Hari Nam Singh Khalsa has taught and counseled thousands of people all over the world on virtually every aspect of human endeavor.
Hari Nam continues to give workshops on personal and spiritual development, Kundalini Yoga teacher trainings and immersion trainings on how to be a great Spiritual Advisor. Hari Nam is best known for his passion, sense of humor and expertise for integrating spirituality into daily life. He has also authored the book, Khalsa Consciousness, a concise and impactful description of the Khalsa Spiritual Path, available on Amazon or his website.
1. Can you tell us about your work, and why you’ve embarked on this journey?
To answer this question, I would have to first bring myself back to a rainy spring evening in Manhattan some 40 years ago. On that auspicious evening I curiously and innocently attended a course given by a renowned spiritual teacher from India named Yogi Bhajan. Little did I know that when that man entered the room my life was about to change forever. I had trouble understanding his heavily-accented English, I had even more trouble understanding the points he was trying to make, I strongly disagreed with his points of view that I did understand, and I generally found myself not particularly liking him as a person. Yet, I heard a very loud and clear voice inside myself saying this guy has what I want (without knowing what exactly that was!) and I’m going to do whatever is necessary to get it, essentially losing my interest for the time being in everything else the world had to offer. I didn’t know it at the time, but at that moment I chose my spiritual teacher and there would be no going back to the conformist life I had been raised to live.
Still in my mid-20s, I dedicated and disciplined myself to be the best possible student on the path that my spiritual teacher represented, that of Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma. From the beginning, my intention was to embody the integrity, wisdom and compassion of my teacher, while still embracing my own unique talents and personality. Early on, I began regularly teaching classes in Kundalini Yoga, eventually receiving invitations from around the world to teach workshops and appear as a public speaker in order to share the keys to personal and spiritual development. I was also inspired by my spiritual teacher to be a personal counselor, a role I have come to particularly relish and have become well-known for. These days I also train people to counsel as I do, as I was trained by my spiritual teacher. I also have authored a book called Khalsa Consciousness, a concise and direct explanation of the Khalsa Spiritual Path to liberation, as founded by the 10th Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh. With all my heart and soul, I believe I was put on this planet to write this book. All these roles of being a teacher, counselor, public speaker and writer have been greatly influenced and supported by my collective personal, academic and professional experience; that being a married man, an ordained minister, an attorney, a financial advisor and a person who has earned his masters in counseling psychology.
2. How do you challenge entrenched belief systems and encourage people to move beyond their comfort zone?
I think it best to begin by sharing what I DON’T do, that being, I DON’T give advice, I DON’T try to persuade or convince, I DON’T talk philosophy, and I DON’T try to analyze or fix people. (All things I’ve been trained to do as a lawyer and psychologist!) And there is a reason I don’t go in those directions and that is because I see no evidence that those strategies actually work. It has been my experience that people almost never follow the advice of others (even if they are asking for advice) unless they are receiving confirmation for what they were going to do anyhow. And just because somebody understands and agrees with my point of view intellectually does not mean they are going to actually do anything about it. And for that reason, unlike other spiritual teachers, I am also careful not to invoke philosophical perspectives in my attempt to inspire positive change in the lives of others. It has been my experience that this approach is inevitably counterproductive, keeping people in their heads and absolving them of the responsibility of actually doing something, instead of just thinking about doing something. And even though I’m trained in the theories of modern psychology, I personally don’t think there is much value in looking for answers in a person’s past, which to me, is usually self-evident anyhow. Rather, I am of the belief that people’s preoccupation with their past, usually their painful past, is just another form of escapism. As a spiritual teacher and counselor, my responsibility is to point people towards reality and now, and in so doing, close off their escape routes to a more comfortable, yet un-real world, which I jokingly refer to as “Zombieland.”
So how DO I challenge entrenched belief systems and encourage people to move beyond their comfort zone? By TESTING them! People move forward in life by actually DOING something that will permanently change the way they view their own life and view the world around them. So how do I assist them getting to the point of actually DOING something? The first step is to engage with a person sufficiently to see the most pressing, yet surmountable challenge in their current life. The second step is to present this challenge in a way that they will finally acknowledge it has to be dealt with and show a willingness to deal with it now. The third step is to present a clear strategy in order to overcome the challenge du jour. I call this THE TEST. This real life test has to be strong enough to take the person out of their comfort zone, yet not so strong as to be beyond their current ability, which would merely be a set-up for failure. THE TEST also needs to be specifically designed to both take advantage of the strengths of that particular person and upon its successful completion, move the person one step closer to their individual destiny. The final step is to inspire and motivate the person to willingly take on THE TEST and see it through to the end. The world is going to look different on the other side of THE TEST; entrenched belief systems will lose their hold and the person will be more willing to take on increasingly uncomfortable challenges in their newfound ambition for personal growth.
3. What is the first step someone has to take to break out of the box and cultivate a more contrarian way of thinking?
The very first step is to acknowledge and be at peace with the simple fact that we are mortal beings, that we are all going to die, and that day is not far off. Hopefully, this will motivate a sincere search for Truth while we are still here, ultimately implicating the Ultimate Truths: Does life have meaning? What is the purpose of life? What is my mission in life? So yea, in short, the very first step one has to take to break out of the box in thinking and behavior is to be willing to live and to die for The Truth, which again is normally motivated by a sincere acknowledgement of one’s own mortality and not being afraid to face it.
In the same vein, there has to be an acknowledgement that we come into this world alone and leave this world alone, which is another way of saying that to truly be a non-conforming and out of the box thinker, one has to be at peace with what I would call “existential loneliness.” In other words, ultimately I’m comfortable with who I am, what I do and how I think. Again, my ultimate loyalty is to The Truth, even if it puts me in uncomfortable circumstances. I am not willing to be a mindless zombie; thinking, talking and acting in any way contrary to my True Self, just to enjoy the comfort of being liked or socially accepted by others who also will not be here for long.
Because I think in this way, I am no longer afraid of the consequences of being a free person and as a result, my mind will naturally flow and expand, its prior self-imposed limitations now melted away. Now anything and everything is possible. All the great minds and sages in history, those who were the ultimate visionaries, truly the out-of-the-box thinkers; if you read the stories of their lives, it’s always the same; it all started with the realization that this life is mortal and short; that the most important thing of all is the pursuit and realization of TRUTH.