Donna Quesada: So, Gurudhan. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here today.
Gurudhan Khalsa: Glad to be here.
DONNA: On a personal note. Full disclosure… You were one of the key teachers in my own spiritual journey… in my Yoga practice. And so, I am proud to have you here. I’m proud to sit with you during this hour with you today and share you with the world.
GURUDHAN: Here I am!
Donna: Here you are indeed. I’m not sure if you know, but we have a traditional way we like to start our interviews. So, we will just dive right into it. What does awakening mean to you?
GURUDHAN: Well, it’s interesting because you gave me a little head start on this… because both you and David sent me that opening question. So actually, it made me pause to think about it… because it’s a pretty broad topic. But I narrowed it down to two things that have been important for me over these last ten years and that I’ve focused on. So, I think that the two factors to awakening has to do with… I don’t want to individualize it to me because it’s a pretty broad arena… what awakens people and what doesn’t awaken people.
So, the two critical factors are the losses in our lives. In my life… The grief that happens from that loss, and many losses, and how you are going to deal with it. There is a book recently written called Bitter or Better, and it’s really grief recovery. How are you going to deal with all that? It really takes the willingness for self-examination and reflection. What are you going to do to come out of these periods that have so much angst? So much pain because of what ever the loss is? And you really have to call on your resilience. Your strength, your courage… all these things.
And how are you going to recover from those blows of loss? Try to stand up tall and live the emotion. And have the living of that emotion actually move you forward into realms of recovery. And if you can get on the other side of it… sometimes you are not going to recover from all that pain. It’s going to sit there. But if that pain can be a motivator for more kindness, more compassion and patience for yourself… it’s actually going to help for me to have more patience, kindness and compassion and tolerance for whatever comes for me. I really think that you can awaken yourself to how you are going to deal with your grief.
DONNA: There is so much there. In my mind I am swimming. It’s exciting because you said so much. And resilience is such an important topic. Just to make sure that I understand and that your response is summarized properly before we continue… Awakening is something like to the degree with which we are able to deal with the losses and the grief and the suffering, which we inevitably encounter here on earth, as a human?
GURUDHAN: Really, just making us a better human. Full, emotionally awake, human.
DONNA: That is interesting because the answers that we usually get to this question generally have to do with the idea of maya, in the Hindu tradition… the idea of overcoming the illusion that the ego presents to us… this false sense of separation. And generally, responses have to do with this, which makes sense… this is kind of the spiritual journey to overcome maya and all of the traditions, not just Hinduism, talk about this… that we have this sense of the self and we think that we are separate. We think that we are so unique, so special, but in reality, we are spirit. What you are saying sounds different than that but is it different than that?
GURUDHAN: No, it’s not because what are the first two losses that we as humans, if we want to stop and reflect… Go back to the very first loss. We are spiritual beings. That is our home visiting the planet Earth. But once we decide to incarnate onto the planet Earth, once again… we are basically leaving our home. That’s a loss. The second loss is, oh my God, you incarnate and you are in this womb and all of the nice pleasurable things of the womb and everything else. Then all of a sudden, you come onto the planet Earth from the womb. Oh, my goodness, I’ve lost that connection to this other being that was nurturing me in so many different ways. And there is another separation.
So, those are two major experiences in our human psyche that kind of sets us up for, Oh My God, there are going to be a lot of losses. But those losses are there so that we can reconnect, not just with our spirit, but with our humanness. With our heart center. Human experience is all about the heart and even with loss, pain… whatever it’s going to be… being that fully emotional human being that can emote, for the betterment of myself and for the betterment of other people I come into contact with. I’m bringing it back to me but I think I could generalize it, also.
DONNA: So, it is, in fact, saying the same thing. Life is about overcoming separation. It just so happens that from the get go we have to deal with this ultimate separation. Separation from total security… and coziness… and safety… that we have inside the womb.
GURUDHAN: Right, so if you want to flip the equation… flip the statement. It’s really, how are we connecting? With our self and with other humans? And because of our mind and because of the loss, the universe didn’t set it up easy for us to connect. We have to work at it.
DONNA: You brought up something else that was so interesting… that since the 50s we have been dealing with this hard division between reason and emotion… since the Age of Enlightenment, encouraging us to be rational. But you just spoke of the beauty of embracing ourselves as emotional beings. Why have we been so afraid to embrace our emotions?
