Nirvair Singh Khalsa, the CEO of the Kundalini Research Institute, took some time on the Winter Solstice to discuss the 21 Stages of Meditation Course being offered at Sat Nam Fest April 2018. His insights offer us a rich, contemplative approach to appreciating all this course has to offer.
The course in conjunction with Sat Nam Fest creates an interesting polarity. 21 Stages is a deep, meditation immersion. It is an intensely inward journey. Whereas, Sat Nam Fest is a light-hearted, social, outward gathering. The festival provides uplifting, devotional music. Meanwhile, the course will expose us to various deep, inner experiences. It will be interesting to observe how we balance these polarities — holding fast to the inner journey while in an atmosphere of an outer social expression of celebration gives us polar energies to work with.
SNF: Who are the ideal students to take this course?
People who come into our orbit are souls who are drawn to these teachings. A soul listens to a calling to do this kind of deep inner work. People at all stages and phases of the process show up; they bring their life circumstances. We really encourage people to take the course over and over. These teachings are timeless and work for all. For instance, KRI’s January meditation of the month will be a meditation for the Water Tattva that we practiced back in 2009; though we practiced it before, I know the experience of that same meditation will be very different now. The yoga never gets old. It is always relevant, no matter who you are or where you are on the journey.
SNF: What is good preparation for the course?
I have taught this course seven times. I have seen people come with no experience, and they do just fine.
Good preparation is to get the book 21 Stages of Meditation. It is an experiential course, not an in-depth study. Unlike Level One teacher training, this course is not preparing you to teach these meditations. Nor is this course delving deeper into transforming key elements of being as do the Level Two teacher trainings. Instead, though it sometimes completed as part of a level three experience, the 21 Stages course is mostly about deep engagement of one’s meditative mind and contemplative capacity, the capacity to remain steadfast on the path of consciousness. There is not a lot of physical yoga, nor any small group processing. There are no long lectures. It’s good for interested students to take a look at the book beforehand. Read the book before the course begins.
Another good preparation would be to practice the Laya Yoga Adi SHakti Mantra for one hour a day for several days before the course
During the course, at the beginning of each journey, we incorporate the Laya Yoga Kundalini Mantra for 37 ½ minutes. Yogi Bhajan taught that after 37 ½ minutes, there is a shift. Then, at the end of every journey, there is a 2 ½ hour sequence of meditations; at the end of the last journey, we practice 2 ½ hours of Sodarshan Chakra Kriya.
SNF: What are some misnomers regarding the 21 Stages Course that you would like to clear up?
Sometimes people come into the course thinking that because the course is divided into stages this means that it is all about conquering these stages. This journey is not about conquering the stages. It is important to understand the way that each stage if a part of you. For instance, you know what it is like to be six years old, being six years old has become part of you. If you have children, you can relate to being six years old just as they are going through that stage. You relate to being six because you were once six; six years old is still a part of you.
Also, it is important to understand that through the stages are numbered, it is not a linear journey. There are mixed modalities that work with the mental layer and then the more etheric layers of being. Yogi Bhajan was not a linear teacher and he always mixed modalities. Journey of self-discovery is not linear. So while the course is progressive, it is also not progressive. Once you have awareness of how the stages happen you know how the stages act within you. This is about becoming aware of how each stage activates within you; you discover different things about yourself.
SNF: Krishna talked about upset and how the term upset is not used in the sense of being upset about seomthing or at someone. She discussed how these terms to describe the stages are defined and understood differently than we typically think of them. Can you discuss one name used for a stage of meditation and how the terms refers to an inner state, the subtle realm, not necessarily how we use the term on the surface?
Irritation comes up and meditating on how irritation comes up in your consciousness working with these things in your life so that irritation, boredom, and upset become supporters and friends. Misnomer is that the meditation is supposed to bring up irritation. Then you somehow are supposed to overcome it. Instead, the meditation gives you an opportunity to recognize your inner state while you are experiencing irritation so that when irritation comes up for you, you know how to navigate that moment consciously.
SNF: What do you like about the book?
There are Yogi Bhajan drawings that illustrate the action of a certain stage. It’s a helpful and useful thing to look at the drawings to see how they represent what is going on subtly.
SNF: What are some profound insights people can expect?
Similarly, in different experiences we move through stages of connecting with our crystalized self, our expressive self, and our transcendent Self. Through the meditative journey, we gain a capacity to be neutral observers of the flow of this journey through our consciousness.
Meditation may sometimes bring us profound insights, and often it may not. Profound insights arise in relation to your own self and the depth of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings. I’ve experienced profound moments of realizing connections, for instance connections between what comes up and what I may have already known. It is best to come with no expectations. That’s why new students do great with this course because they come in not knowing what to expect. We don’t want to overpromise what meditation brings. Sometimes, experienced meditators come with expectations. Then they go through the experience and end up saying things like, I was bummed out the whole time, and it was hard. People are in fantasy about what the spiritual journey is about. Once a friend said, I am quitting because nothing ever happens to me. I don’t hear voices. I don’t see auras. He was over sold on yoga and meditation.
SNF: From your experience, can you share a sense you have about spiritual journey, generally?
There is a whole history of fraud in religion in which people are trying to sell the spiritual journey by telling people, ‘oh, you are lacking X, so you need Y.’ Really, the whole endeavor is much, much more than that. This 21 Stages course helps guide those who want to stretch along on the journey; it’s as limitless as consciousness itself…
We get a lot of students who have a nice meditative background and lots of experience with yoga, but this is about accepting the messy difficult and variable aspects of the spiritual journey. This is about coming to terms with the reality that it may be grueling and slow and not much happens. You may never read auras or hear etheric voices or see inner fireworks. But, often there are no whistles and bells. Meditation is a life’s work, and I want to be careful not to oversell or exaggerate it.
SNF: In the ancient past, Yogis in India practiced advance meditation in the presence of an expert or master. So, it must be a great support to have you and Krishna with so many years of experience are there as the guides and support?
It’s great to be teaching with Krishna. We’ve worked together for a long time. Krishna can really hold space. She is a lively and unique personality and puts on a great show. But when she goes into the meditative space, she is so stable and so solid. Her presence supports everything that is going on in the room. From the trainer’s point of view, we mostly leave our stuff out. We hold space energetically. Each meditator brings their own life’s experience, and as trainers we hold the space for them to go inside and engage the depths of consciousness.
Read more from Krishna Kaur here!