Yogi Tea recipe

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Chai is a favorite among yogis, and is so incredibly easy to make. The word chai simply means tea, and usually when we think of chai we think of masala chai, which is spiced tea. When Yogi Bhajan gave his recipe for it and spoke of its benefits, he called it yogi tea. Whenever we have group sadhana, I always make a giant batch of it and bring it to share. There is something about sitting around after our practice and sipping on yogi tea while chatting with old and new friends that is really special. After numerous requests for me to share my yogi tea recipe, I thought posting it here might be easiest!

Not only does it taste great, but yogi tea is also very good for you. The tea as a whole is very warming and grounding. The black pepper in the tea acts as a blood purifier, the cinnamon is for the bones, the cardamom is for the colon, and the cloves are for the nervous system. Ginger is a digestive stimulant, and the milk acts as an aid for assimilation and prevents the colon from being irritated by the spices.

I make chai several ways, but when I am making it for Kundalini Yoga events I always make it the way Yogi Bhajan taught. Here is the recipe I use:

  • 1 heaping tablespoon cardamomIMG_0448
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cloves
  • 1 heaping teaspoon peppercorns
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 6″ finger of ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1 (32oz) carton unsweetened almond milk
  • sweetener, to taste (I use jaggery)

Gently break open the cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns using a mortar and pestle. Bring water to a boil, and then add all spices. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Then turn the heat off and allow tea to sit and further steep. If I have time, I will let it sit for several hours at this point. Then strain the tea by pouring it through a sieve into another pot. Bring this strained tea back to a boil, and then turn the heat off and add the tea bag. Let steep for a couple minutes, then remove the tea bag and add the milk. Personally, I much prefer whole cows milk, but when making it for a crowd I use almond milk because it always seems someone is intolerant of dairy. Bring back to a simmer, and then add sweetener. Enjoy!

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What exactly is Kundalini Yoga, anyway?

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This is a question I get asked often at the studio, and it’s one that I find difficult to answer quickly. Kundalini Yoga is like no other yoga practice that I have encountered, and is an experience that truly needs to be felt in order to be understood.

Kundalini: May the Force Be With You     Before being able to explain anything about the practice, we first need to discover the meaning of kundalini. The word kundalini means “the curl of the lock of the hair of the beloved”, which is a metaphor for the flow of energy within us. This energy is inherent in every one of us, and is our creative potential. Sometimes called shakti, kundalini lies mostly dormant within us, and its awakening can bring about major shifts in consciousness and an awareness of our infinite Self. It rests at the base of the spine, and when the body has been purified enough and the energy stimulated properly, kundalini rises up the spine to reach the pineal gland. This gland’s secretion allows for a change in consciousness to occur.

All yoga practices, regardless of the style, have the ultimate aim of stimulating the sleeping kundalini energy. For it is only when this energy has risen that we are truly able to experience that union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness, which is the very definition of yoga. However, most yoga styles go about this in a very roundabout way. Kundalini Yoga is the superhighway to awakening. Therefore, its practices are much more direct.

YogiBhajanThe Man Behind It All                                          What I teach is Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. Yogi Bhajan is an Indian man who was already a master of Kundalini Yoga by the tender age of 16 after many years of studying with his teacher, Sant Hazara Singh. Yogi Bhajan came to the United States in 1968 and saw the state of our country’s youth at the time: strung out on sex, drugs, and rock and roll. He recognized their search for the ultimate high, and decided to show them the only true way to reach it – through finding it within themselves rather than reaching outside through unhealthy methods. Prior to this time, Kundalini Yoga was kept secret because its practices were so powerful, but Yogi Bhajan knew it was desperately needed so he began teaching it to anyone who would come to his classes. What is taught now in a Kundalini Yoga class is exactly what Yogi Bhajan taught himself. That is a key point; there is no changing it up, switching things around, or creating our own sequences. We teach class exactly as he taught it, because it works. It is a precise technology, and to mess with it will create different results.

