Spiritual people always have conflict, because a spiritual person from their very birth is nothing but a conflict. The one sign of a potent person is that he is a conflict. He is in conflict with ignorance. -Yogi Bhajan Hi. My name is Sat Randhir Singh. Sat means truth, and Randhir means warrior, or "one who is in a battlefield" (Singh is a surname given to all men who are given a name in the kundalini yoga tradition, which draws heavily from Sikhism). Born with a sword for a tongue that I've only recently trained my teeth to bite in times when I'm better off staying quiet, I have always been a warrior for a "truth" that I feel in the core of my being, especially when confronted with the opposite. Certain branches of Eastern philosophy chronologically place us in the "age of darkness," or Kali Yuga, in which only one quarter of the truth is readily apparent; I've been busy. I have had a problem with authority, disinformation, and injustice since a young age, rejecting the Catholic religion I was (fortunately very loosely) raised around as soon as I developed the capacity to think for myself. I'm lucky enough to have parents who only fought me a little bit when they had discovered I had been skipping Sunday school and allowed me to stop coming to church after a struggle that lasted a few weekends. Before beginning to self-medicate with yoga and meditation, I did so with drugs, most often cannabis. My disdain for authority sprouted legs when I was caught and punished for possessing cannabis at my alma mater, the University of Miami. As I remarked in an interview for the school newspaper several years later, I have the school's administration to thank for inspiring a several year career in drug policy reform. During that period, I played a major role in mobilizing students across Florida to vote to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, impassioning many like myself who had been caught on the wrong end of a broken justice system. I started working on that campaign in 2013, just as the midterm elections were winding up for that time period, and people thought I was crazy. Most at that point were still largely ignorant about the benefits of the cannabis plant for people with certain medical conditions and thought it was just a drug, that the idea of "medical" marijuana was a hoax or a joke. They would tell me I was only working on the campaign because I was "just trying to get high" (which I was having no problem doing whether legal or not), or that I would ruin my resume and any chance of future employment by putting my name so publicly behind such a cause. True to my nature, I laughed in their faces and told them time and the truth were on my side. Five years and more than half of the United States later, sticking to what I knew to be true regardless of other people's opinions landed me on the right side of history and landed my detractors in front of a large plate of their own words. Ironically, my distain for authority and distrust of any hint of organized spiritual doctrine had kept me from ever considering to become a yoga teacher. I was already into things like psychedelics, exploring some of the weird and inexplicable things they helped me to experience. I had been judged for being different my whole life; the last thing I wanted was to become any more of a walking hippie cliche by sitting in front of a class and pretending to be "zen" when I was actually quite a cynical and angry person. Fortunately for me, figuratively "minoring in chemistry" in college (by frequently modifying my own with drugs) resulted in an increased sense of body awareness and oriented me towards yoga before I had even officially begun to study it. Sometimes I would get so high that the impulse to move and stretch became action, as if the chemicals in my brain suppressed the part of me that would second guess and halt such spontaneity, and my body would just start moving on its own. Through letting my body do its thing, I was amazed to discover that it had an intelligence of its own, moving and stretching in ways that drew my awareness to parts of my body I didn't even know needed my attention. My body was healing itself, and all I had to do was watch. I took my first official yoga class after being invited by a former girlfriend, which started a series of events that eventually landed me in my first Kundalini Yoga class. All the Hatha, Vinyasa, and whatever-yoga classes I had taken prior immediately became irrelevant* compared to the tremendous high I felt in the class and walking out of the studio that day. Just as, over a decade ago, I had discovered swimming after years of trying sport after sport that couldn't keep my attention, I knew I had stumbled upon my thing. I didn't go to many classes, because $20 each time added up way too quickly, but I jumped at the opportunity to do 40 straight days of Aquarian Sadhana starting on January 1st, 2017, mostly because it was free (you can read about what exactly that is and how that experience was for me here). 40 days of sadhana eventually compelled me to do a level I teacher training, mostly to deepen my own practice. Then came the experience that convinced me I'd be doing this for the rest of my life. Our teacher training group met for an average of one 3-day weekend per month for seven months, beginning each of our training days with a morning sadhana. During one of these morning practices, one of our teacher trainers led us through a meditation called "The Master's Touch." Originally instructed to be done for two and a half hours, we meditated for just over 30 minutes, holding an odd hand posture and chanting a mantra in monotone with the eyes held slightly open and staring at the tip of the nose. I may have been too tired to hear correctly that morning, as I had my eyes closed throughout. This mistake is actually what makes the experience all the more incredible: after a while of staying as still as a statue and chanting our mantra, I began to see the room as if my eyes were open. It appeared as if most of the students in the