Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement.
Charles M. Schulz
Oh, to be a dog. So simple. Eat, sleep, poop, run, wag tail, bark, sleep, repeat. I used to feel guilty about leaving my dogs, worrying they had such boring lives. Then I came to realize, (epiphany!) that they are wired a little differently than we are. Our brains are much more sophisticated, complex and whirling, going a million miles a minute. Animals, not so much. They live by instinct.
A few months ago, I overheard my daughter talking to our dog. She was rubbing him and nuzzling her face in his saying, “Oh, you are just a little love, aren’t you. And that’s the whole reason you were put on this planet, to love. Because you are such a little lover.”
I loved hearing that. And, it’s so true. These animals live from their hearts, unapologetically. No need for guided meditations or mantras to get out of their heads. They simply don’t have the capacity we humans have, for better or worse.
Eckhart Tolle says, “I have lived with several zen masters – all of them cats.”
And Jesus, in Matthew 6:25 says,
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
Oh, to be bird-brained. Such simple-mindedness sounds appealing sometimes. Problem is, we humans are not wired that way. We have complex brains that we have abused by overcharging and burnout. Easier said than done to just turn things off, drop down into our hearts, and live like a bunch of instinctual (and loving) animals.
We a have few more responsibilities than birds and puppies. The malfunctioning SubZero, the emissions test, the distressed teenagers. Oops, I just dropped my iPhone. The doctor said something about an irregularity.
We have the complexity to deal with crisis and the capacity to create it.
Buddhists use the term “householders” to describe what we are when we aren’t a monk (when we aren’t dedicating our whole day to meditation because we have just a few responsibilities getting in the way of cultivating our spiritual selves).
Kundalini yoga is an ancient tradition that Yogi Bhajan brought to the west in the ’70s for householders. It was transformative for a hippie generation, many of whom suffered from addiction. Look it up and you’ll find plenty of intense and intimidating information, complete with Sikhs in white turbans and language about serpent energy that is unleashed from your spine. You’ll also find its fascinating conjunction with breath and energy work found in other ancient traditions.
Here’s my simplified explanation and understanding: there are kriyas, which are short practices we can incorporate into sitting meditation. These are short, transformative exercises based in science (and consistent with Chinese & Japanese medicine) that stimulate breath patterns and energy channels. I was introduced to it by Kartar Khalsa, the adorably sweet and unforgettable teacher in the video below. His website his chock-full of information and explanations.
Kartar charged my group with a 40-day challenge, one kriya a day. It made a huge difference in my life and has stuck as one of the “many ways” I meditate. Now, when I have “monkey mind,” which is often, I’ll commit six or seven minutes to one of these exercises and follow with a 10-minute sit. The practice clears my mind and preps me for better meditation.
Below, find a video of a short kriya for focus and a link for the “Healthy Am I, Happy Am I, Holy Am I” kriya. For the “3H Kriya,” eleven minutes is suggested. I often find myself doing it for about five.
Play with these. Pick one and try it for the remainder of the week, but be easy on yourself. Five minutes of a kriya, then five (or more) minutes sitting quietly afterward. Live in the classroom of your mind and see if it makes a sitting mediation easier.
Be open. There are many ways.