What to Expect in Class                                                                                                         The first thing that happens in class after settling in is the chanting of two different mantras. These are used to bring us to a neutral and unified space and aim to align ourselves with the Divine teacher within. We then usually spend several minutes doing pranayam, or yogic breathing. This clears the energy channels in the body and opens us up. After this we will often do some warm-ups to get the body ready for the practice. At the core of class is what is called a kriya. A kriya is a series of postures done for a very specific purpose. Along with the postures, a kriya often includes special breathing patterns, mantra, and meditation. The word kriya means action, and it is through our actions that we can create different states of being. This means that we can do a kriya for the purpose of expanding our aura, releasing fear, stimulating the liver, opening our hearts, or relieving a headache, to name just a few. You name it, and there is a kriya for that. Each kriya is very precise; we do the postures each for a certain amount of time, or a set number of repetitions. The way that we move through the postures is usually quite different than a traditional hatha yoga class. Since we are so focused on directly stimulating the kundalini energy in a Kundalini Yoga class, the movements are often done dynamically and powerfully. It tends to be a very invigorating experience, and is often quite challenging. Imagine holding your arms up in the air for minutes on end while doing a powerful breath that incorporates pumping your navel to your spine with every exhale – this is a taste of what class is like. However, each kriya is totally different. While one may be done entirely sitting or lying down, another may incorporate standing postures or even dancing around the room. Some are very physically challenging, and some are more mental. Some kriyas are energetic; some are relaxing and meditative. I always tell new students that it takes coming to several classes before you can really get a feel for what the practice is all about.

Another important aspect of each class is meditation, which is often overlooked in classes of other styles of yoga. We tend to do a kriya first, then savasana (relaxation), and then a meditation. Numerology is important in Kundalini Yoga, so the length of time for the meditations are also very specific. It is traditional to do meditations for 3, 7, 11, 22 or 31 minutes. Sometimes with the meditation we incorporate a particular hand posture, or mudra, and possibly whole arm movements. Sometimes the eyes are closed, or sometimes they are fixed on a certain point. Often (although not always) the meditation includes mantraMantras are divinely given sounds, words or phrases that are used to generate a particular vibrational frequency in the mind and body. Most of our mantras in Kundalini Yoga are in Gurmukhi, although some are in Sanskrit. Class always ends with a song and a prayer to carry us out on a high note.

While it is traditional to wear white to a Kundalini Yoga class, it is by no means necessary. White is the color of purity, and this is a practice to purify ourselves on all levels. Wearing white also helps to expand our aura, or the electromagnetic field that surrounds the body. It is also common to see people covering their heads for class, whether with a scarf, hair wrap, or full-on turban. The reason for this is simple – the crown of our head is a very sensitive energy center, and covering it keeps it protected. A head covering helps to contain our own energy as well as protect us from the energy of others. As with wearing white, covering your head is completely and totally optional. Although if you haven’t done it before, it’s worth a try!

Kundalini Yoga is a different type of yoga practice, no doubt. Anyone can do it, and everyone should do it. In the words of Yogi Bhajan himself:

The power of Kundalini Yoga lies in the actual experience. It goes right into your heart and extends your consciousness so that you may have a wider horizon of grace and of knowing the truth. Ultimately you come to understand your existence in relationship to the universe and understand you already are, and this brings you to the practical experience of Infinity. You can then radiate creativity and Infinity in all aspects of your daily life.

 

 

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Shri Annapurna Bhojan mantra for meals

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According to Ayurvedic theory, how we eat is just as important as what we eat. This means that if we eat in a rush, when emotionally disturbed, while standing or driving, or while watching TV, reading, or online, we are not going to process our foods properly and are likely to experience digestive discomfort on some level. Just because we are eating healthy foods does not mean we are eating in a healthy way. Eating is not just something that is required to keep us alive; it should not be merely shoveling food into our mouths to fill ourselves up. Rather, mealtime should be a chance for us to connect to the life-force that we are bringing into our bodies through the foods we eat. Perhaps eating becomes a meditation of sorts; an offering to the agni (fire) in our belly. When eating becomes a sacred act, it sets the stage for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.

One very simple practice that I have incorporated into my mealtime is to pause to chant the Shri Annapurna Bhojan mantra before eating. Annapurna is the goddess of nourishment and the incarnation of Goddess Parvati.  She watches over our food supply and our soul’s nourishment, and chanting to her before eating is a way to honor her and pay respect. Furthermore, when we pause to give thanks before our meal it brings sanctity to the act of eating, creating a meditative state. From this state we are better able to process our foods, giving rise to a healthier body and brighter mind.

The mantra is simple:

Om Hrim Shrim Klim Namo Bhagavati Maheswari Annapurne Svaha

Now let’s eat.

