Kundalini Yoga to Dissolve the Barriers of Fear

March 12, 2021

Each of us has amazing potential for creating health, happiness, love, and a life of fulfillment. Deep in our hearts, we know we have the ability to activate and generate a life of our highest calling. The question is: Are we allowing the magnificent brightness of our true selves to shine, or are we hiding the radiance we were born with? Just as a diamond needs light to sparkle, our own true self needs the release of its inner light to be fulfilled.

This book is about clearing our energetic restrictions so our true selves shine as wonderfully as they can, in accord with our natural, inherent ability. The ancient practices of kundalini yoga are incredibly effective tools in this modern age for activating the elusive, hidden release of magnetism we are born with. The exercises open up energy pathways within our body, so we can experience vibrant health, abundance, love, empathy, intuition, and an expanded sense of connection with others.

Many people are experiencing a tangible soul-level drive for self-actualization. It feels like a voice deeply connected with the center of our being that is waiting to be heard. But although we feel it calling inside, we suppress it with self-limiting beliefs, and our unique brilliance remains hidden beneath layers of politeness and emotional armor. We may distract ourselves with our busy lives, stifle our yearnings, and go to sleep feeling so unfulfilled night after night that we become used to it. There are a hundred ways to hide the sensitive, beautiful nature of who we are.

In this era, many of us are noticing an inner voice persistently reminding us to leave behind our fears and step into the magnificence that we naturally possess. And the urging, calling, and whispering of this inner voice can no longer be ignored. If you have picked up this book, chances are that you are hearing it yourself.

The Secret Yoga of Energy

Kundalini yoga is an ancient, time-tested system of exercise and meditation that boosts our energy, synchronizes the impulses of our nervous system, releases energetic blockages, balances our hormones, and uplifts our attitude to allow the pure radiance of our authentic self to shine. While other branches of yoga focus primarily on physical postures, kundalini yoga focuses on how the postures alter our energy and mind-set. Postures, movement, breathing, meditation, mantras, and lifestyle come together to bring about remarkable transformations of personal energy. The term kundalini refers to the concentrated living energy that opens up our potential. It is an energy that is dormant yet calls us to be awakened within. Once activated, it permeates us, energizes our cells to bring health and vitality, and connects our consciousness with the infinite. The techniques of kundalini yoga were developed over the course of thousands of years and are highly effective tools for opening up our energy pathways so the right amount of energy at the right frequency can flow smoothly through our entire being.

Kundalini yoga works on the principle that our physical body and our energy move hand in hand. What we do with our body has a parallel effect on our energy, and, likewise, what we do with our energy has a parallel effect on our body. For example, tightness in our hamstrings is actually a blockage in the energy that otherwise would be flowing through that area of our body. We call that tightness an opacity because it is blocking the flow of inner light. Using the ancient techniques of kundalini yoga to stretch the muscle or move a limb through the energy field that surrounds our body, we can release the corresponding blocked-up energy. Our inner light can then start flowing into an area where it was restricted before. The resulting effect on our body and mind is absolutely profound.

Not only does the muscle itself become more limber, but our consciousness shifts, our mind becomes clearer, and the new energy optimizes our functioning at the genetic level. As the light flows through our energy field, our awareness comes alive. Our energy level soars, and, like a flower emerging from the soil after a long, cold winter, we feel alive and hopeful.

Kundalini yoga was kept secret in India for thousands of years, taught only to devotees who were deemed worthy. In the 1960s, Yogi Bhajan moved from his home country of India to the United States. He began teaching kundalini yoga as a technology for self-improvement, and it quickly became popular. He authored more than thirty books and traveled extensively, teaching kundalini yoga around the globe until his passing in 2004. The authors have studied kundalini yoga extensively. In this book, for historical accuracy, we have sourced the exercises so you can see whether an exercise was taught by Yogi Bhajan, is a classic from the ages, or is a visualization we bring to help explain a topic.

