I step out
Seeing the world burning in poison
Suffering hands reaching out,
I dig a well
pull up the water pail by pail
I am surrounded
Whispers, fingers pointing
gossip, slander, judgment
Seeing the fire grow,
Hands coming to cover my mouth-
a young woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about
They speak for me
Decide for me
Suffocating me in their opinions
Hands trembling and bloodied, I keep working
Eyes searching for help
I find isolation.
Fear grips me
tears flow as they rip away the pail
shocked, I fall back.
Images of women raped, murdered, disfigured for speaking
for fighting, for choosing, for simply living.
And the hand is no longer over my mouth
but I’m terrified to open my eyes, nonetheless speak
In the darkness,
The cool cave of my mind, I meditate.
The screams of the world fade away
Alas I had never been awake!
Seeing now the soul lit by God,
I grab my sword and break the shackles around my feet
I stand to be seen, to speak
To fight fiercely like the warrior I was born to be
I am finally free.
Princess, daughter of God,
I am a Kaur.
It’s almost Sikh New Years (March 14th) and I really can’t believe the time is flying by so fast. I felt like this week it was important for me to write about being a Kaur, and the strength and confidence that has really come out of this year, so I wrote a poem. When I started to write, I realized that I couldn’t just write about victory or celebration of being a Kaur, but I also had to tell about the challenge in stepping out into the world as a Sikh woman. I think often times we feel ashamed to tell a story in which we doubted ourselves or were afraid, but the reality is that these moments do exist and it doesn’t make you a less successful in the end. It doesn’t make me less of a Kaur because I used those moments to grow, learn, and to rise up.
When I look back, I was reluctant (partly out of shyness and partly out of fear) to express the side of myself that was a confident advocate for women. I was scared of people labeling me as anti-feminist if I made “traditional” choices. I was about being criticized. For example I had this woman tell me that I was closed-minded for wanting to marry someone from my culture. In the end it was actually these types of comments that made me more and more certain that I do need to speak up. I got tired of hearing that so-and-so was a bad employee for choosing to stay home with her kids, or this person was a bad mother for working after having kids. We should simply be able to make choices that are right for our lives without being attacked for it and we don’t deserve to go through life thinking that our goals aren’t equal, that we as women aren’t equal or important. This is everyone’s responsibility. Men have a huge role in treating a woman with respect, and support her choices whether she is your mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend. I'm glad I was able to move past that reluctance to finally be able to speak about these topics, and I think that a big part of it was freeing my mind from that fear.
In our daily lives we all get so many opinions from media, friends, our communities (work, home, cultural, etc.). From this bombardment we start to limit ourselves by fear, shame, labels, judgment, comparison, etc. It’s like the stories of when they train young elephants by tying them to a pole with a thick rope. The elephant is unable to break free and stops trying, and then even when the thick rope is a thin string now the elephant doesn’t try. I feel like similarly, through our life, our mind learns to become an elephant tied to our string. When we are young we think we can fly, and we have wild dreams and then slowly we start to limit ourselves and the doubt builds. We get scared of just going for what we want in life. As soon as we hit a roadblock, we step back. I see the effect of thoughts on outcomes in my job all the time- it makes a big difference in someone’s healing whether or not they think they are going to get better or not. When we limit ourselves, we start to think we can’t do things even when they are easily within the realm of possibility.
We have the capability to do so much but the mind is a slave to our thoughts. This is of course stopping us from doing a lot, but the biggest thing it’s stopping us from is meeting God! Gurbani describes the mind: “Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once. The Guru has given me this one understanding: there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. May I never forget Him!” (Ang 2 Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji). So may we all focus on remembering God and finding these jewels in the mind, as we ring in the New Year. Don't know how to do kirtan? Nervous to join simran class for the first time? Don't know how to read Gurmukhi? Let go of whatever is stopping you and just try because it's worth the effort.