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Jai Hanuman!

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Several months ago I began singing the Hanuman Chalisa as part of my daily puja. This is a prayer that gives praise to Hanuman, and is one of the most revered hymns of the Indian devotional tradition.

I first became familiar with Hanuman many years ago when I read the Ramayana, the great Indian epic. In this story, it tells about Hanuman and his absolute love and devotion to Ram, who is God incarnate. Without getting into a whole discourse on the Ramayana (which I feel completely unqualified to do), I will say that I loved the story. I have always been drawn towards bhakti, which is the devotional practice of yoga and the expression of love for the Divine. Hanuman is the epitome of bhakti yoga – his love for Ram is his whole motivation for everything he does.

With my introduction to Hanuman and the Ramayana, I knew about the Chalisa and for years had the desire to learn it, but its length made me put it on the back burner. I simply was always too caught up in another sadhana which didn’t allow me the time to devote to learning this prayer. However, when something calls for you, it can only wait for so long. Eventually the whispering got louder, and the pull got greater. Originally my son committed to learning it with me and we began the practice together, but he ultimately decided to let it go. I carry on, chanting for the both of us.

Chanting to Hanuman is meant to polish the mirror of our hearts so that we can see our true reflection – that of a divine being. It removes anything that blocks us from this truth, and works to destroy anything negative in our hearts and minds. In other words, it is a very cleansing practice, and brings us closer to God. The Hanuman Chalisa is the perfect vehicle for taking us deeper and deeper into the flow of love. The vibration that I experience while singing it is indescribable, and I know it’s what I’m meant to be doing.

As I was learning this prayer, the very first verse that jumped out at me and stuck in my head was:                                                                                                                                               jai jai jai hanumana gosa-ee                                                                                                              kripa karahu gurudeva kee na-ee

which translates as:                                                                                                                                 Victory, victory, victory, Lord Hanuman                                                                                      Bestow your grace upon me, as my Guru!

Now, my experience in the past is that whenever a verse grabs you, it has something to teach you. I have an idea as to why this verse was the first one that captured my attention, but I trust that more will be revealed. In the meantime, I’ll keep chanting…

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Chywanprash: Ayurveda’s secret weapon

Thousands of years ago, an elderly man by the name of Chyawan fell in love with a much younger woman.  Determined to find a way to restore his youth so that he could be with his new love, he turned to the best Ayurvedic doctors of his day and asked them to make him an herbal formula that would fulfill his wish. The formula they came up with was named chyawanprash, which means “eaten by Chyawan.”  Not only did Chyawan regain his youth and vigor by eating this formula, he was able to start a family with his young bride.

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Chywanprash is an Ayurvedic jam that is full of vitamins and minerals, as well as tonifying and rejuvenating herbs. Known as the Ayurvedic one-a-day, it has long been my favorite formula for everyday health maintenance and remedy for common illness. I stopped taking a multi-vitamin years ago, and have been eating this instead. Rather than being full of chemicals masked as vitamins that are unrecognizable by our body, it uses natural fruits and herbs to gently supply us with what we need. Chywanprash is great for boosting the immune system, enkindling the digestive fire, strengthening the body, and combating stress and fatigue.

 

The main ingredient in chywanprash is amalaki, also known as amla fruit. Amalaki is the highest natural source of Vitamin C. This citrus fruit is rich in anti-oxidants, and is good for eyesight, relieves inflammation in the stomach and colon, improves appetite, and regulates blood sugar. Amalaki is also one of the three fruits in another commonly used Ayurvedic formula called triphala.

 

Along with amalaki, chywanprash also contains ghee, honey and/or sugar, and many other herbs. It is balancing for all constitutions, and is safe for kids to eat.

As general maintenance, I eat chywanprash every day. Personally, I like to just eat it right off the spoon, but I know others that prefer to spread it on toast. I’ve even had chywanprash cookies. Chywanprash is a little funky looking, I’ll admit, but it tastes super sweet and I find it easy to like.

Chywanprash is an effective cold and flu fighter and is the first thing I reach for when I start to feel run down. Dosage is a spoonful a day for maintenance and more when needed. In fact, I tell others to think of it more as a food than as a medicine, so it’s okay to eat several spoonfuls a day if you start to feel unwell.

Make friends with chywanprash, and your body will thank you. I promise.