class had given up on their meditations and had laid down to go to sleep, as only a few were remaining in an upright seated posture. This seemed unbelievable, as I heard what must have been the entire room chanting along with me. I suddenly got the idea that, forgive the cliche, I was "seeing from my third eye," and that the students I perceived as sleeping were actually upright and awake, but weren't "locked in" to the meditation and weren't "getting it." This thought came to me out of nowhere and instantaneously as if it were not my own, as if this meditative space I had entered was one in which my mind had plugged into a higher channel of instant "knowing." Stranger still, I began to see figures and beings that I knew with certainty weren't actually in the room. Similar to how some describe the visions that come with sleep paralysis, I saw beings drifting in and out of the room, some stopping to stare at me, aware of my awareness to them. Some took no notice of me, but the ones who did were either neutral or seemed to have a malicious nature about them. At any rate, this was not a very warm or inviting liminal space I had entered. Colors were cold, hazy, and almost grayscale, and everything vibrated and buzzed like static on a TV screen. The only other time I had ever experienced anything like this was when I had my first lucid dream years prior: I had "sat up" in my bed out of my body while actually still asleep. My attention soon turned towards the center of the room, where a light had opened up in the ceiling above a group of hooded figures that were circling around a raised platform. Through the gaps of the billowing cloaks, I made out glimpses of what looked like a body. In the same way I seemed to instantly "know" about the mental states of my classmates around me, I instantly "knew" that the body I was seeing surrounded by these death-like figures was my own. Waves of information cascaded into my mind after this revelation, starting with the thought that I should pay very close attention because I was being shown this vision for an important reason. I began to reflect upon my own death so intimately that I felt like I was indeed dead, and that the "life" I had been living up until this point was a mere performance of dragging a rotting corpse around from one transient place or event to the next. The next idea that was pressed onto my mind like a white hot iron: I was being shown the result of a life frittered away on evanescent worldly pleasures and compulsive habits, and so long as I devote my life to things that will ultimately disintegrate and are therefore as good as already dead, I will too be eternally dead, a walking corpse wandering aimlessly through a dying world until I decompose, lost forever. A deep despair, fear, and anguish arose in me at this thought, as if this were a truth I had been desperately trying my whole life to avoid and with which I was now being incontrovertibly faced. With the fear of a cornered animal, I impulsively focused all my mental faculties on finding a way out, and, still with two eyes closed, looked up with my third as another portal opened in the ceiling just above me. A bright white cord, opaque in its brilliance, descended and met with the crown of my head, and with it came the answer to my nonverbal question: the knowledge that what I was doing at that moment, meditating in the sacred hours of the morning and fixing my attention on God by repeating sacred sound vibrations describing "truth in the beginning, truth before time, truth now, and truth forever more" was the only way to extricate my mind from the thoroughly convincing illusion of this horrible fate. I knew in that moment that the only way to conquer death is by merging the mind with its undying creator through deep meditation. So long as I continued this practice of meditation, yoga, and devotion to my highest self (which is "God") through this practice, I knew I would forever be safe and able to move through an impermanent and dying world. Keeping that link with the eternal and deathless one that created me and is behind the scenes managing all of my affairs, who is somehow me at the deepest layer of myself and yet something completely beyond Sat Randhir Singh, became my primary mission in life that morning.
After collapsing in tears of gratitude for being shown this powerful truth, the likes of which can only be found by walking through the deepest and darkest places within one's psyche, I felt compelled to do what I once ridiculed and cynically questioned other Kundalini Yoga teachers for doing, not understanding why their legal names "weren't good enough:" I wanted a spiritual name to use to teach and to affirm my devotion to my practice, to a truth that I had just discovered and yet one that my soul has always known. I wrote to 3HO, one of the governing bodies of Kundalini Yoga that assigns spiritual names to those who request them based on the numerology of one's date of birth. I'm lucky enough to really like my name, even if it may be complicated for some to pronounce or remember; some other teachers don't like theirs and have even requested new ones, a request that I've heard is never granted because it's not something arbitrary. Almost a year later after receiving my name, I've done pretty well at maintaining my practice and staying true to it, though I am still very much attached to "Maya" in certain ways, a Sanskrit word referring to the illusion of the transient world in which I was so frightfully stuck in in that meditative experience. I have not renounced all of my addictions and compulsive habits yet, and I tell myself I have time because I'm still young, but one never knows. I know the sooner I sharpen my mind and commit to a deeper discipline, I'll surely get farther in life, and the only thing holding me back is myself. Yet, I choose to indulge in certain habits that don't serve my highest good, even if it is just a cup of coffee when not entirely necessary, for example. I'm Sat Randhir Singh, and that's just the truth of where I'm at right now.