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At The Feet of The Yogi
By Kirpal S. Khalsa, Ph.D.

Chapter Five
Quite A Ride

      
Challenge, Victory, Reward

Over Easter break I decided to do a wilderness excursion. During my psychedelic days my little group and I used to go out to the desert or up to the mountains to 'trip'. Nature was the best place for spiritual communion. Now drug free, I wanted to experience my new method of getting high, do three days of intense Kundalini Yoga in the desert, and make the comparison.

I idealized the ascetic yogi. I thought it would be pretty cool to renounce the world and sit in blissful meditation on some remote mountaintop. I often escaped to the wilderness to chant, to hike or just be with nature. The life of Milarepa, Tibet’s ascetic yogi was my inspiration. I really thought leaving the world behind would be the best way to achieving a truly spiritual life. Dawson tried his best to talk me out of it.

Yogiji says, “The student of Kundalini Yoga should be a householder, raise a family and fulfill the obligations of a spiritual society.” I was eighteen years old and the idea of me raising a family was about as realistic as me going to the moon.

Yogiji also says, “Kundalini Yoga is for a householder who wants to be a saint and a soldier, and prosperous and successful at the same time.” I could relate to the saint part. The rest was beyond me. I thought a soldier was the last thing in the world anyone would want to be. I had protested against the Vietnam War, been tear gassed and artfully dodged the draft. I also had serious hang ups about money. Rich people in my book were greedy, materialistic nobodies. Man, was I ever mixed up.


Youths protesting the Vietnam War

In spite of Dawson’s attempts to reel me back to earth, I was determined to hike into the mountains and meditate. Andy was back East for the holiday, so I decided to do it alone. I asked my mother to drive me out to the trail head so I would not have to leave my car for three days. I packed my sleeping bag, yoga mat, meditation blanket, six pounds of dry mung beans and rice, cooking utensils, bowl and a large canteen of water.

“Don’t you need a tent or something?” my mother asked.

“It won’t rain,” I said.

“Are you sure you have enough water?”

“There’s water up there. Don’t worry about me, Mom. I’ll be fine. Just be here in three days.”
I took off cross country up a ridge towards the peaks in the distance. After a few hours I had emptied my canteen. I saw a small stream of water way down in the canyon below me. I knew there would be no water on the peak so I headed down the canyon.

The canyon floor was wet but no running water. I was at the top of a dry waterfall. The rock was smooth from water flow during run offs. Fifty feet below at the base of the dry waterfall the stream did have moving water. The canyon walls were very steep around the waterfall. The safe thing to do would have been to climb back up the canyon, traverse above the steep part and come back down below the waterfall where it was less steep. Instead, I inched down the smooth rock to see if there was a way I could climb down.

The rock became steeper and I soon lost my grip. I began sliding, very slowly at first, but there was no way to stop. “Okay, God,” I thought. “What are you doing?” The rock got steeper and I moved faster. The stream was still way below and the angle left only one conclusion. I would soon be airborne.

“Is this the way it ends?” I asked. I was not afraid of dying. I had a pang of guilt that my mother would freak out when I did not show up.

“Enjoy the ride,” came the answer.

I relaxed. The last fifteen feet was free fall and I hit hard. But my pack broke my fall and I landed in two feet of soft mud and sand. Unfortunately my left foot landed on a rock. I looked up the cliff and was amazed. I had not only survived a dangerous fall but had emerged relatively unscathed. “Thank you, God. That was quite a ride.” My foot hurt but was not broken. I think the heel bone was bruised. Walking was not an option. I set up camp. I had water, the canyon was magnificent and there was a little beach on which to sit, meditate and do yoga. I figured after 3 days I would be able to limp out.

I meditated, chanted, did some intense yoga and breathing. I drank lots of water, built a fire in the evenings and cooked a bowl of mung beans and rice. I wanted to see if I could invoke the spiritual experiences of my previous chemically enhanced outings, using only yoga. I spent a lot of time watching the stream.

When I limped down the canyon to meet my mother I knew a couple of things I did not know before. Yoga was not a quick fix. Reaching any state of advanced spiritual consciousness would take time, maybe years, maybe lifetimes. It would be hard work, along the way there may be tumbles and bumps, maybe even some dangerous falls, but if I kept up my practice, had faith, I would eventually reach my goal and it would be quite a ride.

It was a significant change in my approach to spirituality. Instead of the immediate gratification with which I attended yoga classes I was beginning to see my spiritual development as a long term process. It would require commitment. If I kept up, it would eventually encompass every aspect of my life. Possibly, if I allowed it, it would even encompass my idea of who I was.

As I waited for my mother, I sent up a prayer of thanks. It had been an eventful three days. I was grateful that I was alive. I was grateful for the little insights into who I was and what I had to do. I was grateful for a spiritual practice that offered the possibility of real spiritual growth.

Soon our Kundalini Yoga classes moved to a local park as the spring weather warmed the dry desert air. Classes attracted larger and larger groups until we often had fifty people at a class. Dawson and Karen left for their home in Santa Fe with an open invitation to all of us to come and live with them at their ashram-teacher training center in the hills outside of the city. I wanted to go right then but had to wait until my University classes finished in May.

I had reservations about Patrick taking over the classes. He was reserved, sort of introspective and did not have vast knowledge of yoga that Dawson had. Nor did I feel I could not talk to him as comfortably. Bottom line, he was not Dawson. But as soon as Patrick chanted Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, personality ended. His voice subtly changed, took on more authority and a beautiful class came through. I never thought about it again. He was the teacher. It made me appreciate that being a teacher was just opening to the flow and becoming a channel. It had nothing to do with personality.
-- Chapter Six is next.

      

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