 

 

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Ayurvedic herb focus: Turmeric

 

Turmeric seems to be the hot supplement right now, and for good reason. Ayurveda makes great use of this bright orange spice.

Turmeric is most famously known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. This comes in handy when dealing with muscle or joint pain, headache, inflamed sinuses, and skin rashes. Turmeric acts as a vulnerary, meaning that it doesn’t simply reduce inflammation but also actually repairs the tissues. Yogis love turmeric because it helps keep the body pain-free during asana and long periods of meditation.

One of my favorite ways of taking turmeric is to make a paste of dried turmeric and fresh, raw honey. Keep this paste handy – you will find many uses for it. I keep a jar in my cupboard at all times, so it’s always ready whenever I need it. An easy way to relieve a headache is to make a tea with this paste. I take a tea mug, fill it about a third of the way with cold water, and then fill it the rest of the way with hot water. Add a spoonful of the turmeric-honey paste, a few grinds of black pepper (to help absorb the turmeric) and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Stir and drink. **As a side note, never heat honey, as this cooks the honey which destroys many of it’s medicinal properties as well as creating ama, which is a sort of toxic sludge and the root of most disease. This is why I start with cold water added to the hot water; then it’s the perfect temperature.

This turmeric-honey paste can also be used on cold sores. I’ve found it quickly reduces and heals their ugly little breakouts. Just smear a bit of the paste on the sore, and you’re done. It certainly tastes much better than other cold sore medicine, and works better too.

Yogis like to make and drink golden milk, which is essentially turmeric and milk (the fat from milk helps to deliver the turmeric further into the tissues). Traditionally made with cow’s milk, you can substitute almond or coconut milk if desired. Warm the milk gently (not too hot since honey will be added), add some turmeric and honey, perhaps some ghee, add ginger if you like it, and there you have it: yummy golden milk. Your joints will thank you.

Turmeric is also a really great natural antibiotic. And better than prescribed antibiotics, which kill off the good bacteria in the gut, turmeric actually promotes the growth of good bacteria. Take turmeric at the first sign of illness, and chances are you might not end up getting sick at all.

Another way I take turmeric is mixed with aloe gel. This is a common Ayurvedic preparation, and is best for pitta types and/or taken in summertime. Mixing about a half teaspoon of dried turmeric into a tablespoon of aloe gel will help to stimulate the liver, cleanses the blood, cools the body and mind, increases metabolism, and eases menstruation. A little warning: this mixture is the least palatable way to take turmeric, at least that I have found.

Of course, adding turmeric to your cooking is a great way to get more of it in you to receive it’s benefits. Aside from curries and kitchari, I don’t tend to use it in my cooking so much, which is why I take it in all these other ways.

One piece of advice when working with turmeric: it will stain almost anything it comes in contact with. Be very careful when preparing or consuming it.

 

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Japji Sahib, 365

Today marks one year of chanting Japji as part of my daily morning sadhana.

Japji is a sacred prayer chanted by many people all over the world. It comes from the Sikh tradition, of which Yogi Bhajan was a part. Because of his faith, his teachings are greatly influenced by the Sikh religion. He taught Kundalini Yogis about the power of chanting Japji every day, and it took me a long time, but finally, one year ago, I decided to give it a try.

The word Japji is translated as the song of the soul. It was written by Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs. As the story goes, he was bathing one day and went under water. While underwater, he experienced enlightenment and stayed submerged for three days. Japji is Guru Nanak’s story of enlightenment; his realization that the soul is perfect and divine and his understanding of the purpose of life. This realization is best summed up in my favorite translation of Japji, which begins with the line We are one with God; this is our true identity. It is thought that by chanting this long prayer, our vibration is lifted to the point that Guru Nanak was vibrating from when he first spoke these words. Anything within us that does not match this high vibration is essentially shaken off; released to the ethers.

A friend recently asked me what my experience is of chanting Japji. The best way for me to describe it is the feeling of casting a golden web to surround me, protect me, and uplift me. It is one of the first things I do every single morning. Japji has accompanied me to the beach, the mountains, the city, Canada, and everywhere in between. Just yesterday, my eleven year old son sat with me and read along from my Nitnem while I chanted Japji. It is a most incredible way to start the day and connect with the soul.

