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How Do You Just Be You?

By Narinder Kaur

“Every individual has the potential to be original.”
-Yogi Bhajan

From the age of five up until age thirty-eight I was always somewhere in the process of growing out a bowl haircut. I recall that first time of many when my mother took me to the hairdresser. I specifically remember her telling the hairdresser to make my hair look like Dorothy Hamill’s hair. I later found out that Dorothy Hamill was a figure skater with a wildly popular stacked wedge bowl haircut that flipped and feathered perfectly when she spun around.

This was also around the time that I was told that I was a sinner and would need to be saved. One could say that the series of my many identity crises started in kindergarten. I began to figure out what would become my second nature, and behaved and appeared that way so that I could be allowed to be present.

My first nature seemed to concern the adults in my life pretty early on. My beautifully orchestrated séances in the treehouse were frowned upon. My childlike fascination with the macabre Bible stories was "tsk’d" at, so I dropped the subject.

I quit asking about ‘the mark of the beast’ but secretly kept my eye open for it. This innocent preoccupation with the darker side of life wasn’t celebrated but ignored, so I began to forget it too. I went on to the other things I love: music and art. By the age of twelve, after a lot of twisting myself into foreign shapes that seemed most acceptable, I appeared to fit in.

In my experience one doesn’t live a fulfilled life when they are not living as the Being of their soul’s nature. Something is always missing. It felt as though I was watching my life as if it was living itself throughout high school and college. I was the bystander witnessing my experiences as if they were someone else’s experiences.

This made hollowness in my stomach. I watched my costume changes; I ached with loneliness. I felt helpless. I tried on different names.  We walked like this for years, me and that other me, first nature and second nature, side by side, never interested in each other.

It has been said before that Kundalini Yoga will find you. I believe this. I wasn’t looking for anything like it. But when it landed in my lap, I felt the Earth move. I knew this was my lifeline. It confused me but I received it. It was a divine blessing and I knew it. It didn’t fit in with my unhealthy lifestyle and I loved that. It was a treacherous ego trip to the place where my identity crises would one day finally cease and the reality of my individuality would emerge.

Yogi Bhajan said, “Just be you” in every way he could possibly say it. Such a simple statement, but it was the hardest concept for me to grasp. For years, I kept up with my sadhana, chipping away at this ‘Just be you.’

Very slowly what came to the surface was my fascination with the dark. Wait! What? I’m wearing all white and talking about healing crystals and grace. I can’t be reading and talking about death and decay—that’s not uplifting.

Again, I put down my true nature to pick up another second nature, to blend in, to fit in with my yogi friends. I talked all things love and light in a pitch that wasn’t even my voice. Again, I found myself hollowed out; my ego was eating away at my heart. But I kept up.

Then by goodness I was blessed with a pen pal who is a Kundalini Yoga teacher on the other side of the country in a place called Yuba City. I quickly realized she was a mentor and I listened.

Sangeeta Kaur Khalsa, over and over, handed back to me Yogiji’s words, “Just. Be. You.”

With unwavering patience it was almost two years of emails like this:

“Sangeeta, sometimes I feel like I’m hiding in spirituality.”

“Narinder, just be you.”

“Sangeeta, I’m so confused. I’m supposed to be this uplifting happy teacher but I’m happy at home reading about demons and how to talk to dead people.”

“Narinder, just be you.”

“Sangeeta, I don’t think I’m good enough to teach Kundalini Yoga.”

“Narinder, just be you.”

“But, Sangeeta, I’m not bubbly. Shouldn’t a yoga teacher be bubbly?”

“Just be you.”

“Sangeeta, I’m not sure about this turban thing.”

“Just be you.”

“Sangeeta, I think I want to grow my hair out and wear a turban.”

“Narinder, just be you.”

“I’m thinking about sharing with others that I’ve struggled with mental illness.”

“Narinder, just be you.”

“Sangeeta, I am so honored to get to teach Kundalini Yoga.”

“Just be you.”

“Sangeeta, I’m really content these days.”

“Just be you.”

Again and again, like a compass always finding true north regardless of how many times the course is lost, Sangeeta returned, “Just be you” to me. Like a lighthouse, the teachings brought me safely home. And there, in deep gratitude for her, for Yogiji, for the teachings, I unfolded one cautious step after another until I found that it was safe to become my true nature, and that to my surprise, my unique fearlessness of the dark is needed. I can help lead others when they are afraid.

In a few weeks I will be finishing up my courses to become a certified Death Doula and Home Funeral Guide. I am currently serving as a steward of a natural burial cemetery. I became me and it all came to me. My complete lack of fear of death, of all things dark, once “tsk’d” at, once ignored, is now celebrated.

And here I am I Am, just me, all of me, unafraid of the dark, unafraid of the light, running towards them both with a wide grin and confidence as the true articulation of my soul arrives. This is the greatest teaching. “Just be you.” I will do my utmost to deliver it as it was delivered to me—again and again and again, compassionately.

“It is the teacher’s foremost duty to give you back your intelligence, to return you to your heart, to encourage you to access yourself. They do this by being who they really are and by being completely honest and compassionate with you.”
-Richard Freeman

Narinder Kaur lives in Atlanta with her husband Brahamjot Singh. She is an artist, a Kundalini Yoga teacher, and a Home Funeral Guide.