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The Ecopreneur Next Door: Yogamint’s Hari Bhajan Khalsa

November 22, 2011

Hari Bhajan Khalsa, CEO Yogamint

Yogamint is a cool new company that sends out daily emails filled with nourishing morsels intended to help readers eat, move, think and elevate themselves to a more enriching life. The woman behind these sweet treats is Hari Bhajan Khalsa, Yogamint’s Mint Momma and CEO (Chief Enlightenment Officer). Hari Bhajan’s passions are vast and diverse — kundalini yoga, animals, poetry and meditation, to name a few — and they inspire her balanced and insightful daily messages.

But before becoming Chief Enlightenment Officer at Yogamint, Hari Bhajan traveled the world, fearlessly following her heart throughout her journeys and learning many of the principles she espouses to her readers each day.

As a teen, Hari Bhajan left her parents, four siblings and a very small town in Oregon to attend the University of Oregon. There, she underwent a major period of growth and development.

“It was a place for me to expand my consciousness and expand my awareness. When you go to a place that blows your mind, you become more aware.”

But after several years, she had outgrown the college scene. She yearned to be a part of something bigger, and feelings of community and connection were at the top of her “want” list.

In 1970 she met her husband, Dr. Hari Bhajan Singh Khalsa. He had fallen in love with kundalini yoga and wanted the women he fell in love with to practice it, too. She had her first experience with it in 1972, spending 10 days on a retreat. It didn’t come so easily at first.

“Your soul is like, ‘Yes, yes,’ and your mind is like, ‘No, no, no.’ The soul needs to tame the mind. It’s all in the experience. And the only way you can truly know, is if you do it. But once you do it (yoga), you change. It can happen in three minutes for some people.”

Once she got the hang of the practice, she never looked back.

Hari Bhajan and her husband both practice Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, a renowned spiritual leader and entrepreneur who introduced Kundalini Yoga to the United States. Kundalini works directly on the nervous and endocrine systems to prepare the person for meditation and to live a calm, focused and intuitive life through breath work, variations and postures that are put into a sequence that’s designed for a certain effect.

The Yogamint staff all practice Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, and a large number of the “mints” from their site and in their emails, are derived from his teachings.

From Yogi Bhajan:

“Actually Kundalini Yoga means awareness. Awareness is a finite relationship with infinity. That’s what it means. This dormant energy is in you. This awareness is sleeping in you and you only experience your capacity within a limit. But when it can be extended to infinity, you remain you. But in that state there is nothing lacking. This is what is called the basic human structure, the framework through which we have to function.”

As Hari Bhajan and I chatted about her life’s travels — both inner and outer — she shared one profound, life-changing spiritual journey she took in her 20’s. She and 100 others flew into Delhi, India and took a bus to Amritsar, home of the Golden Temple. She recalled peering out the bus’ window at people in fields, the beauty of the golden sun and trees, and the oxen pulling carts along the road. The authenticity and primitiveness of the scene she observed out that window overwhelmed her with emotion, and she felt that she had arrived home.

“I had a really deep connection to India. I felt that I had been there in some other life, and my heart just opened up, and change happened.”

For 15 years she bought horses, took lessons and competed in dressage (a kind of gymnastics for horses). During this period of her life she had many teachers, the horses among them. Animals do have an innate way of helping us learn things about ourselves.

In her next journey, she served as a Life Coach, where she learned to love both teaching and public speaking. She began to take group improv classes, where she found in herself a different set of skills. But Hari Bhajan got restless and she soon discovered her voice in the written word with poetry.

She found she had a knack for words and started working with a writing teacher, Bruce Gelfand, who helped her craft her art and bring out her stories. And in 2005, after 35 years, she enrolled back in college to nurture her writing, with a focus on poetry. It was a whole new community for her.

“It was very liberal and very open experience. I met tremendous people there.”

All of life’s adventures and passions have helped her become a better
writer.

“Improv busted open so many things for me. I had so many inhibitions as a writer at first. I’ve learned to trust and not be so critical of myself.”

And it all seems to be paying off. In 2010, she published her first book, a compilation of her poems titled, Life in Two Parts.

When we discussed the mentors in her life, she was quick to relay her love and appreciation for her husband.

“He was immensely patient and immensely generous.”

And, of course, she spoke of Yogi Bhajan. But Hari Bhajan has also found many of her life’s greatest lessons within her own fear and doubt.

“I believe that those elements are your greatest teachers. You have to keep on going even when you fall down.”

Hari Bhajan is embarking on this next great adventure, Yogamint, with the same enthusiasm, love of community and drive to be better, that has carried her throughout her life.

Yogamint’s concept is intended to be accessible, relatable and inclusive community, just like Hari Bhajan.

“We embody that idea of a mint. Anyone will find our mints refreshing and energizing. Our readers don’t have to commit to a huge lifestyle change. Small, incremental changes have the power to change the community — and the world as a whole.”

Through Kundalini Yoga, travels, lessons, poetry and business ventures, one fact about Hari Bhajan remains: “My quest is to leave this planet as a much more evolved and transformed human being.”

Hari Bhajan and Melissa Costello of Karma Chow at a Food & Flow video shoot

If you’re as fond of Hari Bhajan as we are at Gather Green, you’ll also dig Yogamint’s Food & Flow Video Series! Food & Flow is all about getting the word out about living, flowing and eating healthy. Each monthly video episode is centered around a theme — radiance, love, strength– and features a vegan cooking class hosted by Karma Chow Vegan Chef, Melissa Costello, along with a yoga exercise taught by Certified Kundalini Yoga Instructor, Camilla Granasen. Be sure to check out their IndieGoGo Campaign today!

This interview was originally published on GatherGreen.com.

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