The Kundalini Spirit

Practicing kundalini yoga often results in a natural sensation of oneness with a universal force greater than our limited sense of self. Yet kundalini yoga is not a religion, can be practiced by anyone with any spiritual belief, and does not require any particular spiritual philosophy. It is typical for the practices to enhance one’s feelings of spirituality, whether you belong to a formal religion or not. Flashes of insight, cosmic breakthroughs, tears of joy, and sobs of surrender are normal occurrences when the wondrous flood of our own energy is finally allowed to emerge through the layers of shielding we have put up all our lives. We encourage you to allow yourself to be swept up in the gift of spiritual experience rather than resisting out of fear. In fact, it is high time to give up the fear of your own brightness. Throughout this book, we use the terms God, the infinite, spirit source, and the universe to reflect the oneness of universal spirit in kundalini yoga. However, these are simply terms, and you are invited to carry the sense of spirit that works for you from this book into your life while leaving the rest behind.

You Are Invited

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

ANAÏS NIN

We all have a choice: to access the core of light that our soul has been yearning to express, opening our inner passages to allow our luminescence fully into our life, or to hide our unique way of shining behind a facade of social acceptance that we often have spent many years building. When we make the choice to uncover our true self, kundalini yoga provides exceptional tools to help us. If we practice with courage, vulnerability, and dedication, we are able to entertain a calm, centered power far beyond the ordinary. 

We are inviting you to follow the path of least resistance—the path of flow. By removing energetic blocks and aligning our personal authenticity with the grace of the universe, we take the first step on the path of miracles. We invite you to begin your journey into the light of your own being.

Courage to Shine

If we honestly ask ourselves what in our day-to-day life prevents us from expressing the pure love at the core of our being, the answer is always fear. We hide our true selves to fit in, to be polite, and to avoid offending anyone. Rather than encouraging ourselves to transform, we find comfort in conforming to a world that is struggling. To break free of our challenges, we must be willing to live in our authentic expression of truth. This is our “Sat Nam,” the genuine truth of our manifestation vibrating at its highest frequency.

We are a new creation. All of us. It may be beyond our state of comprehension to acknowledge this in our minds, but our hearts know this truth. We are glowing and growing as a species, and it is essential that we do not fall back into entrenched patterns of fear. The inner light we tap into in quiet moments of connection to the soul is a reminder of the love the universe feels for us. Sometimes all we need is a few minutes to bring ourselves back into the quiet connection.

Kundalini Yoga to Dissolve the Barriers of Fear

Most of the things we fear are not real. Most of the things we fear never in fact happen. Fear is an emotion that gets stuck in the mind and resonates in our aura. It stimulates our sympathetic nervous system to go on high alert, and this takes a long time to settle back out of. The response to fear is hardwired into us from our cave person evolution, but the calling of the modern age is how to be courageous in living our truth as spiritual beings while we still carry the genes for survival from tiger attacks in every cell of our body.

The following set is a quick and potent one that works on releasing accumulated effects of fear that constrict the flow of energy through the life nerve, vagus nerve, and aura. It helps shake off the energetic debris that holds us back from living to our highest, fullest potential.

1 Lie on your back. Lift your left leg up in the air and shake it vigorously for one to three minutes. Lower it down. Lift the right leg up and shake it vigorously for the same length of time.

kundalini step 1

2 Come up to a seated position. Reach your arms up to sixty degrees on either side of your head, creating a V shape. Open your palms toward the sky and flop the hands open from the wrists. Breathe deeply and gaze at the tip of your nose. Feel yourself receiving the light of the divine while you surrender any barriers you hold inside. Let go. Continue for three minutes.

3 Bring your arms down, breathe gently, and relax. Feel yourself opening and allowing the full magnificence of your soul to shine.

step 2 and 3

This is an excerpt from Essential Kundalini Yoga: An Invitation to Radiant Health, Unconditional Love, and the Awakening of Your Energetic Potential by Karena Virginia and Dharm Khalsa.

 

bio photoKarena Virginia is a certified healer and registered yoga instructor who has taught in the Kundalini and Hatha schools for nearly 20 years. Before her career as a spiritual teacher, she worked in the entertainment industry as an actor and model. Karena’s work encourages us to connect with our own personal truth through love, compassion, inner beauty, and radiance.

