To wake or not to wake: Summer Solstice Sadhana in NM

Here is a cool article that someone wrote about their experience of waking up in the early morning and participating in the daily sadhana at the Summer Solstice event that happens every year here in beautiful New Mexico. If you have been thinking about coming it’s definitely not too early to start planning! Join us June 19 – 28, 2008 and participate in this awesome event that is sure to give you a totally new experience, along with many familiar ones! (If you plan on coming let me know :) 

 By Tommy Rosen (Bhagat Singh)

It is 2:45 a.m. during the week of Summer Solstice in the mountains outside of Espanola, New Mexico, and I am awake in a tent watching my wife, Kia, sleep for a few moments longer.  This is the third year that we have come to this powerful land with well over a thousand people, Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, from all over the world.

Any minute now, a man with a long, white beard, wearing a turban and playing a guitar, will walk every inch of this land repeating his early morning wake-up song, “Rise Up,” at the top of his lungs.

 

This wee-hour minstrel is Guru Singh, one of Yogi Bhajan’s first students and teacher of Kundalini Yoga.  It just so happens he is also a talented musician who sings with a kind of soulful infectiousness that ruins almost anyone’s chances of actually staying in bed.  I’m so tired it hurts, but to roll back to sleep carries with it a feeling that I will miss something important.  I know I have to get up.

Kia and I take the three-minute walk down to the Tantric shelter, an open-air structure where sadhana (morning practice) takes place.  It would be pitch black if not for the incredible blanket of stars that extends from horizon to horizon in every direction.  People walk silently in reverence to the sanctity of this special time of day known as the Amrit Vela, or ambrosial hours.  I gawk awe-struck at the stars as if I’ve never seen them before.  Something begins to happen.

We enter the shelter and sit down with our yoga mats, meditation pillows, sleeping bags, and shawls to wrap around us in the chill of the early morning.  The space fills up quickly from 3:30-3:45 until there are about a thousand people.  A light illuminates the stage where a man and woman sit and recite Japji, one of the daily prayers of the Sikhs, and which begins morning sadhana.  This twenty minute long hymn is sung in Gurmukhi.  I do not know what they are saying, nonetheless, the recitation is beautiful and there is a power to the tone of it.  Simply put, it feels great to be seated upright on my meditation pillow next to Kia surrounded by a thousand people all meditating in the middle of the night to ancient words I cannot understand.  This is a total departure from anything I grew up with in terms of culture, education, or spirituality.  And yet here I am.

 

When Japji is completed, the lights are dimmed as a teacher takes the stage to lead us through this day’s Kundalini Yoga set.  You never know what you are going to get in Kundalini Yoga.  There are thousands of individual Kriyas (specific sequences of exercises), each with a unique purpose and rhythm.  Today’s Kriya is challenging both mentally and physically.  I remember Yogi Bhajan’s words: “Keep up and you’ll be kept up.” Everyone is moving according to their body’s abilities, some quickly, some slowly, some perhaps more awkwardly than others, but we are all keeping up.  I feel deeply connected with everyone here.

Meanwhile outside, with each passing second, the world is perceptibly changing as the night transforms itself into day.

I know this happens every twenty-four hours, but I never really make the time to observe it, certainly not like this.  The Yoga set lasts an hour.  I am feeling a hum through my body, slightly electric, quite lovely.  I feel alive.

It is now time for the ‘call of the day.’ We chant Ek Ong Kar, Sat Nam Siri, Wahe Guru for seven minutes.  The sky has left its purple pre-dawn glow and we are into oranges and yellows. The sun is not far below the horizon.  With the completion of this chant, we come to the final part of our sadhana: a full-blown devotional concert!

A multi-piece band takes the stage and we spend the next fifty-five minutes singing six different chants.  Today’s instrumentation includes drums, tabla, guitars, harmonium, and the angelic voice of Nirinjan Kaur.  This is not some shabby band with second-rate chops.  These folks are proficient musicians bringing the highest vibe imaginable to the Tantric shelter at 5:00 a.m.!  The purity of it is disarming to the point where I just start laughing.  Then I look over at my wife and notice the tears pouring down her cheeks.  We are so blessed.

At 6:15 a.m. the final chant is completed.  We are now in full daylight and the sun is on the rise.  Kia and I gather our things and make our way back to our tent to prepare for the day.  It seems as if there is a lot of time and space to do what this day will require of me.  At every level of my being I feel calm.

Remembering back to the tent this morning, it dawns on me that I might have stayed in bed and missed this.  I look to the sky and say, “Thank you.”

Tommy Rosen (Bhagat Singh) lives in Venice, California with his wife, Kia, a yoga teacher and filmmaker.  Tommy produced The Eco Gift Expo, a holiday gift show for eco-conscious people at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, in December 2007 and will be expanding the concept to other cities in 2008.  Http://www.ecogift.com Tommy and Kia are jointly producing a documentary on the life, legacy, and magic of Yogi Bhajan called In the Eyes of My Teacher, which will be finished in July of 2008. (Article courtesy of Yogi Times Magazine September issue 2007 Yogitimes.Com)