Growing up in a spiritual home, it was only natural that Kirat Randhawa would be drawn to the practice of Sikhism and Buddhism. Now a meditation instructor and an inspired student of Tibetan Buddhism, Kirat shares with us her personal challenges and best advice for beginning meditation.
Q: What led you to meditation and how long have you been teaching?
A: I grew up in a Sikh household, where meditation and prayer were strong components of living a well-conducted life. It was through my family, specifically my parents, where the significance of pursuing a spiritual life was introduced. I started studying Buddhist philosophy around five years ago and related to the underpinnings of Tibetan Buddhism specifically. Both my practice in Sikhism and Buddhism has inspired my offering to the community, which I have been sharing for just under two years.
Q: When you first started to meditate personally, what was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
A: When I first started practicing meditation separate from the philosophy introduced to me by my parents, I realized how unfriendly my relationship was with myself. There was quite a bit of inner tension, and although I was able to conceptually recognize the importance of self-compassion, I had difficulty translating that philosophy into action. Over time, and with consistent practice and discipline, I have been able to use meditation as a tool to lovingly befriend myself and extend kindness towards all parts of me, which has been the fundamental shift that has allowed me to extend that same kindness toward other individuals. It's a continual practice and each day I have the opportunity to choose again.
Q: When you first started to lead meditation, what was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
A: Imposter syndrome; to identify if I had anything of value to share with the larger community. It's natural to contemplate the value of what's being presented to the world and, in many ways, it allows me to ground the offering in humility and sincerity. The beauty inherent in offering the practices allows everything I share in my classes to simply be an extension of myself; if I'm unable to hold my own suffering with tremendous gentleness and compassion, I am fundamentally unable to hold the suffering of another in that manner. Most of my work as a meditation instructor is done before I enter the room: it's embedded in my relationship to myself, my alignment with my values, and how I carry myself throughout the world.
Q: How do you want practitioners to feel when they leave meditation with you?
A: Leading guided meditation sessions has taught me that the instructor is not responsible for the experience of each practitioner, as each individual is having their own unique encounter with their psyche. What the instructor is responsible for is providing an ethical, kind, and supportive framework in which the practitioner can explore safely. For my classes specifically, it's important to me that each practitioner has been presented with the opportunity to become closer to themselves by noticing patterns, sensations, and emotional experiences.
Q: For the meditation newbies, what's the goal? Is it to relax, unwind, or reach a deeper level of thinking?
A: The goal varies from person to person. Some individuals are interested in enhancing their quality of sleep, others are focused on reducing anxiety, and then there are practitioners who are interested in liberating themselves from their suffering. In the initial stages, it's all relative. However, what they all have in common is an underlying desire to become finely attuned to who they are so that appropriate steps can be taken to support a state of flourishing.
Q: What's the potential for CBD as a part of meditation?
A: Meditation can be used as a powerful tool to maintain psychic equilibrium and, when paired with CBD - which supports the emotional processes that contribute towards internal balance - the offering creates fruitful conditions to navigate one's inner experience with relaxed attention and ease.
Q: What's your biggest piece of advice for anyone starting to meditate?
A: Clarify the motivation. Meditation is not easy, and the daily choice to sit down on the cushion and create space for all parts of one's existence, including the painful and the uncomfortable, requires tremendous discipline coupled with gentleness. Understanding clearly why one wishes to develop a meditation practice and why they found themselves sitting on the cushion or in a class for the first time invites an exploration to what initially led them there. Typically, a series of causes and their consequences (beneficial or not) inspired the initial choice to practice meditation, and being firmly aware of these circumstances is an important part of continuing a daily practice.