GURUDHAN: Well, let me say this. It’s not just the 50s. I believe it was 150 years before that. Because the astrological age that we have been in since 1802 has been an age of Industrial Revolution… machines, technology. And at the end of this year, we shift to the earth element of air, which is elevation, spirituality, lightness. All of these different things are part of the age. And basically, after… You mentioned the 50s. So, in 1958, the planet Uranus shifted its orbit. And shortly thereafter, what showed up on planet Earth? Beatniks. What showed up a few years later? Hippies. What showed up a few years later? To me, it’s been a revolutionary progression, from Uranus shifting.
Each generation has been adding on to what the other generations have been experiencing. Coming to this point, which I believe is going to be a tipping point at the end of this year, where spirituality… especially spiritual discipline, which is coming from the heart center. Make sure you come from the heart center. It’s going to be the foundation for solving the Earth’s difficulties, as well as our own personal issues. So, I agree with you, it’s been difficult. Trying to separate our reasoning from our emotions. If you notice, it’s been slowly breaking down for about 62 years. From 1958 to this present day.
DONNA: And so, we are going to be facing another astrological shift later this year, which is going to make us more able to work from the place of the heart?
DONNA: So, to be clear, it’s not bad. We need that emotional sense of being human in order to overcome these challenges. Especially… we are in the middle of a pandemic now. We need it so much. We shouldn’t run from being emotional.
GURUDHAN: Look, connection is not rational. It’s emotional. That’s where we get these massages all over us. It’s these human connections. We need human connection. We just can’t step back from the emotion of that and say let’s all be reasonable and rational. Love is an emotional thing. Kindness is an emotional thing. I could keep going on but these are emotional things.
DONNA: I’d like to talk more about the times we find ourselves in but I know many who are watching are waiting for me to ask a certain question. And I would be remiss if I didn’t.
GURUDHAN: Wait a second. I’m going to drink my water again.
DONNA: I’ll drink with you. It seems that many giants and institutions have taken a hit in our community. The Kundalini community is no exception. Your teacher has been faced, although post-mortem, with many allegations that have called his integrity into question, to say the least. What is your position on this?
GURUDHAN: My first sentence to that question is, I believe all the women and their allegations. I know a lot of those women. I believe those women. Not only do I believe those women, I believe a lot of the children that are now adults and their allegations. I was not privy to any of those allegations, but when you have the magnitude of women and kids… I say kids, they are young adults… coming forth like this… these are highly serious, large allegations about sexual harassment. Sexual abuse. And there are way too many to ignore… to not believe. There is that statement.
The next statement is that Kundalini Yoga has been taught for thousands of years. So, there is a lineage of that particular Yoga science and practice. Just like there is with other Yoga traditions. And so, at this particular time, I have that focus. Probably the last five years is to practice and teach Kundalini Yoga from the meridian lines… As taught by traditional Chinese medicine, as well as all the breath work that is involved with Kundalini Yoga. And all of the effects, glands, organs, psyche… that breath work does… There is tons of research on breathing, and types of breathing, and how that affects you positively. I am focused on that aspect of Kundalini Yoga.
And it’s interesting, I’ve been reading a lot of Louise Hay, lately. I was reading her quotes on forgiveness. So, through the first twenty quotes, I’m saying, I don’t agree with that. Finally, she gave her definition of forgiveness. Her definition is just letting it go. Not condoning the behavior, but just letting it go. What she meant by letting it go… The universe will take care of all of the repercussions of that behavior. So, I don’t condone any of the conduct regarding these allegations at all. The universe will take care of all the repercussions.
DONNA: So, it in no way diminished your commitment as a teacher within this tradition or at least the wider tradition of Kundalini Yoga?
GURUDHAN: I could say say at this point that it hasn’t influenced where I want to take this practice. But I’ll put it positively. It came with a lot of thought because there was a way to look at all these teachings. Some people say “separate the teacher from the teachings.” It’s not that simple. People say, “I have flaws, everybody has flaws. Yogi Bhajan has flaws.” Yes, everybody has flaws, but not the seriousness of the allegations we are talking about—which are serious, serial, sexual allegations.
So, I had to really work out how I wanted to move forward. So, everything I’ve said in the last ten minutes are really just my conclusions. Giving it a lot of thought about how I want to continue. And the man we are talking about had some serious flaws that were not in the realm of common flaws. So, I’ve extracted the kundalini practice from the teacher. And based upon Louise Hay’s definition of forgiveness, I have forgiven. But I do not condone that behavior. The universe will decide how that behavior is going to be dealt with and whatever way it’s supposed to be. Within the practice of Kundalini Yoga, within the organizations that are embodied with Kundalini Yoga. All that stuff.
