I just got back from Edmonton and I was super excited to go matha tek at the Gurdwara and play my harmonium! It's been a busy weekend trying to unpack and settle in again, but here are some reflections. I wanted to bring up the topic of speech and how words can create or resolve conflict.
I’ve been more careful lately about what I say in conversations. For example sometimes I get annoyed having to repeat the same information again and say “I already told you, it’s (fill in the blank)” or “I told you a million times”, etc. I started learning how to skip that initial thought and instead just answer the question. I have to say it feels a lot better to just answer it neutrally than sending that negative energy out by answering angrily. Interestingly, I remember someone once saying that we can get tired of repeating information, but how many times is Ik Onkaar written in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib? Guru Ji tells us over and over, because we forget yet it’s the most important thing.
Today I read a chapter in “Gurmat Jeevan Jaach” by Bhai Sewa Singh Tarmala. As a review from previous posts, “Kaal” is the name given to the Governor of Maya (maya includes not only physical things but also our thoughts). In this chapter, he explains how Kaal uses our body to get his work done. Since our minds are asleep without Naam, our bodies are under the control of that maya constantly. Instead of using our senses to meet God (for example seeing jot, tasting Amrit ras, hearing shabads), we use our senses to achieve things in maya The 5 thieves (lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride) take control of our bodies to achieve what they want us to achieve. For example if we are in anger, then that angry thought (krodh, part of maya) will use our eyes to see the world differently and will generate different words from our mouth.
As an aside, I remember around the time I started working, one of the doctors I worked with swore a lot. I grew up not saying any swear words at all, even "minor" ones. I found that after spending so much time around the swearing, I started swearing too. I didn't like my language at all. I tried to stop but I found that some of my friends were also swearing and it was hard. When I separated myself from that environment, I started reading more and more Gurbani and I stopped swearing. I think that words and language, therefore, also reflect the attitudes and mindset of our sangat. If we spend time around people who sing the praises of God, then we will speak that same language too. If we spend time around people lost in maya, then we will speak accordingly.
When we have a conflict with someone else it makes it much easier then to understand where the role is of the 5 in us, and the 5 acting in the other person. When it’s the 5 in us, we can recognize that, apologize and correct ourselves. I think it takes some time to forgive oneself for saying those words as well. When we say hurtful things to someone else, it hurts us too. There is a programming, a drive, for kaal to create conflict and most of us will fall into the trap. It helps to remember that forgiving yourself is a part of learning and growing. We don't know what we don't know at the time because our minds are evolving at different stages of this life journey. For example, until recently I didn't know about this whole game of maya and thoughts, and how to have proper communication and overcome the tendency to say things you didn't plan on saying. It takes time, experience, understanding and enlightenment given by God to move through it. We can work to become closer to God so instead of being lost in thoughts, our minds will be one with God and won’t speak harshly. At the end of the day, our words reflect the state of mind. A mind that is one with Waheguru speaks differently than the mind that is one with Maya.
I have noticed that it really helps in any situation to see the 5 in other people. I used to really hold onto people’s words. Words cut deeply, words hurt, and words damage, especially if you play them over and take them personally. I’ve realized a few things. Firstly, like many people, I put too much value on those words. When people speak, it can be a reflection of simply what they are going through at that moment. It happens to all of us and every single one of us has that experience of having blurted out things we didn’t mean. I was recently reading an article abut how people aren’t necessarily angry when they say hurtful things, but often afraid, disappointed, or hurt themselves in some way. Sometimes people are shocked when we remind them what they said, or sometimes we’re shocked when people tell us what we said: “I said that?” It’s blurted out so quickly we don't realize. Second, often times it’s not what someone says that’s upsetting, there’s something more to it. It’s what that means to you, in the setting of how you have gotten to be where you are. It's not usually really an argument about the toilet paper, or something silly like that- it's about something deeper. If it’s a close relationship then it helps to talk about what the other person said means to you and how you interpret it. There was a long time I didn’t know how to dig deep enough to understand how to communicate that part and how to translate all the feelings into words. I think everyone can learn how to do it though, it just takes a little practice. Once I learned it I realized it helps to clear up hurt feelings/confusion and creates a healthier relationship because the other person is more sensitive to that issue next time.
Lastly, I think we are taught that words should hurt a lot, like you should be somehow hurt forever. Why? This only hurts ourselves by holding on and repeating the words to ourselves. Words don’t need to cut deeply, if we understand Gurbani. It has a lot of healing power if we can apply that understanding. It’s important to remember that the 5 dhoots and homai (ego) are underlying the words said by anyone and kaal is using us to create that conflict. Gurbani says “If people praise me, the praise is Yours. Even if they slander me, I will not leave You. If You are on my side, then anyone can say anything. But if I were to forget You, then I would die.” Whereas a lot of the battles fought in Sikh history were physical battles of life and death it seems nowadays we struggle with even minor disagreements. Emotional battles are fought nowadays in our own minds. I think in a way it shows us that we need to work on our spirituality then our minds will become more at peace, and less dependent on what other people say. When we understand the game as God has created it, then it becomes a lot easier to not be so attached to words. I think I might have wrote in one of my older posts that I once read about the idea of not “catching” the words in the air and taking them in but just letting them just pass by. If there’s something to hold onto, to catch and imprint into our minds, it’s Gurbani, the support of the Guru.