By Donna Amrita Davidge
In the 1980’s I had the blessing to discover Kundalini Yoga. My teacher quickly told me I must meet Yogi Bhajan, who gave me my spiritual name in person. He based our names on our birthday. He wrote mine on a tiny slip of paper, 1/15/55, and said, as he gave me the name Amrita, “Princess of the Nectar of God, very special name.” This (1/15/55) happens to be the birthdate of Martin Luther King and Joan of Arc, and in my numerology I am told I stand for justice.
A Family Legacy
After teaching Kundalini Yoga for twelve years I had the opportunity to save a family legacy. Albeit it a small slice of American history, it meant a great deal to me. As I researched my roots I found that my ancestors, the Sewalls, had come over on the Mayflower. But it was the tiny town in northern Maine with its the pristine seven mile long lake, with eagles soaring, loons singing in the night, beavers swimming by and billowy unimaginably beautiful clouds and dramatic thunderstorms that I had a particular affinity for.
My mother, like Henry David Thoreau (who some call the first American yogi), loved the lessons and solitude in nature, so we spent each summer in a tiny isolated cabin only reachable five miles down the lake by boat. I played with imaginary friends and drew etchings on large mushrooms with wooden match sticks. My mother read me Little Women by kerosene lamp. We slept on old Army canvas cots in sleeping bags. (Years later when I started going to solstices in 1989, camping was no issue for me.)
My great grandfather had been the first non-Native American child born in this tiny town, which his family and one other settled in 1845, the year he was born. His family made a beautiful home in 1860, which took five years to build—a sturdy well planned three story Colonial farm home.
A Harvard student was told he must visit my great grandfather who, as a nature guide, shared much of what he had learned living amidst the Natives. When he arrived at the home, the awkward nearly blind frail student felt like one of the family,
My great grandfather told his children the house was built on honor and people felt that. The young student had suffered from lifelong serious asthma. Climbing Mt. Katahdin and other treks into the woods to meet the loggers strengthened his body and spirit. A lifelong friendship was forged between these two men, unlikely as it was—so much so that my great grandfather was at the inauguration of this friend, Theodore Roosevelt, when he became the President of the United States.
There is much more to the story (see the book Becoming Teddy Roosevelt: How a Maine Guide Inspired America’s 26th President) but suffice it to say that I cared deeply to keep this home in the National Historic Registry, alive. I purchased it in 1997, after it sat empty for 18 months when my great Aunt, who was born in and loved the home, passed away at 101 in the home she loved.
On a wing and a prayer, yogic principles, and a great love for nature, Maine and the healing aspects of Kundalini Yoga, I opened the home as a small yoga retreat eighteen years ago. Fast forward to three years ago when I spent a night at the cabin, which still stands. Singing the words, “This life of mine has been blessed” from Snatam Kaur’s music, I truly felt it that morning. Despite the challenges and rewards of the years Sewall House still survived under my stewardship.
The Email that Changed My Life
I arrived home to find an email that changed my life forever. I had heard about the wind turbines that would be put up in the next town, how huge and fascinating they were lying on the ground, but until this email I took little interest in seeing them or what they were about.
The email said that 80% of Lake Mattawamkeag would see the red flashing lights at night from these monstrous industrial machines; as well as the fact that they emitted audible and low frequency noise that disturbed human sleep and health badly; as well as the havoc they wreaked with wildlife. Bats, already endangered by white nose disease, would burst their lungs when near the blades! Eagles wings would be chopped off, damaged or the birds themselves sliced in half by the blades.
My heart sank, my mind was beyond disturbed.
Becoming an Activist
This is my story of becoming a spiritual activist in a battle wrought with lies and deceptions.
Was I to stand silent watching this place I loved and the creatures I loved destroyed by a greed scheme? I learned quickly that the purest of intentions are thwarted by power and greed and those willing to lie to relentlessly get what they want; still I had to act. I began to research more about the turbines and discovered a Wind Task Force in the state, still just a speck beside the monies poured into Obama’s campaign that was rewarded with the subsidies and Production tax credits to destroy our forests and human and wildlife.
I spoke to communities and individuals who had gone through the same thing, most losing and some winning by enacting wind ordinances in their towns. I brought the documentary Windfall to Island Falls, as well as a guest speaker from another small town that successfully enacted a wind ordinance. The public was so misinformed and so willing to sell out, needing money in these hard times and believing the lies of the wind companies, who say they are not harmful to human or animals.
I decided to speak first hand with people throughout the area who had suffered from them, finding some had been silenced by payoffs and gag orders where they could say nothing even if made ill by them. The more I learned the less integrity I saw in our politicians and the wind company, run by an Enron CEO. They did not care who they hurt or lied to.
I wrote letters to editors, commented on many articles, testified at hearings and created a nonprofit for our cause called Protect Our Lakes. I was interviewed on radio and approached by local television. I also had those opposing me saying slanderous things on Facebook and elsewhere. Yet I still stood for what I believed to be the way of integrity and used my voice for this.
A Warrior Spirit
The more I learned, worldwide as well as locally, the more I felt strongly in my heart that this was the way of ahimsa (nonviolence) and satya (truth). I had not asked for this position. There seemed to be no choice. My almost thirty years of yoga and meditation is what helped me through the anxiety of the situation—the disbelief that this murder could occur with such lies and manipulation, as has been the case throughout history.
Yogi Bhajan spoke often of the importance of legacy. As a yogi I believe strongly in the importance of standing up for reverence for life, for all of God’s creatures and that my existence is finite but that the future of the planet depends on something other than lies to play on people’s fears about energy sources. In this article I can barely skim the topic so I refer you to another article I wrote [The Answer My Friend is Blowing in the Wind: page 6 of this pdf].
When the wind company PR person and the biologist both called me and told me they did yoga and asked me what they could do for me, I said nothing. Yoga has become an exercise, not something where people even know what Namaste means or what a yama or niyama is. These men thought that would make me feel on common ground with them.
One said I was simply uncomfortable with change. He did not know me, did not know that I have had a lot more changes in my life than many, changes that brought me full circle to the family home and its healing legacy.
Yogi Bhajan taught us so much, He emphasized over and over again to take our commotion and convert it to devotion. I became devoted to a cause that tore deeply into my heart. He taught us to use our anger to fuel positive purposes, not the kind of power Obama has displayed by signing a bill to allow eagles to be murdered for the next 30 years as much as the wind companies want, while we are fined $2500 for killing them.
Is this integrity? I call it arrogance of the human being—and I have devoted the last three years of my life to prevent them from going over our lakes. They have dynamited the hills as I write; they will destroy the wildlife and clearcut the pristine forest, as they have already started to do.
I live with my warrior spirit, even as a warrior does not win every battle. I thank God for Yogi Bhajan, his teachings and his legacy, which I continue to share with students who know not the battle I have fought or the tears I have shed over this cause, so misunderstood by so many. When people do not believe me or ask what is the alternative, all I know is what is happening is inefficient, destructive and paved with lies. That is the answer I know. I can only speak my truth with the goal of non-harming.
Donna Amrita Davidge has been teaching Kundlaini Yoga since the mid 80’s in New York City at Kundalini Yoga East and presently at Golden Bridge, as well as other places like the Open Center. She spends nearly six months of the year at www.sewallhouse.com in northern Maine which has been featured in much press and ranked high as a healing home for those in transition sharing yoga lifestyle and teaching. www.donnadavidgeyoga.com