 

 

 

 

 

bio photo 2Dharm Khalsa is a board member of the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, the nonprofit overseeing kundalini yoga in the US since founder Yogi Bhajan’s passing. Trained directly by Yogi Bhajan, for whom he was a personal assistant for eight years, Dharm has taught kundalini yoga since 1980. He lives in New Mexico.

 

 

 

book cover

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Bookshop

Dharm Khalsa

Karena Virginia

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Karena Virginia is a certified healer and registered yoga instructor who has taught in the Kundalini and Hatha schools for nearly 20 years. Before her career as a spiritual teacher, she worked in the entertainment industry as an actor and model. Karena’s work encourages us to connect with our own personal truth through love, compassion, inner beauty, and radiance.

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interview with Karena Virginia:
Tapping into the Light: Essential Kundalini Yoga »

Also By Author

Kundalini Yoga to Dissolve the Barriers of Fear

Each of us has amazing potential for creating health, happiness, love, and a life of fulfillment. Deep in our hearts, we know we have the ability to activate and generate a life of our highest calling. The question is: Are we allowing the magnificent brightness of our true selves to shine, or are we hiding the radiance we were born with? Just as a diamond needs light to sparkle, our own true self needs the release of its inner light to be fulfilled.

This book is about clearing our energetic restrictions so our true selves shine as wonderfully as they can, in accord with our natural, inherent ability. The ancient practices of kundalini yoga are incredibly effective tools in this modern age for activating the elusive, hidden release of magnetism we are born with. The exercises open up energy pathways within our body, so we can experience vibrant health, abundance, love, empathy, intuition, and an expanded sense of connection with others.

Many people are experiencing a tangible soul-level drive for self-actualization. It feels like a voice deeply connected with the center of our being that is waiting to be heard. But although we feel it calling inside, we suppress it with self-limiting beliefs, and our unique brilliance remains hidden beneath layers of politeness and emotional armor. We may distract ourselves with our busy lives, stifle our yearnings, and go to sleep feeling so unfulfilled night after night that we become used to it. There are a hundred ways to hide the sensitive, beautiful nature of who we are.

In this era, many of us are noticing an inner voice persistently reminding us to leave behind our fears and step into the magnificence that we naturally possess. And the urging, calling, and whispering of this inner voice can no longer be ignored. If you have picked up this book, chances are that you are hearing it yourself.

The Secret Yoga of Energy

Kundalini yoga is an ancient, time-tested system of exercise and meditation that boosts our energy, synchronizes the impulses of our nervous system, releases energetic blockages, balances our hormones, and uplifts our attitude to allow the pure radiance of our authentic self to shine. While other branches of yoga focus primarily on physical postures, kundalini yoga focuses on how the postures alter our energy and mind-set. Postures, movement, breathing, meditation, mantras, and lifestyle come together to bring about remarkable transformations of personal energy. The term kundalini refers to the concentrated living energy that opens up our potential. It is an energy that is dormant yet calls us to be awakened within. Once activated, it permeates us, energizes our cells to bring health and vitality, and connects our consciousness with the infinite. The techniques of kundalini yoga were developed over the course of thousands of years and are highly effective tools for opening up our energy pathways so the right amount of energy at the right frequency can flow smoothly through our entire being.

Kundalini yoga works on the principle that our physical body and our energy move hand in hand. What we do with our body has a parallel effect on our energy, and, likewise, what we do with our energy has a parallel effect on our body. For example, tightness in our hamstrings is actually a blockage in the energy that otherwise would be flowing through that area of our body. We call that tightness an opacity because it is blocking the flow of inner light. Using the ancient techniques of kundalini yoga to stretch the muscle or move a limb through the energy field that surrounds our body, we can release the corresponding blocked-up energy. Our inner light can then start flowing into an area where it was restricted before. The resulting effect on our body and mind is absolutely profound.

Not only does the muscle itself become more limber, but our consciousness shifts, our mind becomes clearer, and the new energy optimizes our functioning at the genetic level. As the light flows through our energy field, our awareness comes alive. Our energy level soars, and, like a flower emerging from the soil after a long, cold winter, we feel alive and hopeful.

