Bir Kaur Khalsa: On Spirituality And Kundalini Yoga
" Kundalini Yoga is the root of spiritual experience."
Do you have to be a Sikh to practice Kundalini yoga? No, however many practitioners choose this way of life.
By definition, kundalini yoga is a system of meditation directed toward the release of a primal energy or shakti, located at the base of the spine.
Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world. It's monotheistic- meaning One God. It was founded in the 15th century as an independent religion and it worships Guru Granth Sahib. The places of worship are called a gurdwara which means "doorway to God". According to Simran Jeet Singh "Sikhism is rooted in oneness and love, Sikh theology encourages a life of spirituality and service".
Bir Kaur Khalsa's life as a Sikh and Kundalini Yoga teacher have deepened her spiritual experience. She has a great website called Warrior Spirit Yoga that shares her healings and teachings of Kundalini yoga through videos and articles that is a must read for anyone who's been wondering if they should check it out. We got the opportunity to hear from Bir on what her faith means to her and it's a blessing to share this with our readers.
-What is your definition of faith?
For me, faith is the courage that resides within the soul that enables us to transform darkness into light with the help of our spiritual teacher. To me, faith in action is commitment. It's commitment to your internal values. It's commitment to the evolution of your soul acting from a place of fulfilling your life's purpose in this human form through your destiny (dharma). For me, commitment and courage can be expressed in the form of religion.
-How would you define spirituality?
Spirituality is the remembrance of your connection with Universal Consciousness and therefore your soul. Spirituality is being in total balance with all aspects of your being and therefore reflected in everything that surrounds you. Development of your spirituality is supported by community. This group consciousness can be more powerful than individual consciousness. A sense of community that can be provided through religion, when utilized properly, can be a wonderful tool to developing a stronger relationship to God. However, “religion” and “spirituality” are often seen as two separate things in our society when they can actually complement each other.
-Would you consider yourself spiritual or faithful? Or is there a difference?
Some people associate spirituality with a more individual/personal journey and faithful to have a religious tone. Unfortunately, I think spiritual extremists find no value in religion and religious extremists find only one value in their particular religion to achieve liberation of their soul.
The words that are the foundation of the Sikh faith are “Ik Ong Kar”. This means “One Universal Consciousness/God.” No matter what your faith is, it is interconnected by all faiths, because it leads to the same One Universal God. I feel that I am spiritually committed to my soul through a steady daily spiritual practice/Sikh Faith values. I also feel that through the power of the One God, there are an infinite amount of religions/faiths that, when utilized properly, can also achieve this same potential. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to redefine spirituality and religion as being one in the same in other religions. Bringing spirituality into my faith allows me to embody the God given right to be a free, happy, and (liberated) spirit. One example of this is having a direct and focused conversation with God through prayer (faithful) or feeling the totality of the cosmos/interconnection of all life within me when I listen to kirtan (Shabad Guru) during a Sikh service (spiritual).
A simple way to bring spirituality into faith is to ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”. A simple way to bring faith into spirituality is asking “How can I do this with more authenticity and commitment”. In reality we all have the capacity to be spiritual and simultaneously faithful.
-Do you have specific rituals that you do in relation to your faith (meditation, prayer, celebrations, etc)?
Guru Nanak (the first of the Ten Gurus in the Sikh faith) was the first to embody the teachings of “Ik Ong Kar” and was the first initiator of the Sikh lifestyle. He didn't appreciate the blind rituals that his Hindu family practiced at the time. People were just participating in rituals without knowing why. They lost the spirituality and meaning of these rituals. As a Sikh, rituals aren't practiced. However, there is a daily service that occurs in a Sikh place of worship called a Gurdwara. In the Gurdwara the community gathers for daily prayers, kirtan, reading from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and sharing in a meal of equality called Langar afterwards.
As a student and teacher of Kundalini Yoga, I have a 2 to 2.5 hour daily meditation and yoga practice that I am dedicated to. I get up between 4am-5am everyday to complete this practice along with reciting Japji Sahib. This helps me to connect with my soul when the chaos of the world is quiet, like others do from many other different faiths. You don't have to be Sikh to do Kundalini Yoga.
