How did you first get into Kundalini Yoga?
Dharm: Somehow in the mysterious arc of life, Kundalini got into me, called me, as though waiting for the moment I would be open. In college I was in a very new spiritual zone. In the sheer electricity of the northern sky, land of the Mohawk Indians. I was invited by a beautiful friend to a class with one of the legendary teachers of Kundalini, Mahatma Singh. I had to go. That was all. I had done Hatha yoga, but this class was like nothing I ever had experienced. As Mahatma played the gong I was transported. And I was immediately captivated. Even obsessed. I had to have more like a parched person drinks from a spring.I soon moved into the Yoga Center Ashram and immersed in daily practice. I was teaching Hatha but practicing Kundalini. I started going to White Tantric Yoga weekends with Yogi Bhajan. Those days they were three days. When I graduated I moved right out to California to be with Yogi Bhajan. I was in a deep yogi zone for years.
What inspired you to become a Kundalini Yoga teacher and what keeps your passion for teaching going?
Dharm: I had personal experiences, spiritual experiences, and had seen things I felt incredibly blessed to see. But I knew they were rare, and simply wanted to share. I just wanted to show the beauty of what I had touched. I was convinced that all people could have this amazing potential so far beyond what the normal average life was telling us. My mother had taught Hatha yoga, my father was a professor, and perhaps for that reason teaching seemed very natural to me. But I didn’t know until I taught that there is a special energy stream to teaching in Kundalini. Teaching kundalini is like diving into a river with a swift current that is beyond our personal self. One needs to surrender. It’s not that I pursued it. It is more it that it pursued me, and all I had to do was agree to put my feet where guided. I ennded up in Los Angeles with Yogi Bhajan. And certainly, absolutely it totally lights me up to see when other people light up when their inner switch turns on. I love the help, and the transformation that I have witnessed. These personal stories and moments of awakening that I get to see in others is indescribable as a teacher. But the underlying inspiration is not about reward and effect. Actually what I really feel is that it fulfils something that I know has to be fulfilled in my own evolution.
Why do you like teaching at Sat Nam Fest?
Dharm: The students at Sat Nam Fest are expecting to go a little deeper, and really find an experience. They have come a long way and worked out a special time in their lives and their busy schedules to do something unique, and something that will shift their energy. And I want to deliver something they can bring home. We have one class together, which is a very different thing than an ongoing weekly class. I want that class to touch deeply, open up a new perspective and give people tools they can use for the rest of their lives. I want the class experience to shift things at the cellular level the way I have felt classes in my life do that. So we meet together for one time – many people I only see at Sat Nam Fest twice a year. I feel very grateful, very blessed, to be in the position to show some of the amazing energy that is flowing through each of us right now. And then a miraculous feeling is generated. New activations.
What about the Kundalini Yoga community feels special to you?
Dharm: There is a special thing I call the cosmic zap. We used to get aura photos at the Whole Life Expo, and there was an extra orb of light visibly in the aura above the head. We asked Yogi Bhajan and he explained that the only way people had that light were those who did Kundalini Yoga. So what I really love about the community is being able to recognize that light in each other. There is a sparkle. And when we each have that sparkle it becomes interactive sparklers, and the effect is so uplifting and so charged.
What is your favorite aspect of Sat Nam Fest?
Dharm: There is such a lovely vibe that is created in the group practice. People are working on clearing, transforming, yet it is so comfortable, and so friendly. The surroundings are beautiful and there are smiles everywhere that are very contagious. And there is something about a kundalini smile… authentic and deep and bright. At the same time, people have converged for an experience. So my favorite thing is the sea of smiles.
The other thing I should mention is that In the human collective psyche the festival of getting together for transformation and deep experience is an archetype that goes back in time. At a soul level we understand the energy of a transformative festival. We open to that experience and magic happens.
What are some of your hobbies?
Dharm: My new hobby is learning to enjoy simply being, which is such a challenge for me. I realize its a kind of funny hobby, and one that I feel others might be much better at than me. It involves creating time to do absolutely nothing – just to be. Nothing to show for it. And this is such a total challenge for me who has been getting stuff done for so long! It makes me so squirmy and uncomfortable. My ingrained habit has simply been to get things done, so now I am unraveling that ball of yarn. And otherwise, hobbies – I just write, do music, chant, do yoga stuff and water my plants. Maybe one thing that people don’t know is love taking photos. I love capturing the way light flows, refracts through the atmosphere and reflects. Mostly its light bouncing off flowers, and of each other. The cell phone camera is amazing. And lately i am getting more into shooting motion, that is video. Just light and shadow and the beauty of the universe. Touches my soul, and I love to share that.
What are tools you use to help manage stress?
Dharm: Singing and chanting always bring me back to the divine center. Sound is my go to. When stress hits the fan, sing. Second is breathing. I absolutely love breathing. In the immersion into the interactions and work of each day we forget there is prana, each breath full of energy. So to slow down and reconnect to that prana also takes just a minute. Third is horizontal. Lying down, horizontal to the plane of the earth. The energy shifts so quickly. Yogi Bhajan, especially in his later years, recommended naps. An eleven minute deep relaxation does amazing things. Even 2 minutes does amazing things! Thank God for these tools!. Third is Nature. The energy bounces around inside the box of our structures, and simply getting outside, earth below, sky above can make a change. Fourth is water. Drink it. Get into it is I can, but here in NM its a rare thing!. Saying a prayer shifts the vibe of the water. Then drink it. Cool and cold will cool down the core. Thats good for my fire. And fifth, when my mind is working overtime and wont let go, the mantra Ek Ong Kar Sat Guru Prasad Sat Guru Prasad Ek Ong Kar is a lifesaver. I suppose this is the same as number one of this list, but I wanted to say that that particular mantra will shift the gears, throw the vehicle into reverse and get us out of the tight dead ends.
Do you have a favorite mantra, yoga set or kriya?
Dharm: The mantra that works for me to cut through all the opacity, and get back to self, is Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru. The ancient mantra of the yogis.This mantra is like a dear friend to me. It brings me to a space I trust almost instantaneously. It is one of the first mantras I learned. I first fell in love with it when I witnessed how it cleared some negative energy that I was struggling with in college. The clearing power of sound was amazing. It is like a quantum field shifter, with the sound dissolved into the energetic environment. I feel from this mantra a person can become impervious to negativity. Clear and bright so you can walk forward with your own energy rather than a whole lot of other issues from family, karma, samskaras and general life hanging on to you. Have you ever seen how detergent dissipates grease on the surface of water? That’s like what this mantra does with negativity in the energy field. It is the first mantra Yogi Bhajan taught, and there are many ways to practice it. You can learn them all, but the point is to say it and viibrate it out loud. Do the best and it will be fine.
My favorite Kundalini yoga kriya is an unpublished three part set I learned 40 years ago while I was a student in college. I return to this Kriya again and again. It activates the pituitary like nothing else. It creates the amrit. It almost always works for me, unless I am too distracted in which case Sat Kriya has to be done. Maybe I will teach it at Sat Nam Fest….