are many other positive benefits from repeated spiritual practice (Understand that meditation is but one of the endless ways to attain increased awareness and consciousness), but all stem from increasing my capacity to access the inner pool of knowledge.  As I meditate more, I physically and mentally lose blocks that impede my relationship with the field of pure consciousness.  In other words, the more dedication and practice, the more I allow myself to receive information and the more knowledge I realize.

The information is there.  It always has been and always will be.  No new information can be created, it can only be discovered.