- Snatam Kaur
personal reflection - Clearing Past Actions with Daily Practice
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Karma is the energetic pattern that exists within us as a result of our past actions. Karma can weigh heavily upon us and keep us from resonating with our natural light. I remember Yogi Bhajan, my spiritual teacher, sharing that there are two ways to clear Karma. One way is through selfless service or Seva and the other is through daily spiritual practice, or Sādhanā. Growing up in the 3HO community founded by Yogi Bhajan, I heard this concept many times. But it was actually about two years ago, ten years after he left his physical body, when it really sunk in.
I was doing my Sādhanā with a group of other practitioners at a yoga center, called Soul Yoga - it was about 5 am. We had just finished our yoga, and were moving into the chanting meditations. That morning I forgot how to meditate. With my roles as wife, mother of a young child, touring musician, yoga and chanting teacher, it’s often a lot for me to hold. That morning, I had managed to get so overwhelmed with it all, that my spiritual practice was quite underwhelmed. As everyone was preparing to chant and I was getting out my instrument to play the live music, I found myself so stressed that I could barely breathe. I worried about my nearby sleeping daughter waking up, about a conversation I had had with my husband the day before, about calling a particular colleague from work, among many other things that were swirling in my mind. I was thinking of just about everything else but sitting down to meditate. Like a butterfly hovering over a flower but never settling down, my mind was keeping me away from the internal nectar of the self.
I glanced over at Hari Kirin Kaur preparing to meditate. I was astonished as she seemed totally peaceful and quiet inside. At times my inner world can be so powerful that I think it is everyone's experience. As she settled down onto her mat and wrapped herself with a shawl, she did not seem full of worries and tensions like I was. In fact, as we began to chant, I found myself peeking over at her often. She chanted quietly but her energy seemed to allow her to dive into her being without any distraction and her focus was like a deep internal waterfall whose sounds reverberated even in my being as I sat a few yards away. This internal waterfall came from an active effort, a choice, and a vision as she focused her eyes at the tip of her nose. It required her presence and intention and she was totally without any doubt going and staying deep in her meditation. It was what yogīs call an internal cleansing bath. Gurū Nānak, the 15th Century saint and sage and founder of the Sikh tradition, explains in Jap Jī, we don't have to make pilgrimages to external places of cleansing. It is this internal focus of the meditative mind in which we can find the true bath of internal energy cleansing.
tīrath nāvā jay tis bhāvā viṉ bhāṉay ki nā-i karī.
If I am pleasing to God (the flow of Divine Spirit), then that is my pilgrimage and cleansing bath. Without pleasing God, what good are ritual cleansings?
That morning while witnessing this deep meditation of a quiet and beautiful woman, Yogi Bhajan's teaching kicked in for me. She was clearing her Karma! This powerful realization gave me an incentive to focus my crazy mind.
Along with this, the other ideas I had been holding about why I should meditate had not convinced my mind of the importance of the effort. I would feel good, it would be good for my family to experience, it would be good for my community - these concepts and others had been swimming in my mind for years without much sway. But an internal cleansing bath clearing my Karma - my mind was hungry for that!
This residue of undesirable past actions could be cleaned out from my being once and for all, including the Karmas I was aware of and those I was not. But I had to meet the energy with my own internal focus and capacity to bring in and hold Prānā, or life force energy of the universe. I had to actively bring it into my being to clear my energy every morning. This process would indeed be good for me and good for my family, as I had always known. I just needed a doorway into my being to understand the importance of real focus and intention. It was not just a matter of making it to my practice, but perhaps even more importantly, of bringing my presence into it. From that morning forward, my practice changed.
A few weeks later, as I was in the process of writing my book about the morning practice of Kundalini Yoga called Original Light, I gained the confidence to write about how spiritual practice can release Karma - all because of this experience at our local yoga studio. It is amazing how we can inspire and support each other, often without words, within spiritual community. That morning I was given the teaching through example of how to connect to the flow of internal devotion and cleansing, the power of which cannot be measured.
From my practice to yours,