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40 Days of Meditation

In April of 2018, I traveled to Costa Rica to prove to myself that even through everything, I still have a chance at the life I want to live. To paraphrase something I’ve heard Chris Kresser say time and again: “healthy” means that I can function in the life I want to live with relative ease.

On this trip, I would encounter and accomplish many firsts:

sloth hands from branch
Sloth at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Costa Rica
  • First time traveling on my own.
  • First time traveling to Central America and the jungle.
  • First time traveling to what is considered a developing country where medical care would be limited.
  • First time seeing a sloth! And oh goodness, I didn’t just get to see a sloth, I got to see several sloths, even a basket of baby sloths at the Jaguar Rescue Center. Give yourself a second to take that in. A basket. Of baby. Sloths.
  • First time practicing yoga seven straight days in a row!
  • First time being introduced to Kundalini yoga and meditation. describes Kundalini yoga as “a blend of Bhakti Yoga (the yogic practice of devotion and chanting), Raja Yoga (the practice of mediation/mental and physical control) and Shakti Yoga, (for the expression of power and energy).” In my own experience, it is a practice that combines mantra, movement, and breathing in ways I had never before seen or experienced in the Western world where I have spent my entire life.

While learning a few Kundalini techniques with our teacher Kelley, I felt silly – I’ll admit it. But something about the unfamiliar movements and words changed something in me. Weaving itself in with the healing vibrations of the jungle, with the beautiful energy of our leaders, and of each other, with the daily physical strain, and with the cracking open of my heart and my mind in each moment in this land of awe, it was after a Kundalini practice one morning that I had my first visual experience during a meditation. It left me amazed and curious.

When we came home, Kelley invited us to try a Kundalini practice for 40 days – just to see what would happen, just to try it out. And so I did. With no expectations and an open mind, I committed to a daily practice of the Sobagh Kriya for 40 days. Here’s what happened in that time…

The Sobagh Kriya, for Abundance

First, Kundalini is made up of many different sequences called kriyas. Each kriya combines mantras, meditative breathing, movement, and mudras (hand gestures) that together energetically call for something in the universe. Yes, I know that sounds super-unscientific, but there actually is quite a bit of science behind it! For example, one scientist hooked himself up to an electrocardiograph during his practice to study “awakening” kundalini energy through the connection between heartrate and brain activity. Meditation and hatha yoga have separately been studied for their positive health effects, including stress reduction and pain management. Breathing techniques like the 4-7-8 exercise have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

In addition to these well-documented benefits of the components of Kundalini practice, the combinations joined in each kriya are designed to trigger acupressure points and align the body’s frequency with something the practitioner hopes to gain (or remove) from their life. The question is: Does it work? The Sobagh Kriya in particular is designed to induce abundance and promote prosperity in the practitioner’s life. The kriya is comprised of five parts and involves a lot of arm movement, diaphragm control when chanting each mantra, ab and oblique involvement to keep a straight sitting posture for at least 20 minutes, and several minutes of measured breathing where you only take one full breath each minute. At the very least, I figured, I would be getting in a solid mini-workout each day.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

My Own Experiences of Abundance

I practiced this kriya for 40 days to see what might happen, knowing that regardless of any “energetic” gains I would be benefiting from the meditation, breathing, and movement aspects of the kriya. It was not an easy habit to add to my already tight schedule. I’ll admit that there were many days when I did not want to follow through, and a couple (after my eye surgery) that I shortened the practice to its absolute minimum time constraints. But in the end, I think it really paid off!

  1. Only a week into the practice, I was contacted about an amazing opportunity to produce my short play, Depth Perception, in the Atlanta Fringe Festival. I had applied and been waitlisted at the beginning of the year, so this was a big surprise! I did rewrites, cast the show, and we performed it a month later (still during the 40 days). My amazing cast and I brought home the Audience Choice Award for best ensemble show. I was so proud!
  2. About a week after that news, I found out I was selected to receive an internal grant from my department. This money allowed me to run a national survey in 2019 with more than 1000 participants. The data I collected with that money is key to my professional research and Ph.D. dissertation.
  3. When it looked like I was going to miss a month’s rent due to several unexpected setbacks earlier in the year, a relative sent money in the exact amount I needed in June. She had no idea what was going on at the time, but simply sensed that I needed help. And she was right.

But were these instances really brought into my life because of my practice?

Alex Carter and the Depth Perception cast

Correlation or Causation?

Some may say these are sure signs of the universe sending me the abundance my kriya was asking for during those 40 days. Incoming opportunities and funds had been few and far between in the years prior to this – at least in terms of size and impact. And they have been more spaced out in the time since my 40-day practice. Others would say these are amazing occurrences that were heading my way regardless or for other reasons – only coincidental to the practice.

I am a scientist by profession, and a skeptic. I doubt I will ever be comfortable saying that my practice of the Sobagh Kriya was the immediate cause of all the wonderful events that occurred during my time with it. Nor would most practitioners say this, either. The purpose of many meditative and yogic practices is to enhance and to influence, not to out-and-out change. My therapist might say that my practice of a daily meditation with the intention for abundance allowed me to be more mentally aware of opportunities and more emotionally accepting of them.

Regardless of money, power, relationships, or other forms of abundance possibly coming into my life because of this specific Kundalini practice, I truly believe that I received one of the most beautiful gifts of abundance from this practice that anyone can receive: I spent 25 to 30 minutes a day with myself. With this practice, I gave myself the beautiful, priceless gift of getting to know me better and coming to feel at ease with only my own company. That, I feel, is the true abundance I received.

I have not kept up with the Sobagh Kriya, nor with any daily Kundalini practice since those 40 days, and I have noticed the void this has left in my life. I feel more stressed and less able to cope with the daily stressors of my life – including the opportunities that came into my life during my 40-day practice. Almost like coming off of a diet, I began with cheat days that turned into busy weeks, and I told myself time and again that I would start back up “tomorrow.” I know that the days I meditate, especially in the morning, are days that I feel more centered, motivated, and able to be productive.

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