Kundalini yoga was kept secret in India for thousands of years, taught only to devotees who were deemed worthy. In the 1960s, Yogi Bhajan moved from his home country of India to the United States. He began teaching kundalini yoga as a technology for self-improvement, and it quickly became popular. He authored more than thirty books and traveled extensively, teaching kundalini yoga around the globe until his passing in 2004. The authors have studied kundalini yoga extensively. In this book, for historical accuracy, we have sourced the exercises so you can see whether an exercise was taught by Yogi Bhajan, is a classic from the ages, or is a visualization we bring to help explain a topic.

The Kundalini Spirit

Practicing kundalini yoga often results in a natural sensation of oneness with a universal force greater than our limited sense of self. Yet kundalini yoga is not a religion, can be practiced by anyone with any spiritual belief, and does not require any particular spiritual philosophy. It is typical for the practices to enhance one’s feelings of spirituality, whether you belong to a formal religion or not. Flashes of insight, cosmic breakthroughs, tears of joy, and sobs of surrender are normal occurrences when the wondrous flood of our own energy is finally allowed to emerge through the layers of shielding we have put up all our lives. We encourage you to allow yourself to be swept up in the gift of spiritual experience rather than resisting out of fear. In fact, it is high time to give up the fear of your own brightness. Throughout this book, we use the terms God, the infinite, spirit source, and the universe to reflect the oneness of universal spirit in kundalini yoga. However, these are simply terms, and you are invited to carry the sense of spirit that works for you from this book into your life while leaving the rest behind.

You Are Invited

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

ANAÏS NIN

We all have a choice: to access the core of light that our soul has been yearning to express, opening our inner passages to allow our luminescence fully into our life, or to hide our unique way of shining behind a facade of social acceptance that we often have spent many years building. When we make the choice to uncover our true self, kundalini yoga provides exceptional tools to help us. If we practice with courage, vulnerability, and dedication, we are able to entertain a calm, centered power far beyond the ordinary. 

We are inviting you to follow the path of least resistance—the path of flow. By removing energetic blocks and aligning our personal authenticity with the grace of the universe, we take the first step on the path of miracles. We invite you to begin your journey into the light of your own being.

Courage to Shine

If we honestly ask ourselves what in our day-to-day life prevents us from expressing the pure love at the core of our being, the answer is always fear. We hide our true selves to fit in, to be polite, and to avoid offending anyone. Rather than encouraging ourselves to transform, we find comfort in conforming to a world that is struggling. To break free of our challenges, we must be willing to live in our authentic expression of truth. This is our “Sat Nam,” the genuine truth of our manifestation vibrating at its highest frequency.

We are a new creation. All of us. It may be beyond our state of comprehension to acknowledge this in our minds, but our hearts know this truth. We are glowing and growing as a species, and it is essential that we do not fall back into entrenched patterns of fear. The inner light we tap into in quiet moments of connection to the soul is a reminder of the love the universe feels for us. Sometimes all we need is a few minutes to bring ourselves back into the quiet connection.

Kundalini Yoga to Dissolve the Barriers of Fear

Most of the things we fear are not real. Most of the things we fear never in fact happen. Fear is an emotion that gets stuck in the mind and resonates in our aura. It stimulates our sympathetic nervous system to go on high alert, and this takes a long time to settle back out of. The response to fear is hardwired into us from our cave person evolution, but the calling of the modern age is how to be courageous in living our truth as spiritual beings while we still carry the genes for survival from tiger attacks in every cell of our body.

The following set is a quick and potent one that works on releasing accumulated effects of fear that constrict the flow of energy through the life nerve, vagus nerve, and aura. It helps shake off the energetic debris that holds us back from living to our highest, fullest potential.

1 Lie on your back. Lift your left leg up in the air and shake it vigorously for one to three minutes. Lower it down. Lift the right leg up and shake it vigorously for the same length of time.

kundalini step 1

2 Come up to a seated position. Reach your arms up to sixty degrees on either side of your head, creating a V shape. Open your palms toward the sky and flop the hands open from the wrists. Breathe deeply and gaze at the tip of your nose. Feel yourself receiving the light of the divine while you surrender any barriers you hold inside. Let go. Continue for three minutes.

