Zen Practice and Kundalini: The Teacher is the Student

Have you ever had an "a-ha" moment? One where somehow, something, just clicks?

While hiking New Zealand's Abel Tasman Coast Track I had one of these a-ha experiences. At the time, I didn't realize how steeped with ancient philosophy it was, but something about reaching a mountain peak after a couple of hours of relentless incline inspired a clarity I hadn't ever felt before. Maybe you've had this too?

Lessons on life and liberation while hiking the Abel Tasman circa 2014

For about an hour the words "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear" had been rolling around in my mind like a mantra, which is funny, because at that time the word "mantra" felt out of reach for me; like it was something that I didn't know how to approach. Mantras kind of scared me back then to be real -- not the visibly frightened kind of scared, but more just a deep discomfort that had me believing I did not like them.

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear"

Scared of mantras or not. This was the instrument of thought which was freeing my consciousness. I didn't know this was what I was up to by repeating this cliche -- I didn't realize I was chanting a mantra. Back then, at age twenty-three, I just deeply wanted a teacher. Someone who would fill me in on the secrets of life, the right path for me and tell me all about God or life and death. Or maybe that it's all the same.

I had so many questions then, and its not like I don't still have questions, but I can say that I found my teacher on that hike. The present state of affairs in the world reminds of this every day.

As I came to the summit of my incline I was hit with such a stunning view of the Abel Tasman coastline that I had to stop and stare. It was here that I noticed kundalini for the first time. Although, of course, I did not know to call the energy by this name at that time.

It felt like shivers.

So, you're maybe asking now, "who is the teacher" that I found?

The answer: Everything.

When we become the student, truly, step into the mindset that we are not only willing to learn but are actually here to learn...then we become students who are ready at all times, in each breath.

As the old saying goes, once the student is ready, the teacher does appear. When we are the perpetual student then the teacher appears to perpetually everywhere. This is a teaching in Zen practice. (photo and links will direct you to this amazing book).

I'm sure on the internet you've come across ideas that essentially are stating "ask not why this happened, but what this is trying to teach me". There is a deep desire to find the blessing, the reason for why things are deconstructing and reconstructing right before our very eyes.

This is the space of the student. "What can I learn from this?"

"What is my lesson in this moment?"


Its funny. Everything you've read up until this moment was written while I was in India -- this was a backlogged piece of writing. I am grateful to have saved this. To be proof-reading this on Wednesday night in preparation for tomorrow mornings publication.

I'm making some edits along the way. But I just needed to say that.

Okay -- it goes on. I'm reading with you a bit! Haha!


The winds may change as you consider a new solution, a dove may fly by as you are mentally rolling through an aggressive scenario in y[our] imagination.

Perhaps you can garner from the wind whether that thought was constructive or if that

thought needs to be released. Maybe, if you close your eyes and let your mind become the trillions of little cells that make up you. Maybe you could give the wind permission to balance your cells and blow right through you and them until they feel light again. (Another incredible book link -- Dr. Bruce H. Lipton has changed the microbiology game. A university professor who has quantified what spirituality is talking about)

Perhaps the lesson from dove is to choose peace within yourself.

When we accept that we are consciousness experiencing consciousness, when we know this, it is undeniable that life is a learning experience. We are always the student, this is inescapable. We are meant to learn.

First, we must embrace our role as the student. Let go of the ego self who wishes to be the teacher, to be the one who "knows" everything. Be kind when you notice that your mouth speaks and says "I know" before mind has the opportunity to tell mouth "we still have space yet to learn". It is lighter when we accept that we have more to learn, it is lighter when we want to learn. For every great teacher must first be a student to another great teacher.

I see no reason why it cannot be be life itself, or whatever name you call the universe, God, Vishnu. Why would it not be every little thing you are experiencing that is the greatest teacher of them all.

There is a limb of yoga which is one of the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga yoga) called Pratyahara. This is sense withdrawal. This is a powerful component of chakra work.

This is why we meditate, this is pranayama, kriya, hatha -- all of the yogas. To find that stillness. To witness the mind. Where does it go to that is unsettled -- allow it to go there, my gosh, but know, that there are practices to support you in settling the turbulence.

My teacher Mandeep said "the dark room that is self, we enter through seven entry points of the body, once inside there is no door that exists to exit. It is only the fire of knowledge that will allow us out of that darkness".

I was speaking with my friend Amy (@amythecoda) the other day -- well, voice noting. Yea, don't worry! I'm playing the quarantine game too.

This was like....day 2 (?) of quarantine (meaning, her and I were both a touch delicate but trying to behave like all was well) she said that it seemed like whatever people had going on in their lives before the virus was amplifying for them in quarantine.

Wherever you're at on your journey of self, if quarantine feels crazy and scary, if it feels numb and rewarding, if it feels electric but unrewarding -- wherever the heck you are at in your experience of being a human, you can start something new. It can be drinking a glass of water before you do anything else in the morning. It can be sitting still and observing. Journalling. Stretching. Working with moving energy -- whatever. It just does feel like the name of the game these days is to get right with ourselves, and thats not necessarily going to look the same from one moment to the next. Sometimes joy and pain can exist simultaneously.

I think maybe this is the moment to learn. Its so beautiful that we are all being given this time to check in with ourselves and ask "what is working for me?" and "what can I make room for?"

Like Kate Schutt (@kateschutt) says in one of her recent videos, it is not always easy to get past your inner voice when starting something new, when learning, but I promise, just like hiking it is always one step after the other. That's the only way to climb mountains, y'all!

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