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Peace of mind

Nicky Daez, founder of Seabiscuit Films, takes in the high vibrations of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

MANILA, Philippines — Ever since I was a kid, I have been a big believer in destiny — that we are all fated to live great lives with higher callings. I always loved stories of epic adventures and people seeking out paths that help uplift humanity and provoke the status quo. I remember when I was 20, I had just come back home to Manila after living in North Carolina for 11 months. In that span of time, I had worked four different jobs — from cleaning toilets, to making pizza, unloading trucks of clothing, to meticulously arranging produce on shelves. That was my first awakening to my spiritual path: the challenge of being in the so-called real world, leaving the comforts of Manila and learning life-altering lessons by doing blue-collar work, propelled my own existential probe into how life was supposed to be lived. 

Fast-forward to five years later and I found myself in another significant moment in my life. Career-wise, I couldn’t complain — my video production company, Seabiscuit Films, was in a good place. But the rest of my life was falling apart. My marriage had just ended and I felt like a blazing fire had torched the safety net holding me up. I was freefalling into an abyss of melancholy. I tried distracting myself by embracing reckless abandon and just numbing myself with hedonist pursuits, but they didn’t help. It made me feel even worse.

Eventually, out of desperation, I reached out to my cousin Karla Delgado, who I knew was into meditation. I asked her if she could suggest a place I could go and learn. She invited me to go to a gathering at the home of one of her friends. When I arrived, I immediately felt a strange yet familiar feeling of warmth and comfort. I remember the meditation session being grounding and peaceful. We all lay on our backs and paid attention to our breath. We would then visualize a golden blanket of light covering our bodies. It felt like this gentle ball of energy was cradling us as we slipped into a peaceful state. 

 

 

 

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When the session was over, I started talking to Vivien Tan who was a regular practitioner, and she asked me if I had tried Kundalini Yoga. She said it was incredible and was different from the other forms of yoga I had tried like Ashtanga and Vinyasa. I was sold. I knew I had to try it.

My first Kundalini Yoga class was love at first sit. A lot of the movements and breath work were so unfamiliar to me, but they clicked and made sense. Kundalini is known as the yoga of awareness, and I felt as if a dormant light had been sparked inside me. From the tuning-in and the mantras at the beginning of each class, to holding poses and breathing deeply for long periods of time, and ending the session with the Long Time Sunshine song — they all felt like a sacred ritual. For the first time in my life, I had experienced something so spiritually transcending by just simply breathing and moving my body. It was mind blowing. In an instant, I was hooked.

This marked the beginning of my spiritual journey. I went to India for two months on my first solo trip. I visited Rishikesh up in the Himalayas to join the International Yoga Festival. I dipped myself into the sacred water of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. I had the privilege of attending the Holi Festival and witnessed ancient practices of the Nihong warriors. A few months after, I went to New Mexico to participate in the Kundalini Yoga Summer Solstice festival. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. It was my first encounter with white tantric yoga, which extends for three straight days as you meditate with a partner facing you, chanting and holding various poses for hours. The whole experience can be encapsulated in the belief that “I am you and you are me.” 

I admit that I wasn’t sure if all this soul searching was going to be merely a phase in my life. But almost three years have passed and I find myself yearning to go deeper and deeper. A year ago, I had the opportunity to join the Inner Dance Energy School at Bahay Kalipay in Palawan and started learning inner dance, a specific kind of healing modality that allows the body to move involuntarily which helps release past traumas and illness. Last December, I joined a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in Nepal wherein we had to observe golden silence: no talking, no reading, no eye contact, no activity for 10 days. They called it the Buddhist tradition of surgery of the mind, as you peel away layers and layers of mental programming. It was one of the most challenging experiences I had gone through in my life, but also one of the most rewarding. 

Two weeks ago, I joined this Kundalini Yoga program called Seva Sadhana which is an immersion in an ashram in Espanola, New Mexico. Seva means selfless service while sadhana means spiritual practice. The entire experience was such a revelation to me. From working in the garden and cleaning the temple with our bare hands and feet to cooking in the kitchen and serving the members of the community, it was humbling and enlightening at the same time, making me realize how the essence of spirituality is in serving others. All the traditions and practices of connecting with a Higher Source are rooted in love for other people and showing that in action. It was so simple. For the first time in my life, the dots started to connect, and so much clarity washed over me. And it dawned on me that this spiritual journey isn’t just a phase — It’s actually my life evolving into its natural state. It’s a source of strength and inspiration. For me, it’s what makes life so rich and beautiful — to have that deep faith in the synchronicities of each passing moment. 

That said, I think a person needs to have an open and patient state of mind for meditation or spirituality to work. It takes a lot of grit and determination to be steadfast in the practice. For me, I’ve learned to view my spiritual practice as a part of my daily life. It’s as essential as brushing my teeth or taking a bath. At the same time, it needs to be cultivated. There will be a lot of times when you don’t feel like doing it, but that’s exactly why you need to keep up with your practice. That’s the point wherein it starts to deepen and it seeps into your habit and mental patterns.

Today, I try to be mindful in everything that I do. I’ve learned that even the most mundane activities should be done as though they are a sacred act. That just resonates with me very deeply. I used to want to be a big­­-shot commercial director, but now, I realize I don’t want those things anymore. I love living a creative life, but I have learned lately that a life of service is my true calling. I have never felt so much peace and happiness helping other people.

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