As I already mentioned, Japji comes from the Sikh religion. One might ask why someone like myself, who is not a Sikh, would devote such time learning and reciting scripture from a religion that is not mine. This is a point I explored a few years ago when I wrote my thesis for my Kundalini Yoga teacher training. My thesis was entitled “Be in the Bhav: Kundalini Yoga as a Path of Bhakti”. Here is an excerpt:

When I was a child there was absolutely no spiritual or religious belief in my family, and I knew nothing substantial about any religion. Through my husband, my children’s school, and yoga, I have learned a small amount about Judaism, Quakerism, Hinduism and Sikhism.  Even though I can see great beauty in each of these religions, I don’t feel enough personal connection to any of them to make them my own.  However, since opening my life (and heart) to chanting and meditation I have discovered an absolute love of the Divine of which I know I am a part, and this simple connection is enough for me.  Bhakti and Kundalini Yoga provide me with a way to connect with the Infinite without needing to subscribe to a religion and all its dogma.

On the surface it seems that yoga, no matter which lineage, has religious overtones. Both Yoga and Hinduism stem from the Vedas, and since they have the same origin they overlap in many places. Sikhism developed partly in response to Hinduism. Yoga provides tools to connect to the Divine, and these tools just happen to be influenced by religions that developed at the same time and place as yoga. It doesn’t mean that I have to become religious to use these tools.

I have spent countless hours chanting to Ganesha, Ram and Sita, Krishna, Shiva, the Goddess, Dhanvantari, and many others. Chanting Japji is no different, in my eyes. It doesn’t make me part of any religion. It simply reminds me of my connection to the One. Which is, after all, the whole point of yoga.

 

 

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A message from the Universe

Sometimes the Universe whispers messages quietly in your ear. If you aren’t paying attention, you may not hear it. But She is persistent, and will keep whispering. If you still don’t hear, She may have to yell. When She yells, you have no choice but to listen.

This time, that yelling was in the form of throwing my back out. I’ve been incredibly busy over the last month. There have been so many opportunities given to me, and so many ways to share what I have learned, which means I have been running non-stop. It’s all out of love; everything that has kept me busy has been exactly what I want to be doing. Perhaps it was just too much. I wasn’t hearing the whispering to slow down. So the Universe had to get louder.

Now, with an intense pain in my lower back every time I move, I get the message, loud and clear. Life is not meant to be lived going at 100mph every second of every day. I thought that because I was staying grounded through my morning sadhana, I was okay. I thought that because I was busy with stuff I loved, I was okay. I thought that because I am following my dharma, I was okay. But apparently, I’m not quite okay. Now I’m hurt, and there is nothing to do but to stop.

From here? A little slower. A little less.

(Cue Simon and Garfunkel: Slow down, you’re moving too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last…)

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Kundalini Yoga music; my path; and a playlist

One of my favorite things about Kundalini Yoga is the amazing music. It is so incredibly healing and uplifting, and the right music can support the practice in profound ways.

So often after class, I am asked about the music that was played. It always makes me smile, because that is exactly how I found my way back to Kundalini Yoga after stepping away from it.

You see, the way I first came to yoga at all was when I was pregnant. I was a bit uncomfortable and was trying to find a way to ease my aching body. I had never done yoga before and didn’t know anything about it. I went on On Demand and found a prenatal yoga video. I turned it on, and saw a woman dressed all in white and wearing a turban. Not sure what to expect, I kept watching. The class began with chanting, which really wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but I hung in there and did the physical practice. I loved it. It made me feel so great, so I kept up. Kept going. In fact, I was afraid of it going off On Demand so I taped it (remember those old VHS tapes?!), but purposely omitted the chanting at the beginning and end. That was just weird, and I just wanted the physical part anyway. So I watched my tape and practiced every day while I was pregnant, and even after giving birth.

After some time, I decided I needed to go to a real, live yoga class. I went to some classes, but they were very different. I came to find out that what I had originally found was Kundalini Yoga, and the teacher from the tape was Gurmukh. The classes I found and were attending was Vinyasa Yoga. I was actually kind of relieved there was no chanting or meditating, and the teacher was turban-less. So I kept going, and fell in love. I eventually expanded my practice to Ashtanga Yoga, and loved that too. However, after some time, I felt like something was missing. I couldn’t tell you what; it’s just that the practice felt a little empty. It didn’t quite get to all of me.