3 Bring your arms down, breathe gently, and relax. Feel yourself opening and allowing the full magnificence of your soul to shine.

step 2 and 3

This is an excerpt from Essential Kundalini Yoga: An Invitation to Radiant Health, Unconditional Love, and the Awakening of Your Energetic Potential by Karena Virginia and Dharm Khalsa.

 

bio photoKarena Virginia is a certified healer and registered yoga instructor who has taught in the Kundalini and Hatha schools for nearly 20 years. Before her career as a spiritual teacher, she worked in the entertainment industry as an actor and model. Karena’s work encourages us to connect with our own personal truth through love, compassion, inner beauty, and radiance.

 

 

 

 

 

bio photo 2Dharm Khalsa is a board member of the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, the nonprofit overseeing kundalini yoga in the US since founder Yogi Bhajan’s passing. Trained directly by Yogi Bhajan, for whom he was a personal assistant for eight years, Dharm has taught kundalini yoga since 1980. He lives in New Mexico.

 

 

 

book cover

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Bookshop

Embrace the Hustle & Bustle with this “Shake it...

Sometimes life is complicated, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. We may be able to cope with everyday stresses, but when we have multiple traumatic events happening at once, we can feel frozen by fear and uncertainty, stuck in our painful circumstances. We may feel victimized and incapable of making a move. As our modern age speeds up, this feeling can intensify to the point that we make ourselves sick. What can we do when we feel so confused and empty that we become immobilized and exhausted?

This kundalini meditation is designed to help center your consciousness and channel all your confusion out of your psyche. You give your feelings of uncertainty, pain, and blame to the universe and replace them with the pure, clear light of your soul, accessing what was actually there all along.

 

  1. Sit up with your spine straight. Center yourself with your breath.
  2. Interlace your fingers in front of your heart with the index fingers pressed together pointing up.  Close your eyes, focusing internally on the third eye point.
  3. Begin chanting the mantra “Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Jio” (pronounced “wah-hey guh-roo, wah-hey guh-roo, wah-hey guh-roo, wah-hey jee-oh”). Our translation of this mantra is: “As in amazement, here and now, all darkness is transformed to illuminating light in my soul.” Practice doing this chant with the following visualization:
    • On the syllable of “wah,” feel the sound vibrating at your navel.
    • On the syllable of “hey,” feel the sound vibrating at your heart.
    • On the syllables of “gur-roo” and “jee-oh,” feel the sounds vibrating at your lips.
  4. Continue chanting the mantra for up to 11 minutes.
  5. Inhale deeply and hold your breath in. Feel the echo of the sounds still vibrating in your navel, heart, and lips. Suspend your breath for as long as you comfortably can and then exhale very consciously.
  6. Inhale a second time and again suspend your breath. Release the feeling of being trapped by circumstances. Surrender it to the universe. Surrender your pain and feelings of blame. Release your stress and your uncertainty. Give it all to God. Hold the breath for as long as you comfortably can and then exhale, still holding your concentration.
  7. Inhale a third time and give your life to God. Surrender. Whatever God means to you, offer your existence to that. Allow yourself to feel the purification this action creates in your psyche. When you are ready, exhale and sit for a while with the whole experience of this powerful meditation.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Excerpted from Essential Kundalini Yoga by Karena Virginia & Dharm Khalsa.

Karena Virginia brings 20 years of experience as a certified healer and registered instructor in the kundalini and hatha schools. Before her teaching career, she worked in the entertainment industry as an actress and model. She lives in the New York City area. For more information, visit karenavirginia.com.

 

Dharm Khalsa is a board member of the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, the nonprofit overseeing kundalini yoga in the US since founder Yogi Bhajan’s passing. Trained directly by Yogi Bhajan, for whom he was a personal assistant for nearly a decade, Dharm has taught kundalini yoga since 1980. He lives in New Mexico.