-Do you think it’s important for youth to have faith? Why?
I think it's really important for youth to have faith for the reasons listed above. Youth have the challenge and blessing of navigating in perhaps the most chaotic times this world has experienced. I feel that youth are our key to reigniting the spirituality that was intended to thrive in religion/faith. The youth have the opportunity through faith and courage to bring peace to the world and protect the resources of our earth by connecting with their own truth.
-Do you share your faith with others or keep it private?
As a Sikh I share my faith with others. I try not to share my faith so much in word but in action. I feel that through my actions others will know what a Sikh is. This includes being of service in any way possible. Sikhs are known for being of service through offering food to those in need, among many other things. I also share my faith by the way I look. I wear a turban all the time when I am in public so I often stand out in a crowd. There aren't many 30 something women out there wearing turbans. The sole purpose of this is to be recognizable if anyone needs help. Most people are curious when they see me and ask what my “hat” is all about.
-What’s your favorite thing about faith?
As a Sikh, I believe this spiritual relationship between myself and God is completely interconnected and merged. Therefore, God is not an entity or energy that resides outside of me. God is within me. So the Creator that resides within automatically makes me a co-creator. This leads to the concept of how we can choose to create heaven (or hell) on earth based on how clear and still our mind is. When our mind is still then we are more readily able to listen to what our soul wants us to do instead of what others want us to do. Faith is having the dedication to commit to this relationship through my spiritual practice so this can be possible. Being human is the greatest gift as we are the physical (being upright/vertical creatures) and the energetic connection between God and Earth.
Another thing I love is the Sikh Gurus teach me that I don't need a guru to experience Universal Consciousness/God, because it is all right here in this present moment. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with Sikh faith, because a true Sikh will encourage a Muslim to be the best Muslim they can be, a Christian to be the best Christian they can be, a Jew to be the best Jew they can be, and so on. Sikhs aren't concerned about spreading the Word masked by the intention of converting someone to Sikhism. It's quite the contrary. Sikhs are dedicated to being of service for others so others can have the opportunity to connect with their soul and therefore God in their own unique way.
-Do you buy gifts, items for your house or items that you wear that are related to faith or spirituality?
My husband and I usually have pictures up of a few of the Sikh Gurus that we are deeply connected with, particularly Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Ram Das. We also have a picture of our teacher who brought Kundalini Yoga to the west, Yogi Bhajan. I like having different incense, stones and gems nearby. I like to have Kundalini Yoga mantras playing in the background all the time to elevate the energy of the room.
-Do you have any funny stories related to faith?
I worked in home health physical therapy and often treated people that were 70+ years old. Many of my patients had no idea what Sikhism was and were curious to know about it. As a Sikh, one of the symbols I wear is a small knife (kirpan) in my turban. Depending on the laws of where I am at, I usually wear a large kirpan at my side. It's a symbol that I am ready and able to protect those in need no matter what their faith, social class, or race is. I got a lot of funny comments, but the best one was when an older man asked why I was wearing a tire gauge in my hat. He could only see the tip of my kirpan through my turban.
-Do you have any places that remind you of your faith or feel spiritual to you?
The pivotal spiritual place for Sikhs is The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. It has four doors which are open at all times. This place represents being open to all people from all different faiths. My dream is to go there someday.
Being in nature always helps me connect with my soul more. I lived in Portland, Oregon for 5 years. It is perhaps one of the most magical and scenic places I have lived in. A few places that made me feel most connected was The Grotto and Latourell Falls.
THE GROTTO, Portland, Oregon
LATOURELL FALLS, Oregon
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, Amritsar, India
-Did your faith influence you in business and/or what you are creating?
Yes, Sikhism has helped me be a more compassionate in my work as a healthcare practitioner. It has also influenced me to create my own business, Warrior Spirit Yoga with Bir Kaur, to develop as a healer and Kundalini Yoga teacher. You can visit www.warriorspirityogabk.com for more information.
Thank you Bir, for shedding light on your yoga practice and your faith and giving us all a bit of inspiration. FH