One day in a Vinyasa class a most beautiful song came on, so after class I asked the teacher who it was. It was Snatam Kaur, one of the most popular musicians from Kundalini Yoga. I immediately got her CD and began a chanting practice by myself, in my living room. It was…amazing. Profound. Intense. Healing. I would sit there, half chanting, half sobbing, and a most radical feeling would come over me: that perhaps I was okay, after all. Perhaps I wasn’t as awful as I thought. Maybe I really am meant to shine and love and uplift and create. It was life-changing, earth-shattering. That which most turned me off in the beginning was exactly the thing I needed to heal myself.  I just wan’t ready for it right away. Once the gates of my heart opened, a tidal wave flooded through, and I’ve been chanting ever since.

Needless to say, now when someone comes up to me after class asking Who was that singing that amazing song?, I can’t help but smile. I know. I’ve been there!

This morning in class we did the kriya for the ribcage area. The playlist was as follows:

Raj Jog by Jai Jagdeesh

Be the Light by Aykanna

Change by Gurunam Singh

Wahe Guru Jio by Sada Sat Kaur

 

Chant on, dear Ones. Chant on.

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A mother’s prayer

The other night I had the most beautiful opportunity to be with my son and hold him in my arms as he fell asleep in his bed. He is my baby, the younger of my two boys, and is nine years old. He has always been the more affectionate of my kids, and loves to snuggle. Even so, all the while I was with him I kept thinking to myself how it won’t be all that much longer that he will allow this. Before I know it he won’t have the time of day for me. It was a tender moment that we shared, and it made me want to never let him go.

As he drifted off to sleep, I began chanting a prayer that became a part of my sadhana several years ago. It is a prayer traditionally recited by a mother for her children for their protection and guidance. It is a wish that the child recognize the Divine within them, and to always have the courage to follow their truth. This prayer is from the Sikh tradition, and was given by Yogi Bhajan to mothers in the Kundalini Yoga practice. The prayer is called Poota Maataa Kee Asees, and is as follows:

Jis simrat sabh kilvikh naaseh pitree ho-ay udhaaro.

So har har tum sad hee jaapahu jaa kaa ant na paaro.

Pootaa maataa kee aasees.

Nimakh na bisara-o tum ka-o har har sadaa bhajahu jagdees. rahaa-o.

Satgur tum ka-o ho-ay da-i-aalaa santsang tayree preet.

Kaaparh pat parmaysar raakhee bhojan keertan neet.

Amrit peevhu sadaa chir jeevhu har simrat anad anantaa. 

Rang tamaasaa pooran aasaa kabeh na bi-aapai chintaa.

Bhavar tumaaraa ih man hova-o har charnaa hohu ka-ulaa.

Naanak daas un sang laptaa-i-o ji-o booNdeh chaatrik ma-ulaa.

Translation:

Remembering God, all mistakes are washed away and one’s ancestors are redeemed and saved.

Always chant God’s Name, Har, Har. God is inside you, God is infinite.

O my child, this is your mother’s blessing,

May you may never forget God even for a moment, worshipping forever the Lord of the Universe

May the True Guru be kind to you, may you love to be with the Saints.

May your clothing be the protection of God, may your food be the singing of God’s praise

Drink the nectar of God’s Name and live long, may meditation on God bring you endless bliss.

May love be yours and your hopes fulfilled. May you never be worn by worry.

Let this mind of yours be the bumble bee, and let the Lotus Feet of God be the flower. 

O Servant Nanak, link your mind in this way. Like the sparrow hawk finding a raindrop blossom forth.

 

It is my prayer that my children be protected. It is my hope that they know only love. It is my wish that they should realize their connection to the Divine and recognize the light within them.

My greatest fear is that they will experience the same darkness in their teenage years as I did. I was so incredibly lost, so hurt and insecure. I reached out to anything I could find to make myself feel better, and ended up experiencing hell on earth. I had to touch the center of my pain, feel complete and utter despair, before I was able to pull myself up. It took a long time to put myself back together, and it is only in the past few years that I am grateful for my past. Because of where I have been, I am exactly where I am. And where I am is exactly where I am meant to be.

However, I took the hard way to get here. It scares me to think of my kids taking the same route. I realize they are souls here on their own journey and meant to learn their own lessons, but I hope their journey is easier than mine. That is why I pray for them. Every day, I pray from them.

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