Yoga for Activating the Heart

Dear friends,

Are you feeling it? Our planet is going through a major energetic shift. People all over the world are feeling called in a new way to align their deepest soul callings with their external lives. There is a global energetic shift contributing to both a magnificent spiritual longing as well as a lack of ease, and the everyday stresses of modern life—along with changes in the Earth’s electromagnetic field—can make us feel strangely separate from our own authenticity. It can feel like standing on the shore of a whitewater river, looking across to the calm green peace on the other side, and wondering how to get back over there. We know there is something genuine that we are missing, but we need a bridge over the separation to return to our own peaceful heart.

We are all spiritual beings expanding into the vastness of our potential. The connection to our heart is a reminder that we are so much more than our bodies and minds. The stillness is where the miracles come through us, and the chaos is the distraction. How do we return to the silence of the heart that gently guides us towards our destiny?

We have found an effective bridge in the simple techniques from Kundalini Yoga. In our new book, Essential Kundalini Yoga: An Invitation to Radiant Health, Unconditional Love, and the Awakening of our Energetic Potential, we explain how to use ancient tools from the Himalayas to shift the frequency of our prana, our inner energy, our bio-magnetic field, and our nervous system so we can align with our highest calling. These tools allow the beautiful energy of your own highest self to be directly accessed and the stillness of your heart to guide you. This form of yoga helps to clear energetic blocks and resistances so our natural brilliance can flow into our body and into our lives from the inside out.

Our goal in writing this book was to present deep concepts in a way that would be accessible, demystified, and easy to follow. We envisioned that the layout could evoke a sense of peace and depth. We wanted to get past the rigmarole and provide clear instructions so you can get to work actualizing the truth of your own vibration, and allow the beautiful shine of you to expand into your life.

YOGA FOR ACTIVATING THE HEART

Here is an example of a very effective exercise that can help you reduce stress and bring you back to your heart center at any time during your day. It works in a very short amount of time.

 

  1. Sit up straight, either cross-legged or in a chair. If in a chair, sit forward closer to the front of the chair so you do not lean back.
  2. Hook the fingers of both hands together in front of your chest and pull your elbows steadily and strongly to the sides.
  3. Close your eyes and inhale very slowly. Keep pulling on the grip. Breathe deeply into your abdomen. Exhale slowly as well.
  4. Imagine that with each breath you are drawing in light through the top of your head.
  5. Continue breathing long, deep breaths while pulling side to side for three minutes.
  6. To finish, inhale deeply, hold the breath, and shift your hands to push your palms firmly together, pressing as hard as you can. Focus your attention on the top of your head. Exhale and repeat two more times.
  7. Release your palms, place them on your knees facing up, and take time to connect with your breathing.

Inside each of us is a core of pure love. There is not a soul on Earth who is not feeling the effects of this shift in one way or another. Yet, through it all, our core energetic state is love. We truly believe this book can help navigate your journey back into love, hope, and miracles.

We thank you for being a part of this evolution. May you feel the light of love and the many blessings that are with you always.

 

With our love always,

Karena Virginia and Dharm Khalsa

 

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Perry Garfinkel: Experimenting with Becoming Gandhi

In a confessional reflection on writing his new book, Becoming Gandhi, acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Perry Garfinkel says, “It was so difficult I almost gave up twice. I thought, ‘I can’t write this book. It’s too big a subject. Who am I to try to become Gandhi?’” Garfinkel persevered, and in this podcast Tami Simon speaks with him about what he discovered along the journey—and how practicing (not perfecting) six universal principles of the Mahatma can transform each one of us. 

Tune in to this highly aspirational yet very down-to-earth conversation on the poignance of the human condition and the elixir of laughter; the Tao of Gandhi; satyagraha, an insistence on and holding firm to the truth; considering “how to Gandhi” a situation you’re faced with; the notion of “good enough”; nonviolence in thought, word, and deed; the connection between words and feelings, and the step-by-step process of personal transformation; simplicity; faith as the driver of our moral compass; celibacy and making love; Gandhi’s life as his message—and making peace with his imperfections; and more.

What does it take to “Be the change you want to see ...

Excerpted from Becoming Gandhi: My Experiment Living the Mahatma’s 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times by Perry Garfinkel.

