Winter Solstice Sadhana: A Celebration of the
BY BETSY COHN
Imagine a sea of ambulatory, crisp, white figures further brightened by the Florida sunshine and their contrast against the green expanse of grass, with more white sprinkled throughout, this time stationary tents named for the five elements or tattvas: earth, fire, water, air, and ether.
Imagine amidst those five constants, hundreds of fluid selves shifting in unexpected ways, paradoxically more personal and certainly more amplified by being one united in so many.
Imagine a week of pure kindness and brave, deep connections between friends and between strangers, eye to eye and defenseless one day, and then the next, and then the next.
Imagine all of that and more and you will have my experience of 3HO's Winter Solstice Sadhana Celebration.
As is true of so much else spiritually transformative, I found my way to this solstice event through Katherine. After the last morning sadhana of her October weekend retreat, she spoke about this event with such feeling that when I got back to my room, I texted her to see whether I could tag along with her and, as Katherine once called her, her spiritual sister, Kelly Haskee. My text began, "I'm not sure if I really mean this, but would you considerâ€¦," and when they said yes, I took the leap, sure that I wanted to go but nervous about the unknown. That nerves didn't win out was itself a moment of grace.
After a couple of days of yoga classes (I never thought I'd do three Kundalini classes in one day!) and workshops, the main event began: three full days of White Tantric Yoga, paired meditations with mudras that created powerful connections between partners.
Guided by the words and legacy of Yogi Bhajan, each morning, we did two 62-minute meditations followed by one 31-minute meditation, and then did the same each afternoon. Some were chanted and some were silent, some were open-eyed and some were closed; all were magical.
From the first meditation, looking straight into Kelly's eyes and finding my quiet center, I felt like I'd come home.
I was in a space that honored quietness, focus, and introspection, personal traits that often seem to put me on the outside looking in. I found it easy to be in that intimate space, even the next day with a stranger; I trusted it, and it is what sustained me through some not-so-easy mudras! That I used to find Katherine's three-minute breath of fire difficult and now held my arms parallel to the ground, hands turned up 90 degrees to face my partner's, for 62 minutes, made me smile.
To say that the intimate connections felt easy to me is not to say that they didn't shake me up.
In one morning, I went from a meditation that made me cry to one that sent me into tear-ridden laughter that I couldn't stop, both forms of release I was told. I watched Kelly's forehead transform into a circle of brilliant, pulsating light, which she said was my third eye reflected back to me.
Faith is a choice, and I chose to believe that over an optical illusion. I met up with some of my most painful beliefs and behaviors as spaces deep in my heart split open and I couldn't run. I risked speaking of them, my truths, to Katherine and Kelly and found only love and support. I started, in tiny steps that felt like huge strides, to shift. I found a direction.
The day after I got home, I purposefully interacted only with my dog, protective of the spiritual bubble that had formed around me. But, as Katherine often tells us, yoga is not what we do on the mat; it's how we carry that energy and light out into the world. I hope to do so well.
I read about the tattvas that our choice is not whether to possess all five, as that's the human experience; our choice is which we will channel our energies to the most.
This lesson of Kundalini Yoga becomes a little clearer to me with every experience, and I couldn't be more grateful for it and for all that has gotten me to it. Especially Katherine.
Betsy Cohn teaches English full-time at Henry Ford Community College, where she lists her rescue dog, Rosie the Rambunctious, as her teaching assistant; Rosie thinks down-dog was invented to make licking faces easier and thinks the point of everything is to laugh. Both Rosie and yoga have been teaching Betsy well. Betsy's latest milestone: receiving her spiritual name, Atma Nam Kaur, which she hopes to identify with more over time!