Airdate: August 24, 2017
Ramdesh’s show is a departure this week, as she is taking the time to address some big issues. We need to ask, “What can we do to make a difference in this world?” Real issues — racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny — need to be addressed from an elevated conscious place: “You are part of the solution, and we need solutions on this planet,” Ramdesh points out. Many factors triggered Ramdesh’s decision to host this discussion, but the events in Charlottesville, VA really hit her heart. She was shocked to see armed militia in the college town where she once studied.
To discuss these serious issues, she invited two close friends to the show; Amanbir Singh is a Kundalini Yoga teacher and acupuncturist who deeply understands the practice of Kundalini Yoga. He is also a gay black man. She also welcomes Kenny Hirschmann (Raj Karam Singh), a Kundalini Yoga teacher who works for Columbia University as a senior learning designer. He is also gay and of Jewish heritage.
When Amanbir saw the hate groups and hate speech, he says, he felt it was in alignment with what’s been happening over the last year with the election and things building up in this country, and coming to the surface. It was “horrifying and sad, but at the same time I’ve known this has been a part of our society, our culture, and even the hatred and fear in this world.” He tried to approach it with yogic insight, understanding that these people are suffering themselves and feel the need to harm others. Nevertheless, it brings up anger and sadness to know this is still part of our society, he says.
Amanbir was brought up by a strong, powerful mother who was very protective in terms of racism. In such situations, she would state the facts and be calm. Instead of reacting or raging, Amanbir suggests, bring your clarity, your calmness to the situation. If we are in a reactive state we are not cautious of what our full impact can be. It’s an opportunity to find a space of balance, calmness, to go into a situation with our full mental faculty intact. But you don’t want to get into a state of spiritual bypassing either.
When he saw the neo-Nazi chanting, “Jews will not replace us” how did Kenny feel? “I was shocked, he says, “We were at Sat Nam Fest that weekend, so I was in a little bit of a Kundalini bubble. It took a few moments to realize what I was looking at.” But as much as it shocked and angers, you have to view it from a place of distance, you have to separate from that emotional response or you will get yourself into trouble. Any reaction has to come from “a mindful and heartful place.”
Ramdesh notes that as teachers and practitioners we know if we react from rage we only create more rage and yet spiritual bypass (an avoidance of issues) is a real thing and it prevents those who are most equipped to help from moving into that space. How do we balance being non-reactive with not indulging in spiritual bypass?
Amanbir points out it’s one thing to look at the world in a positive light, but it can become an imbalance of the positive mind that creates a different sense of reality. What you think is what you create and attract, but there is also the importance of recognizing that there is negativity in the world. Acknowledge the negativity, he suggests, and allow it the chance to transform and transcend.
Many people were shocked to see neo-Nazis on the streets of the U.S. But the energy of hate and anti-Semitism didn’t just dissipate on D-Day, Ramdesh notes. Many actions are driven by fear of the other; it’s at the heart of what Nazism represents, Kenny says. He shares a Hebrew quote that means the whole world is a narrow bridge and the important thing is to not be afraid. Otherwise we will never cross the bridge. Do not come from a place of fear, he says, that’s the message in a lot of spiritual and philosophical traditions. Fear is our greatest enemy; we have the tools to recognize the other is you and to understand through compassion what the other is experiencing so that we don’t misunderstand what’s going on.
Is there a Kundalini Yoga practice to help others release fear from their hearts? Kenny says he loves the Adi mantra, Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. It helps us to recognize our inner divinity and our connection to the greater Infinite energy and also offers protection.
She also asks Amanbir for an empowering practice to release fear. He suggests breath work; close the eyes, and do long deep breathing, with right hand on top of left over the heart center. When we breathe deeply it recharges the pranic body and gives us the state of fearlessness. If we have enough energy and vitality there is no room for fear, he says. Pranayama helps you connect to your own wisdom.
Ramdesh poses some big questions: How can we become a spiritual army of love in our community? How can we combat homophobia through our language in yoga classes and other means? We all have differences, Amanbir points out. He loves himself for who he is; when others react with hatred or bias, he has determined that he needs to not take personally other people’s projections and judgments, while keeping himself safe.
We can’t force anyone to change, but there are situations where he might be an avenue to help others drop some preconceived biases. “The more I love myself, the more I can help others,” he says. In the Kundalini Yoga community, he notes, there are lots of teachings about men and women; it can be uncomfortable so we need to think about new languaging. To be respectful and compassionate toward others, we need to be mindful of our language and be constantly aware.
We have many different identities that we live with in the roles we play, says Kenny. It’s really important to understand what those identities are and what oppression and privilege we have in a given situation as a result of those identities, he adds. “As teachers we can model the highest form of understanding yourself and others, and treating others with grace, dignity, and respect while acknowledging their uniqueness and also acknowledging that they are part of a greater whole.”
“Hating others is a product of hating yourself,” Kenny points out. If you understand yourself and feel communion with others then you will overcome that fear of the other.
What would you say if you could peacefully discuss these issues with someone from a hate group who disagrees? Amanbir tries to be himself; to be kind, to serve, to be helpful, knowing it’s up to the person if they want to change. “Sometimes I may not be the conduit for that person to make a shift.” It’s not so much what Amanbir would say as how he would carry himself in that situation, he explains.
Kenny says coming from a place of authenticity can have a massive impact. A lot of people don’t feel heard, but he would really be interested to listen to their heart, and give them his full attention. Sometimes they may even surprise themselves if given the opportunity to express themselves freely.
When people feel disconnected and left out, Ramdesh says, they may turn to hate. She hopes that Spirit will come to those who have shut off their heart; she hopes that there are avatars with the skills for these times that will stand up to the task of this transformation.
Listen in to this heartfelt and fascinating discussion: The show plays out to “Ong Namo” by Snatam Kaur. “When you open your own heart, when you let go of fear– even fear of the rise of hate–you are able to be part of the solution,” says Ramdesh.