Let the Journey Begin

By reading this preface, you have just joined what will hopefully be the experiment of a lifetime that will change both of our lives.

Let me set the ground rules, parameters, frameworks, timelines, caveats, excuses, permissions, and other details that will help you navigate your way—if not to be Gandhi, then to become a person who leads a more ethical, principled, spiritually and morally based, truth-full life.

As you will read in chapter 1, I first thought to undertake this effort more than a decade ago. It took me another twelve years to build up the confidence, belief in my commitment, and, frankly, the funding to actually begin this arduous journey, both inner and outer, including travel to three countries plus my own US. Little did I know how much it would change me, how many miles I would travel, how many inspirational people I would meet, and how many disappointments I would encounter, both in the world and in myself.

I began to take it seriously in the summer of 2019. That was when I started finding and  contacting knowledgeable sources in each country. As a dogged reporter who prides himself in finding the email and phone number for anyone anywhere in the world, that deep dive, which necessarily required a lot of reading and googling, was a relatively easy and very enjoyable and informative exercise. You may also want to research anything additional to what I write here and experiment with your own ways to follow the six principles. I can’t speak for Gandhi, but you have my wholehearted permission and encouragement to think outside the box and off this page.

The Big Goal here was to see if, in the face of a sociocultural climate that appears bereft of moral integrity, one could follow Gandhi’s moral compass, on the one hand, and on the other, to travel to countries where he spent considerable time to see how much had changed in the years since he left them. In other words, did he leave an enduring footprint that others followed or were Gandhi’s tracks swept away and forgotten by time and human nature? In these times of questionable ethical values, of increased violence and rampant lying, I was prepared to admit such evidence might be hard to find. In fact, one too-current example of the failure of the nonviolent movement, which was one of Gandhi’s primary pillars, is occurring as I’m writing this: CNN is reporting that thirty-nine mass shootings have taken place in the United States in the first three weeks of 2023 alone, killing more than sixty people, per the Gun Violence Archives.

I knew the hard part of this goal would be living these principles day in and day out on a personal level. There would be a lot of inner work, mental adjustments, a veritable paradigmatic shift of attitude. I would have to change my mind in the most fundamental ways. Change my habits, modes of thinking, daily actions.

The ground rules were simple: try to rigorously follow the six principles on a daily basis, keeping them in mind through the day, whether hanging out with friends and family, alone in my apartment, or out there in the world. But also to give myself some slack. If I “fell off the wagon,” I would forgive myself quickly and get right back on it. The latter would happen with frequency, as you will read. But I realized very soon that once engaged in this experiment, even when I fell off, there would be no turning back. Once the veil is lifted, it’s hard not to see the world for what it is, and see yourself for who you are, who you are not, and who you aspire to be.

People started wondering how long this experiment would last and asking me when or if I would drop vegetarianism and return to eating meat as soon as it ended. I had planned to dedicate one full year to this project. It expanded to some eighteen months of strict adherence 

to all of the principles, and even some that Gandhi didn’t consider in the course of things. I admit I slacked after that but, as I said, once you know which way the compass is pointing, you can’t completely turn back; you always return to your true north. You find the balance that suits you best, or at least better than before you started.

I frame this journey and this book around the six principles. Some sources list up to eleven Gandhi principles. I chose only six; already you can call me lazy.

Truth. In practice, truth is simply telling the truth, but Gandhi meant it to mean more. He said, “God is Truth,” later changing it to “Truth is God.” He coined the term satyagraha—loosely translated as “insistence on and holding firm to truth”—as a form of nonviolent resistance. I take this on, first focusing on practicing truth in thoughts, words, and actions, with particular attention to lies I tell myself. I look at how society views truth now.

Nonviolence. Although Gandhi was not the originator of nonviolence, he was the first to apply it as a strategy to move the dial in the direction of justice, as a peaceful weapon to protest social wrongdoings. His motto: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Taking it from the political to the personal, I look at how we all act out psychological violence—in passive-aggressive behaviors, in road rage, in clenched jaws, in couched (and not-so-couched) language—that sabotages our best interests. I myself am guilty: I was once a featured guest on The Phil Donahue Show, speaking about my own passive-aggressive behavior in my previous marriage.

Vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is deeply ingrained in Hindu and Jain traditions, the setting in which Gandhi was raised. In his London years as a law student, he embraced it more seriously to not only satisfy the requirements of the body and his religious beliefs but also to save money by not buying expensive meats. His book The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism, along with articles he wrote for the London Vegetarian Society’s publication, became my personal diet book. I was a meat-and-potatoes kind of kid, just like my father. I became a macrobiotic many years ago, had defaulted to meat in recent years, but an Ayurvedic diet I went on last fall convinced me I need to clean up my eating habits. Don’t we all?

Simplicity. Giving up unnecessary spending is the simple maxim Gandhi had in mind, and because this concept flies in the face of conspicuous consumers on spending sprees in shopping malls, it also has ramifications for our gluttonous nature, which thinks that more of anything automatically provides more satisfaction. But Gandhi also had a political motive in his so-called Swadeshi movement: by making their own clothes using a spinning wheel (charkha), Indians would deal an economic blow to the British establishment in India. These days consumers boycott various brands and stores to protest their company policy, a Gandhian spin. The contemporary “voluntary simplicity movement” draws directly from this Gandhian principle. I will closely examine my spending patterns and make budget slashes. Gandhi called it “reducing himself to zero.”

Faith. Gandhi meant belief in a higher power, no matter what religion. He wrote, “Mine is a broad faith which does not oppose Christians . . . not even the most fanatical Mussalman. I refuse to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds, because I try to see them from his point of view.” It’s the ability to see things from the point of view of someone from another faith that tests the faith of mankind. How are we doing with that? Not so good. The majority of wars in the world are religious wars. My challenge will be to find some balance between my practice of Buddhism, the religion of no God, and Judaism, the religion that invented the One God. I will test the boundaries of my acceptance of faiths I don’t believe in.

Celibacy. Called brahmacharya in Hindi, sexual abstinence was a spiritual path to achieving purity, according to Gandhi, who took the vow of chastity at the age of thirty-eight. Some people question whether Gandhi himself actually adhered to this, with stories and allegations he slept next to teenage girls to test his restraint. Celibacy is not for everyone. Is it for me? I will endeavor to find out, keeping copious notes on my fallings in and out. With my luck, the woman of my dreams will walk into my life and fall in love with me. What will I do . . . or, more precisely, not do?

I never intended this book to be categorized in the how-to or self help genre. I think or hope you can help yourself without my telling you how. Nonetheless, as I made my way around the world, around my mind, and finally around this book, I realized it would be helpful to at least sum up each chapter with what I learned, some tips for your (and my own) benefit. I call these end-of-chapter sections “How to Gandhi.”

With these guidelines and to-dos and with no further ado, here we go. Next stop: becoming the change.

Perry Garfinkel is a veteran journalist, editor, frequent speaker, and author of the bestselling Buddha or Bust. He has contributed to many sections of the New York Times since 1986 and has written for National Geographic magazine, AARP The Magazine, the Huffington Post, the LA Times, and others. He has appeared on CNN and CBS This Morning. He is a frequent guest on WCBS-NY radio’s Health & Well-Being Report.

Tsultrim Allione: Turning Towards What’s Difficu...

What if instead of trying to avoid or attack the people or situations in life that we don’t like, we chose to “invite them all to dinner”? In Tibetan Buddhism, this counterintuitive approach is known as “feeding our demons.” In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Lama Tsultrim Allione about making the choice to turn toward what we usually avoid—and the healing and integration this choice can lead to. 

Give a listen to this inspiring conversation on the need to reclaim the sacred feminine at this time in history; the dakini principle in Tibetan Buddhism; balancing the energies of the masculine and feminine; the courage to stand up to authority; cultivating self-trust; the Great Mother of pure potential; the union of wisdom and skillful means; becoming an emanation of an ever-evolving mind stream; the legendary yogini, Machig Labdrön, and learning to move toward what we usually avoid; the practice of “feeding your demons”; creating wholeness by integrating the shadow; working with grief and loss; and more.

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