DONNA: You mentioned when we first sat down together a few minutes ago, that the first time we approached you to do this interview, you weren’t ready. You were going through your own challenge. I’d like to talk about that on a couple of different levels. When I mentioned that a few of my teachers have been divorced… I’ve been divorced… one of my neighbor friends was surprised by that… And I was surprised that the person was surprised! It’s all to common for people to think of Yogis as perfect beings. That somehow, we are not touched by the trivialities and challenges of being a human, like getting a divorce.
GURUDHAN: Well, let me say this. I’m only going to speak about this for three hours. Just kidding. I’m going to give you a little anecdote about myself. Get into the perception of the aura of a Yoga teacher… of near infallibility. A long time ago, I heard this person talking about me. He was pointing to me. He said, “This guy over there… just give him a template that he can follow and he’ll get it.” Well, I’ve been divorced twice and nobody gave me the template. Until I really started looking for a template. And look, one template fits all! One of the depths of a really healthy marital relationship. What is the work? I’ve never spent time with that before. Nobody pulled me aside… neither my parents nor anyone else.
So, I went into my two marriages kind of winging it. And obviously, it didn’t work out too well. Or I should say, it worked out well enough, so after the second time of divorce, I said, whoa, wait a second. I really need to delve into the reasons and all these things on the aspects of that. My eyes opened up. Let me say this… And my eyes are still opening up to that. Here is like the perception of a Yoga teacher. You get in front of a group of people. You are teaching yoga. You are dressed in Yogic clothing. And you are sitting usually in front of the group. You are the teacher and you are putting out these things of Yogic practice and occasionally you are putting out some things that are Yogic wisdom. Do’s and don’ts about how to conduct your life. Rarely do you expose the human side of you, which is why, for myself, especially now more than ever before… divorce #2… I don’t want to expose my vulnerabilities.
I’ve had three and half years of therapy, in order to feel comfortable exposing my vulnerabilities, so that even in the teaching Yoga part of me… people in front of me can say, “Wow, that’s human.” Well, that was an exposure of my vulnerability. Because there is a perception of teacher/student. It’s almost hierarchical. The people that are taking the classes… they are coming… they are looking at me or looking at a teacher in the role of a teacher. Not the role of a human.
DONNA: And so, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter that we are a Yogi that has a practice. We are, after all, human.
GURUDHAN: Let me say this. We should be human first. Yogis second. Teachers third.
DONNA: And you spent over three years in therapy. Someone might be watching this surprised by that, as well. You have Yoga… why do you also need therapy?
GURUDHAN: (Sigh). I just sighed because… let me say this: The way I was brought up… Kundalini Yoga was more in the realm of, don’t expose your weaknesses. And the weaknesses, the connotations of emotions, frustration, anger, bitterness, sadness… all these things… Don’t expose them! That is being weak! But my therapist basically… Look, all I’m here for, is to give you different angles for looking at yourself.
And everybody… because of losses, has vulnerabilities. And I got to be able to talk about my vulnerabilities with a non-judgmental person. A person who is going to be fully supportive and in a safe space. And that gave me practice.
To do that same thing for other people… in safe spaces… People I knew would support me, be non-judgmental, but saying things that needed to be said in a non-judgmental way, so I could really expose the emotions of my vulnerability, instead of the emotional rises. The emotion rises and I could cut off the emotion at its peak in a heartbeat. As my therapist said, “What happens at the other side of that hill… you start dealing with all the emotions that are rising up, instead of being neutral all the time.”
Part of neutrality is exposing all of your emotions. Both the emotions that have come from processed thoughts, and the emotions that have come from unprocessed thoughts and experiences. You have to deal with both in order to have a balance and be neutral moving forward in your existence. Because if you are not dealing with these unprocessed emotions, then how can you be neutral? You can’t. You are just sublimating them all.
Read And Watch Part II Here: Awaken Interviews Kundalini Master Gurudhan Pt 2 – Balance Ourselves To Bring The Planet Back Into Balance
Read And Watch Part III Here: Awaken Interviews Kundalini Master Gurudhan – Pt 3 – This Whole Awakening Process Starts by Going Within